Wike said the commission had abandoned its core mandate and left those who canvassed for its establishment disillusioned.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday, faulted the National Assembly for confirming former service chiefs as ambassadors, insisting that it is unjustifiable to confirm officers who were sacked for poor performance.
He said Nigerians were disappointed with the National Assembly for confirming the sacked service chiefs as envoys.
Wike, who stated this when members of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta visited him at Government House, Port Harcourt, wondered why senators, who agreed with Nigerians on the poor performance of the service chiefs, cleared them for another sensitive appointment.
“Most Nigerians are disappointed at the the Senate for that decision. Convey this to the National Assembly. We must be courageous in whatever we do. Everything must not be done on party affairs. Senators discussed and agreed that service chiefs should be dismissed because they were not performing.
“Now, the same people who couldn’t perform have been confirmed as ambassadors. What kind of country are we in? In anything we do, we must remember that there is tomorrow and our conscience must be key,” he said.
On the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Wike said the commission had abandoned its core mandate and left those who canvassed for its establishment disillusioned.
“I don’t like talking about the NDDC. It is unfortunate to the extent that if those who fought for it knew that this is what will become of the NDDC, I don’t think they would have asked for it,” he said.
He noted that over the years, various committees on NDDC at the National Assembly have not provided sufficient direction that would make the commission to focus on its core mandate of developing the region.
Governor Wike said some politicians have transformed the NDDC into a cash cow for prosecuting sinister political agenda, and accused the commission of spending N10b to unseat him from office, but that the scheme failed.
He noted that the presidency, National Assembly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some Niger Delta persons were part of the problem of NDDC, because they do not allow it to perform, saying: “We are enemies to ourselves.”
Speaking, Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Peter Nwaoboshi, said they visited to assure Governor Wike, as host of NDDC, that the commission would be supervised to perform its core mandate.
“We are aware that you have some reservations with the NDDC based on your state’s previous relationship with the commission. We assure you that we will ensure that the aspirations and aims of creating the NDDC will be achieved.
“We will do everything possible within the limits of the constitution through our oversight functions to achieve its objectives,” he said.
The VAPP law will not only bring an end to rape, but an end to electoral violence. It will bring an end to wife battering and bring succour for victims of sexual violence.
Bayelsa State House of Assembly, yesterday, passed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill into law after its third reading at plenary.
The passage of the bill will enable the state to domesticate the 2015 VAPP Act of the National Assembly at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and stipulated holistic measures to protect the rights of persons with specific provisions for compensations.
Moving the motion for its third reading and passage, representative of Ekeremor Constituency I, Hon. Tare Porri, said the bill would prohibit violence against persons and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims.
Among other provisions, it stipulated that rapists above 14 years of age would get life imprisonment to serve as a deterrent to others.
Speaker of the House, Abraham Ngobere, who presided over plenary, commended members, civil society groups and non-governmental organisations for their contributions to the success of the bill
He blamed the delay in passing the bill on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying: “If signed into, the bill will address the issue of violence against persons in the state.”
The bill provided that offenders below 14 years of age would be liable to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
Depriving a person of his right(s), except through a court order, is an offence in law and a court may also award compensation to a victim as may be necessary in the circumstance.
“A person who willfully causes or inflicts physical injury on another person with weapon, substance or object commits an offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment of not less than two years and not exceeding seven years or a fine not less than N300, 000,” it stated.
Speaking, Porri expressed satisfaction with the passage of the bill, noting that sexual violence had been a menace in society.
“We are aware that rape is a terrible issue that is affecting our environment. The VAPP law will not only bring an end to rape, but an end to electoral violence. It will bring an end to wife battering and bring succour for victims of sexual violence.
“I assure Bayelsa people that the law, when signed by Governor Douye Diri, will address sexual violence in Bayelsa State,” he said.
Also reacting to the development, the Gender Response Initiative (GRI) commended the lawmakers for passing the bill.
Chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Maria Olodi-Osuma, President of the Do Foundation, Dise Sheila Ogbise, Executive Director, Face Initiative, Inatimi Odio and Chairperson, Women Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Berezi Perekebina Kimia, applauded the passage of the bill.
The Senate said that it was not concerned about whether, or not, President Buhari appeared before the House of Representatives because it never invited him.
Constitutional crisis looms as Attorney General Abubakar Malami, yesterday, gave an indication that President Muhammadu Buhari could renege on his promise to appear before the House of Representatives to explain the country’s security challenges.
The President had opted to speak to a joint session of the National Assembly (the Senate and House of Representatives) after he was summoned by the House in the wake of Boko Haram’s beheading of scores of rice farmers in Zarbamari Village, Borno State. The House had, after a rowdy session on December 1, passed unanimous resolution to summon President Buhari to render account of his effort to tackle the spate of insecurity in the polity.
Following the invitation, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had visited President Buhari in Aso Villa and announced that the President was ready to appear before House members to answer crucial questions on the Federal Government’s anti-insurgency war, considering yearly budget approvals for defence.
Considering his subsequent communication with the National Assembly, President Buhari was scheduled to address the joint session today (Thursday) but Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice issued a statement yesterday saying that the National Assembly had no constitutional power to summon President Buhari on operational use of the Armed Forces.
Already, the sudden change of position by the Executive arm of government, as announced by AGF Malami, has torn the Legislature apart, with the Senate distancing itself from the invitation.
According to Malami, the right of the President to engage the National Assembly and appear before it is inherently discretionary and not at the behest of the National Assembly.
Malami noted that the management and control of the security sector was exclusively vested in the President by Section 218 (1) of the Constitution as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, including the power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces.
“An invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the Armed Forces to a public interrogation is, indeed, taking the constitutional rights of lawmaking beyond bounds.
“As the Commander in Chief, the President has exclusivity on security and has confidentiality over security.
“These powers and rights he does not share. So, by summoning the President on National Security operational matters, the House of Representatives operated outside constitutional bounds. President’s exclusivity of constitutional confidentiality, investiture within the context of the constitution remains sacrosanct,” he said.
While condoling with the bereaved and sympathising with victims of the associated insecurity in the country, Malami maintained that national security is not about publicity and that the nation’s security architecture could not be exposed for the sake of getting publicity.
He stated that Buhari had enjoyed constitutional privileges attached to the office of the President, including exclusivity and confidentiality in security operational matters, which remains sacrosanct.
The indication that Buhari might not be appearing before the lawmakers became rife yesterday, after Speaker Gbajabiamila, who presided over plenary of the House of Representatives deliberately skipped the issue relating to the admittance of President Buhari as listed in the Order Paper of the House.
The issue as listed on the order paper reads: “Admittance into the Chamber: Hon. Garba Alhassan Ado: “That the House, pursuant to Order 19, Rule 8 (1) and (2) of the Standing Orders, do admit into the Chamber, the Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Service Chiefs and other dignitaries for the purpose of receiving an Address by the President and Commander–In –Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the Security situation in the country.”
The Speaker did not offer explanation as to why he skipped the issue, which required the endorsement of the 360-member lower legislative chamber.
When contacted, the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, feigned ignorance of the last-minute decision by the President not to appear before the National Assembly.
“I am hearing the news just as you. I am not aware of the story. We wait and see as events unfold,” he said
It was learnt that the decision was to shield the President from any form of embarrassment from the ranks of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House.
The Upper legislative chamber also said that it would respond to claims by the Attorney General of the Federation Malami claiming that the National Assembly lacked powers to invite the President after it would have fully reviewed the statement.
Senate spokesperson, Senator Ajibola Basiru, in an interview with journalists on Wednesday said there was no resolution of the Nigerian Senate that the President should come and address it on the issue of national security.
“I expect that every enquiry as to the summoning and coming of the President should be directed to the House of Representatives,” he said.
According to Basiru, “we operate a bi-cameral legislature. That’s why our rules and procedures are different and that is why also we need concurrence from the two houses on passing of legislation.”
He said, “There has not been an issue of joint resolution. What you have is resolution of the House of Representatives. And I believe, the House of Representatives should be able to tell you why the resolution was passed, and what will happen to that resolution.”
“As far as the Senate is concerned, we have not summoned the President and we don’t want to get ourselves involved in any controversy as to whether the President will appear or not. To the best of my knowledge, I’m not aware of any planned joint session of the National Assembly.”
Two members of the opposition (PDP), Kingsley Chinda and Mark Gbillah, yesterday, faulted Malami’s defence of President Buhari’s refusal to appear before the lawmakers. Chinda (PDP: Rivers) insisted that Malami acted in error.
“See Section.88 & 89 of the Constitution. Note the difference between invitation and a summons. The AGF’s argument is placed on a very wrong foundation and another circus show.”
Gbillah (PDP: Benue) described Malami’s explanation as an affront on the 1999 Constitution. “We have already done what the Constitution specifies. The President is not above the law. The Constitution makes it very clear in section 88 that, by resolution (which was what was taken last week), we have the power to direct, to investigate and to invite.
“ The legislative powers and privileges Act also gives us the power to summon anybody to the House or Committee of the House. So, it is unfortunate that somebody like the Attorney General can issue such a shameful statement referring to certain provisions of the Constitution and ignoring others to give a defence as to why the President is not going to appear.
Efforts to reach the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Ben Kalu, failed to yield results, as he declined to respond to calls and text messages sent to his mobile telephone.
Kalu, who hails from Abia State, is a member of the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) in the lower legislative chamber.
The minister also spoke on the Police reforms and prayed that the review would be completed quickly so that while the appropriation process is going on, the revised salaries would be included in the 2021 budget.
The Federal Government is seeking the approval of $1.2 billion loan from the National Assembly to address issues in the agriculture value chain, finance minister Zainab Ahmed said on Tuesday in Abuja at the ministry’s budget defence.
Ahmed told the House of Representative Committee on Finance that the loan would be sourced from the Brazilian Government.
“We need to address issues in the agriculture value chain as the country moves towards other sources of revenue.
“Already, the federal government is making efforts to acquire100,000 hectares of land per state for food production.
“Roads will be built in such locations to provide access for farm inputs and ease the movement of farm produce to the markets.
“If the farmers can move their farm produce to markets, it will reduce post-harvest losses,” she said.
“If it’s not completed, we will contemplate doing amendment or supplementary budget,” she said.
She said that the federal government was bent on the use of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) for the payment of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
She added, however, that ASUU’s newly developed University Accountability and Transparency Solution (UTAS) would also undergo verification by experts.
The minister said that N1.647 billion was proposed for personnel cost, N1.70 billion for overhead, while N4.005 billion was allocated for the ministry’s capital expenditure in 2021.
President Buhari has written to the National Assembly informing lawmakers that he will be presenting the 2021 budget at a joint sitting on Thursday, October 8, 2020, by 11 am.
In a letter read by Senate President Ahmed Lawan on Tuesday at the resumption of plenary, President Buhari is requesting the audience of lawmakers in both chambers for the presentation of the budget.
The Senate is expected to consider and pass the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework MTEF and Fiscal Strategy Paper FSP before President Buhari submits the 2021 budget.
The Federal Executive Council had last Wednesday after its weekly meeting estimated the budget to be N13.08trn for the 2021 fiscal year.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this to journalists at the Presidential Villa.
The breakdown of the proposed budget is N13.08 trillion total aggregate; expenditure (29% Capex), with a deficit of N4.48 trillion; FX: N379/$; and GDP growth targeted at 3%.
She further disclosed that the President was expected to present the budget to the National Assembly with a deficit of N4.48 trillion, while the oil production rate is pegged at 1.86 million barrel per day with the oil benchmark standing at $40 per barrel.
The Federal Government is also targeting the inflation rate at 11.96 per cent.
A Federal High Court sitting at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has issued an arrest warrant against the immediate past clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Sani Omolori.
Ruling on an exparte motion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Justice Suleman Belgore gave the order following claims by the anti-graft agency that Mr. Omolori ignored its invitation to report at its office over an investigation of a petition.
The EFCC in its motion stated that it was investigating a petition, alleging diversion of 14 Toyota Hilux vehicles and 13 Peugeot 508 valued at over 400 million naira.
It added that, as part of its investigation activities, it invited the secretary of the national assembly commission, Adamu Fika, Mr. Oluseye Ajakaye and others to its office.
The commission added that Mr. Fika and Mr. Ajakaye made revelations indicting Mr. Omolori, following which invitation letters were sent to him on November 4, 2019, which he allegedly ignored.
The anti-graft agency, further noted that it sent another letter to the former clerk on March 16, 2020, which he still ignored.
…Stakeholders Demand International Forensic Auditors …Forensic Accountants Back Audit, Indigenous Firms Participation …NDDC Playground For Corrupt People, Including NASS Members – Onuegbu …Groups Want Nunieh Investigated, Akpabio, Pondei Removed, Prosecuted
There are growing concerns that the outcome of the probe by the National Assembly (NASS) of the allegations of financial malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may impact the forensic audit of the agency ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Even though the Presidency, on Friday, said Buhari would act decisively on the resolution of the legislature at the right time, stakeholders in the region are already expressing doubts about the capacity of the audit firm engaged to do a thorough job, especially with the allegation that high political office holders have their hands in the pie.
Consequently, the aggrieved stakeholders are calling on Buhari to engage globally renowned forensic auditing firms to carry out the exercise. They alleged that since the Procurement Act was abused in the process leading to the emergence of the engaged firm, there is the tendency that the outcome of the audit may be compromised.
In the midst of this, groups including Youth in Africa Anti-Corruption Network (YIAA Network), and the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI Network) have called for the immediate removal and prosecution of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Obot Akpabio, the acting managing director of the NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei; Commissioners and everyone, who in one way or the other, is allegedly involved in the grand corruption taking place at the agency.
The groups also insisted that the erstwhile managing director of the commission, Dr. Joi Nunieh, should be properly investigated by the Code of Conduct Bureau, while the National Assembly should re-invite Pondei for a full investigation.
They, however, urged the National Assembly to resist the temptation of discharging Pondei from further investigation and interrogation, alleging that failure to reschedule Pondei’s interrogation means the lawmakers were conspiring to cover up allegations made against some of its members by Akpabio.
THE Coordinator, National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), Dr. Edward Obi, while weighing in on the N81b saga said as the NDDC continues to face credibility crisis, Buhari should immediately engage reputable forensic auditors to audit its finances and projects.
Obi, who said it was illegal to award the auditing contract without due process, stressed that Nigerians should be brought into the discourse as far as the choice of a transparent, reputable auditing firm with international pedigree is concerned to unravel the true state of the alleged malfeasance.
“I stand to be corrected, the NDDC is not all about making Niger Deltans rich; it is not about giving jobs to Niger Deltans; It is about creating opportunities for Niger Deltans to take advantage of what is available to them. So, I don’t believe that giving jobs to Niger Deltans is what NDDC is for, No. If that agency had done what it ought to have done, by now there would have been a multiplicity of opportunities for Niger Deltans and other Nigerians to make business by themselves.”
IN the same vein, a business mogul and 2019 Action Democratic Party (ADP) governorship candidate in Rivers State, Mr. Victor Fingesi, described the scandal rocking the agency as an embarrassment to the country, insisting that concerted efforts must be made through an independent forensic audit that will unmask diverters and plunders of development funds through the NDDC.
“It is time to bring in an international auditor, KPMG, and some of those firms that have international repute to immediately audit the NDDC, and thereafter advise the Federal Government on what to do about the looted funds. If you are given a contract and you don’t execute it, you should bring back the money.
“Auditing firms in the country have been auditing too many agencies; too many companies, that they all now have friends everywhere. With what is going on today in the NDDC, people can reach people. So, for a thorough, I think we have to bring in an independent auditor that does not operate here. I named one, KPMG,” he said.
THE former board chairman of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI), Ledum Mitee, wondered why the Federal Government failed to engage NEITI, which has the statutory responsibility to audit, track revenues from oil to probe the NDDC.
He explained that NEITI in its Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement 2007-2011, and 2012-2016 audited reports, revealed a lack of accountability and transparency in the financial activities of the NDDC.
“With just half of the money that they are spending on forensic audit, NEITI can do a very thorough job on the NDDC. The whole process of the NEITI audit is not easy to compromise. Mind you, it involves multi-stakeholders as people from the oil companies are there; civil society groups are there, as well as government agencies. But, why do you pay as much as N1b to an auditing firm, that will be superintended over by those already in the eye of the storm, and who have already been indicted? How would Akpabio sit over that? How would the IMC superintend over such an audit…?”
Mitee pointed out that for every hour the National Assembly spends questioning NDDC officials’ financial recklessness, somebody in the Niger Delta is dying from either preventable diseases like malaria or the contaminated water that they are drinking.
THE National Vice President, Trade Union Congress, Chika Onuegbu, who is an economist cum chartered accountant, said given the level of fraud and irregularities that have taken place in the NDDC, an independent forensic audit, which goes beyond the mere presentation of invoices, names of companies, or certificate of work completed, to unravelling who did what job, and on the spot assessment of jobs awarded and paid for, is needed.
“Payments from banks have to be traced, not just to those companies, but the ultimate beneficiaries. That is why the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria is required. If N10m was paid to YWZ Ltd, who are those authorised to withdraw the money? Who has the BVN? Companies are legal entities, but of course, companies are not human beings, it is human beings that run them. The CBN should avail information and support to the forensic audit so that the final account where the monies ended up would be unveiled,” he said.
Onuegbu described the NDDC as a playground of many corrupt people, including members of the National Assembly, who are deeply concerned about the forensic audit, as opposed to the normal audit.
“Let the forensic audit go on, let the report of that forensic audit be made public, and let whoever feels aggrieved write a petition for another audit firm to come and check. But let us not scuttle the forensic audit. All of us that are from the Niger Delta know that the NDDC is a colossal failure and the epicentre of fraud in Nigeria.
“The forensic audit is not the solution to the problem of NDDC. It is just a process of unearthing the massive corruption that has taken place in the place. After that, there is a need to review the NDDC Act, either the NDDC is scrapped and the fund channelled to oil-producing communities,” he said.
UCHE Onyeagucha, a former Secretary to the Imo State Government described the NDDC as a filthy institution to the extent that with or without a forensic audit if Nigerians don’t change their attitude towards corruption, not much would be achieved.
“There should be a total, comprehensive audit of every person in the NDDC. And then you can still feel free to investigate all the properties and assets of all the persons, who have served there from the beginning to date. You should also go back and investigate the property and assets of all those who have been members of the NDDC Committee of the House of Representatives, all the NDDC Committee of the Senate, from the beginning to date. Where their property, assets, and bank accounts fail to match their income, they should be made to explain. That is how you will do the cleansing, which has to be comprehensive” he said.
MEANWHILE, the Global President, Association of Forensic Accounting Researchers (AFAR), Prof. Godwin Emmanuel Oyedokun has lauded the forensic audit but faulted the process that brought up the exercise.
He said: “The only thing that I have a problem with is the process that brought that forensic process up. A forensic audit is necessary and good, but who initiated it? Is it a group or the NDDC office that initiated it, and do they have the power to do so? If there is a problem from the beginning, the process can’t be legal. The Federal Government doesn’t have the power to initiate it. The Federal Government through the management of NDDC should have been the one to do so.”
Oyedokun who is also the President, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), Lagos Chapter, explained that forensic audit is a procurement issue and when carrying out procuring services, it should be the responsibility of the NDDC.
“The Federal Government can mandate the directorate of NDDC to do so. That was the reason that the National Assembly argued that the minister was usurping the powers of the NDDC board to initiate the contract because the forensic audit is also a contract.”
Contrary to calls by some groups in the Niger Delta that an indigenous forensic firm mustn’t be allowed to carry out the probe, he said it’s an abuse of freedom of speech to say that indigenous auditing firms shouldn’t be involved in carrying out the forensic audit of the NDDC.
For those canvassing for foreign audit firms, he asked: “Are they also ridiculing their professionals and saying that we should go and hire somebody from the United Kingdom to come and do the audit? Would such people know the terrain of Nigeria more than the indigenous experts? It is a misuse of freedom of speech.”
He further said that accounting firms like, KPMG, Deloitte, and PwCs are not foreign audit firms, they are still Nigerian companies only that they are using the network names across the world.
“If a Nigerian joins a network of audit firms, he is still a Nigerian. With international qualifications, you can’t work as an accountant in Nigeria. The Chairman of Deloitte in Nigeria, for example, is a Nigerian and would lead a team of Nigerians and Nigerian facilities to carry out a forensic audit. There is a difference between conventional auditor and forensic auditors. Once the people that selected Olumuyiwa Bashiru & Co., can confirm that the so-called firm has partners that have been trained in forensic auditing, with evidence, then so be it. It must be noted that forensic report is quite different from auditor’s report,” he said.
THE past president, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Alhaji Rasaq Jaiyeola told The Guardian that Nigeria’s accounting firms have many professionals that can carry out thorough forensic auditing of the NDDC.
He explained that the institute started training members on forensic audits over 10 years ago, stressing that before then, many of its members have been practising internationally.
“We have national firms that are well-grounded in forensic auditing. We have many capable hands with international affiliations. So, I don’t see any big deal in forensic auditing that ICAN members cannot do. As long as they are ICAN members, they should be able to perform,” he said.
According to him, ICAN founded the Audit, Investigations and Forensic Accounting Faculty in the year 2009 and started its certification programme in forensic accounting in 2011.
“As at December 2014, ICAN had trained and inducted 382 members as Certified Forensic Accountant of Nigeria,” he said.
SPEAKING on behalf of the groups calling for the removal and prosecution of Akpabio and Pondei in Abuja, the President of YIAA Network, Ovo Emokiniovo Otarigho said: “We are dismayed with the accusations and counter-accusations between Senator Akpabio and the erstwhile Managing Director of the commission, Dr. Joi Nunieh, as well as the shameful drama presented by Prof. Pondei. We demand that the people entrusted with the responsibilities of our commonwealth should face justice and be accountable to the citizens, and not to serve themselves. On account of that, we vehemently reject the statement of the Speaker of The House of Representatives, that Prof. Pondei might be excluded from further interrogation. We, therefore, call on him and members of the committee to re-schedule another day for the continuation of the investigation of Prof. Pondei on account of his stewardship. We shall view the failure to reschedule his investigation as an act of complicity on the part of the National Assembly over allegations made by Senator Akpabio.”
“Furthermore, we call on the National Assembly to expose all its members alleged to have been involved in this grand-scale scam to defraud the people of the Niger Delta of their rights to experience development through the NDDC. In the bid to unravel the truth, all witnesses in this investigation must be protected. We, hereby call on the Inspector General of Police to live up to the essence of his duties, which is to protect the lives of the citizens. All attempt by alleged conspirators in this corruption to threaten witnesses to thwart the truth must be discouraged and resisted by the Police.”
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, on Monday, said most contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are awarded to National Assembly members.
The Minister made the comment as he was being grilled by members of the House of Representatives committee on NDDC in a public hearing.
The Minister had been invited by the lawmakers on Friday to defend his actions as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and shed more light on financial misappropriation within the NDDC.
Akpabio’s comment surfaced as he was responding to a question about NDDC expenditure amid a forensic audit.
“We cannot close down the Niger Delta Development Commission because of the fact that we are doing (a) forensic audit,” he said.
“The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region and 90 percent or more of the resources of the country come from there.
“If you close it down in totality all you will have is chaos. You will have a lot of, not just militancy, you will have a lot of insurrection.
“So it is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it because, of course, who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people.”
A member of the committee took him up on his “you people” allegation and asked him to clarify.
Ondo State Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, has rejected the State House of Assembly’s request to investigate the State Deputy Governor.
This comes after 14 members of the Assembly served an impeachment notice on the deputy governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi, whom they accused of gross misconduct.
However, nine other lawmakers were opposed to the planned impeachment of Mr Ajayi by their colleagues in the Legislative House.
According to the Chief Judge, the Assembly did not meet the constitutional requirements needed to impeach the embattled deputy governor, adding that the Assembly failed to form the two-third majority required to impeach the deputy governor.
Justice Akeredolu also said she had received a letter from Ajayi’s lawyers stating that the process of impeachment was sub judice.
A call has been made to the Ondo State Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, to immediately set up a panel to investigate the allegations levelled against embattled deputy governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi.
The call was made in a letter to the Ondo State CJ on Thursday which was issued by the Speaker of the Assembly, Mr Bamidele Oleyelogun.
The speaker stated in the letter that the setting up of the panel to investigate Ajayi was in line with section 188 (5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
In the letter to the CJ which was signed by the speaker, it was resolved by the Ondo State Assembly that the allegations against Ajayi be investigated forthwith.
The letter read in part, “By the Resolution of the House today (Thursday) pursuant to Section 188 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it was resolved that the allegations be investigated forthwith.
“It is in line with the above that request that you set up a seven-man panel to conduct the investigation as resolved by the Honourable House and the panel shall, as soon as possible, report back to the House,” it added.
Senator Gabriel Suswan (PDP-Benue) says the National Assembly has directed the Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) not to increase electricity tariff because of the current economic challenges occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic across the country.
Suswan, Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, made the disclosure in an interview in Abuja on Thursday.
He said that the increase in the tariff had to stop for now even when it was obvious that an increase, given the provision of necessary distribution infrastructure in the electricity market, would help the sector to be solvent.
Suswan noted that an increase in electricity tariff in this period would worsen the economic hardship faced by Nigerians, hence the intervention of the National Assembly to prevail on the DisCos to suspend the increase until the first quarter of 2021.
“Under a normal situation, an increase in tariff increase will help the operators to meet their remittances 100 per cent, and the government will not need to subsidize.
“Now governments all over the globe are giving palliatives to their citizens; in America, for instance, most of the people who fought for palliatives for not being employed receive some stipends weekly.
“Now, here we have people who are unable to feed family because of the COVID-19 pandemic and DisCos is saying it will increase tariff at the same time; we are saying yes, reflective cost tariff is the way to go because we need the sector to be solvent, but the timing is not auspicious.
He also explained that the government had also reduced the petrol pump price because it did not want to increase the burden on Nigerians, observing that it would not make sense if DisCos increased electricity tariff.
“In the interim, the government will continue to subsidize petrol pump prices because that is the responsibility of the government, no government will want a situation where their citizens would be overburdened with prices of goods.
“So, that was why we stepped in and good enough with the decision we took, the president has agreed with us and said they should not activate the increase until certain things are in place,” he explained.`
The leadership of the National Assembly on Monday succeeded in persuading the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to defer the planned tariff hike till the first quarter of 2021.
The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Ola Awoniyi, who disclosed this in a statement, said the NASS leadership would meet President Muhammadu Buhari later on the matter.
Many of the electricity distribution companies had announced last week that the implementation of the new tariff regime would begin on July 1.
The Ikeja Electricity had said in a statement issued by its Head of Corporate Communications, Mr. Felix Ofulue, that the new tariffs, which are service reflective, are end-user rates to be paid for electricity based on the level of service.
Monday’s meeting between the NASS leadership and the electricity distribution companies was attended by the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the parliament.
Also at the meeting were the chief executives of the electricity regulatory agencies and the DisCos.
The statement read: “The National Assembly leaders were emphatic at the meeting that the timing of the planned hike was wrong even though there is the need to introduce cost-reflective tariffs for the power sector to attract the much-needed investment.
“In the course of the meeting, the DisCos too admitted that they were not well prepared for the planned hike in tariffs even though they so much desired the increase.
“The meeting agreed to defer the planned hike till the first quarter of next year while the leadership of the National Assembly promised to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue.”
The federal government has generated additional N30.46 billion in the first quarter of the year (Q1 2020) based on the hike in Value Added Tax (VAT) from five per cent to 7.5 per cent that became effective from February 1, according to data released yesterday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The NBS figures were released just as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, met with the National Assembly leadership in Abuja yesterday to discuss the proposed cut in the 2020 Budget.
The cut, which amounted to N71.5 billion, was subject of economic analysts’ conversation with Media last night as many of them saying the reduction should reflect the country’s economic realities.
With the extra cash, VAT receipts closed at N338.94 billion in the first quarter of the year, from N308.48 billion in Q4 2019.
The improved performance represented a 9.87 per cent increase in value quarter-on-quarter.
It also represented a 15.66 per cent rise (year-on-year), when compared to the N293.04 billion realised in Q1 2019.
According to the sectoral distribution of VAT data for Q1 2020, which was published by the statistical agency, professional services generated the highest amount of VAT with N38.30 billion and closely followed by manufacturing that generated N37.37 billion.
Commercial and trading generated N17.19 billion while mining recorded the least amount of N61.83 million.
Textile and garment industry and local government councils recorded N306.05 million and N319.04 million respectively.
The Leadership of the National Assembly on Thursday met with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to be briefed by the latter on the plan by the Federal Government to amend the N10.59 trillion 2020 budget passed by the National Assembly in December last year.
The meeting which had in attendance principal officers from both chambers was presided over by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The Senate President, in his welcome address, told the Executive arm of Government to ensure that the interest of Nigerians remains protected in the proposed cut to the 2020 national budget.
Lawan also expressed the willingness of the Federal lawmakers to expeditiously consider the proposed amendment to the 2020 budget which the Minister said would be presented to the National Assembly by next week.
“The budget amendment is very important, but I believe that when we are faced with this kind of challenge (COVID-19 pandemic), it is an emergency and we should do everything and anything possible to fast track the passage and implementation of the government intervention that is so critical and crucial at this stage.
“I believe that we shouldn’t delay it any longer. Next week, and I will suggest the early part of next week, we should have that document(MTEF) ready so that we can consider it alongside the budget. It is supposed to be the tonic of what Nigerians are waiting for.
“We have listened to the various adjustments you have made to avoid going into recession. However, to avoid going into a deeper recession, I think we need to do a little bit much more.
“After this meeting with the leadership, I suggest that you engage with our relevant committees in the Senate and House of Representatives to look at the nitty-gritty that would be considered more in detail at the presentation level.
“On the whole, let me assure you that the National Assembly and Executive arm are on the same page, and that is to say that we will work to ensure that we have a budget 2020 amendment that will address the needs of the people of this country.
“One thing is that the net public expenditure must be targeted at net maximum performance for the benefit of the people of this country.
“In other words, we must come up with an amended budget that is operable and favorable to Nigerians,” Lawan said.
In his remarks, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, called on the Federal Government to adopt a feasible benchmark in the proposed amendment to the 2020 budget.
“The benchmark is so critical and so important because once you passed the law, it becomes difficult to adjust that benchmark, and then what happens to the excess?
“We have always had problems with the Excess Crude Account, potentially an account which has no backing of the law. So, let’s even assume that the price remains static at $35, which means we have $10 going to the Excess Crude Account which we have no control over in terms of spending, that is why we guard that benchmark price very jealously.
“Is there a possibility of having a provisio built-in in the budget…So that there can be an automatic kick in if the benchmark price goes beyond $26 or $27. We want you to explore that possibility.
“So, I think you should study the market and see what happens next week by the time you present the adjusted budget,” Gbajabiamila said.
Speaking on Nigeria’s debt profile, the Speaker said, “I would also want to address the issue of our deficit and tie it with the issue of debt relief. I’m not sure I heard any presentation on how much we owe and how much we are paying back in this budget.
“The reason I asked is that at the moment, I believe, for want of a better word, some of our creditors are very vulnerable right now. And depending on how you package your case, I believe they should be the ones coming to beg you to take debt relief, if not outright cancellation.”
Earlier, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, while briefing the leadership of the National Assembly said, “the US$57 crude oil price benchmark approved in the 2020 budget is no longer sustainable.”
The minister said further that: “it is necessary to reallocate resources in the 2020 budget, to ensure the effective implementation of required emergency measures, and mitigate the negative socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Ahmed stated that in line with the global economic outlook and relevant domestic considerations, the assumptions underpinning the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the 2020 Budget was revised to slash crude oil benchmark price from US$57 per barrel to US$25 per barrel; reduce crude oil production benchmark from 2.18 million barrels per day to 1.9 mbpd.
She added that the federal government also adjusted the budget exchange rate to N360/US$1; and reduced the upfront fiscal deductions by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for mandated Oil and Gas sector expenditures by 65 percent from N1.223 trillion to N424 billion.
She disclosed that the amount available for funding the 2020 Budget is now estimated at N5.548 trillion, down from N8.419 trillion, a revised revenue estimate which is 34 percent (N2.87 trillion) lower than what was initially approved.
Federal Government’s aggregate expenditure budget was slashed by N88.412 billion; Statutory Transfer from N560.47 billion to N397.87 billion; and Overhead costs of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government from N302.43 billion to N240.91 billion.
Debt Service provision was, however, increased from N2.453 trillion to N2.678 trillion.
On Provision of N500 billion for COVID-19 Intervention Fund, the Finance Minister in her presentation explained that N263.63 billion will be sourced from Federal Government Special Accounts, N186.37 billion from Federation Special Accounts and the balance of N50 billion expected as grants and donations.
According to her, “the sum of N186.37 billion will be applied toward COVID-19 interventions across the federation, while an additional N213.60 billion was provided in the Service Wide Votes for COVID-19 Crisis Intervention recurrent expenditures.”
She disclosed that while a total of N100.03 billion was provisioned in the Intervention Fund for new capital spending, the Federal Government carried out a cut in capital expenditures for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government from N1.564 trillion to N1.262 trillion.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the National Assembly to ensure the prudent use of the N850 billion loan it approved for the Federal Government on Tuesday.
Recall that the Senate on Tuesday approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for N850 billion loan from the Capital Market to finance projects in the 2020 budget.
It further mandated its Committees on Finance and Appropriation to liaise with the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmad for details of the loan.
Reacting, the party in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, also advised the presiding officers of the Senate to ensure prompt repayment of the loan.
Ologbondiyan expressed concerns over what he described as hasty approval of the N850 billion loan as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said that the party was concerned that in spite of the huge natural and human resources at the disposal of the country, the government was still accumulating loans, without repayment plans.
Ologbondiyan also expressed worry over the transparency and management of the country’s loans.
“The PDP, therefore, charges the Senate Presiding officers to note that in approving this loan, the nation holds them responsible to ensure strict oversight monitoring of the handling of the money.
“This is especially as it is being sourced from the capital market, which hosts investments by private individuals and firms.
“The Senate must ensure judicious use of the funds as well as prompt repayment.
“This is because our nation cannot afford any default, as such is capable of crippling the capital market and worsening the economic hardship already being faced by Nigerians,” he said.
Ologbondiyan advised the Federal Government to articulate innovative ways to create wealth and plug wastes, instead of resorting to borrowing.
He said what was expected of the government at a time such as this was to immediately cut on luxury.
The PDP spokesperson also advised the government to slash the number of presidential appointees, cut down huge allowances and maintain a lean budget that would centre on health, research and growth of the economy among other critical needs.
“The PDP, therefore, urges all stakeholders, particularly fiscal transparency groups, the Nigeria Corporate World and management of the capital market to protect Nigerians by closely monitoring the performance of the loan.
“This is to guarantee effective management and prompt repayment,” Ologbondiya added.
The Nigerian senate, on Tuesday afternoon, approved a fresh N850 billion naira loan request made by President Muhammadu Buhari.
NobleReporters learnt that the senate gave accelerated approval to the request as its no longer news that the Nigerian economy has been taking huge hits as Oil prices plummetted worldwide amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
President Buhari will now be able to request for a fresh loan of N850 billion from the domestic capital market, although the senate mandated its committees on finance, appropriation, Domestic and Foreign Debt and National Planning to liaise with the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed to get more information on the loan request.
Investigations show that the loan is necessary in order to funds to finance projects in the 2020 budget. The approval was issued by the senate after Senate president, Ahmed Lawan read out a letter from the president to senators during plenary on Tuesday.
The legislative arm of government comprising of the senate and the house of representatives resumed today after being shut dor 36 days due to the Coronavirus Pandemic currently sweeping through the country.
NobleReporters sensed that senators had masks on and complied with the social distancing directive needed to prevent the spread of the virus.
The leadership of the National Assembly has dismissed reports that it labelled the National Social Investment Programmes a failure, stressing that, its statement was directed at efforts during the lockdown.
In a statement issued on Thursday by Ola Awoniyi, Special Adviser on Media to President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, the legislature explained that newspaper reports of the meeting with the Humanitarian minister were misleading.
“The attention of the leadership of the National Assembly has been drawn to reactions to some newspaper reports on its meeting with the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, which held on Tuesday 7th April, 2020.
“The leadership of the National Assembly had called the meeting as part of the legislature’s collaborations with the executive arm of government for effective management of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria and mitigation of the harsh effects of the measures adopted in this respect on Nigerians.
“The focus of the said meeting was the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which is the vehicle that Government is using to convey its palliative packages to the most vulnerable Nigerians against the backdrop of the lockdown called in many parts of the country to check the spread of the deadly disease,” it said.
The National Assembly noted that, “It is worth noting that NSIP has been in existence since 2016 and has been pursuing President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to alleviate the conditions of especially the poorest in society.
“At the meeting with the minister, the leadership of the National Assembly made some observations on aspects of the NSIP and recommended that the implementation process be fine tuned and the scheme be backed with legislation to make it more efficient, effective and accord with global best practices.
“Although the official press statement issued at the end of the meeting clearly conveyed the deliberations and resolution of the meeting, some misrepresentations appeared in the reports by one or two newspapers.
“The comments at the meeting were not made to denigrate any official but to make the scheme more effective in the delivery of its critical mandate and these comments were well taken by the Honourable Minister and her delegation. The minister was honest enough to admit that the NSIP had some “challenges” and also bedevelled with “intrigues” which she was yet battling with.
“The leadership of the National Assembly would not have suggested an enabling legislation for the NSIP if it does not believe in the relevance of the scheme.
“We believe this misrepresentation misled the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais to issue a rejoinder.
“The leadership of the National Assembly is committed to sustaining its cordial working relationship with the other arms of Government as it has seen the benefits of this approach in the improved environment and speed of policy and decision making,” it added
Details have emerged surrounding the refusal of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to sack the service chiefs after meeting with the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over the deteriorating security situation in the country at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
This came days after both chambers of the National Assembly passed resolutions on the security situation to formally present the resolutions to Buhari.
While the House urged the President to sack the service chiefs and appoint new ones, the Senate sought the imposing of a state of emergency on insecurity.
Findings indicated that though Buhari at the meeting saw reasons in the position of the House, in particular, he was not obliged to act immediately as requested by the lawmakers.
A top National Assembly official said that the President did not want to appear like he was taking directives from the legislature.
The official said, “The President was on the same page with the National Assembly but did not want to seem he was under the directive of the National Assembly.”
It was learnt that the legislators argued that given the current cordial relationship between the President and the legislature, Buhari should act on the resolutions, just as he expected the lawmakers to act on his requests.
The source said, “There was the argument that for reciprocity he should act on the resolutions of the National Assembly since he too expected the lawmakers to yield to his proposals to the National Assembly.
“But the President felt he would decide by himself if he needed to (sack the service chiefs), not because the National Assembly said so. He is not taking directives from them.” However, the President was said to be “truly embarrassed” by the security situation and admitted so to Lawan and Gbajabiamila at the meeting.
The official, who chairs a key legislative committee, added, “From the conclusions reached, he will eventually sack the service chiefs.
“He is buying time. What is not certain is when he will do it. He will allow some time to pass. If you know the President, he will not act now simply because the legislature wants him to sack the service chiefs.” Speaking with State House Correspondents after the one-hour meeting, both Lawan and Gbajabiamila admitted that the case of the service chiefs was a key issue mentioned among the general discussions on insecurity.
When Lawan was asked a specific question on whether the sacking of the service chiefs was discussed with Buhari, he said, “We discussed everything that matters as far as the issue of security of this country is concerned.
“We believe that we must be able to provide the necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces and the police to ensure that they can operate and perform efficiently and effectively.”
When asked what Buhari’s response was, Lawan said the President agreed with the National Assembly that the security situation required urgent attention.
He said, “Mr President was forthcoming. Of course, as the leader of this country, he is more worried than anybody else about the situation.
“So, we are on the same page that we should to do whatever it takes to ensure that the security agencies can perform better than they are doing now.”
When asked again whether he thought replacing the service chiefs would bring immediate solutions, Lawan said the security situation had reached a “tipping point” that needed the intervention of all Nigerians, including whatever decisions the government had to take to bring succour to the people.
Gbajabiamila said “changes” would be witnessed by Nigerians soon, following their discussions with Buhari.
Buhari, not in haste to sack service chiefs – investigations
Meanwhile, those expecting the President to sack his service chiefs may wait a little while because an investigation conducted revealed they might not lose their jobs soon.
Our correspondent, who spoke with some senators on condition of anonymity after a closed-door session on Tuesday, learnt that the service chiefs might spend an additional year in office.
A senator from the South-West said the issue of the service chiefs was discussed extensively at the meeting between Buhari, Slawan and Gbajabiamila on Monday.
The Senator said, “The Senate President briefed us on the outcome of the meeting. From what he said, the President is not considering the sacking of the service chiefs for now.
“He has sought the understanding of the presiding officers on the issue and had promised to ensure a positive action in the areas of insurgency and insecurity across the country.”
A ranking senator from the North-East also said the President would not sack the service chiefs now, based on the briefing by the Senate President.
He said, “The Senate did not adopt the sacking of service chiefs as a resolution. It is the House of Representatives. I don’t believe that they should go. I am of the firm belief that our military will do better in the fight against insurgency with adequate funding and recruitment of more energetic personnel.”
A Senator from the South-South, who spoke vehemently against the service chiefs during the Senate debate on Wednesday, also confirmed that Lawan’s briefing had shown that Buhari would not sack the service chiefs immediately.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the National Assembly to upon resumption on Tuesday urgently use its legislative instruments to intervene in the deteriorating security situation in the country.
The party made the call in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan on Sunday in Abuja.
The party also urged the National Assembly to use its legislative instruments to invite the Presidency for an appropriate briefing as a prelude to decisive step towards ensuring adequate security in our country.
Ologbondiyan said PDP’s position was predicated on the alarming Global Terrorism Index report by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which ranked Nigeria as the third country with the highest level of terrorism in 2019, after Iran and Afghanistan.
He said that the report was distressing, particularly as its indices show that insecurity and deaths from acts of terrorism increased in Nigeria in spite of promises by the current administration.
Ologbondiyan noted that the IEP rating had further confirmed PDP position that the security of lives and property in Nigeria has called for review of security architecture, as presently composed.
“Our party posits that the issue of security has gone beyond partisan and sectional sentiments as well as propaganda and now requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders to compel a review of security structure and method by Mr President.
“The PDP, as a pan-Nigerian platform, urges the National Assembly to step in by persuading Mr President to heed wise counsel and rejig his security high command so as to inject new blood to tackle our security challenges,” he said.
Ologbondiyan urged the National Assembly to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to take a decisive step in ordering the apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators of acts of terrorism in the country.
These, according to him, include the mass killing in Benue, Nasarawa, Bauchi, Taraba, Kogi, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Kaduna, Ekiti and other parts of the country.
“The failure to track down and prosecute the perpetrators of heinous crimes had continued to emboldened marauders, insurgents, bandits and kidnappers to further ravage communities and major highways,” he said.
Ologbondiyan said that was not the way to go, adding that the PDP restated that such situation should not have been allowed to fester and degenerate.
The party saluted the gallantry and patriotism of Nigeria troops fighting and daily risking their lives on all fronts.
The Presidency has stated that only the National Assembly has the constitutional power to restructure the country.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam, Garba Shehu who spoke at a media parley with House of Representatives correspondents, urged proponents of restructuring to take their agitation for restructuring to the national assembly as the Buhari-led administration is committed to the promise which is contained in APC manifesto.
He said: “We in the APC are committed to restructuring. Read the manifesto of the APC. It is stated there and so, we are not running away from it. President Buhari is ready to restructure the country.
“The problem we have with a lot of the proponents of restructuring is that they are looking for the fastest way to that restructuring. They don’t want to use the parliament. They want to use extra constitutional bodies and that is untidy. If you are a democrat, you abide by the processes.
“The parliament is the institution of government working with the executive and the judiciary. For you to say no you want to do a congress at Yaba Market Square and debate; do you want to cause a fight.
“We must be organised and follow due process. If you have a case on restructuring, come to the parliament. In any case, the Senate President has announced that this 9th Parliament will start constitutional amendment in January. So, bring your issue. These are intelligent people voted for by the people.
“Those who shout restructuring saying they want a parallel body to-do that, we have said to them that they are wrong. The sovereignty of the people resides with the parliament and so, if you want to restructure the country, come to the parliament.
“If you don’t have confidence in the parliamentarians you have voted for, wait for four years and vote them out and choose another set of people. But you cannot circumvent the role of the parliament in a democracy and it is key to whatever restructuring you want,” he said.
On the controversial media bill, the Presidential spokesperson insisted that the proposed death penalty is not the only thing contained in the bill. According to him, there is need to curb fake news as it can lead to the death of other Nigerians which is not acceptable.
He said: “It is your responsibility as the media to help the Nigerian government on the issue of hate speech before the parliament. The Minister of Information, who speaks for the Nigerian government, has spoken of the necessity of a law to govern social media.
“I am being careful on what he wants to do because I think there are parallel processes going on. I also blame the media for creating unnecessary controversy. If you look at the law being discussed, the media has focused more on the death penalty for fake news.
“You have a responsibility of studying that bill. Only a few days ago, the American Ambassador met the sponsor of that bill and at the end, he said Nigerians should have a rethink. It is your duty to reap it open and tell Nigerians what it contained. The bill is not all about death penalty or free speech,” he said.
He also said, “I think we have a problem that Nigerians have to address. Nobody is saying that President Buhari or the parliament should impose a law against the press. I am happy that they will hold public hearing on this and if you have any objection to some of the elements, come forward and tell parliament that you have objection. This country needs a law that will regulate social media and attack fake news.”
On claims of the current parliament being a rubber stamp legislature, Garba Shehu said;
“Anybody who is thinking that because the parliament and the executive has worked together on the finance bill and the budget within record time, so we are dealing with a rubber stamp parliament, such a person better look back and see what happened in the past.”