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Budget Controversy Deepens

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Nigeria senate house

The Senate on Thursday accused the executive of smuggling copies of a doctored version of the 2016 Appropriation Bill into the upper chamber of the National Assembly.

The Senate stated this while discussing the report of its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, which it set up to investigate the alleged disappearance of the budget.

The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, after a two-hour executive session with his colleagues, explained that the upper chamber deliberated extensively on the report of the committee behind closed doors.

At the plenary, Saraki said the committee, in its report, revealed that the Senate had in its possession two versions of the 2016 budget proposal.

According to him, the first version is the hard copy submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari while the second is a different version produced and brought into the Senate by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang.

Saraki, however, said members of the upper chamber had resolved to start the consideration of the 2016 Appropriation Bill on Tuesday, January 19, but with only the original document submitted to the National Assembly by Buhari.

He noted that if the Presidency wanted to amend the initial version of the bill that was submitted to the National Assembly, there were proper legislative channels to do so.

Saraki added, “Our findings revealed that Senator Ita Enang, the SSA to the President on NASS Matters, printed copies of the 2016 Appropriation Bill and brought them to the Senate. We have discovered that what he brought was different from the version presented to us by Mr. President.

“We have resolved to consider only the version presented by Mr. President as soon as we receive the soft copies of the original document from the Executive.”

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, in company with his deputy, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, also told journalists after plenary, that Enang mass-produced for distribution, a different version of the document.

He said, “The report about a missing budget is not true. We don’t have a budget that is missing.

“The investigation by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, had been submitted at the executive session. It was a fallout of the collective decision we took at the last executive session.

“Our findings are these: That Mr . President did lay the budget before the joint session of the National Assembly and thereafter, the senate went on recess and upon resumption, copies of the document were produced by Senator Ita Enang, who is the SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) and the copies were submitted to the Senate and House of Representatives.

“What we found out is that the document, submitted by Senator Ita Enang, upon our resumption, has some differences and discrepancies with what was originally laid by Mr. President at the joint sitting of the National Assembly.

“However, the Senate in defence of its own integrity and honour, will not work with what has not been laid on the floor of the National Assembly. We are constitutionally mandated and duty bound to consider only that budget that had been so laid by Mr. President.

“The budget submitted by the president is not missing.”

The Senate spokesperson assured Nigerians that the senators would as from next week, get down to business as members had already picked dates to speak during the three days set aside for the debate on the 2016 budget.

He recalled that Saraki visited Buhari on Tuesday because the Senate leadership was mandated to speak with all those concerned with the document, hence, “that was why the Senate President was in touch with Mr. President”

Enang, who was alleged to have submitted another version of the budget, different from the version submitted by Buhari, declined comments on the issue when contacted by one of our correspondents on Thursday.

A source in Enang’s office said, “Oga is just a sacrificial lamb in this case because he was being unfairly accused of an offence he never committed. These copies were brought to our office and Oga just asked us to start distribution. How will he know the content?’’

Attempts to speak to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, on the differences between the documents submitted by Buhari and the one distributed by Enang, failed as he declined comments on the issue.

A member of the committee, however, told our correspondent that their terms of reference did not include examining both versions of the documents to identify the differences.

But the Presidency said the current level of relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is too precious to be expended on issues that are not compelling.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday.

Shehu was reacting to the claim by the Senate that the Presidency smuggled doctored 2016 Budget proposal to its chamber.

The presidential spokesman said since the lawmakers had expressed their readiness to start working on the budget, the Presidency would not encourage anything that would distract them from the work at hand.

He said, “We are happy that they (the lawmakers) are ready to get on with the budget. We don’t want anything that will distract them from their work.

“The present level of relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is too precious to be expended on issues that are not compelling.”

But the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has called on the National Assembly to remove Buhari for what it described as various constitutional breaches, especially the submission of two versions of the 2006 budget proposal.

The PDP said this in a statement by its Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus on Thursday.

The party said the National Assembly should thoroughly investigate what it described as a shameful act, including what it called the distortion and banding of figures to accommodate personal interest.

“We therefore call on the National Assembly to commence the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari for the various constitutional breaches especially the submission of two versions of the 2006 budget,” the party stated.

Secondus also asked the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly to resign, saying they had failed to provide the much-needed capacity in the management of the nation’s economy, which he said resulted in the embarrassing crashing of the nation’s currency to as low as N305 to a dollar.

The PDP also asked the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to resign for allegedly plunging “the country’s currency policy into chaos, an action that has thrown investors into total confusion.”

In his own reaction, the Chairman, Senate Committee on National Identity, Senator Kabiru Marafa, faulted the argument of his colleagues that two versions of the 2016 budget, were available in the Senate.

Marafa, in an interview with journalists in his office on Thursday, challenged the Senate leadership to make the two versions of the 2016 budget available to members of the public or should identify the differences.

He denied Enang’s culpability in the alleged smuggling of the doctored document into the Senate, adding that such action was impossible.

Marafa added, “I don’t understand what is playing out. We started with one problem and we are ending with another problem. Today, we say there are two versions, the procedure of laying budget is very clear.

“President Muhammadu Buhari laid the budget in December. If somebody says there are two versions, where is the second version and when did we have procedure of collecting budget from SSA? We have procedure. I think it is very necessary to differentiate what is fake and original.

“Mr. President laid the budget inside the box and it is still inside the box. Ita Enang will be the last person that will do that. If you doctor one out of eight copies, does it make sense?’’

Investigations revealed that the copy laid by the President was still in the box with which it was conveyed while the Executive had withdrawn the version said to have earlier been distributed by Enang.

Further findings at the office of the Senate President and the SSA to the President on NASS Matters, revealed that all the “doctored” version had been completely returned to the Budget Office, thereby making it difficult to spot the differences.

Contrary to the argument of the Senate, the House of Representatives said it had only one version of the 2016 budget as laid before the joint session of the National Assembly in December by Buhari.

It also clarified that it would go ahead next week to start debating the general principles of the budget as laid by the President.

The House maintained its position that no budget was missing from its chamber, adding that the same document submitted by Buhari earlier was intact.

The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, clarified the position of the House to reporters amid claims that there were two versions of the N6.08tn document.

Namdas said on Thursday, “As far as we are concerned in the House, the budget is in the public domain.

“It is the same document that was laid by Mr. President that we have with us.

“Next week, we will begin to consider the proposal. Any other document outside the one Mr. President presented is not with us.

“So, for us, if our budget was never missing, how could we have another version?”

Namdas, who confirmed an exclusive report by The PUNCH on Tuesday, explained that the House shifted the consideration of the budget to next week to give members the time to study the details.

“You know, we just reconvened after the Christmas and New Year break.

“Members need a few days to study the document. We could have started the consideration this week,” he stated.

The House also claimed that contrary to “interpretations by some persons,” Buhari did not say that he would stop the National Assembly from buying 469 exotic cars for its legislative duties.

Namdas, who was making a reference to Buhari’s December 30 media chat, said the President’s reaction was due to the “wrong” figures that were given to him on the cost of the cars.

He added, “Mr. President never said he would stop us from buying cars.

“He was given a wrong figure of N47bn as the cost of the cars. He only said if it was true that such an amount would be spent on cars, there would be issues.

“It has turned out that the N47bn is not true. That was as far as the issue went.”

Punch

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

Lagos State Moves to Completely Ban Okada, Keke, Introduces Minibuses

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Minibus - Investors King

The Lagos State Government on Monday announced plans to completely ban the use of motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (Keke) due to rising crime and lawlessness across the state.

The announcement was made after a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.

In the meeting attended by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; the Chief Judge, Kazeem Alogba; the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, traditional and religious leaders and members of the civil society, among others, the governor said the string of lawlessness daily witnessed from the confrontation between commercial motorcyclists and law enforcement agencies required urgent action.

Based on all that we have seen and experienced in the past couple of weeks, as well as the increasing threat posed by the activities of commercial motorcycle operators to the safety and security of lives, we will be announcing further changes to the parameters of motorcycle and tricycle operations in the state in the coming days. No society can make progress amid such a haughty display of lawlessness and criminality,” he added.

Sanwo-Olu said from next week, the state would be inaugurating the First and Last Mile buses next week, which would take the routes the motorcycles were plying.

The state Commissioner of Police, Odumosu, raised the alarm over rising security breaches from the menace of okada operations in the state.

He said between January and early this month, 320 commercial motorcycles were impounded in 218 cases of criminal incidents in which 78 suspects were detained and 480 ammunition recovered.

In the same period, the Lagos police boss said Okada accounted for 83 per cent of 385 cases of avoidable fatal vehicular accidents in Lagos.

At the end of the meeting, a 12-point resolution was reached, among which was a ban on Okada “as a means of transportation in the state.”

 

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2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC

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INEC-PVC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.

The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.

But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.

Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”

Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.

The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.

INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.

INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.

Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.

“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.

“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”

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No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari

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AFRICOM HQ

The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.

The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.

The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.

Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.

Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.

Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.

“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.

“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.

“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”

However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.

According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.

In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.

This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.

King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.

She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.

“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”

It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador

Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.

He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.

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