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Budget Controversy Deepens

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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

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

Government

Ibom MRO to Bring in Forex to Nigeria 

Akwa Ibom State to open a cutting-edge smart terminal building at the Victor Attah International Airport

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The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel, has announced that the state is close to opening a cutting-edge smart terminal building at the Victor Attah International Airport and that this will generate foreign exchange for Nigeria. 

Investors King has also learnt that an MRO facility for aircraft would be operational from January.

This comes on the heels of praise from his Edo State counterpart, Gov. Godwin Obaseki, who attended the Tuesday reception in Uyo for two additional A320-200 Airbus aircraft that the state’s Ibom Air fleet had leased from a European company.

Speaking at the event, the governor of Akwa Ibom said that while there were already efforts underway to persuade the government to lease the MRO, the MRO is an investment because it was built with naira, despite its current depreciation, and will therefore generate income.

The Akwa Ibom governor said “Our terminal building is world-class in Africa, our MRO is world-class. If you find one today in the entire Gulf of Guinea, tell me I’ll disassemble this one and build another.

“Look at our MRO; what you see here can accommodate two 747 aircraft as well as eight CRJ aircraft, which we are flying for servicing at the same time.”

“This is the only MRO in this part of the world today, and these facilities are not built with local currency, but we are building this MRO with naira that has no value.”

“I invest in areas where we can see a return on our money. Right now without blinking an eye, I can make over $ 30 million with this MRO if we decide to sell but we are not selling, we will make a foreign exchange from this investment.

“Airbus is on us to come and lease our MRO for all their regional flights, but we are not selling.

“We are going to open up this place ( MRO facility) from January next year for commercial activities and we are going to earn in dollars.”

He thanked Ibom Air’s Board of Directors, Management, and Staff for making him proud, emphasising that “they have done very well.”

Gov. Obaseki, who spoke at the event, stated that Akwa Ibom has become the country’s flagship state for its efforts to invest in and make significant strides in the aviation sector.

Obaseki described Akwa Ibom as the country’s flagship state for its efforts to invest in and expand the aviation sector. “Ibom Air is always completely booked.” Let me thank you on behalf of Nigerians,’’ Obaseki said.

In his remarks, the Managing Director of Ibom Airlines., Mr Mfon Udom announced plans to begin regional flights in 2023.

Udom said the new addition to the fleet of Ibom Air would expand its carrying capacity and boost employment opportunities in the state by 40 per cent.

“With this new capacity coming on board, we are delighted to inform our passengers that we have increased our offerings, providing more frequencies for their convenience.

“The Uyo-Lagos and Uyo-Abuja routes now have three frequencies each every weekday, while our Lagos-Abuja passengers will have seven frequencies to choose from both ways, every weekday,’’ he said.

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Lagos State Boosts Food Supply With Mass Sale of Rice and Cooking Oil

LAISA has commenced the massive sale of rice and soya bean vegetable oils ahead of the December festival

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Lagos state government through the Lagos State Agricultural Inputs Supply Authority (LAISA) has commenced the massive sale of rice and soya bean vegetable oils ahead of the December festival.

The sale which is taking place at different locations in the state is already attracting massive buyers. 

According to the General Manager of LAISA, Mr Bolaji Balogun, places where potential buyers can get the products include New Farm Service Oko-Oba Centre, and Gengeto Bus stop, Abeokuta Road, Lagos.

While speaking to the press, Balogun disclosed that available products include 50kg of rice and 1-3 litres of soya vegetable oil all sold at affordable prices. 

The GM added that the food sale event was a response to the yearnings of Lagosians who demanded affordable rice and cooking oil for the yuletide festival. 

He noted that several people came to LAISA stand for the request at the just concluded Lagos Trade Fair. 

Investors King understands that the Lagos State Agricultural Inputs Supply Authority (LAISA) was established with the mandate to boost food supply in the state and also provide the necessary support such as farm tools to farmers. 

” As a responsible agency of government, LAISA will continue to provide customers/farmers with high quality and healthy food supply at affordable prices as and when available. We also intend to continue to support and encourage farmers on the best farming practice as well,” Balogun noted. 

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has replied to a statement credited to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Nigeria will face food crisis in 2023.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development opposed the position of the global financial institution stating that Nigerians should not panic nor worry about the projection. 

The ministry added that several measures had been put in place to forestall any scarcity of food in Nigeria. 

It added that the government had approved a five-year tax break as an incentive to encourage private investments in the agricultural sector and increased food production, processing and marketing.

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U.S 2024 Elections: Donald Trump Declares For President

Former President of the United States, Donald Trump has once again showcased interest to seek the oval office after he failed re-election in 2020.

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

Former President of the United States, Donald Trump has once again showcased interest to seek the oval office after he failed re-election in 2020. Trump will be expected to tussle the Republic ticket with other potential nominees. 

At his private beach on Tuesday night, Trump said “In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States”. 

Trump’s ambition might however not be “Uhuru” as his party, the Republican failed to perform as expected in the midterm election. Although the Republican has been projected to win the majority seats in the house, the party, however, lost the senate including key states. 

In addition, the former US president will likely face stiff opposition from his party as potential co-contestants include his former Vice President Mike Pence and the Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, who won a resounding reelection victory on November 8.

Unfazed by the opposition and confident in his large following, Trump said “This is not a task for a politician or a conventional candidate. This is a task for a great movement.”

Investors King could recall that in 2020, Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden (Democrat). 

After his exit from office, there have been a number of investigations into his conduct before, during and after his first term as president which could ultimately result in his disqualification.

He is also investigated for inciting violence which led to the drastic attack on the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Meanwhile, analysts and observers are divided on Trump’s potential comeback. 

The mid-term election result shows that voters rejected candidates who backed Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud in 2020, and many of his high-profile picks for office struggled or lost out in the race. 

It could be recalled that Donald Trump alleged manipulation in the 2020 presidential election which produced President Joe Biden. Trump claimed he was rigged out and tried to establish a conspiracy to back up his claim.

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