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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

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.

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Government

Federal Government Raises Price of Electric Meters

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The Federal Government through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has raised the price of both single-phase and three-phase electricity meters starting from November 15, 2021.

The regulator increased the price of a single-phased meter to N58.661.69, up from the present cost of N44,896.17. While the price of a three-phase meter was raised from the current cost of N82,855.19 to a revised rate of N109,684.36.

The commission announced this in a circular dated November 11, 2021 and addressed to managing directors of all electricity Distribution Companies and all meter asset providers.

The circular, with reference number NERC/REG/MAP/GEN/751/2, was entitled ‘Review of the unit price of end-use meters under the Meter Asset Provider and National Mass Metering Regulations’.

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Complete Text of President Buhari’s Speech at the Furniture Investment Initiative Summit

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Buhari arrives Bamako, Mali

President Muhammadu Buhari is one of the global leaders invited to speak at the ongoing 5th Future Investment Initiative Summit organised by Saudi Arabia.

As reported by Investors King, President Buhari arrived Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday at about 11.50 pm for the summit.

On Tuesday President Buhari delivered the speech below.

“Let me begin by conveying my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud for inviting me to the 5th edition of the Future Investment Initiative Summit in Riyadh.

In the short period of its existence, this summit has emerged as a credible forum for interaction between the public and private sectors, to explore ways of advancing economic growth, development and global prosperity.

I wish to commend the organizers of this year’s summit for the foresight to look at “investment”, not only from a profitability and wealth accumulation point of view, but also bringing prosperity to humanity in general. The humane approach to investment is the only way to address the global challenges we face, especially in the Covid-19 era.

We should continue to sustain our efforts to combat the COVID- 19 pandemic and mitigate its negative socio-economic impact on our societies, build resilience and achieve recovery. It is therefore my hope, that this session will leverage on the enormous economic opportunities that lie ahead in order to satisfy the prevailing needs of our people and planet.

Investing in humanity is investing in our collective survival. This is why we in Nigeria we believe that public and private partnership should focus on increasing investments in health, education, capacity building, youth empowerment, gender equality, poverty eradication, climate change and food security. By so doing, it will go a long way in re- energizing the global economy in a post COVID-19 era.

Nigeria’s population today exceeds 200 million people. Some 70 percent are under 35 years old. When we came into government in 2015, we were quick to realise that long-term peace and stability of our country is dependent on having inclusive and humane policies.

In the past six years, our government took very painful but necessary decisions to invest for a long-term prosperous future knowing very well that this will come with short term pains.

We focused on the following areas:
a. diversification from oil to more inclusive sectors such as agriculture, ICT and mining;
b. tackling corruption, insecurity and climate change; and c. introducing a Social Investment Program.

We introduced policies that supported investments in agriculture and food processing. We provided loans and technical support to small holder farmers, through the Anchor Borrowers Program. As a result, Nigeria today has over 40 rice mills from less than 10 in 2014. Nigeria also has over 46 active fertiliser blending plants from less than 5 in 2014.

Furthermore, in agriculture, we have reformed the process of obtaining inputs such as fertilizer and seeds. We have several million hectares of available arable land and have embarked on the creation of Special Agriculture Processing Zones across the country. These initiatives we believe will make it easier for investors in agriculture.

Two months ago, I signed the Petroleum Industry Act. The Act will serve as a catalyst to liberalize our petroleum sector. It has introduced a number of incentives such as tax holidays, 100 percent ownership, zero interest loans and easy transfer of funds. In addition, we have highly skilled in-country workforce and a large domestic market.

In mining, we have also made several opportunities available for investors. Nigeria is a country rich in minerals from gold, iron ore, tin, zinc, cobalt, lithium, limestone, phosphate, bitumen and many others. We have made the licensing process easier and also made extensive investments in rail and transportation.

Infrastructure investments represent significant potential for investors in Nigeria. We have opportunities in seaports, rail, toll roads, real estate, renewable energy and many others. We have created several institutions that are available to co-invest with you in Nigeria.

We have the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and more recently, I approved the creation of Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria. These institutions are run as independent world class institutions to make investments in the country and are available to co- invest with you.

In addition, the development of social infrastructure such as healthcare and education present enormous opportunities for investors in a country our size.

Digital Economy in Nigeria has many potentials for investment, as it has remained the fastest growing sector in both 2020 and 2021. Nigeria has many opportunities for investment in broadband, ICT hardware, emerging technology and software engineering.

We have recently approved the national policy on Fifth Generation (5G) network. Our aim is to attract investors in healthcare, smart cities, smart agriculture among others. The benefit of real time communication will support all other sectors of the economy.

Yesterday, I launched the E-Naira, the electronic version of our national currency, which puts us on track to become the first African country to introduce a Central Bank Digital Currency. We believe this and many other reforms, will help us increase the number of people participating in the banking sector, make for a more efficient financial sector and help us tackle illicit flow of funds.

To further strengthen our anti-corruption drive, increase accountability and transparency, we have centralized government funds through a Treasury Single Account, and ensuring that all Nigerians with a bank account use a unique Bank Verification Number (BVN). These initiatives, coupled with our nationwide National Identification Number (NIN) exercise, reinforce our efforts to tackle corruption and fraud. We believe that this should give investors a lot of comfort.

As we strive to build resilience towards a sustainable economy in our various countries, let us not forget the negative impact of climate change on our efforts to achieve this goal. Nigeria and many countries in Africa, are already facing the challenges posed by climate change. Climate change has triggered conflicts, food insecurity, irregular youth migration, rising level of sea waters, drought and desertification, as well as the drying-up of the Lake Chad.

In the Lake Chad Basin region, where Boko Haram insurgency continues to undermine the peace, security and development of the region, climate change is largely responsible for the drying up of the Lake Chad which has shrunk by more than 85% of its original size.

The diminishing size of the Lake is at the root of the loss of millions of livelihoods, displacement of inhabitants and radicalization of teeming youths in the region who are recruited to serve as foot soldiers in the insurgency.

In order to redress this situation and restore the lost fortunes of the Lake Chad Basin region, strong public-private partnership through massive investments will be needed to recharge the waters of Lake Chad. I am confident that this forum will rise to the challenge in the interest of durable peace and sustainable development of our region.

We cannot invest in humanity without relieving our countries from the crushing effects of the debt burden especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of deepening the debt portfolio of poor countries. These nations increasingly allocate more and more resources towards external debt servicing and repayment at the expense of the health, education and other services that contribute to the overall well- being of their population.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation. Our economic reforms which focus on “humane” investments are ideal for investors looking to have profitable returns while positively impacting the citizenry.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Investing in Humanity is the right thing to do. I strongly believe the historical under- investments in “humane projects” is the genesis of most of the insecurity and socio-economic challenges the world is experiencing today.

I will conclude once again by thanking the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and also congratulate His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for their leadership and their support through the Future Investment Initiative.

I remain confident that through such exchanges, the world indeed will be a better place. I hope and pray that this forum will rise to the challenge in the interest of durable peace and sustainable development.

I thank you.”

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UN and Zimbabwe Sign New Cooperation Framework

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The government of Zimbabwe and United Nations have signed the 2022-2026 Zimbabwe United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework that will support the country’s efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The official signing and launch of the Zimbabwe United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2022-2026 was presided over by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda and UN Resident Coordinator Maria Ribeiro. UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen witnessed the signing ceremony together with other UN Country Team members and Government officials.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Dr Misheck Sibanda said Zimbabwe was grateful for the UN support towards the country’s development in the face of various challenges.

“I want to pay gratitude to Ms Maria Rebeiro for her commitment to uplift the livelihoods of the people of Zimbabwe in the face of natural disasters like the cyclone, droughts and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Misheck Sibanda.

He took the opportunity to bid farewell to Ms Rebeiro whose term of office ends this year and urged the UN team to continue with the legacy of her hard-work which saw the UN mobilise US$400 million towards promotion of agriculture, climate adaptation and health needs for Zimbabwe.

The UN Resident emphasised the importance of aligning the UN’s programmes with the country’s development strategies.

“In the same spirit of achieving SDGs, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic are opportunities for us to do better by aligning the country programmed NDS1 with instruments of the UN in resource and financial mobilisation,” Ms. Maria Ribeiro.

The 2022-2026 Zimbabwe United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (ZUNSDCF) articulates the strategic engagement of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Zimbabwe to support the country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Anchored on Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) 2021-2025, the ZUNSDCF encapsulates the shared commitment to leaving no one behind through delivering concrete results that ensure inclusive participation and reaching the people typically left the furthest behind.

The ZUNSDCF with full government ownership throughout the process, is a result of extensive consultations involving a wide range of key stakeholders whose inputs contributed to defining the strategic priorities and implementation modalities.

The ZUNSDCF lays out an ambitious programme to accelerate development progress during the Decade of Action as Zimbabwe strives to recover better and stronger from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fully cognizant of the urgency to act, the ZUNSDCF represents the vehicle through which the UNCT in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders, will deliver transformative support that drives inclusive and sustainable economic growth, gender equality, human rights and climate action.

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