The Federal Government has started investigating how the 2014 and 2015 budgetary allocations of the National Assembly were expended.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had demanded details of the budgets totalling N300bn from the National Assembly clerk, Sani Omolori.
Besides, he was requested to produce details of the contracts awarded by the assembly.
It was learnt that some principal officers of the seventh and the current eighth National Assembly would be invited in the coming months for interrogation.
Investigations showed that although the commission had received a petition from a former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, on the alleged padding of the 2016 budget, it is extending its investigations to 2014 and 2015 fiscal years.
Jibrin, in his petition, had alleged that the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara and three other principal officers padded the 2016 budget.
A top official of the EFCC said that although Jibrin’s petition bothered on the 2016 budget, funds had not been released for the projects allegedly inserted in the budget.
The source stated that the commission was focusing on 2014 and 2015, when the National Assembly got N150bn annually as its allocations.
It was learnt that for the seventh National Assembly, principal officers including the then Senate President, Senator David Mark, and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, would be invited by the commission.
For the eight National Assembly, besides Dogara, the current Senate President, Dr.Bukola Saraki; Ekweremadu and the Deputy Speaker, Sulaiman Lasun, will also be quizzed.
The official stated, “You know the National Assembly has never made its budget public. Besides Jibrin’s petitions, there are others that will make investigations into the 2014 and 2015 budgets inevitable.”
For example, a group, the Anti-Corruption Unit of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, in a petition to the EFCC, alleged that N418m contracts were awarded in 2014 to firms linked to Jibrin.
The contracts included the supply of beans and millets to Kano State awarded to Eleku Construction Limited.
When contacted, the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that the commission had requested for 2014 and 2015 budgets from the National Assembly.
Attempts to get Jibrin’s reactions did not succeed on Friday as he could not be reached through his telephone. He also did not reply to a text message our correspondent sent to his mobile phone.
Dogara, on his part, had recently said that the police and the EFCC could not investigate the House on the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
When contacted on Friday, both Saraki and Ekweremadu said they were not aware of any invitation from the EFCC or intention to invite them.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President, Sanni Odogu, simply said, “Saraki is a law-abiding citizen.”
He referred one of our correspondents to the Special Adviser to the Senate President (Media and Publicity), Yusuf Olaniyonu.
Olaniyonu, when contacted on the phone, said he was at a function and requested that a text message be sent to make the enquiry.
In his reply to the text message sent to him, Olaniyonu said, “No such thing. The Senate is on recess. We do not have any inkling about any such probe or invitation. In any case, remember that he became Senate President on June 9, 2015. So, if they are talking of 2014 and 2015, I don’t think that (the probe) will concern him.”
But another senior aide to Saraki, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that even when the Senate President was charged to two different courts, he had been law-abiding.
“When they dragged him to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, he has been attending the proceedings. When they dragged him to a Federal High Court (over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules along with some principal officers of the Senate), he has been going. If there is anything else, let us wait till that time comes,” the source said.
Also, the Special Adviser to the Deputy Senate President on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said, “We are not aware of any invitation or the intention to invite Senator Ekweremadu.”
Similarly, Mark’s media aide, Paul Mumeh, said he could not react to speculations.
“We can only react to what I know of. Have you seen the letter of invitation written by the EFCC? Who signed it? Who was it sent through? We can only react to facts,” he said.
However, the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Shehu Sani, told one of our correspondents that the probe is the same as meddling in the affairs of the legislature by the executive.
He noted that the security and anti-graft agencies are arms of the executive. He asked why the agencies were not paying attention to the executive and the judiciary.
Sani said, “The anti-corruption agencies are showing more interest in allegations against members of the National Assembly than against members of the executive and the judiciary. And the discriminatory responses of the anti-corruption agencies are an ill wind that will blow no one any good. It simply discredits the agencies as well as raise suspicions on their activities.
“The National Assembly is not immune to the law that is applicable to anybody in this country but the anti-corruption agencies must respect the independence of the legislature and seek an informed opinion whenever they are delving into issues that concern the legislature because they are still seen as part of the executive. They must know that any of their actions, naturally, will be interpreted as a calculated attempt to undermine the activities of the National Assembly.
The lawmaker, who is representing Kaduna-Central at the Senate, however, added that no legislature should “in any way take advantage of its esteemed position and the privileges of its esteemed position to commit crime with the expectation of immunity or impunity.”
Afenifere, CD back probe
Reacting to the moves to probe the National Assembly, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, supported the investigation and took a swipe at the All Progressives Congress for saying that it would not punish any of its members involved in budget padding.
Odumakin said, “That is high wire politics. It is dawning on the owners of the game that if this is pursued to a logical conclusion and Dogara has to step down, there is possibility of power changing hands. So, it is practical to shave the anti-corruption stance so as not to upset the apple cart.”
Also, President of Campaign for Democracy, Bako Abdul Usman, backed the investigation of the National Assembly.
He said, “It’s unfortunate that the level of high-handedness, impunity, lack of respect for the judiciary by the APC within just one year in office, is quite alarming and negates its ideology of fighting corruption.
“A party that recorded victory based on the principles of change from corrupt practices, aids and abets illegality without sanctioning its erring members.
“Most of us will see the fight against corruption as a mere mirage or witch hunt of the opposition. If that should happen, then Mr. President’s body language of ‘I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody’ is not true for he really belongs to somebody and certainly he is for somebody and will never stop being for the powers that be in shielding corruption.”
FG Has Paid Fuel marketers N74B in Seven Months — NMDPRA
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) on Wednesday disclosed that the federal government has paid oil marketers N74 billion as bridging claims in last seven months..
The agency said it was reacting to claims by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN), Suleja branch, that continuing fuel scarcity was caused by non-payment of bridging claims.
The agency said it paid N71.2 billion bridging claims and another N2.7 billion freight differentials to the marketers as of June 6.
In May, IPMAN said the government owed its members half a trillion naira being the cost of transporting petrol across the country.
However, at the time NMDPRA had claimed to have paid oil marketers bridging claims of about N59 billion in five months.
In recent months, fuel scarcity has worsened in Abuja and several other cities across the country.
Marketers had listed the high cost of buying petrol at the depots and the high cost of diesel to truck them as the major factors responsible for the recent queue.
On Monday, the government announced that the nation’s capital petroleum deliveries were up nearly 100 per cent after the government offered additional N10 freight reimbursements to marketers.
The statement by the NMDPRA reads: “The attention of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has been drawn to allegations made by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN Suleja Branch) on product scarcity as a result of non-payment of bridging claims.
“The authority chief executive of the NMDPRA, at a meeting held on 17th May 2022 with IPMAN bridging payment was discussed extensively and the processes were explained and agreed upon by IPMAN.
“He assured IPMAN of NMDPRA’s willingness to continue making payments of outstanding claims to promote seamless operations.
“Pursuant to the meeting, the NMDPRA went ahead to make an additional payment of N10 billion in June and sought for an upward review of the freight rate which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and is currently being implemented.
“The Authority wishes to reiterate that bridging payment is an ongoing process which is carried out after due verification exercise by the Authority and Marketers.
“So far, the Authority paid N71,233,712,991 bridging claims and another N2,736,179,950.84 freight differentials to the Marketers as at 6th June 2022.
“A breakdown of payment made to Marketers is as follows: Major Marketers (MOMAN) received N9,958,777,487.24, IPMAN members were paid N42,301,923,616.96, NNPC Retails N6,661,459,118.61 while DAPPMAN members were paid N12,303,195,651.57, these translate to a total of N73,969,892,941.84.
“It is disheartening that despite these payments and increase of N10 bridging cost, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago, IPMAN could turn around to accuse the NMDPRA of insensitivity,” the statement said.
It said NMDPRA remains committed to ensuring a safe, efficient, and effective conduct of midstream and downstream petroleum operations.
Nigeria-Cameroon Link Bridge up for Inauguration this June – Fashola
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has stated that the Nigeria-Cameroon link bridge will be inaugurated this June.
Speaking at the 16th inter-ministerial meeting of the group in Abuja, Fashola who doubles as the Chairman of the five regional ministerial steering committees, explained that the largely funded bridge by the African Development Bank (AfDB) is completed and in hopes that ECOWAS would deliver support for the inauguration.
“We have completed a new link bridge that links Nigeria to Cameroon, and it was funded largely by the AfDB and we are hoping that the ECOWAS commission will give us the necessary support to ensure the formal opening of that bridge sometime in the month of June,” he said.
The commitment to the piece of infrastructure, according to the minister, is to transform the road network into a first-class six-lane motorway, emphasizing that while speed is important, quality must not be lost.
“We’re trying to deliver a better life for five countries and over 40 million people who use that corridor, almost on a daily basis.
“The future is bright, this is an important investment for the people of Africa to achieve the objective of the Africa Union (AU) to create a trans-African highway,” he stated.
Lydie Ehouman, AfDB’s Chief Transport Economist and Project Task Manager, also spoke at the event, stating that the bank had been able to acquire an additional €3.5 million for the road project.
Investors King gathered that the total sum available for the initial financing of the project’s strategic research has increased to $41 million.
“The agreement for the on-lending of this additional grant by the bank to ECOWAS is currently being finalised. Thus, in addition to its substantial contribution of $25 million, the bank will have mobilised €12.63 million in the form of a grant from the European Union.
“This brings the total amount available for the financing of this highly strategic study to the equivalent of about US$ 41 million,” she stated.
She did, however, point out that specialists in member countries’ claims of delays were untrue, because the arrangement was that labor should persist while any differences were aired and rectified.
UNDP, DPGA to Promote Global Digital Goods
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), the government of Norway, and Sierra Leone have agreed to promote inclusive digital public infrastructure in countries across the world.
On Wednesday, Investors King gathered that world leaders, development organisations and philanthropic funders are set to invest in a “large-scale technology sharing, funding, and commitment to supporting the international cooperation agenda.”
In its published statement, UNDP stated that the agreement is to improve governance frameworks, which are critical to building a resilient future for countries.
At the event, global leaders committed their efforts to funding and the implementation of digital public infrastructure through a newly established Digital Public Goods Charter (DPG), which serves as a framework to increase international cooperation on this plan.
With its DPG Charter, co-led by the DPGA and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), the UNDP outlines a clear vision for a coordinated global approach to building a safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure using DPGs.
“Doing so can enable countries – regardless of income levels – to transform services and service delivery for people and communities everywhere,” the statement read.
The DPG Charter, and the commitments made by global leaders, are especially relevant given the devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting climate disruption.
These challenges, compounded with the unprecedented food, energy, and financial crisis added by the war in Ukraine, are creating an urgent need for global action.
Digital Public Goods are open-source solutions used to build digital public infrastructure (DPI), enabling countries to provide better services and foster inclusive economic growth.
While the Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) involves digital systems like cash transfers, digital identification, and data exchange that enable the adequate provision of essential society-wide functions. It also allows the building of resilient crisis recovery.
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