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.”
ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions on Guinea Junta Over Coups
West African leaders have decided to impose travel bans and freeze the financial assets of members of Guinea’s ruling junta and their families after a coup more than a week ago.
The decisions were announced Thursday after an Extraordinary Summit on Guinea in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Mediators with the regional group had traveled to Guinea to meet with junta leaders and check on the condition of deposed President Alpha Conde.
ECOWAS president Jean Claude Brou said the West African leaders have also insisted that there should be no “need for very long transition for the country to return to democratic order.”
The targeted sanctions come after Guinea’s coup leaders set a number of conditions for releasing Conde, according to the foreign minister of Ghana.
ECOWAS had already warned it will impose penalties on the junta in Guinea unless it immediately releases Conde, who has been held at an undisclosed location since being detained during the Sept. 5 coup in Conakry.
“We are coming to address a burning issue in the region,” said Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current chair of the regional bloc, ahead of the summit. He was joined by presidents or high-ranking officials from eight of the other 15 ECOWAS countries.
Members of the ECOWAS delegation that visited Conakry after the coup presented their reports at Thursday’s meeting, said Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway. The junta has set a number of conditions for complying with the demands of regional mediators, she said but declined to disclose what they are.
The delegation has spoken with Conde’s doctor “who ascertained that indeed physically, he’s very well,” she said. However, she said, the ex-president is still coming to terms with the fact that his government has been toppled after more than a decade in power.
“For anybody who has gone through such a traumatic experience like he did, mentally, it’s not the best, not to say that mentally we found anything wrong, but he was quite shocked; he’s still in a state of shock,” she added.
Meanwhile, in Conakry, junta leaders were also set to meet with mining company representatives on the third day of a special summit to chart Guinea’s political future. Junta leader Col. Mamady Doumbouya has sought to reassure the country’s most vital economic sector that the political changes will not impact existing mining projects in the country, which has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite.
Guinea’s coup leaders have yet to make public their proposed timeframe for handing over power to a civilian transitional government, nor have they outlined how quickly new elections can be organized.
Conde had sparked violent street demonstrations last year after he pushed for a constitutional referendum that he used to justify running for a third term, saying term limits no longer applied to him. He ultimately won another five years in office last October, only to be toppled by the coup 10 months later.
At the time he came to power in 2010, he was Guinea’s first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958.
The regional bloc also planned to tackle concerns over whether a second member state, Mali, is making enough progress toward a return to democracy more than a year after a military takeover there.
In Mali, the ruling junta led by Col. Assimi Goita has committed to holding new elections by February 2022, though mediators who recently visited have expressed concern about whether that deadline now can be met.
Goita overthrew Mali’s president in August 2020 and then agreed to a civilian transitional government and an 18-month timeframe for holding a vote. However, only nine months after the first coup he effectively staged a second one, firing the civilian interim leaders and ultimately naming himself as president of the transition.
ECOWAS has not reinstated Mali’s membership in the bloc, marking the first time since 2012 that two of the 15 member states are suspended concurrently.
ECOWAS President Brou said there was the need to revisit the organization’s 2001 protocol on good governance “because a lot of things have changed or improved.”
COVID-19: Indian Travellers Regains Entry Into Nigeria
The federal government of Nigeria on Monday said travellers from India will no longer be denied entry into Nigeria as the country has been removed from the list of flagged countries.
In May, in an effort to curb the spread of the global health pandemic, the federal government had banned travellers from Brazil, India and Turkey from visiting the country.
Speaking on Monday during the national briefing of the presidential steering committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), said the situation in the Asian county has improved.
“The Global cases recorded continues to decline to about 4m cases weekly, although it is less, compared to last year and the situation calls for caution because we are not out of the woods yet. Africa and Nigeria in particular, continue to record rising cases and lots of fatalities,” Mustapha said.
“This can really be curtailed and reduced minimally if we adhere strictly to the NPIs. I recognize the fact that people are fatigued and tired but let me encourage all Nigerians not to give up. We all need to come together to defeat this dreaded disease so we can return to our normal life.
“The most potent way of getting out of this situation is through vaccines, which science and research has presented to us. I call on every eligible person to come out and be vaccinated. There are various choices now. We have AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and we expect Pfizer to be delivered very soon. There will be enough vaccines to go around soon. By the second quarter of 2022, we would have received about 52 million doses of the vaccines.
“To ease travels for fully vaccinated Nigerians, we are exploring the principles of reciprocity between Nigeria and other nations. For the time being, Nigerians are advised to always carry their vaccination card details or barcode on their electronic devices for easy access especially for those travelling outside the country.
“Compliance with protocols laid down for quarantine to ensure control remains a source of worry to the PSC. The need to review the protocol has become expedient to align with existing global protocols and realities. On this note, the PSC will adopt a sustainable model and policy that will be unveiled soon. To begin with, India has been removed from the list of flagged countries in view of improved situation in that country.”
“On this note, the PSC will adopt a sustainable model and policy that will be unveiled soon”, he said.
Osagie Ehanire, minister of health said evidence has so far shown that the Delta strain is already dominant in Nigeria.
He warned that though the third wave of the pandemic may appear to be leveling out because there have been no catastrophic increases in infections and fatalities, it is not wise to assume that the threat is gone, especially as cases are fluctuating and have to be identified by genomic sequencing.
The minister assured that even though there is a 25 percent shortfall in CICAX supply, Nigeria will not run low on vaccines.
Ehanire further noted that there were reports of new coronavirus mutations circulating in other countries, and assured that government will monitor with all tools available to respond appropriately.
Also speaking, Faisal Shuaib, executive director of, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency noted that vaccine cards were becoming a requirement across the country.
He, therefore, warned against any attempt to produce/procure and sell fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.
“Anyone who ventures into this would be apprehended and made to face the law. This is a criminal offense, in which both the buyer and seller would be prosecuted.
“We, therefore, urge all Nigerians to report any suspected attempt by any person or group of persons to buy or sell a COVID-19 vaccination card to us via our call centre line on 0700 220 1122, any of our social media handles (Facebook and Instagram), at the nearest police station or any other law enforcement agency. No one needs to cut corners on COVID-19 vaccination.
“The vaccines are free, and the vaccination cards are given free of charge at any of our designated health facilities after your vaccination,” Shuaib said.
South Africa Plans To Introduce Covid Passport
South Africa has announced plans to introduce a vaccine passport amid widespread mistrust of the Covid-19 vaccine in the continent’s most affected country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement in a televised address to the nation and assured that the immunization of the adult population was a necessary prerequisite to fully reopen the economy and avoid a fourth wave of infections, while the number of cases has dropped sharply in the country.
In two weeks, we will “provide more information on a system of ‘vaccine passports’ that can be used as proof of vaccination for various purposes and events,” he said without providing further details.
He added that the “sustained decline in infections (…) over the past few weeks” would, however, allow for a relaxation of the restrictive measures starting Monday.
The nightly curfew will be extended by one hour, to 11 p.m., and the limits on gatherings will be raised.
Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will also be eased, although protective masks will still be required in places open to the public.
The peak of a third stubborn wave due to the Delta variant is now over. Over the past seven days, the average number of new daily infections has dropped 29 percent from the previous week and 48 percent from the week before, Ramaphosa said.
“Our most urgent task is to vaccinate our population,” he said, noting that vaccine supply “is no longer a constraint.”
“If many people are not vaccinated (…) the risk of new and more dangerous variants emerging is much greater,” he warned.
After delays in the supply and distribution of doses, the vaccination campaign is now struggling to take off because of skepticism about the vaccine, especially among men.
To date, just over seven million people have been fully vaccinated in South Africa, with more than a quarter of adults have received at least one dose.
The country’s goal is to vaccinate 40 million South Africans, or about two-thirds of the population, by next March.
Authorities have recorded more than 2.8 million cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and 84,877 deaths, making it the worst affected country in Africa by the pandemic.
South African scientists are monitoring a new local variant with an unusually high mutation rate, dubbed C.1.2, although its presence is so far marginal among new cases detected in the country.
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