The Federal Government has started compiling the list of legislators in both chambers of the National Assembly over constituency projects earmarked for them in the 2014 and 2015 budgets, which were not executed.
The sum of N100bn was earmarked for constituency projects in each of the 2014 and 2015 budgets.
The worth of constituency projects totalled N200bn for the two years.
Though he declined to give details “in order not to pre-empt investigation,” the AGF said the funds, the names of legislators and the constituency projects that were not executed would be made public after investigation.
He said his office and the law enforcement agencies had received complaints of how payments were made for constituency projects that were never executed.
He said, “The money for constituency projects had been taken, but certain allegations prevailed that some constituency projects were not executed after the money had been paid 100 per cent.
“If money is appropriated in the budget, paid and the projects the funds were meant for were not executed, it is only natural to take steps to find out what happened. If neither the money nor the project can be produced, then you must take steps in accordance with the law.
“There are cases that are specific; we are compiling them. I will not want to pre-empt investigation, we have to allow investigation to be concluded before we go public.”
When asked which of EFCC or ICPC was involved in probing the constituency project fraud, the minister responded, “including the police”.
One of our correspondents learnt that the AGF had received petitions against many of the federal legislators, including a former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin.
Jibrin had also petitioned the EFCC, ICPC, the police and the Department of State Services, alleging that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers had requested the inclusion of N40bn projects in the 2016 budget, besides other projects in sums ranging from N20bn to N30bn.
The police are currently investigating Jibrin’s allegations.
MDAs responsible for constituency projects –Lawmakers
However, some lawmakers stated that ministries, departments and agencies under the executive were responsible for the execution of constituency projects.
They explained that lawmakers only identified projects, put them in the national budget, while the MDAs execute them after the president had approved the budget.
The representative of the Oyo South senatorial district at the Senate, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, said any probe into the constituency projects should start from the executive.
He said, “There is a certain amount set aside for constituency projects. Each lawmaker is allocated a certain amount of money and they will identify the projects of their choice. But the execution by contractors has nothing to do with lawmakers. The main role we play is to name the project and make sure that the project is executed.”
When he was asked if it was possible for a lawmaker to influence the selection of the contractor and the execution of the project, Akanbi said, “That means the ministry or the agency handling the project has been compromised.’’
Akanbi, however, said lawmakers could be culpable in the manipulation because they had to certify that the job had been done before the contractor could be paid.
Senator George Sekibo, who is recontesting his election in the Rivers-East senatorial district, also said the projects included in any budget passed by the National Assembly were executed by the MDAs.
The legistlator, who has been in the Senate since 2007, stated that lawmakers were not involved in the execution of constituency projects.
He said, ‘‘Nobody gives a kobo to any senator for constituency project. All a senator does is to recommend a project for his constituency.”
The House also said the role of lawmakers in constituency projects was limited to the selection of the projects, while relevant MDAs carried out the implementation.
It also said no member was handed cash or paid money for the implementation of the projects.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, said, “Members do not execute constituency projects, and they don’t receive money for the projects.
“For example, a health centre will naturally be done by the Ministry of Health or any agency so designated by the executive to handle the project. It is not the member who implements the project or appoints the contractors.”
CSOs back FG probe
Civil rights groups supported the probe.
A United States-based activist, Simon Ajaja, said constituency projects had brought fraud.
He said, “The idea is an organised fraud driven by the mostly ignoble men and women who have serially foisted themselves on Nigeria and Nigerians as their lawmakers, but with no intentions of making laws that would engineer national development beyond advancing a cause for themselves via phoney loopholes in the system.”
Also, the Executive Secretary of The Anti-Corruption Network, Ebenezer Oyetakin, urged the Federal Government to carry out a thorough probe.
“The constituency projects have become an avenue for the members of the National Assembly to recoup the outrageous money spent to run elections and to feed their corruption nest rather than serving the purpose they are defined to serve,” he added.
The President of Campaign for Democracy, Bako Usman, said, “This will create more synergy between the executive and the legislature, and even the judiciary. When it comes to budget harmonisation and implementation, issues like padding will no longer occur.”
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, advised the government to limit access to money by public officials.
He said, “The government should start institutional reforms that will ensure that people don’t have access to that kind of money again.’’
Efforts to get the reaction of the Senate’s spokesperson, Senator Sani Abdullahi, proved abortive as his mobile phone rang out. He had yet to reply to a text message sent to him.
FG Places 3,964 Nigerians on Watch List, Suspends Passports
No fewer than 3,964 Nigerians are currently on the watch list of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
The names of the affected individuals, it was gathered, have been placed with security agencies at the nation’s international airports where they will be arrested on sight.
According to the 2020 NIS annual report suspect index, 308 persons were placed on the watch list in 2019, 166 in 2020, while 51 persons were stop-listed in two years.
No fewer than 3, 438 passports are also being watch, while 23 are on the exemption list.
The report states, “Suspect index reviews and maintains the list of persons whose entry into Nigeria is prohibited or on whom special instructions are in place with respect to entry and departure from Nigeria. The travel documents are the instruments used to achieve this objective through synergy with other law enforcement agencies and court of competent jurisdiction.”
In a related development, the NIS has revoked 149, 875 stolen or lost passports and uploaded them to Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database via the Web Services for Data Management platform.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the FG may not meet its 2021 revenue projection from NIS services.
Findings show that there might be revenue shortfall from visa; e-PASS, ECOWAS Residence Card, the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card and other documents issued by the NIS due to the reduced number of foreign visitors and expatriates in the country following COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Immigration sources said the number of Italians, Britons, South Africans, Chinese, Indians, and other Asians, who constitute a large percentage of expatriates in the country, had reduced on account of travel restrictions imposed by their respective countries.
The erstwhile Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede had said the service recorded a 40 per cent revenue shortfall in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures from the NIS showed that in 2018, the immigration service generated N20.3bn from CERPAC; N40.7bn in 2019, and N16.7bn in 2020.
Envoy Considers Establishment Of Chinese Banks In Nigeria To Boost Economy
Mr Cui Jianchun, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, says he is in talks with Chinese owned Banks to establish operations in Nigeria.
This, the envoy said, is to boost Nigeria’s economy and expand trade relations between the two nations.
Cui made this known on Tuesday in Abuja while addressing Journalists during the commemoration of the 2021 Chinese Moon Festival and China-Nigeria Cultural week.
According to Cui, the establishment of Chinese Banks in Nigeria will also be one of the key areas of discussion during the China-Nigeria Binational Committee meeting, which he is also pushing for the establishment.
He said that an efficient financial institution was a key driver to achieving a strong economy, one Nigeria can learn from China’s experience.
“Before my departure from Beijing to Abuja, I talked to several banks in China. When you list the World’s 10 big banks, six are in China.
“The Banking sector is very important, because, without money, we cannot build our industries.
“What I am thinking here is best to talk to the governor of Central Bank and how we can allow the Chinese Banks to run office here and now, they are doing the feasibility studies on that.
“I am working hard that in the Bi-national meeting, I hope we can make a big decision and give a big push to let the banking industry and insurance industry because financial integration and institutions are key.
“If you go to China, you will find our banking industry is very powerful, not only for business but the change in the way of life.
“Because of the COVID-19, the Banking Industry is a little hesitant, but I told them Nigeria has a lot of human resources and as long as we work together, we can do big things.
“And that is why it is important to invest in the banking industry, to solve this problem,” Cui said.
Extolling the extant China-Nigeria trade relations, Cui noted that the volume of trade between China and Nigeria is nearly 20 billion US Dollars, with an increase from 2020’s 19.2 billion dollars.
Cui said the Chinese economy is restoring to the normal post-COVID-19 pandemic and both governments are working hard on how to expand imports and exports.
Speaking on the event, Cui said the China’s moon festival is a very important and significant one for China as it symbolises family reunion, national peace and social harmony.
The envoy said the 2021 celebration is also a special one as it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of China-Nigeria’s bilateral relations.
He said that both countries also share Oct. 1 as their National Days.
He said it is also on that note that the Chinese Embassy is honouring 50 Nigerian employees of Chinese Companies in Nigeria for their outstanding performance and contribution to strengthening diplomatic ties.
Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, also lauded the Nigeria-China relations.
She said the relations had recorded great successes over the past five decades.
“The five decades of co-operation had since witnessed several cultural activities and exchanges in the spheres of arts, music, dance, exhibition, cultural administration, training and capacity building of cultural officers.
“And recently, the development of Cultural Industries centres in Nigeria, among others.
“I must add that China, through the youth-oriented programmes such as the photos competition and similar activities in the past is surely a dependable ally.
“In redirecting the energy and mind of our youth to creative ventures, thereby furthering the Nigerian government’s policy of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years”, Anyanwukatu said. (NAN)
Lagos Prohibits Open Cattle Grazing, Sanwo-Olu Signs Bill Into Law
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, assented to the bill prohibiting Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land, signing the legislation into law 11 days after it was unanimously passed by the State House of Assembly and transmitted to the Executive arm for authorisation.
By implication, it is now criminal in Lagos for cattle rearers to occupy unapproved public areas and private land with their livestock for grazing. The law also prohibits the act of moving cattle round public places by herders.
The signing of the anti-open grazing law by the Governor followed the decision of Southern Governors’ Forum last August, setting the September deadline to pass the law across member States.
There have been crises witnessed in some States, resulting from alleged open grazing.
Although farmer-herder crisis is not pronounced in Lagos, the anti-open grazing law is expected to prevent the spillover of the menace into the State.
Sanwo-Olu, who assented to the bill during the State’s Executive Council meeting in Alausa, directed the security agencies to swing immediately into action and enforce provisions of the law.
He said: “By the powers vested in me as the Governor of Lagos State, I am signing the bill on Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land into law to prohibit issues associated with open grazing of livestock.”
The Governor also signed legislation transforming the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) into a full-blown agency.
The development coincided with the commemorative month dedicated to raising awareness on gender-based violence in the State. The Governor and members of the State’s cabinet wore attire with purple shades to support the campaign against sexual violence.
The DSVRT legislation provides for the establishment of Sexual Offenders’ Register that would help the State efficiently tackle violations in the communities.
After signing the law, Sanwo-Olu said: “Raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence is an important piece of working to end the cycle of violence. It is important to reiterate the State Government’s zero tolerance to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. We will not rest on our oars until the menace is reduced to the barest minimum in Lagos.”
The Governor appointed Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi as the Executive Secretary of the new agency.
Vivour-Adeniyi was the coordinator of the response team before the legislation was signed into law.
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