- March 30 no Longer Feasible for Budget Passage — Reps
About 86 out of the 96 standing committees of the House of Representatives have failed to produce any report on the 2017 budget.
The development is an indication of more delays for the N7.29tn budget.
The Committee on Appropriations wrote the House for the second time on Thursday to complain that “over 80 per cent” of the committees had not reported on the budget.
This implies that just about 10 out of the 96 committees had produced their reports after over three weeks of consistently failing to meet the deadline for the submission of the reports.
The committee’s complaint, which was read to members on the floor of the House by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, noted that the House might be forced to pass all executive proposals in the budget in the absence of the committees’ reports.
“Three weeks after the deadline, over 80 per cent of standing committees have yet to submit their reports,” Dogara read from a document submitted to the House by the Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, Mr. Mustapha Dawaki.
Most of the committees had unresolved issues with ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government regarding the details of their budget proposals.
As of Friday, investigations showed that the committees were still struggling to reconcile figures after receiving budget details from “a number of MDAs.”
Our findings also indicated that without the reports, the budget would not be passed by the legislature.
Similarly, a source in the Committee on Appropriations said there were unanswered questions that were supposed to guide the committee taking decisions.
The source said, “For instance, will the budget size increase or reduce? Are we retaining $42.5 as the benchmark? Are we retaining the proposed N305/dollar exchange rate or it will change?”
Speaking on the issue, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, confirmed that the March 30 date scheduled for the passage of the budget by the National Assembly was no longer feasible.
Namdas explained that apart from the committee reports not being ready, the Federal Executive Council was approving additional projects to be included in the 2017 budget.
“There are a number of issues and we can’t promise that March 30 is sacrosanct. There is a new budget software different from the one in use before, and besides, the FEC is daily approving new projects to be included in the budget. However, we will try our best to ensure that all the committees submit their reports,” he said.
On its part, the Senate has extended the period for which its committees are to submit their reports on the 2017 Appropriation Bill to the Committee on Appropriations for harmonisation, it was learnt on Friday.
The committee is expected to present a unified report to the Senate for passage.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly said the delay was caused by other legislative work, including the confirmation hearing held for the acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, and the summon and appearance of the Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.).
The lawmakers had planned to pass the budget on March 8, 2017.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, who is also a member of the Committee on Appropriations, told one of our correspondents that the submission of reports was expected to be concluded this week.
He said, “I don’t know anything about deadlines; we have a time line. But if you look at the way we have been working, other things have interrupted the process and the period of work. We are making efforts to see that by next week, we are able to conclude the receipt of reports.”
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.
The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.
In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.
SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.
“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”
COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.
In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.
“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.
“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom
Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.
The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.
He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.
The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.
The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.
“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.
“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.
“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.
“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.
Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.
“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”
He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.
“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.
“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.
“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.
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