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2018: Senate queries N10bn solar streetlight project in varsities

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The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola
  • 2018: Senate queries N10bn solar streetlight project in varsities

The Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy on Thursday criticised a solar-powered streetlight project in nine universities across the country valued at N10bn.

The committee also turned back the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, from the budget defence session held for his ministry over his alleged “unpreparedness to face the committee for his 2018 budget defence.”

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, and other members asked why the Rural Electrification Agency planned to spend the sum of N10bn on solar streetlights.

The Managing Director, REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, while defending the 2018 budget proposal of the agency, listed Rural Electrification Access Progamme in Federal Universities with N10,148,146,829.00 earmarked for it.

He told the committee that the agency was already working in nine federal universities to upgrade electricity supply in the institutions.

The lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction with the REA boss’ defence of the project, noting that it was coming at a time when the power sector had been privatised.

A member of the committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan, said he could not understand why the agency was spending a huge amount of money to provide solar power in universities when rural communities for which the agency was created were left in darkness.

Another member of the committee, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, demanded the list of universities that were beneficiaries of the projects, even as Abaribe recalled that the committee had earlier requested for the list of the benefitting institutions.

Ogunbiyi listed the University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Usman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi, and Ado Bayero University, Kano as some of the federal institutions to benefit from the solar-powered installations.

The Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Buka Mustapha, insisted that the details of the project must be disclosed, including “who is paying for the installations when the power sector has been privatised.”

The REA boss, however, said it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide power in the rural areas.

She added that most of the universities were located in rural areas but not defined “rural areas” as demanded by the committee.

Abaribe stated that if the agency had N10bn to “play around with,” there was a better way to manage the funds.

He asked Ogunbiyi to tell the committee who was paying for the project in disregard to the privatisation of the power sector.

The members of committee also asked why the agency’s completed projects appeared to be lopsided. They particularly said the South-South geopolitical zone had over 30 completed projects, while other zones had far below the number.

Ogunbiyi explained that it depended on the nature, cost and variation of the projects, adding that contractors handling projects in the northern part of the country refused to go back to their sites until variation of the contracts had been done.

Meanwhile, Fashola was asked to reappear before the committee on Monday.

Abaribe said Fashola told the committee that he was not ready to face members as the minister did not come with necessary documents to present to members.

The lawmaker said the committee should have been provided with necessary documents to enable members of the committee to study them ahead of his presentation.

Abaribe said that Fashola later told the committee that he would be ready to appear before the lawmakers on Monday.

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.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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