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.
Coronavirus – Angola: Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Oil Price Shock
The COVID-19 pandemic and the shock from the falling price of oil have put severe pressure on Angola since the country’s second review under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in December 2019.
Only months after the conclusion of the second review in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic reached Angola, ushering in economic and health crises. The decline in oil prices further strained the economy, which is heavily reliant on oil exports. The economic downturn and social distancing to contain the spread of the virus have been damaging, especially given the large informal sector.
A swift response to the crisis
The Angolan authorities adopted timely measures to tackle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 shock. Measures to protect public health included quarantine, social distancing, closing of borders with limited exceptions, closures of schools, restaurants, and public events, and limited transportation. The government recently approved a prudent supplementary budget for 2020 using a conservative oil reference price. It has also introduced a comprehensive set of fiscal and monetary measures to support economic activities.
On relief to help vulnerable people:
• Tax exemptions of value-added tax (VAT) and customs duties on goods imported under humanitarian aid and donations.
• VAT tax credit for imported capital goods and raw materials for producing essential consumption goods.
• Interest-free, deferred payment option for social security contributions.
• Regulation of prices for a list of medical goods.
On government spending:
• Freeze of 30 percent of purchases on nonessential goods and services.
• Reduction in the number of ministries from 28 to 21.
• Suspension of selected, nonessential capital expenditures.
• Decrease in travel and real estate investments.
• Additional liquidity support to banks and a liquidity line to buy government securities from nonfinancial corporations.
• A credit-stimulus program.
• Temporary suspension for debt service payments.
• Requirement for banks to provide credit to importers of essential goods.
A proactive external debt management
The government needs to safeguard its ability to continue to service its debt on schedule, even under the current trying circumstances. The government has therefore availed itself of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. They have also secured selected debt reprofiling operations with some of their large creditors.
Financial support from the IMF
On September 16, 2020, the IMF’s Executive Board approved the third review under the EFF and additional financial support to Angola to help mitigate the impact of the crises. Accordingly, the IMF has provided $1 billion to Angola, bringing its total expected financial support to about $4.5 billion under the three-year program. The authorities are strengthening their public financial management to improve accountability for the funds received from the IMF and debt relief from creditors.
The path to recovery
It is important for Angola to continue to stabilize the economy, control inflation, keep the reform momentum, and safeguard financial stability. It is also crucial to persevere with structural reforms, such as privatization, improvement in governance in state-owned enterprises, and strengthened legal frameworks. These reforms will help improve the business environment and pave the way for foreign direct investment and growth-enhancing economic diversification.
Republic of Korea Contributes Rice and Cash to Assist Ugandans threatened by locusts
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed 5,000 metric tons of rice and US$300,000 in cash from the Republic of Korea to provide much-needed relief assistance to 781,000 people including refugees and Ugandans threatened by locusts.
“WFP is extremely grateful for the continued generosity of the Republic of Korea since 2018 and its appreciation of the immense humanitarian needs in Uganda, which were suddenly made even more complicated by COVID-19,” said WFP Officer in Charge Ryan Anderson.
”This contribution of 5,000 metric tons of rice found us at a crossroads when we were considering whether to make deeper ration cuts for refugees because of a shortage of funding, even as we have evidence that they already face high food insecurity,” he added.
Combined with other contributions, the rice may allow WFP to maintain rations for 1.26 million refugees at the current 70 percent of a full ration for a while. Valued at US$4.3 million, it will also meet cereal needs of 614,000 refugees in seven settlements towards the end of the year.
The additional US$300,000 in cash will enable WFP to meet the relief needs of 167,000 people in the northeastern region of Karamoja, which is the most food-insecure region in the country and is threatened by a combination of malnutrition among its residents, locusts, floods and animal diseases.
“The Republic of Korea is committed to supporting vulnerable groups of people in Uganda, especially refugees fleeing conflict and nationals faced by chronic food shortages and malnutrition,” said Ambassador Ha Byung-Kyoo.
“We also are very pleased to continue making contributions of rice, which we have heard is appreciated by the refugees and contributes to much needed dietary diversity,” he added.
WFP was forced to reduce rations for refugees in April to 70 percent of a full ration because of funding shortages. The economic pressures that COVID-19 has brought on donor capitals has further complicated funding to feed refugees. WFP is putting in place safety measures in 13 refugee settlements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during food and cash distributions.
The Republic of Korea has contributed rice to WFP in Uganda annually since 2018 in support of 1.43 million refugees – the highest number of refugees hosted by any country in Africa.
The US$300,000 contribution will also contribute to supporting WFP assistance in Karamoja. Even though families in the region were able to harvest some crops in August, despite repeated sightings of locusts between February and July, the very presence of the pests in the region threatens both agriculture and vegetation needed for animals. Relief food helps to cushion families as the government and UN partners work to control the impact of locusts.
UAE May Reverse Visa Restriction on Nigerians Today Amid Airlines Ban
Nigerian Government Pressures UAE to Revisit Visa Restrictions
Barring any last-minute hitches, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will today, review the visa restriction placed on Nigerian travellers, following the ban of Emirates Airlines from the most populous black nation.
Sources at the company’s his office in Lagos confirmed that the issue was being reviewed, and the “right” diplomatic approach taken.
This came as aviation stakeholders commended the Federal Government for going “tough and playing tit-for-tat with countries that would not accept Nigerian travellers into their domains.”
The Federal Government, following pressure from some quarters, banned Emirates Airlines from Lagos and Abuja airports, effective today, over refusal to grant fresh visa applications submitted by Nigerians.
The government earlier banned European carriers, with the exception of British Airways, over travel restrictions.
Emirates officials said: “We have met with the Nigerian government on this issue, and we assured them that we will resolve it. We are presently working on it.”
“I hope this issue will be resolved before Monday. One thing I will assure you is that the issue will be resolved earlier than expected,” a manager said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Finchglow Travels, Bankole Bernard, said assurances had been given on the matter.
He noted that Nigeria was third-biggest market to Emirates, adding that the UAE would do everything to sustain their operations.
“UAE should have resolved this matter long ago. The ban means that they will lose the market, and they know the implication.
A market lost is never easily regained. Right now, we are certain that the ban will only affect Monday flights, and hoping that things will be normal by Tuesday,” he added.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at the weekend, via his twitter handle, announced the suspension of Emirates Airlines from Nigeria, saying the ban would take effect from today.
Emirates Airlines’ situation was reviewed, and they are consequently included in the list of those not approved, with effect from Monday, September 21, 2020,” he said.
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had in August warned that Nigeria would activate the principle of reciprocity in granting permission to airlines to resume operations in the country as it reopens its airspace.
It said the decision was informed by the embargoing on flights from Nigeria by some nations.
Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc were not approved to operate flights into the country.
Aviation stakeholder, Julius Akintunde, said the measures were in the best interest of the economy.
Also speaking, Secretary-General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), urged that the reciprocity should be done with caution in order for the Nigerian market not to be undermined by neighbours.
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