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At 2nd anniversary of 9th Senate, Abaribe, Omo-Agege, Kalu decline comments

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Three Principal Offiicers of the National Assembly wednesday refused to speak on the achievements of the 9th Senate as it marked its second year anniversary.
When called upon by Lawan to make his contribution after the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi had spoken, Abaribe got up from his seat and said: “The Minority leader would like to decline marking any comment” and thereafter took his seat.

The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu also did not speak when Senate President Ahmad Lawan called on them to make contribution.

While Abaribe officially signified his decision not to speak during the session, it is not clear why Omo-Agege and Kalu did not heed the Senate President’s call.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan in his remarks while setting the tune, scored the 9th Senate high saying the upper chamber passed hundreds of bills, legislation, including confirmation of appointments for Executive Arm of Government.

He said: “About 742 Bills were introduced during the two sessions of the Assembly, out of which 58 have been passed. 355 Bills have gone through first reading, 175 have gone through second reading and have been referred to the relevant committees for further legislative business, while 11 Bills referred by the House of Representatives for concurrence have also been passed.

“The Bills cut across all the sectors and touch most areas of needs in the lives of our citizens.”

He said one of the most significant interventions of the Senate in the economic sector was the restoration of the national annual budget to the January to December cycle.

“This measure has made the nation’s fiscal plans more predictable and boosted the confidence of local and foreign investors in our economy. It is noteworthy that for the first time under the Fourth Republic, the budget achieved 100 per cent implementation level last year.

“The restoration was achieved in partnership with the House of Representatives and with the cooperation and commitment of the Executive Arm. And it signaled the possibilities in our country when all stakeholders are working together.

“Also noteworthy is the passage of the Deep Off-Shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act CAP D3 LFN 2004 (Amendment Bill, 2009). We passed this very important law to increase Nigeria’s share of revenue from its crude oil.

“Other laws that we passed that are having significant impacts on the economy include the Finance Bill 2019 (Nigeria Tax and Fiscal Law) (SB.140), which amended seven existing tax laws,” he said.

Lawan added: “In our Legislative Agenda, we had also promised to create a legal environment conducive for ease of doing business. We kept this promise by passing the Companies and Allied Matters Act, Cap C20 LFN 2004 (Repeal and Reenactment) Bill 2019 (SB.270).

“We also promised to break the jinx on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and we are on the verge of doing this by finally passing the Bill this month after about 20 years of failed attempts.

“Security challenges are currently pushing our country to the edge of the precipice. Insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and attacks on public facilities are occurring daily in many parts of the country with our security forces stretched almost to their elastic limit.

“To address the emergency, we passed several resolutions as part of our legislative interventions and kept engaging with the Executive in order to achieve the desired outcome.

“Review of the 1999 constitution as amended is one of the important items of our Legislative Agenda.

“In this respect our Committee on the review of the Constitution just concluded Public Hearings in six Geo-Political Zones of the Country from which the Committee collected Memoranda from Nigerians and listened to their views. The zonal hearings were followed by a national public hearing in Abuja last week.

“The essence of this process is to consider the major issues that Nigerians feel strongly about. We believe consensus building is essential to achieve the changes. It is gladdening, however, that Nigerians have showed enthusiasm for the process.

“It is in line with this that we have set a target to consider the report of the Committee on the Amendment of 1999 Constitution before we embark on this year’s summer break in July.

“Our electoral process has shown remarkable improvement in the Fourth Republic with the cycle now virtually stable.

“In 2023, we shall have the seventh regular cycle of general elections, the longest in the history of our nation.

“Despite the progress, gaps and inadequacies have been identified in the process. The electoral reform Bill seeks to address these gaps and we have committed ourselves to passing the Bill before the annual summer recess.

“The fight against corruption is critical to the progress of Nigeria and is a key point in the Agenda of the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“As part of our commitment to the success of the fight, we passed the Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2021 to boost institutional capacity for fighting corruption in Nigeria.

“We believe that the new institute will provide the kind of services that can nip corruption in the bud in both the public and private sectors.

“We had earlier passed the Public Procurement Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB.109); and the Public Procurement Act, 2007 (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB.158) also to block the avenues for corruption in the procurement process by MDAs.

“One of the developments we did not foresee at the inception of the Ninth Assembly was the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disease caught the entire world by surprise and wreaked havoc on economies large and small.

“Thanks to the unity of purpose in this chamber and the National Assembly at large, however, we were able to provide the necessary intervention in support of the efforts of the Executive to combat the virus.

“To help the nation cope with the health emergency and its dire economic consequences, we promptly revised the budget which we had passed early in the previous December.”

Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi said the upper chamber deserve to celebrate the anniversary in view of its tremendous progress on all fronts.

He said: “Let me put it on record that the 9th Senate has made a lot of progress on all fronts and therefore deserves to mark this very great day.

“When we started, I knew that the 9th Senate is going to be significantly different and effective because it started with a position that we need to work for Nigerians by collaborating and engaging with other arms of Government.

“Our motions on security alone are 67, on economy we have about 106, on health issues we have about 62, on education we have 10.“

Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Senators Yahaya Oloriegbe, Gabriel Suswam, Chukwuka Utazi, Olubunmi Adetunmbi, Solomon Adeola, Ibikunle Amosun, Adamu Aliero, Ajayi Boroffice, Istifanus Gyang, Stephen Odeh, Rochas Okorocha and spoke among others.

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Legislature

GBV: NGO urges Kogi Assembly to present VAPP Bill for assent

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By Friday Idachaba

A Non-Governmental Organisation, Challenged Parenthood Initiative (CPI), has charged the Kogi House of Assembly to, without further delay, present the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill to Gov. Yahaya Bello for assent.

Executive Director of CPI Ms Eunice Agbogun, who made the call while addressing newsmen on Sunday in Lokoja, said the bill was passed by the House on March 21.

She said there was an urgent need for the VAPP bill to be assented to by the governor and gazetted without further delay to curtail the prevalence of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the state.

Agbogun said the law, when operational, was expected to serve as a legal tool for the protection of the people from all forms of violence.

She added that it was no longer news that violence and other forms of offence against persons in public and private life were at their peaks, making life unsafe in the state.

According to her, existing legal frameworks do not cover all forms of offences in the state and that is why most perpetrators of violence are not properly prosecuted and many individuals can not access justice.

She noted that the impunity with which perpetrators were carrying out violent activities necessitated the advocacy for the passage of the VAPP bill as a legal tool for protection.

“The VAPP Bill is to eliminate violence in our private and public lives, prohibit all forms of violence against persons and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment to the offenders.

“We are being faced with cases of GBV. We need the VAPP bill to be assented to law and gazetted,” she said. (NAN)

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Legislature

House of Reps minority caucus accuses FG of cover up on the outcry of death threats by EFCC chairman

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By Aminci Audu

The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has tasked the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Government not to cover up the outcry by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, that he has been receiving death threats in the course of his duty.

Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Hon. Ndudi Elumelu in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday said they are disturbed by the silence of the APC-led Federal Government on the worrisome development, saying it smacks of attempt to shield corrupt officials within its system
The statement said the caucus will hold the APC led Government responsible should any harm befall the EFCC Chairman.
The statement reads:
“Our caucus is calling on the EFCC Chairman to go public and expose the names of those threatening him as well as issues of corruption involving such individuals.
“We also demand an immediate investigation into the revelation as such threats on the life of the EFCC Chairman cannot be glossed over.”

Moreover, the statement said it is alarmed by the indictment of a female minister in the APC-led Federal Government for buying a $37.5 million worth property from a bank, $20 million cash of which was deposited.

“The minority caucus notes that this revelation by the EFCC is another sad commentary on the monstrous corruption and treasury looting going on in the APC-led administration.

The caucus urged the EFCC Chairman not to be deterred by the threats but to remain focused as well as go ahead to disclose the identities of those behind the threats as well as that of the said minister for appropriate action.

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Legislature

Senate panel quizzes MDAs on implementation of National Anti-Corruption Strategy

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With barely 6 months to roundup the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017-2021, the Senate Committee on Anticorruption and Financial Crimes has scrutinised Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the level of implementation of the National policy.

To reduce the negative impact of corruption and safeguard transparency and accountability at each level of Government the NACS was borne out of the desire to change the narratives as it seeks to identify and close existing gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives that has been put in place.

The Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CFTIW) collaborated with the Senate Committee to review the implementation of the policy to ensure a hitch-free exercise.

Stakeholders said the success or otherwise of the implementing as well as the political will of the Federal Government will guide its continuity.

The committee, chaired by Senator Suleiman Kwari (Kaduna North), therefore organised a two-day public hearing for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Kyari, in his remarks, listed the establishment of an anti-corruption desk, risk management charter, regulatory compliance and government charter, internal audit charter, and the corruption investigation manual, as achievements of the NACS implementation.

“Our transparency policy says we must disclose anybody we are doing businesses with, we are working with the Corporate Affairs Commission on this. We are required to have transparency in the commodity trading, this means the crude oil and the gas that we sell must be fully disclosed. 

“Anyone here can simply go to the NNPC website. Every data that is required is in public space. NNPC, for 43 years, never published our audited accounts. But we did for 2018, we have published for 2019 and we are going to publish the 2020 audited financial statement.”

Kyari regretted how COVID-19 and the ENDSARS protest stalled the petroleum downstream deregulation. He said though the crash of oil prices due to the pandemic gave Nigeria an opportunity to remove subsidies, the protests forced the government to reconsider the decision.

In his presentation, Prof. Owansanoye announced that the ICPC has been conducting corruption risk assessment of some MDAs.

He said the agency is focusing on the prevention of corruption. One of the strategies highlighted was the “system survey of the MDAs and corruption risk assessment.” 

“We have noticed improvement because we published the reports on the newspapers, they are having impacts. We have done intensive reviews of 5 MDA, including the review of 104 unity schools across the country.”

Sen. Kwari commended Owansanoye for ICPC efforts, and mandated all participants to use the commission’s template for the performance appraisal.

On Thursday, the Auditor General’s office, Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Office of the Head of Civil Service (HOSF) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) appeared before the committee. But the HOSF and the CAC were allowed to reschedule their appearance.

The NCS mentioned the establishment of the Nigeria Integrated Customs Systems. The platform grants stakeholders access to update the system from the comfort of their homes or offices.

The agency told the committee that an Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU) has also been set up at its headquarters, seaports and airports in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidelines.

Aliyu Aliyu, BPP Head of Regulations and Database, said the agency had developed a database system and is streamlining the procurement process of the government.

About 328 government officials have been lectured on the use of Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCPO). The BPP trained procurement officers in Federal University Owerri, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and University of Lagos, among others. 

On the procurement office management system, he said capacity building to contractor and procurement monitor is just 20 percent, while the establishment of a national contractor verification team and verification database is 100 percent.

“We have done full implementation of open contracting and adoption of contracting data standard. MDAs are expected to load their procurement plans and their procurement records on the portal.”

The Auditor General, represented by the Director of Audit, Gandu Magaji, said the staff have been sensitized on the NACS, forensic audit, and that an ACTU unit is operational. The TUGAR Chairman added that he ensures MDAs implement the NASC.

“My office has submitted audited reports up to 2019 to the National Assembly. For the 2020 account, the Accountant General has submitted the statement, in three months, we should be able to submit them.

“We have an annual audit of the recovered assets. We have not been able to do this, but the Auditor General is in the committee set up by the government to manage the sales of the assets.

“Despite the increase in anti-corruption activities to implement the NACS, there was no increase in funding to support the process. NACS did not make the desired impact due to lack of funding”, he said.

Sen. Kwari promised that the Senate will look into the funding, and directed all MDAs that made presentations to submit an evaluation of the NASC implementation to the secretariat of the committee on Friday.

The VP’s office, represented by Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, Senior Special Assistant on Rule of Law, called for the adoption of data in the report template of the MDAs. She stressed that data will help in measuring the impact of the strategy.

“We are happy that this forum was provided to enable us to assess the NASC and to know the level of the fight against corruption. To adequately review the implementation, the MDAs here, who have submitted their reports, should also be requested to provide specific data and figures.

“How many people were trained? How many meetings were done? We need data to measure the impact. We have seen that the funding and structure have not really worked well. That is something we should think about when reviewing NACS for the second time.”

In closing remarks, Sen. Kwari thanked the CFTIW and its Executive Director, Umar Yakubu, for the initiative, the technical support to drive the process, and for serving as a co-secretariat for the event.

“The Senate will work with the Centre in different areas. We will continue to assist the President to fight corruption. We thank all those that attended the sessions. We will present the report to the Senate and make it public”, the lawmaker added.

Last Wednesday, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari; Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye; Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari appeared.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Ministry of Justice, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and others sent representatives.

The Vice President’s office, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption (TUGAR), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and other civil society organizations attended.

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