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Backlash as Northern group accuses Ameachi of witch-hunt over NPA MD’s suspension

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A group Concerned Northern Forum (CNF) in what seems like a backlash has accused the minister of transportation Rotimi Ameachi of witchunting, blackmailing and bullying the embattled Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority Hadiza Bala Usman,.
The group who vowed to defend her to the last is accusing Ameachi of getting back at her for not allowing him unfetterred access to the purse of the authority to amass the fiinancial war chest to execute his presidential ambition for 2023.
The group alleged that her suspension was a deliberate case of witch-hunt, blackmail and bullying saying it is an affront on the integrity of the north.
They gave the indication on Friday at a press conference held at Arewa House, Kaduna where they faulted the investigative panel set up by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The chairman of the group, Alhaji Mohammed Salihu Danlami, said they are aware of the grand design of a witch-hunt by the Minister against Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman where he has moved from one phantom offence to the other all in a desperate attempt to tarnish her image.
According to him, Amaechi had initially started with a phantom allegation of non-remittance of monies to the coffers of government, which did not gel as the managing director could not be faulted on the remittances.

Danlami added: “Having failed on that line of offence, Amaechi then moved and developed a far-fetched TOR for the panel to conduct all manners of inquiry across administrative procedures, communication channels and procurement.

“We have followed every details of this unfortunate development and wish to unequivocally state that we regard Hadiza Bala Usman’s suspension without following due process not only as an assault on women inclusiveness in governance, but also as an attack on northern Nigeria, and a well-orchestrated attempt by Amaechi to embarrass the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for rewarding the uncommon character, competence and capacity with which Hadiza Bala Usman discharged her duty to Nigeria by recently renewing her appointment as the head of NPA for another five years.”
He reiterated that at the time Hadiza Bala Usman took over the headship of the NPA in 2016, the agency was a cesspool of corruption and had become incapable of adding value to the Federal Government to the level expected of an entity that is the gateway to the Nigerian economy.

“Hadiza Bala Usman immediately set out to reposition the NPA for greater operational efficiency and revenue generation by blocking all avenues of corruption that hitherto undermined the agency. In a bid to achieve this noble objective, she unavoidably stepped on the toes of very powerful political figures with vested interests in the running of the NPA.

“Specifically, she insisted that all revenue generating operation of the NPA must fully comply with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the Federal Government. This meant that all companies who had been operating with impunity in handling monies belonging to Nigeria were called to order, and that concession agreements skewed against national interest were reviewed.

“In no distant time, her patriotic actions yielded results with the NPA posting unprecedented remittances in billions to the coffers of the government from 2016 to date.

“We at the Concerned Northern Forum felt very proud of the giant strides of Hadiza Bala Usman especially when we read in the news how global bodies such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Association for Ports and Harbours (IAPH), amongst others, in recognition of her strides at the NPA, appointed her to head strategic aspects of their operations,” he said.

Danlami noted that the group was shocked at the embarrassing news of her suspension and investigation, adding: “Whilst we are not opposed to probity in governance, there appears to be a sinister and clandestine motive behind the setting up of Amaechi’s administrative panel of enquiry when there is a clear procedure to discipline erring chief executives of parastatals as approved by Mr. President himself in a circular dated May 2020.

“It is evident that he has set up this kangaroo panel of inquiry to do his bidding. In which world does a complainant become the judge and jury over a case? 
In their curiosity they asked why
Hadiza Bala Usman, was asked to step aside in an organisation whose decision making is carried out by an executive management composed of a Managing Director and three Executive Directors?
They equally asked the minister how
she could single-handedly carry out all of the allegations for which she has been suspended?
‘Why then was she singled out for embarrassment and reputational damage? These are questions Rotimi Amaechi must answer,” he added.

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Discordant tunes as Senate, FCDA trade blames over NASS Leaking roof

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Nigeria Senate on Wednesday blamed the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA) for not renovating the National Assembly Complex since it was built.
This was coming just as the FCDA also passed the blame unto the Federal Executive Ciuncil for delay in awarding the contracts for the rehabilitation of the dilapidating roofs of the complex.

The FCDA Public Relation Officer, Mr. Richard Nduul stated that the dilapidated roof of the National Assembly was also as a result of the cumbersome nature of approval of contracts by the Federal Executive Council (FEC)
Hence he said no contract has been awarded to any company for its maintenance.

The development he said has led to the delay in award of the contract to prospective contractors who are supposed to maintain the edifice and other government structures in the FCT.

The National Assembly however, exonerated itself from any blame over the dilapidation of its Whitehouse which led to a major embarrassment on Tuesday when a heavy downpour caused the roof of the complex to leak.
The spokesperson of the Senate Senator Surajudeen Ajibola gave the indication while reacting to widespread reports on the incident.
He said the National Assembly Administration and its leadership is not responsible for the maintenance and renovation of the National Assembly Complex.
He said if there is any blame to be apportioned it should be directed at the FCDA which is responsible for its maintenance as well as renovation and not the Leadership of the National Assembly as being falsely bandied about. 

According to him, the N37b set aside for the renovation of the complex has not been recieved adding that it is true that an initial appropriation of N37b was made due to the decaying nature of the National Assembly Complex.
However he said the complex has not witnessed any major maintenance or overhauling since construction, adding that even the said amount was reduced to 9 billion naira after the breakout of COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even with this reduction, the sum of 9 billion or any amount is yet to be cash backed or released to the National Assembly. None of this amount is even appropriated for the National Assembly bureaucracy or its leadership.

In a similar vein the Senate President also reacting at plenary said the fact that there was a leakage, is a clear testimony, confirmation and vindication of the position the national assembly took initially.
“For emphasis, when we approved the budget of N37 billion for the rehabilitation of this complex, it was not a national assembly budget. It was an FCDA budget, we have nothing to do with this.
Continuing the Senate spokesperson said, “It must be reiterated that the National Assembly Complex is a National Monument which falls under the purview of control of the Federal Capital Development Agency. In essence, the FCDA is responsible for its maintenance as well as renovation and not the Leadership of the National Assembly as being falsely bandied about. 
“The leakage witnessed at the foyer of the National Assembly yesterday justifies the apprehension of the leadership of the National Assembly and the FCDA and further underscores the need for an urgent intervention in revamping the dilapidated structures within the complex before it falls into further dilapidation with the attendant huge cost of possible replacement.”
In another development the Senate raised issues on the widespread report on the leak

I’m sure, most of us saw the report by Channels Tv and let me also say that the channels Tv correspondent may not be responsible for the that because I know that our press corps reporters are in tune with what we do here and what happens around us and they are very patriotic and committed to democracy and therefore, the senate correspondent of the Tv, wouldn’t have sent that report.

Let me advice the media, this is irresponsible. I must say because seek the truth, investigate properly, come to us or go to those who you think should know better before you compile and send your report.

By the time we came into office and our endorsement, the speaker and I found it necessary to go round this Senate and we found out dilapidation and degradation, in fact, any way who sees what we have here, knows that this place is over due for rehabilitation. It is even worse downstairs.

So we complained to the President that there is the need to rehabilitate and renovate the national assembly complex.

After in use for about 20 years and not rehabilitated at all.

Mr president was gracious and he asked us to come back, engage the FCDA who are the owners of this building.

The technical side of the national assembly and some contractors to come up with what we need to rehabilitate here and the cost. In fact I fought against the initial submissions because I was to take the document directly to the President, when I saw what they were bringing, I say there was no way I could take that to Mr President, go and rework until they came up with N37 billion and I took that to the President.

Some misinformed, some innocent, some deliberately mischievous went to town saying the national assembly wanted to eat N37 billion, there is nothing wrong with this place.

The institution of the parliament must be supported by citizens and we expect the press to take a lead in informing the public properly and appropriately. I advice the press, help us develop this democracy.

Sabi. Point of Orders 14 and 15.

Yesterday, Abuja experienced rainfall. The issue of the rainfall as it happened yesterday which was heavy was reported in various media.

However when I listened to the reportage of the Channels Tv yesterday, there were many issues that were raised in their report that I felt has infringed on my privilege and perhaps and of course, the privilege of my colleagues.

In that report, three things were reported which were very inaccurate that there was heavy downpour or leakage even in the chamber. That was not correct. There was leakage of course around the premises, outside the chamber and also it was reported that because of that leakage, it delayed our sitting, that also is not correct.

The leadership had house keeping matters and of course until the leadership comes into the chamber, sitting will not begin. So that was the only thing.

Thirdly, Mr President, distinguished colleagues and the most critical was that they reported the leadership as approving the sum of N37 billion for rehabilitation of the complex, this is nothing further than the truth.

As we all know, when we came on board as the 9th Senate, the leadership of course noticed the level of dilapidation and the need for rehabilitation of the national assembly complex.

The Senate president and the speaker of course, approached Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari to report this matter and we all know, we were all briefed that Mr President was willing to ensure that something was done about it.

At the end of the day, when the sum of N37 billion was made as provision in the 2020 budget, the media went to town castigating and calling the members of the national assembly all kinds of names.

At the end of the day, like we all knew, the pandemic came and at the end of that amount was reduced to about N9 million so that they can take the application in pieces.

As we speak, nothing is being done until yesterday, the leakage across the complex.

“This is a vindication of what the leadership and indeed the Senate and members of the House of Representatives saw with respect to this edifice which is a national monument.

“This is the symbol of our democracy and we believe as responsible tenants, we have our time, we leave, we believe whatever it is, we have a duty to report back to the concerned authority, in this case, the FCDA are responsible for the building, this we did.

A video had gone viral yesterday on social media, during the early morning downpour, showing the leaking roof of the National Assembly, with water splashing to the lobby of the federal parliament.

The cleaners had a hectic time scooping water from the floor while the development delayed the sitting of the senators who resumed on Tuesday after a one-week break to mark the end of their second legislative year.

“For now, the position with the National Assembly building is that there is no contract to carry out maintenance. As you know contract takes a procedure. When we had a report that there are some of these leakages, we still have go to through the process of award of contract.
He stressed that there were speculations that the FCT has awarded a company known as Visible Contractors to maintain the National Assembly complex, however he indicated that no contract has been awarded to any company known as Visible Contractors Limited.

On the N37billion approved for the maintenance of the complex, he said, “You people are the ones mentioning that N37billion. Of course, even if the contract is issued at a particular sum of money, it cannot be expended within a year, because the contract will not be exhausted within a year.

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President Buhari asks Senate to approve N895bn supplementary budget

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President Muhammdu Buhari has asked the Senate to consider and approve the sum of N895, 842, 465, 917 as Supplementary Budget.

The Minister of finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed had indicated at an interphase with the senate earlier said,
“Having noted the need for the urgent procurement of vaccines and also the need for funding, to ensure that Nigeria is able to meet its commitment under the Nigerian Comprehensive AIDS programme, as well as the urgent need to specifically enhance the capacity of our military and para military agencies to tackle the various security challenges that we currently have in the country.

She had indicated that the Federal Executive Council on that note approved the 2021 supplementary appropriation bill, in an aggregate expenditure of N895,842,462,917.
The total of the expenditure she said was made up of N83.56 billion for COVID-19 vaccine programme, covering 30 billion vaccines from Johnson and Johnson vaccines and the logistics cost related to the deployment of that vaccine.

President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan who read Buhari’s letter at Tuesday’s plenary having resumed from a two-week break said, a substantial part of the fund has been earmarked for procurement of military hardware to prosecute the war against insurgency and banditry.

Accordibg to him, the Federal Government is also expected to use part of the fund for purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and other health related needs.

The letter reads: Dear Distinguished Senate President, submission of the Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2021.

“It is with pleasure that I forward herewith, Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2021 for the kind consideration and approval by the Senate.

“The supplementary budget request is for a total sum of N895, 842, 465, 917.

“We propose to fund N45.63 billion of the N83. 56 billion required for the COVID-19 vaccine programme by drawing on existing World Bank loans which will be a structured as well as other grants totalling 113.2 million US dollars.

“The balance of N37. 93 billion required for COVID-19 vaccines, salaries and other health-related expenditures totalling N41.6 billion and N48.2 billion recurrent component of defence and security will be funded by borrowing N135 billion from some special reserve levy accounts.

“We propose to fund the balance of N722.4 billion for capital expenditure on defense and security and capital supplementation from new borrowings in the absence of any supplementary revenue sources.

“It has become necessary to prepare the 2021 supplementary appropriation bill considering the urgent need to make provision for procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the procurement terms was still uncertain as at the time of finalising the 2021 budget, hence, there was no provision in the 2021 Appropriation Act for the procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

“However, the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency have now developed a COVID-19 vaccine programme for the country.

“Under the vaccine programme, 70 per cent of eligible Nigerians are to be vaccinated between 2021 and 2022.

“In addition, our security and law enforcement agencies urgently need to procure additional equipment and other resources in response to the prevalent security challenges across the country.

“The Ministry of Defence has carefully scrutinised these procurement needs which the military authorities claim to represent the minimum requirement to secure our country and address current internal and external security challenges.

“Furthermore, additional funds are required to meet our commitment to treat additional 50, 000 patients under the Nigerian Comprehensive Aids Programmes in States (NCAPS) as the amount provision in the 2021 appropriation bill for this purpose was inexplicably cut by the National Assembly.

“In order to address the urgent problem of oxygen availability in the country and avoid the potential lose of lives, provision was made for the procurement and installation of new oxygen plants nationwide and repairs of oxygen plants in FCT hospitals.

“It is also necessary to provide additional funds for public service-wide wage adjustments to carter for sundry wage related issues in the health and other sectors which if not resolved can add to the prevalence sense of instability in the polity.

“Understandably, this currently abound in many other sectors.

“However, we have limited the supplementary budget proposal to just these critical and emergency areas of need due to our severe financial fiscal constraints.

“All other means will be differed to the 2021 budget which we plan to present in Sept. of this year.

“Given the urgency of the request, I seek the cooperation of the National Assembly for expeditious legislative action on the supplementary appropriation bill 2021.”

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Cannabis legislation: NDLEA boss talks tough, disagrees with Gov Akeredolu, lawmakers

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**threatens to burn down any farm found with cannabis

The chairman and chief executive officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Brag. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) has disagreed in strong terms with Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and some house of Representatives members that have been pushing for legalisation of cannabis.

Recall that Akeredolu had urged the Nigerian Government to jettison traditional orientation and “archaic” sentiment that said that cannabis is a ‘devil’s plant’.

The Governor at Stakeholders’ Roundtable on the “Benefits and Opportunities of Cannabis Plant in Nigeria” recently urged the Nigerian government to give legal backing to cannabis to enable its use in Nigeria, saying “cannabis is a multi-billion naira industry that can help diversify the Nigerian Economy if judiciously utilised”
The National Assembly also has been making moves for the legalisation of the illicit substance under the guise of its economic value.
However, Marwa who spoke at a press briefing to unveil the week-long program ofactivities in commemoration of the UN Internatiknal Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking in Abuja on Monday said it is a matter of life and money, adding that it is like seeing fire and plunging in to the flame, he said the agency would rather choose life.
“I had the honour to address the Governors forum virtually sometime ago and most definitely the Governor of Ondo brought this matter.
“I can only speak facts. When you plant cannabis yes you sell it and get Billions of Naira but the issue is between life and Money. Life and money which one will you chose? We will choose life.

“Ondo State is the greatest grower of this illicit substance and the NDLEA will continue to burn any farm that we find and arrest the perpetrators.
“It is dangerous it is bad for our health and we will not agree as far as we are concerned.
“I am aware that in the House of Representatives a movement is on by a particular committee to legalise cannabis. That is absolutely within their rights but I doubt if it will be passed.
“Now there is no confrontation or would there ever be between the NDLEA and the Governors forum. To the best of my knowledge it is only one Governor that is pushing for this cannabis matter.
“If you do your arithmetic one divided by 36. He has his absolute right as a Governor to fend for his State. But the law in Nigeria has cannabis as one of the illicit substances and as I mentioned earlier it is between money and life. I think we will chose life.”

He said a global drug survey which is one of the evidence based document that the Agency uses, has it that 10.6m Nigerians use cannabis.
“And if you look at the world’s Cannabis report 2019 it is not 10.6m it is actually 20 million Nigerians. Nigeria is the country with the highest population of people using this drug.
“Always know that it has mind altering substances. Even the Schedule one 1961 convention, schedule 4 of the United Nations said Natikns must continue to exercise strict control over cannabis because of the negative consequences.
“The WHO itself made the Statement that Cannabis still has health issues and we all know that, why will you see fire and go into it. Yes the issue of the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is approved in some countries not in all.
“Now we have to look at our own circumstances here.
It is possible a time will come for us to have a rethink but this is not the time. “This is definitely not the time for Nigerians with the highest prevalence of the use. Go to Lagos State the drug use prevalence is 33% from that survey. Most of that is from cannabis and the Southwest itself.”
On the insinuations that the Staff of the Agency engage in selling of exhibit to the users, he said, “NDLEA Staff don’t sell our exhibits, when we seize they are properly documented in each State command under the direct control of the State commander.
“We have exhibited keepers who are trusted, carefully selected officials and the exhibit rooms are well secured. “The exhibits are documented because of evidence in courts where we take them to, so be rest assured if you got such information it is false.”
On another allegation that some traditional rulers harbor traffickers of drugs, he said, traditional rulers are not exempted from the law.
“It is on record, at least once or twice drugs were seized from the palace and we have also arrested some of them.
“In the business of the drug war nobody is above the law here. Whoever you are in this country.
However, he said the agency is partnering with many traditional rulers in various Nigerian Kingdoms, communities, emirates.
“There are just a few bad eggs and those few ones when we discover, we go after them. We welcome information from the public anywhere you feel some of the traditional rulers are involved infirm us
The week-long activity he said started with the press conference after which he will launch the Standard Policy and Practice Guidelines (SPPG) for NDLEA counsellors.
He said on Tuesday will be a live program on NTA ‘Tuesday Live at 10PM, Wednesday will be NGO day, Thursday is a program on Radio Nigeria by 8am followed by a youth awareness program.
“On Friday, June 25th will be a special Jumaat service in commemoration of the UN day at the National Mosque Abuja.
“Saturday will feature the grand Finale, with the former launch of the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) by President Muhammadu Buhari .
“The day will also feature a guest lecture and the unveilingnof the National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) 2021-2025. On Sunday, 27th, of June the week’s activity would be rounded off with a church thanksgiving service.

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