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Constitution Review: Committee will not bend to external pressure, says Omo-Agege

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Constitution Review: Committee will not bend to external pressure, says Omo-Agege

The Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman, Senate Adhoc Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution, has cleared the air on insinuations that members of the constitution review committee are under pressure from external forces to do their biddings.This was according to a Statement issued on Suday by his special adviser on media Yomi Odunuga.Senator Omo-Agege according to the statement spoke at the weekend on The Platform, a current affairs programme on TVC, anchored by Sam Omatseye. 
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege in the statement assured that the panel would not kill any of the constitution alteration bills before it. 
He promised that the Senate would recommend all the bills before it for consideration and that the Senate in plenary would determine whether or not such proposals should be transmitted to state assemblies. 
He stressed the need for Nigerians to take advantage of the window given by the committee for Call for Memoranda to submit their proposals on any of the 13 thematic areas to the panel. 
Recall that the committee had last week shifted the deadline for submission of memoranda from September 11 to September 25, 2020. 
The Deputy President of the senate disclosed that besides the constitution alterations bills already referred to the panel, more proposals could surface on the floor, arising from memoranda submitted to the committee. 

His words: “Any Nigerian who feels strongly about any issue that ought to be addressed in this exercise, has a right within the time stipulated to put their thoughts in writing by way of a memo and submit same to us. 
“Upon receipt of that, we will meet as a committee, set up some sub-committees within the main committee that will go to each of the geopolitical zones. There they will reach out and ask people to step forward and speak to the memo that they have already submitted to us. 
“Thereafter, we will come back, hold a retreat where we will aggregate the views of the content of the memoranda. And in some cases come up with more bills. This committee will try not to kill any bill. “We will rather have all bills go to the floor at plenary and let the Nigerian people, speaking through their elected representatives, make the call as to whether or not those bills should pass. “Thereafter, we will go to the various Houses of Assembly to see if those votes can also muster two-thirds majority of the 36 assemblies. From there, we receive and transmit the successful bills to Mr President for assent”. 

According to him, the zonal public hearings would be conducted in line with Covid-19 protocols. 

Members of the committee, he emphasised, will not succumb to pressure from external forces. 

The lawmaker added that as Nigerians of great accomplishments in their respective fields, members of the panel and indeed all senators would continue to live above board in the discharge of their constitutional duties. 

“I can tell you that as of this moment, we have not received any such pressure or influence peddling. But let me tell you this: the Nigerian Senate is a chamber made up of statesmen. These are people of accomplishments in their previous endeavours before they came to this place. I don’t think these are people who are going to be susceptible to pressures from external forces. These are people who are here to do the right thing. 

“And if you must also know, the Steering Committee of this Constitution Review Committee is populated by the entire leadership of the Senate. I am just the Chairman before you talk about the 56 other senators. We have taken an oath to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I can assure you that members of this committee and indeed all of the senators of this Ninth Senate will do the right thing. We are not going to succumb to any pressure,” he said. 

On state assemblies being rubber stamps of state governors, the Deputy President of the Senate called on those who have sent in their memoranda to put pressure on state legislators to do the right thing. 

He, however, noted that all the 36 governors are unanimous that more powers be moved from the Exclusive to Concurrent Legislative List. 

“It is our belief that it behoves on the electorate to mount the requisite pressure on their House of Assembly members. 
“In any event, we are also going to be liaising very seriously with the Speakers of the various Houses of Assembly. So before the final vote is taken, we will be able to have a feel of where we are. And if it requires some lobbying of the state governors, so be it. 

“I don’t know of any governor in this country today who doesn’t subscribe to the idea that the content of the Exclusive Legislative List is not too cumbersome and there needs to be some shedding of weight. I am sure practically all governors will subscribe to that so we can have some of these powers devolve to the states,” he stated. 

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Legislature

Its wishful thinking to believe NASS can give new constitution to Nigeria says Omo-Agege

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Its wishful thinking to believe NASS can give new constitution to Nigeria says Omo-Agege

Nigerians should not engage in wishful thinking that the 9th National Assembly will deliver new constitution because it lacks the mandate to do so, the deputy President of the Senate Omo-Agege has indicated.

Omo-Agege spoke when he hosted members of Alliance of Nigerian Patriots in Abuja.

This always contained in a statement issued by Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to the Deputy President of the Senatw Yomi Odunuga.
The senator who chairs the Senate Adhoc Committee on Constitution Review, stressed that the National Assembly has no powers to replace the current Constitution but can only amend it.

The delegation was led by Ambassador Umunna Orjiako.
The deputy Presidentnof the Senate cited advanced democracies like the United States of America where Nigeria’s presidential system of government was fashioned after as well as Sections 8 and 9 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), saying what is obtainable is piecemeal alteration of the Constitution.

He, therefore, urged those calling for a brand new Constitution to channel their energy towards participating actively in the ongoing amendment of the Constitution by the  Ninth Assembly.
In his words, “One of the issues you raised is the replacement of the 1999 Constitution. I am not so sure that we as a Parliament have the power to replace the Constitution. We can only make amendments. And it is explicit in Sections 8 and 9 of the Constitution on how we can do that and the requisite number of votes required.

“I say that because there are some top attorneys in this country, who for some reason, keep saying that we don’t even need any of this, that we should just bring a new Constitution. We can’t do  that. What we are mandated to do by law is to look at those provisions and bring them up-to-date with global best practices, especially to the extent that it tallies with the views of the majority of Nigerians. So we are not in a position to replace this Constitution but we can only amend.

“But, like I said, most of the issues you have raised here, like zones replacing states, that’s another euphemism for going back to the regions. We will look into that if that is what majority of our people want.

“You talked about devolution of powers. The preponderance of views we have received so far is that those 68 items are very wide and need to shed some weight and move them to the Concurrent Legislative List”. 

He also expressed his opinion on the call by some persons for the scrapping of the upper legislative chamber.

According to him, the country cannot practise unicameral legislature considering its large population.

“One of the issues raised by #EndSARS Protesters was that they should abolish the Senate and merge us with the House of Representatives. We are not in a position to do that. Mr. President is not even in a position to do that as well. Because they believe that he can just by fiat say ‘Senate bye bye. it will now be a National Assembly made up of only the House of Representatives’.

“But, as I said at a different forum, the President does not have such powers and I am not so sure that even we can legislate out the National Assembly,” he said.

He continued: “There are people who believe that yes, we had the 2014 confab report that has been ‘transmitted’ to the National Assembly and there is the El-Rufai Report on Restructuring, 2018, that has been transmitted to the National Assembly and that we should just take them to Mr President for his assent and we have the Constitution amended.

“But that is not how things are done here. We are a country governed by laws and the grundnorm is the Constitution. And the Constitution itself has spelt out what we can do and how we can do it”. 

Concluding, he tasked the group to reach out to other stakeholders across the country.

Earlier, Ambassador Orjiakor called for the reconfiguration of the present 36 states structure into six zones as federating units, drastic cut in the Exclusive Legislative List and expansion of the Concurrent Legislative List, reform of the National Assembly to a hybrid Presidential and Westminster systems, abolition of security votes to be replaced by regular security budget allocations and electoral reforms to ensure a truly independent INEC. 

He also called for limited immunity for entitled public officers in the Executive branch of government, provision for independent candidacy in all elections, creating a consensual balance between meritocracy and federal character among others.

Legislators who joined the Deputy President of the Senate to receive the guests include Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Saabi Yau. 

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Legislature

Senate urges FG to investigate deaths caused by strange ailment in Benue 

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Senate urges FG to investigate deaths caused by strange ailment in Benue

The senate yesterday resolved to urge the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Arbovirus and Vector Research Centre (NAVRC) to investigate the outbreak of a strange ailment suspected to be yellow fever in Epeilo-Otukpa and Itabono-Owukpa communities in Benue State that has claimed many lives.The upper chamber also Urge the Federal Ministry of Health to urgently mobilize focal persons to the affected areas to complement the efforts of the Benue State Government in ascertaining the nature of the ailment.This was sequel to a motion on urgent need to deal with the outbreak of a strange ailment suspected to be Yellow Fever, ravaging Epeilo-Otukpa and Itahono-Owukpa communities in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State.The motion was sponsored by senator  Patrick Abba (Benue SouthThe upper chamber also tasked the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to promptly put up gurveillance to contain the disease and see to the treatment of victims and protect others from further contacting  it.It urge the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), to synergize and support the people of Benue South Senatorial District and in particular the Epeilo-Otukpa and Itabono -Owukpa Communities, to treat, prevent and or reduce the number of cases and deaths.The senate further urged the Federal Ministry of Health to immediately activate and set up a multi-agency yellow fever emergency Operatives Centre (EOC) in Benue South, if the result should be positive for yellow fever.”They should conduct mass vaccination and awareness campaigns in Benue South Senatorial District, being that yellow fever is a completely vaccine-preventable disease as a single shot of the yellow fever vaccine protects for a lifetime.”Senator Moro in his motion had noted with grave pain the outbreak of a strange ailment said to be yellow fever in Epeilo-Otukpa and Itabono communities of Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue South Senatorial District, Benue State, Nigeria.He expressed further concern that the strange ailment has not yet been effectively diagnosed by health authorities.He however indicated that the Benue State Ministry of Health and Human Services has been able to intervene to some extent havi e collected samples and sent same to National Reference Laboratory to be able to establish the kind of organism that is causing the ailment and is availing victims of interim treatment.
He expressed saddeness that people the affected people in the rural localities are dying on a daily basis in their numbers with Epeilo and ltabono Communities recording 20 and 25 deaths respectively.He said death toll has been increaseing on hourly bases adding that the disease has been spreading to Ichama in Okpokwu where three deaths have been recorded. 

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Finance bill gets accelerated consideration as it passes second reading

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Finance bill gets accelerated consideration as it passes second reading

The Finance Bill, 2020 yesterday got an accelerated consideration for first and second readings in the Senate, barely 24 hours after a presidential letter that demanded for its consideration and passage was recieved by the senate.
The executive bill seeks to support the implementation of the 2021 budget by proposing key reforms to specific taxation, customs, excise, fiscal and other laws. 
It also seeks to amend the Capital Gains Tax Act; Personal Income Tax Act; and Value Added Tax. 
The piece of legislation scaled second reading in the Red Chamber after the lawmakers debated its general principles. 
On the aalue added Tax Section 4 of the VAT Act was amended by increasing the value added tax payable by consumers from 5% to 7.5%. 
According to Section 19 the penalty payable by a taxable person for non-remittance within the specified period has been raised from 5% to 10%. 
Under section 28, the penalty for failure to give notice of change of address or permanent cessation of business was increased from N 5000 to N 50, 000 in the first month and N25000 in subsequent months. 
The bill proposes a new section 8 to cater for the registration of a taxable person upon commencement of business. 
The penalty for failure to register has been increased from N10, 000 to N50, 000 in the first month and from N 5, 000 to N 25, 000 in the subsequent months. 
The new section 15 of VAT introduces a threshold for VAT compliance. Thus companies with turnover of N25, 000, 000. 00 or more shall render their tax on or before the 21st of every month. 
On the Capital Gains Act the bill proposes to amend section 36(2) of the Capital Gains Tax Act to the extent that exemption on tax liability for compensation for loss of office which was hitherto limited to N10, 000 is now extended to N10 million. 
It also proposes a new section 32, which provides that no tax shall apply to any trade or business transferred to a Nigerian company for the purposes of better organization of that trade or business etc. 
This tax exemption is however not applicable if the acquiring company subsequently disposes of the assets within one year of acquiring same. 
On Personal Income Tax Act section 49 of the Act was amended to make the provision of Tax Identification Number (TIN) mandatory for persons intending to open a new bank account for purposes of business operations or for continuation of operation of such bank account.
The mandatory requirement for tax identification number is for accounts being operated for purposes of business transactions. 
Leading the debate on the bill, the Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi said it has become imperative that the Nigerian tax legislation is updated frequently to respond to the challenges of today’s business environment.
He said the provisions contained in the Finance Bill are intended to incentivize economic activities to stimulate GDP growth and facilitate increase in the revenue generated 
“If the Nigerian government is determined to generate sufficient revenue to finance its numerous projects and meet the sustainable development goals of eradicating poverty from the country, it is important for the government to take pragmatic steps. Such steps should include devising ingenious means of expanding the tax base and collecting taxes effectively. 
“Tax education and sensitization of the public would go a long way in achieving compliance from taxpayers,” he said. 
The Senate President Ahmad Lawan, after scaling second, referred the bill to the Senate Committees on Finance, Customs and Public Procurement and report back in one week.

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