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Kogi Speaker says hasty passage of 2018 budget is for State’s greater interest

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Kogi Speaker says hasty passage of 2018 budget is for State’s greater interest

From John Akubo, Lokoja

The speaker of the Kogi state house of assembly Rt Hon Matthew Kolawole, has explained the reasons for the speed with which they passed and signed of the 2018 budget of the state.

The speaker of the house, said the interest of the State prompted the immediate need for the assembly to pass the budget into law.

The speaker said the insinuation that the lawmakers rushed the budget for their selfish interest was ot true saying they were only moved to action for the interest of the state.

In his words, “We had proposed to pass the budget after our resumption from recess in March, but we had a change of decision and cut short our recess to complete the debate on the budget and pass it into law.”

Kolawole explained that the assembly took the step to enable the governor spend from the funds appropriated in the budget for developmental projects and avoid rolling over its expenses.

He however indicated that the budget was passed into law after each ministry, parastatals and government agencies defended their estimates and the lawmakers found their presentations acceptable.

The speaker also said the lawmakers increased the budget from N147 billion to N153 billion when it discovered that the provisions for the Kogi State University, Anyigba and the School of Nursing, Obangele, were not enough to conduct their accreditation.

On the controversial N10 billion loan taken by the executive towards the end of 2017, Kolawole explained that the circumstances that led to the collection of the loan made it impossible for the approval of the house.

He said the governor took the loan through a consultant to enable him offset the salary arrears of workers, saying the urgency attached to the reason for the loan was responsible for the development.

He however said the governor would still write to the assembly for approval when it is time to commence repayment of the loan.

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Legislature

Senate committee tackles power minister for allocating 20 projects to his LG

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Senate panel tackles power minister for allocating 20 projects to his LG

**Committee queries location of REA regional offices

The Senate committee on power on wednesday took a swipe at the minister of power Maman Saleh for siting 20 Rural electrification projects in his Lau Local Government area of Taraba State.
The action which the senators described as official misconduct, they said is against his oath of office to be fair to all.
The projects which were captured in the 2021 budget of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) were uncovered during the budget defense of the agency which is under the purview of the minister.
The senator representing Taraba Central Yusuf Yusuf had drawn the attention of the committee to the concentration of over 20 projects at various sums of between N20m to N50m all in the minister’s, Lau Local Government of Taraba State as captured in the budget proposal.
Senator Yusuf however indicated that he was not challenging the minister but to set the record straight.
The chairman of the committee Senator Gabriel Suswam who corroborated with Yusuf said he was happy that it is the senator from Taraba that has pointed out the anomally.
The discovery drew the ire of other senators who expressed disappointment that the minister could allowed his personal interest to affect his official conduct and decision which they perceived to be a very serious matter.
Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah from Kebbi Central while explaining the implication of the betrayal said,
“Those who elected us to these office is that we would ensure that the Constitution which they have made for themselves and given to us will be executed to the latter.

“The President wants to be the President of every citizen of the Federal Republic if Nigeria and he would want loyalty and cooperation from every citizen of the Country. If we sit down here and agree that a budget that pleases a minister, can come, he (minister) is not doing himself good because he has sworn to do justice to all manner of the people and not to allow his personal interest to affect his official conduct and decision.
“He has by this clearly shown that, he has allowed his personal interest to affect his official conduct and decision that is a very serious matter.
“Governance is a very serious issue, I think that this observation, you must take it serious and convey it to the minister that the committee is not in agreement with him.
“We will never sit down and sign this kind of situation. We will be failing in our duties; we will be failing in the oath of office we have taken to protect the hold and protect the constitution, so please let him know, there is no sentiment on this matter.
“Let us all try as much as we can to operate within the elements of our Constitution like said was given ourselves please,” Na ‘Allah submitted.

The agency also came under the committees attack when it also expressed shock over what it described as outright disregard to the established regional headquarters by management of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in locating the regional head offices of the agencies across the country.

Consequently, the Senate directed the Management of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) an agency under the ministry of power to revert to the geo-political order in positioning the REA regional headquarters.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power, Senator Gabriel Suswam (Benue) could not hold back his dismay when the Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency, (REA), Ahmad Salijo reeled out some contentious project locations to the Senators.

The Senate had queried some projects tagged ‘provision and installation of solar mini-grids in six geo-political zones’ which appeared twice in the document submitted to the senate and demanded to know the project locations.

Salijo in his response listed Dutse for NorthWest, Bauchi for North East, Lokoja for North Central Calabar for South South, Oshogbo for South West and Enugu for South East.
He said these were the location of the projects but trouble started for the Management when the Chairman insisted that the specific project be named.
Responding to the demand, Salijo said this particular projects were for power back up for the regional offices of the Rural Electrification Agency.
Senator Suswam said the only office location of the REA that complied with the national definition and established state regional headquarters was Enugu, insisting that others were flagrant disobedience to the acceptably known regional headquarters.
He warned that such abuse of power by some of the directors privileged to be in the agency would not accepted.
“For you people to whimsically just be locating these things because you have directors from those places is not right.”

Suswam said the reason for locating these things at the headquarters is because of accessibility.
“Nassarawa is a place that is easy for all the States in North Central to access. You people are trying to change what has been settled, we would look at this as we move forward.”

The chairman had earlier querried the Provision and installation of Solar mini grid that was captured in the 6 geopolitical zones, and yet same Solar mini grids were captured for SouthEast zone, North Central, North East which he said seemed to be duplication.
“I don’t know whether any senator here knows where such project is going on and they are duplicated in two places.
“Is it a duplication or two different project and where are they doing them?”
Responding to the issue the managing director said the provision and installation of solar mini grid in the 6 political zones is for the REA offices.
“As you might recall the REA has six zonal offices which were recently rehabilitated last year because they were having power challenges so this was put in the budget so that they can have backup power for the offices.”
Senator Suswam had also challenged the Agency to produce in prints the name of each project, where they are located and the contractor handling them
“Quite frankly I have tried to verify this projects in Benue and I dont know where they are and who is doing them and it cuts across all the state.
“If you go down to most of the States no project is going on anywhere. I dont think anyone here can say this is where they are doing this project.
“We want you to throw more light on where these rural electrification prohects are in the States are. The distinguished senator from Katsina said he cannot find where and who is handling the projects and where they are. It is important for us to know.”
He therefore directed the agency to return on Monday with all the details the committee has demanded.

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Legislature

Senate panel suspends budget defense over attacks by hoodlums

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Senate panel suspends budget defense over attacks by hoodlums

Senate committee on Interior yesterday suspended budget defence by the agencies under its purview on account of the #ENDSARS protests that was hijacked by hoodlums and the COVID-19 pandermic.
The committee chairman senator Kashim Shetima said most of the paramilitary organisations were victims of the attacks by the hoodlums as some of their offices were attacked and others burnt down.
He said they have submitted their 2020/2021 budget containing details hence there was no compelling need for them to hang on.

“Those paramilitary organisations, the Federal fire service and the Civil Defence submitted their budgets containing details of expenditure.
“We have received and will subject them to public scrutiny and when the need arises we will call them back to shed more light.

“In the light of the growing challenges and the issue of the  pandemic we felt compelled not to dissipate their useful time and energy answering a lot of questions from us.

He said there are no compelling issues to hold them back.
“If there is need for them to appear before us as we said earlier, we will call them back and subject them to scrutiny.
“We have the budget and there are explanations on  how the funds are expended.
“If we want an additional information we will inquire from them but right now some of their organisation are being attacked some of their offices were burnt down, so how do you expect us to hold them to ransome here while their needs for them to attend to outside.”

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Senate faults FG’s lackadaisical approach to environmental safety

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Senate faults FG’s lackadaisical approach to environmental safety

**Minister says Ogoni cleanup is FG’s priority

The Senate committee has on Environment has expressed disappointment over Nigeria’s disregard for environmental safety issues.

This came to the fore Tuesday during the Budget defense by the ministry of environment before the the Senate Committee on Environment.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, indicated that government’s failure to accord priority to environment issues is underscored by the relatively poor budgetary allocation to the Environment Ministry.

The Environment Minister, Mohammad Abubakar told the Senate Committee that his Ministry is presently tackling environmental issues including oil spills, among others.

The sum of N8.9 billion is the total allocation for the Environment Ministry, as captured in the 2021 budget.

When asked about the much talked about Ogoni cleanup that has lingered for some years the minister said,

“Three weeks ago we were able to completed six remediated sites that are being certified by National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) right now. I think about three or four more are in the pipeline to be completed and certified and the remaining fifteen sites of the first 21 are being worked on seriously and we completion very soon. “There are 36 additional sites that have been awarded. They are at various stages of work. “There are livelihood programme that are going on which have been part of the clean up project by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that is ongoing currently.
“About 1200 women and youths are being trained in various skills like agriculture, aquaculture, poultry, welding and so on. A great number of youths have been employed by the projects.”
He said the cleanup of Ogoni is ongoing adding that it is one of the main project of this administration.

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