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Senate approves N453.2bn NDDC 2020 budget



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Senate approves N453.2bn NDDC 2020 budget
The Senate on Monday approved the sum of N453.2 billion as annual budget to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for the 2020 fiscal year. 

This was just as the upper chamber approved a recommendation by the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta for an extension of the budget implementation timeline to 31st March, 2021.

The approval followed consideration of a report by the Committee on Niger Delta.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP – Delta North), in his presentation, said out of the total sum approved, N27,389,000,000 is for Personnel Costs; N13,937,244,107 for Overhead Expenditure; N2,793,755,893 for Internal Capital Expenditure; and N409,080,000,000 for Development Projects. 

On revenue projection of the Commission, the lawmaker said the Committee adopted N63,506,151,945 as reflected in the Appropriations Act, 2020.

He added that the sum of N100 billion naira reflected as unpaid arrears by the Federal Government was not considered as part of the Commission’s revenue projection by the Committee because the amount was not approved in the 2020 Appropriations Act by the National Assembly. 

Nwaoboshi stated further that against the backdrop of projection by the NDDC on revenue inflow from oil companies/NLNG and others, the Committee adopted the submission of the Commission on Personnel Expenditure of N27,389,000,000; N13,937,244,107 as Overhead Expenditure; N2,793,755,893 Internal Capital; and N409,080,000,000 for Development Projects. 

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks charged the Niger Delta  Committee to ensure the proper utilization of funds by the Commission through strict oversight. 

“I want to emphasize here that our Committee on Niger Delta should sit-up and ensure that these funds are properly utilized. 

“The Committee has done a good job in the past, and I’m sure it will continue with that,” the Senate President said. 

Rising, Senator Seriake Dickson (PDP – Bayelsa West) sought the permission of the Senate President for a motion to be considered to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately constitute the board of the NDDC. 

“What I am rising to propose, Mr. President, that this Senate at this point, having now agreed to pass the budget, can we take a motion to the effect that the President be called upon to constitute the board in accordance with the Act without further delay; and that this budget be passed for the sake and development of the well-being and welfare of the people,” he said. 

Responding, Senator Lawan noted that the concerns raised by the lawmaker in his suggestion were as valid and potent as a motion considered on the floor, adding that the National Assembly would continue to engage the Executive on the need to immediately constitute the Governing Board of the Nigerian Delta Development Commission. 

“I think you have made the point. Even without a motion, you have stated this and it is recorded. And, I have stated this, too.

“We have been engaging with the Executive arm of government that the nominations into the Governing Board should be made. We have been making that point and will continue to push until it is made.

“I think we are getting there, so even if we don’t take any motion, I’m sure the explanations you have given will go a long way.

“I don’t think the Sole Administrator should be there for any longer period of time, but it is for us to ensure that between now and when that administrator goes, the funds appropriated are properly utilized.

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RAM panelists insist, Nigeria will collapse without restructuring




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RAM panelists insist, Nigeria will collapse without restructuring 

***only the living can vote – Afenifere warns**

Nigeria is heading for the rocks in view of the various security threats and refusal of the authorities to heed to the clamour for restructuring by majority of the population, panelists at the Restructure Actualization Movement (RAM) have said

They indicated that the only escape route for the country would be a national conversation by Nigerians on how to forge ahead.
He added that such conversation would be at the be called by ordinary Nigerians and not by political elite who would do so with  their agenda that would undermine the interest of equity being promoted by ordinary Nigerians.

This consensus view was expressed by Dr. Akin Fapounda, Dr. Obiageli Ezekweseli, Senator Usman Bugaje and Chief Edwin Clark who was represented by Oni Winge.

All the speakers maintained that, there is already a consensus among Nigerians for restructuring saying that what is left is how the people would evolve the conversation to convoke their sovereignty, discuss national cohesion and unity under agreed terms.

Representative of the Southwest at the RAM conversation, Dr. Akin Fapohunda said there was no need for any future election without restructuring, to provide for national consensus on the way to continue to exist as one country in peace and unity.
He said the term ‘Afenifere’ means living in love and unity, thus the Southwest position on the way forward for first to note that Nigeria a failed state with 36 states running as silos of expenditure that are not viable.

According to him, the Yoruba nation is desirous of living other with all other tribes and ethnic representation in Nigeria, however,  the critical question of ‘how’ to live together is one that must be deliberated and agreed upon.

He said it is because the extant constitution is not working and should be replaced.

According to him, the profligacy and inequalities in the system must be addressed for an all inclusive governance structure that provides equal opportunities to all Nigerians.

He pointed out that part of the structural deficiency in the system is lumping of over 1000 state assembly lawmakers, 109 senators, 360 members of House of Representatives 42 ministers and administrative staff of the federal government on level 16 and 17 in each of the 36 states of the federation leads the national coffers to unnecessarily bleeding economically.

He pointed out that these silos of expenditure includes the 36 states governors and their paraphanelia of office drains the public purse without any tangible public expenditure that benefits the people.

He proposed that Nigeria Lawmakers should be made to draw their earnings for their service from their respective region and communities based on their earnings.

He maintained that the Yoruba nation was not disposed to 2023 elections as “regardless of the subtle quest, by some elements, to network for political trophies in anticipation of 2023, the overwhelming desire of Yoruba people is to refrain from an further participation in the process of elections unless and until a new constitutional order in is negotiated and enacted.

“Recent events of insecurity across our lands affirms to correctness of this posture, as only the living can exercise voting rights not the dead” he warned.

In her submission on the conversation, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili restated that Nigeria suffers constitutional failure which is the foundation of the country’s trajectory and this failure manifests in the fact that Nigeria was  bequeathed British and Military Constitutions which did not take into cognisance the interest of the people, all of whom have failed.

Ezekwesili said, added to this, was the privatization of the public space and elite class thus undermining the rights of Nigerians to engage.

She said the conversation must be made and its outcome from the views of Nigerians would form the basis of going forward as an indivisible nation.

Former Cabinet minister and leader of the Niger Delta region, Chief Edwin Clerk who was represented by Oni Winge told the participant that Nigeria will not exist further without restructuring.

He said the South South region which is the bread winner of the country wants true Federalism and be able able to control its resources.
He pointed out that while the nation has focused on living on the black gold from the Niger Delta region, the Gold of Zamfara state has been the exclusive resource of the state with the State having full control.
On his part as a panelist at the RAM town hall meeting in Abuja, Senator Usman Bugaje said Nigeria is in a very dangerous trajectory and would required informed discussions on the conversation.

Bugaje who identified three major issues as the bane of advancing the nation to include: power sharing, wealth sharing and identity of a Nigerian said effective management of these factors would birth a United Nigeria.

According to him, the inability of the political class to equitably distribute political power, wealth and ensure the identity of a Nigerian without ethinic or religious biases was a problem to be solved.

He said any part of the country is free to go it’s own way however, it should be done constitutionally stressing that sovereignty belongs to the people.

He said attempts to reduce allotment of presidential slots to ethnic basis like Hausa or Igbo Presidency was a stupid idea.

Proposing a 44 state federating unit with 12 regions, former Minister of information, Prof. Jerry Gana said restructuring Nigeria is an inevitable change whose time has come and Nigeria must actualize to negotiate a peaceful co-existence among all parties.

He said the theory of the majority tribes rotating the Presidency among themselves remains an issue to be discussed so that all minority ethnic nationalities would see a possibility of emerging President of the Country too

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Despite protest by minority, senate confirms Ex-Service Chiefs as Ambassadors-Designate




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Despite protest by minority, senate confirms Ex-Service Chiefs as Ambassadors-Designate 

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nominations of the former Service Chiefs as Ambassadors-Designate amidst protest from the minority leader senator Eyinaya Abaribe.

The confirmation of the nominees followed consideration of the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The former Service Chiefs confirmed are: General Abayomi G. Olonisakin (Rtd), Ekiti; Lt. General Tukur Y. Buratai (Rtd), Borno; Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete E. Ibas (Rtd), Cross River; and Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar (Rtd), Bauchi;

Also confirmed was Air Vice Marshal Muhammad S. Usman (Rtd), Kano. 

Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa, in his presentation said their appointments were made in line with section 171(40) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

According to him, “their experiences as Service Chiefs and in the military where they rose to the highest ranks in their careers have made them eminently qualified; and that the nominees were very knowledgeable and articulate in their response to questions directed at them by the Committee.”

Bulkachuwa, however, disclosed in the report that “the Committee received petitions against their nominations as Non-Career Ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but the petitions were dismissed.” 

The Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, while coming under a point of order, demanded explanation as to the rationale behind the dismissal of the petition against the nominees by the Committee, particularly against the backdrop of the Senate resolutions in the past calling for their removal as Service Chiefs. 

Responding, the Senate President pointed out that the Senate resolution demanding their removal was in no way related to President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for the Senate to confirm them as Ambassadors-Designate, adding that, “these are two separate roles.”

“Without prejudice to what the executive will do, where we need to fight the Boko Haram insurgency and banditry, because of their experience in the field, they should be able to interact very closely and sufficiently to advice and create the atmosphere for working together, for partnership and cooperation between Nigeria and those countries.

“So, I think on that scope, the nomination cannot be nullified because we said they should be changed”, Lawan said 

The nominees were, thereafter, confirmed after a motion moved by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, to that effect and seconded by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe. 

The Senate President in his remarks after the nominees were confirmed advised the Executive arm of government to deploy them to countries where their experiences as former military officers would be required. 

Lawan said, “the nominees that we have just confirmed are nominees that have served this great country to the best of their ability as Service Chiefs and today, they have been confirmed as Non-Career Ambassadors. 

“Our appeal to the Executive is to make sure that we utilize their experiences as Military men to the best, because we should be able to post them to countries where they can be much more useful in their engagements as Ambassadors.”  

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Senate moves to beam searchlight on misappropriation of $20m Safe School Initiative fund




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Senate moves to beam searchlight on misappropriation of $20m Safe School Initiative fund

Apparently piqued by the vulnerability of pupils and students at basic and secondary schools respectively to being abducted from their premises, the Senate is poised to investigate the utilization of over $20 million (USD) funding proposal and budgeted for the initiative over the years.

To this end the Senate has mandated the Committees on Education (Basic and Secondary); and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND to get to root of the issue
The investigation would also beam its searchlight on all monies donated by foreign governments and agencies to the initiative. 
This formed part of resolutions reached during plenary on Tuesday after the Senate considered a motion on the “Urgent need for the Restoration and Revalidation of the Safe School Initiative in Nigeria.”
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Stephen Adi Odey (PDP, Cross River North) noted that the “Safe School Initiative” was launched to promote security and safety of schools, pupils, students, teachers, as well as facilities in 2014.
According to the lawmaker, the initiative “was formulated to design and Implement the best of global standards in the educational sector in Nigeria through the employment of qualified teachers, provision of  library and laboratory equipment, conducive environment for teaching and learning, as well as provision of habitable classrooms and hostels.” 
He expressed concern that, “The unfortunate increase in the insecurity crisis in the country, with the advanced target at schools in diverse locations, especially the regrettable kidnap of the Chibok and Dapchi School girls in Borno and Yobe States respectively.
He also lamented the abduction of the Kankara School Boys in Katsina State and most recently, the kidnap of students of Government Science College, Kagara in Rafilga Local Government Area of Niger State.
He said the incidences have exposed the unimaginable decadence and dilapidation in the schools in Nigeria, drawing inference from the footage; from the school environments.” 
He warned that “These ugly and condemnable activities of insurgency, kidnapping, wanton killing and other associated crimes will not abate, especially in consideration of the payment of “Ransom” for the release of victims and as reportedly hinted by the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in the course of his continuation as ambassadorial nominee.”
“Also concerned that these incidences of kidnapping school children/students or invasion of school premises across Nigeria have created negative publicity for Nigeria with the attendance loss of confidence by foreign investors in the Nigerian economic climate; 
He expressed concern that the country has lost a large number of men and women as well as military resources of the over-stretched military to the Kidnappers, Terrorists, Bandits and other criminal elements.
He pointed out that the recent plane crash which resulted in the death of 7 Air Force Officers who were on an a mission to aid the release of the recently kidnapped Kagara School students and workers was another sad commentary.
The lawmaker expressed concern that the incidents may instill fear in parents and guardians and force them to withdraw their children and wards from schools or prevent them from sending their children to schools.
Should that happen, he said, it will in tum defeat the government’s educational policy of ”literacy for all” and further deprive the children of the opportunity of having quality education to compete with their peers globally.
 The implementation of the “Safe School Initiative” by all stakeholders would have curbed the latest twist in the criminal activities associated with insecurity in Nigeria especially as it relates to the invasion of school premises as well as kidnap of students and teachers for ransom.

According to him, the full implementation of the Safe School Initiative would have guarranteed the best of global standards in the educational sector in Nigeria through the employment of qualified teachers, provision of library and conducive environment for teaching and learning, as well as provision of habitable classrooms and hostels,” Odey said. 
Contributing, the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) said the recent kidnappings of school children by bandits has resulted in students from a part of the country missing out on education.  
“This motion is very timely, especially coming at the heels of the last incident of the kidnap of school children from Kagara Government Science Secondary School. 
“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, we need to take note of the kidnapping of school children. 
“We know we are fighting insurgency and the bandits, and the philosophy of insurgency is to the effect that western education is not good.  And Whatever is being done to dissuade parents from sending their children to school is something that we must take seriously”, Sabi Abdullahi said. 
Senator Orker Jev (PDP, Benue North West) while speaking in support of the motion, said the spate of kidnappings of students would on the long run have adverse affect on the quality of learning and education in Nigeria.
According to the lawmaker, the problem of kidnapping of students can only be addressed when general insecurity is nipped in the bud across parts of the country. 
Another lawmaker, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), stressed that the welfare of school children must continue to be a priority for the Federal Government of Nigeria so as to secure their future.  
Accordingly, the Senate while urging the Federal Government to, in collaboration with the various state governments, restore, revive and revalidating the Safe School Initiative in Nigeria, urged the Ministry of Education under the auspices of the National Council of Education to come out with a comprehensive and workable framework for Safe Schools in Nigeria. 
The Upper Chamber, while mandating its Committees on Education (Basic and Secondary); and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND to investigate the utilization of funding proposed and budgeted for the initiative over the years, as a well as called for securing boarding schools with perimeter fence using funds from the Initiative. 
In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, advised the National Council on Education to come up with policies and guidelines that would ensure the safety of school children and students in the various institutions of learning across the country. 
“It appears we are focused so much on armed security to be present in the premises. I think we should be liberal to consider how the school itself can be secured, in terms of the perimeter fencing would be, the entrances to the premises, classrooms and dormitories.
“I think these are the kind of things, so that even if you have one or two security personnel there, they would be assisted by the kind of infrastructure within and surrounding the school. 
“Probably, that is where the National Council on Education would come in, because let it be a national policy, that every state government – and in that case state governments control the primary and secondary schools and the federal government of course – should have these kind of secured environment. 
“But if you emphasize on just armed people, we may never have enough, and that will overstretch our security system again.”
Lawan also called for a probe into the $20 million dollar fund for the Safe School Initiative so as to determine why the initiative was stalled and the level of implementation achieved so far. 
“Let me also add, that the former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, came to Nigeria and said there was $20m (USD) that was for the safe school initiative. He was the driver of that initiative when President Goodluck Jonathan held sway.
“And, I agree, our Committee should find out the implementation that took place, what happened, why is it stalled. And the National Council on Education should actually be in position now – given our circumstances recently having abductions in our schools – to come up with some national policies and guidelines on securing our institutions,” the Senate President added. 

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