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Senate faults FG over PTF status change without consultation

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Senate faults FG over PTF status change without consultation 
***Health ministry cannot dictate to Nigerians how to run the country


Apparently piqued by the recent conversion of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to a steering Committee without due consultation with the national Assembly, the Senate committee on Health has faulted the action of the executive arm of Government.

The chairman of the committee senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe spoke at the public hearing  of the bill entitled “Federal Medical Centre, Mubi, Adamawa State (Establishment) Bill, 2021” sponsored by Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (Binani).

Senator Oloriegbe said the National Assembly consults with the executive more that the executive consults with it. 
“For example, I can make it public, I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard that the PTF (on COVID-19) has been converted to a steering committee. 
“We were not consulted in terms of what will be the operational mechanism and so on. I am just trying to say I will ask my Clerk to invite you to come and explain to us the process of that response because we represent Nigeria. “What is the content of that conversion? How will the steering committee work?”He said though they were not consulted they don’t mind however as part of their oversight they will come back to ask.He said, in terms of agenda setting it is the job of the National Assembly.The committee chairman was reacting to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Abdulaziz Mashi Abdullahi who stood in for the Minister, when he said the sponsor of the bill should have consulted with the executive for a proposal such as the bill under consideration.The permanent secretary while presenting the position of the ministry on the bill said,”At the Ministry of Health we are not averse to creating of additional health institutions across the country. “We have made our position clear and I don’t want to go over this memorandum because of time. But I want to assure you, the sponsor of the Bill, that you have our support within the rules and regulations in the establishment of this Federal tertiary institutions. “So our comprehensive position and stand of the Federal Ministry of Health have been made to the Secretariat.”However, in reaction the chairman of the committee said he had read through the memo. “There are three points that I want to clear. The first one the comment of the ministry that for a proposal like this the sponsor of the Bill should consult with the executive.”That is not what the constitution says. Our constitution provided for how laws are made. There are three sources. Executive proposal can come. Members of the National Assembly can come. And the third one is that any Nigerian can come. “But all the three will have only one route to the National Assembly. It must be read on the floor by an elected member. Based on that any Nigerian has a right to propose a bill but whether such a proposal will see the light of day will depend on all these processes. “And that is part of what we are doing. Secondly, you mentioned about cost implication. By virtue of our rule 73, every bill has a compendium of cost. “If you don’t have it then you should have asked. But the last and the most important is that you are the custodian of policy. There is what I will call policy somersault or that you just decide to say what you want to say. “You said that because Modibbo Adama Teaching hospital is there, there should be no FMC and that there are none like that. “But I want to mention to you that there are five states in this country that don’t have the population and land mass of Adamawa. Only one has more population and that is Lagos. “Lagos has a teaching hospital, LUTH, and Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Edo State has two Teaching Hospitals, that is University of Benin Teaching Hospital and Irrua Teaching Hospital in the same state. “FCT has three hospitals that are Federal, outside what is owned by the FCTA. We have the National Hospital which is being proposed now to become a Teaching Hospital. We have University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada. “We have Federal Medical Centre Jabi. Of course we have even the new one that is being expanded now where as the Chairman of this Committee I am aware, the Federal Staff Hospital in Gwarimpa will also have like the status of FMC. “That is FCT, what is the population and what is the land mass? We have Bauchi State that has Abubakar Tafa Balewa Teaching Hospital and FMC Azare. We have Jigawa State which has just been done by the same Ministry of Heath. It has an FMC in Birnin Kudu, but now a Teaching Hospital in Dutse. “So if we want to have a policy, what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. I am sorry you don’t have opinion here but when Executive is making submission to us, it should be standard. We read this and it is signed by the Minister.” 
Senator representing Gombe, Danjuma Goge commended the chairman saying, “You have really hit the nail on the head. Adamawa’s request for Federal Medical Centre Mubi, is justified. “The Federal Ministry of Health has no reason whatsoever to try to sabotage this Bill. We will not agree at.”The senator representing Borno Kasim Shettima aligned himself with the position taken by Senator Danjuma Goje. “It is not for the Federal Ministry of Health to dictate to us how we should run this nation. Taking into cognizance the calibre of people that are here, that buttresses the urgent need for us to bring into being the Federal Medical Centre Mubi. “With all due respect to the Permanent Secretary, Mubi is one community that was destroyed by the Boko Haram. “The Adamawa North Senatorial zone was at a point in time a no go area. It was completely devastated by the Boko Haram. “Right now Maiduguri = Damboa Road is not accessible. Maiduguri – Gwoza Road is a death trap. People, not only from Damboa, Chibok and Gwoza North, even people from Kao Local Government can easily access the medical facility in Mubi. “If you look at the health indices, the North East is at the bottom of the ladder and I believe every Nigerian should show empathy and support. “If you don’t have the resources, then you can tell us and we will find a window through the NEDC for instance to fund the project. But for the Federal Government or any organization for that matter to come out and say no it is not part of our agenda, we are the agenda setters and we are setting the agenda that let there be a Federal Medical Centre Mubi.”Responding the Perm Sec said: “I don’t have much to say rather than to tell this Committee that all you have said is duly noted by the Ministry. “On issue of consultation, in fact, this public hearing is one of the consultations. In the initial conception of the Bill there is nothing bad in coming to the Ministry of Health to get our input. But the essence of any policy is towards delivery of services and more so when Health is involved, there is no way an arm of government would say that it is not something that would be beneficial to humanity and then object to it. “I want to assure you that all these comments have been noted and we will take them back to the Ministry and we will get back to you.” 
Minister of FCT, Muhammed Bello said, “We need medical facilities. The desire of all governments is to provide medical facilities.We should all work to widen medical healthcare for our people.”The sponsor of the bill had earlier in her opening remarks said, the provision of a Federal Medical Centre in Mubi will come at a very low cost to government since the existing General Hospital has the necessary requirements to be upgraded to a Federal Medical Centre.””A number of reasons justify the wisdom of the Federal Government in providing both Teaching Hospital and Federal Medical Centre in some particular states of the Federation. 
“We strongly believe that the peculiar circumstances of Adamawa State both in terms of distances, population, accessibility and history justifies the establishment of both tertiary health care facility in the state.”She said Mubi provides the ideal location for the FMC

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Legislature

National Food reserve Agency Bill scales through amidst opposition at senate

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National Food reserve Agency Bill scales through amidst opposition at senate

The Senate, on Wednesday, passed a bill seeking to establish the National Food Reserve Agency for Food security despite disagreement over its powers by senators.

Before the bill was passed, senators engaged in a heated debate over the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on the establishment of the agency. 
However, the Bill saw the light of day when the President ruled in its favor..

The bill was passed after the Red Chamber considered the report of its committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Senator Abdullahi Adamu, in his presentation, said, when established, it is expected to implement the overall National Food Reserve Policy to ensure a reliable supply of designated commodities in the country
He said with the existence of the agency, emergency food crises will be taken care of especially during the period of pandemic.

“There will also be a reduction in post-harvest losses as silos, warehouses, equipment, ancillary facilities and other suitable storage facilities will be installed and maintained,” he said.

Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun) had raised a constitutional matter that the National Assembly did not have the power to legislate on the establishment of the food reserve agency, citing section 4 of the 1999 constitution to back up his argument.

But Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger), Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi) countered Bashiru’s submission, arguing that the federal parliament is constitutionally empowered to legislate on matter of security and welfare of the people.

They said the agency was needed owing to the acute insecurity across the country, which has had effect on food production.

Senator James Manager (Rivers) said though there is need for the agency due to the situation in the country, sentiments cannot counter effectively the constitutional matter raised by Ajibola Basiru. 

He asked his colleagues to step down the 
the consideration of the report to another legislative day.

But Senate President Ahmad Lawan disagreed and ruled that the Red Chamber should go ahead with the legislation.

Lawan said: “From a constitutional point of order our colleague raised that we don’t have such power, I think the National Assembly has such powers. I think the emergency in this country requires that we do everything possible to rescue, protect the lives and property of the people of this country.

“I believe we should go ahead to do our legislation.

“If anyone outside feels that the legislation is wrong, that person can go to the court so that the legislation is nullified and that is one thing with the practice of democracy.

“But I believe that Nigerians at the moment need this kind of legislation.”

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Legislature

N7.5B secret withdrawals: Senate Summons Finance Minister, AGF

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N7.5B secret withdrawals: Senate Summons Finance Minister, AGF

Senate Committee on Public Accounts has summoned the Minister of Finance, Ahmed Zainab and Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris over secret withdrawals of N7.5 billion from the 2 percent National Automotive Design and Development Council Levy Account domiciled with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The report indicated that first N3.8 billion was withdrawn in two installments of N2.8 billion in 2005 and N1 billion in 2006.
This was containwd in the report of the Auditor-General of the Federation, which is being considered by the Senate committee, chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide.
The second N3.7 billion, the report said, was withdrawn between March – December 2000 in three separate payments of N725 million, N1 billion and N2 billion.
When the Committee asked the Director General of National Automotive Design and Development Council
Jelani Aliyu about the withdrawal, he said the money was withdrawn without the knowledge of the agency.
He said the Agency has been writing to the Accountant General and Ministry of Finance on the need to refund the money but there was no response.
Apparently piqued by the development, Senate Committee on Public Accounts resolved to summon the Minister of Finance and Accountant General of the Federation to give explanation on the fund.
The query reads,”A total sum of N3,836,000,000.00 (Three billion, eight hundred and thirty-six million naira) was irregularly withdrawn from the 2% National Automotive Council Levy Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja in 2 installments of N2,800,000,000 (in 2005) and N1,036,000,000.00 (in 2006) by the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance as car loan to be granted for the Security Personnel Car Purchase Scheme Loan.
“The transaction was carried out by the Presidency in collaboration with the Bank of Industry, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Accountant-General of the Federation without the involvement of NAC, the account owner.
“However the principal and the accrued interest from the fictitious loan have not been paid back nor are records available on the beneficiaries, agreement documents, moratorium, duration of the loan, the yearly interest rates accruable and how the fund will be paid back by the beneficiary.
“The Director General has been requested to intensify correspondence with the Honourable Minister of Finance, Accountant-General of the Federation and the Presidency to recover the fund (‘loan’).”
On the 3.7 billion, the report said the sum was “irregularly withdrawn from the 2% National Automotive Council Levy Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria between March-December 2000 in 3 separate payments of N725,000,000; N1,000,000,000 and N2,000,000,000 as ‘loan’ to NAFCON vide the Accountant General of the Federation internal memo to the Permanent Secretary, Budget Office of the Federation Ref No: DD/(R&F)22.Vol. 1158 of 27/5/2003.
“The ‘Loan’ Principal and the accumulated interest are yet to be paid since the year 2000.”

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Legislature

Senate Urges NEMA to Provide Relief Materials to Benue Windstorm Victims

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Senate Urges NEMA to Provide Relief Materials to Benue Windstorm Victims

The Senate on Wednesday urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to as a matter of urgency mobilize resources and rehabilitation materials for various communities in Benue state recently affected by a devastating windstorm.

The disaster had destroyed hundreds of buildings, leaving many residents injured and homeless.

The upper legislative chamber also urged relevant government agencies to support the rebuilding of all the affected public buildings.

It further urged relevant government agencies to go to Benue south senatorial district to sensitize the people on measures to protect themselves and their properties.

The resolutions were sequel to the adoption of motion, sponsored by Senator Abba Moro (Benue South).

Moving the motion, Moro expressed sadness at the extent of destruction inflicted on lives, public and private properties by a windstorm which swept through Ogbadibo and Okpokwu communities in Benue.

He lamented that the windstorm brought down blocks of classrooms in some schools, churches, police station and many other buildings were affected.

Moro said, ”On April 8 2021 about ten communities in Benue state were badly hit by natural disaster. A devastating windstorm which left scores of people injured, hundreds of them homeless and wanton destruction of properties, valuables and several means of livelihood worth millions of Naira.

”Recall that on May 12, 2020 I drew the attention of the Senate in a motion over a devastating rain, windstorm disaster that swept through Ai-Famu, a community in Owukpa, Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State, wherein over 150 buildings including St. Michael The Archangel Catholic Church’s building were blown up by the storm. Worried that almost one year after the disaster, the ordeal has repeated itself in a worse and more devastating manner.”

He added that the situation needs to be addressed to provide succor to the affected communities and persons.

In his contribution, Senator Micheal Nnachi called for urgent action to safeguard the lives and properties of citizens.

He said, ”Climate change is a serious issue in every country in the world, this motion has caused a lot of havoc in his senatorial district. Today people are under the sun, under the next rain which we may not predict. Something urgent should be done to protect the lives of these people.”

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