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Senate knocks BPE over N8.7billion infraction in Audit Report

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***orders agency to remit to Consolidated Revenue Fund 
*
Following queries issued agaianst the Bureau of Public Enterprises ( BPE) by the Office of Auditor General of the Federation, the Senate has directed the former to remit N8.7 billion into the Consolidated Revenue Fund ( CRF) .

As alleged by the 2015 Audit Report,  sustained by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and adopted by the Upper Legislative Chamber the BPE has committed series of financial infractions between 2014 and 2015 financial years, totalling N8, 757, 353, 089.09 billion in violation of several rules of financial regulations .

One of such violations was the alleged non – remittance of N4, 736, 932, 467.67billion dividends received on Federal Government Holdings which was not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund ( CRF) .The Senate punctured the submission by the BPE in response to the query that all dividends received on Federal Government Holdings in the year under review totalling N6, 819, 388, 791.00billion were transferred to Treasury Single Account ( TSA) in September 2015, for lack  of documentary evidence to back it.
The report adopted by the Senate reads,  “The Committee observed that there was no evidence provided by BPE to show that the dividend was remitted to TSA 

” Consequently , the Commitee recommends that the Bureau remit the sum of N4, 736, 932, 467. 67billion to the CRF , evidence of which must be submitted to Auditor General of the Federation and Senate Public Accounts Commitee”.

BPE in another query sustained and adopted by the Senate, was alleged to have diverted N2.5billion proceeds of PHCN from Access  and FCMB banks to now liquated Aso Savings and Loans for financing of Staff Housing Scheme , contrary to financial regulation 3205.

The query and Senate’ s resolution read, “Unauthorised transfer of N2.5billion representing PHCN proceeds in Access Bank and FCMB Accounts were diverted to ASO Savings and Loans Plc, as a condition precedent to the Staff Cooperative Mortgage , contrary to Financial Regulation 3205.

“The Commitee observed that there was no approval from Debt Management Office ( DMO) for the Bureau to secure loan from ASO Savings just as it was also observed that there was collusion between ASO Savings and BPE.

“Consequently, the sum of N2.5billion with all accrued interest be remitted to the CRF by BPE with evidence of remittance forwarded to the Auditor General of the Federation and Senate Public Accounts Committee.
“All oficers involved in the transaction should be surcharged for the loss of government revenue in line with Financial Regulations 3106 and 3115”.
The Bureau as contained in the adopted report , was also alleged of non – remittance of N1, 135, 139, 199.77billion earned interest on fixed deposit in various commercial banks .
The N1.135billion interest as explained in the query and adopted report, was from N19, 774, 272, 998.55billion deposited in various commercial banks which BPE management in its response , said it was used to settle PHCN Staff severance benefits .
But the Commitee in its report, accused the Bureau of breaching  Financial Regulations and recommended for remittance of the N1.135billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund .

The report stated, ” The Commitee recommends that the Bureau pay the sum of N1, 135, 139, 199.77billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund , in accordance with relevant Financial Regulations and submit evidence of remittance to the Auditor General of the Federation and Senate Public Accounts Commitee”, 

Also included in the query and adopted by the Senate, was the alleged non remittance of N387, 771, 741.82million incidental taxes to the Federal Inland Revenue Service ( FIRS) by BPE from the mandatory 10% WHT collected as service charge from different investors in the year under review .

The report states, ” The Committee observed that WHT totalling N387, 771,741.82m, was not paid to FIRS despite BPE’s promise 5 years ago that all incidental taxes shall be deducted and remitted to FIRS .

“The Commitee therefore recommended that the sum of N387, 771, 741.82million be remitted into the CRF by the Bureau and evidence of remittance submitted to the Auditor – General for Federation and Senate Public Accounts Commitee” .

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Legislature

Senate turns down Buhari’s $700 Loan Request for Water Project

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Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt has turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s loan request to the National Assembly for Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) under the Ministry of Water Resources .

This was coming barely twenty-four hours after the Ministry of Health appeared before the Committee to seek approval for $200 million for procurement of mosquito nets and Malaria medicines.

The lawmakers who took turn to fault the loan for Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) demanded update of loans collected so far for the Water Projects in the Ministry.

According to the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Clifford Ordia three different loans have been approved for various water projects .

Ordia said , ” $450 million for the Ministry for water project being financed by Africa Development Bank and another $6 million loan under integrated program for Development also financed by Africa Development Bank and Gurara water project.

“You need to tell us what you are doing with $700 million for water projects.”

The Committee therefore agreed to summon the Minister of Water Resources, Adamu Suleiman to appear give explanation on the loans and state of loans collected so far

Speaking against the loan, Senator Obinna Ogba said that he will go against grant approval for the loan because some loans have been collected for water projects with no result.
“This loan, I don’t support this one again, enough is enough .”

Also kicking against the loan, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe asked to know the criteria for selecting benefiting states adding that details provided by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry is not enough to justify the loan .

Oloriegbe asked, ” What is the criteria for selecting benefiting states, the details you are providing is not enough, what are the projects you want to do with $640 million and how many water projects are you going to do.

“You are giving each state $3 million to develop personnel capacity do we need loan to do this function, you mean all states can’t do that on their own?.”

Senator Sani Musa while kicking against the loan advice the Committee to look at all the requests and pick the one that is necessary.

The Niger Senator said, “We should look at this loan and take the ones that are necessary and we should abandoned the one that are not necessary. We need to look at it very critically.”

Senator Brima Enagi also protested against the request for $700 million loan demanding for state of Gurara project from the Ministry.

Earlier, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs Esther Didi Walson-Jack who was unable to give explanation to the previous loans approved for water projects told the Committee that Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SURWASH) will last for five years.

She added that $640 million will be used for the Project while the $60 million will be used for capacity building.

The Permanent Secretary said that the proposal was negotiated with World Bank on April, 2022 and was approved at Federal Executive Council (FEC) on August 11, 2021.

States that will benefited from the $700 loan from World Bank are Delta, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, and Plateau with counterpart funding of $175 million.

The programme will deliver improved water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to 2,000 schools and health care facilities and assist 500 Communities to achieve open defecation free status.

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Senator Isa-Echocho flags off constituency projects, township road construction

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By Janet Samuel

The Senator representing Kogi East senatorial district, Jibrin Isa-Echocho has commenced the construction of road projects in some major towns in his senatorial district as part of his constituency projects.

The township roads include, Ajagwumu, Odu Ofomu, Odu Ogboyaga and Alokoli among others in Dekina LGA of the state.

While declaring the ceremony of the commencement open, senator Isa-Echocho said the area has been neglected for so long, which has been affecting free flow of vehicles.

The lawmaker who expressed delight that the road will be fixed during his time, said he is optimistic that the project will be completed in no distance time.
He used the occasion to appreciate president Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Yahaya Bello led administration and the people of Kogi East senatorial district for the opportunity to serve

The Senator urged the communities to cooperate with the Contractor in ensuring timely delivery of the job as other communities who are yet to have modern roads will be attended to in no distance time.
In his remark, The Atamodu of Odu, His Royal Highness, Yahaya Salifu, while thanking the senator for delivering on his campaign promises prayed God for continuous wisdom for him to attract more democratic dividend to his Constituency.
He assured the contractors of the support from the communities during their stay.
He said his people being very hospitable will support them.
He added that he had already conferred with village chiefs(Gago’s) of the affected communities and beyond to let them know of the wonderful development adding that he has instructed them to give the contractors all the necessary support to make their job easy and tgeir stay a memorable one.
“As you can see, am here with my council Chiefs, community and youth leaders to show our commitment and enthusiasm towards these laudable projects”. He said.

Political leaders, traditional rulers and the youths from the area were there to graced the occasion.

In another development, the Senator has commenced the construction of 20 bed capacity hospital at Akpoli Imane of olamaboro local government Area of the statte.

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Legislature

Senate committee to meet CJN NBA, others over Custodial Centers’ decongestion

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Apparently piqued by over crowding of custodial centres and the helpless situation of awaiting trial inmates, the Senate Committee on Interior has indicated that it will meet with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other stakeholders.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Kashim Shettima (APC, Borno) gave the indication on Wednesday when officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service appeared before the panel for 2022 budget defence.

Senator Shettima said there are 66,000 inmates in custodial centres across the country, out of which 47,000 are awaiting trials.

He said the situation has resulted in congestion of the centres nationwide.

The lawmaker added that decongesting the custodial centres has become imperative to making them habitable and truly reform the inmates.

He said, “We have 66,000 inmates in the custodial cetres across the country, and 47,559 of them are unconvicted (awaiting trials).

“We can really solve this issue with required synergy with all the stakeholders, the judiciary, the legislature and the executive.

“We can easily decongest the prison and make it habitable and a place that will truly reform Nigerians, not to transform them into hardened criminals.”

The committee also said it would undertake an upward review of inmates’ feeding cost from N450 to N1000 per day.

The Nigerian Correctional Service, in its 2022 estimates, proposed the increment of the feeding cost from N450 to N750, citing high cost of food items.

But a member of the panel, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu) said the amount was grossly inadequate to feed the inmates.

“You are dealing with adults. How can they survive with that amount? When you send convicts to prisons, instead of reforming them, they become more hardened because of they way they are treated, particularly food,” Utazi said.

The chairman assured that the committee would make adequate provisions for the feeding of the inmates.

On the fortification of correctional centres against jailbreak, Shettima said: “This is something we emphasized. There are certain security issues that cannot be discussed in the open. But is it an issue we are squarely addressing.”

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