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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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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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