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Senate warns against liquidation of Economy over COVID 19

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Senate warns against liquidation of Economy over COVID 19
…..FG admits poverty as  potent weapon against it

The Senate has raised concern over the state of the Nigerian economy post COVID-19 warning against liquidating the economy with the adoption of European strategy in figthing pandemic .

This is as the National Coordinator of Presidential Task Force ( PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, admitted that poverty is one of the strongest weapons against the pandemic .

Senate’s admonition against the imported idea of fighting COVID -19 came from its Chairman of Aviation Committee , Senator Smart Adeyemi ( APC Kogi West), during an interactive session the committee along with that on Health.
They had the meeting with stakeholders in the Aviation and Health Sectors on safety measures put on ground in the wake of   commencement of International and domestic flights in the country .
Senator Adeyemi in his remarks at the interactive session, said considering on realities on ground, COVID-19 is real but not potent in Nigeria and many of the African countries .

According to him, based on that reality ,it is wrong for stakeholders in the country to be swallowing hook , line and sinker , measures being adopted to fight it in Europe , America , China etc.

“There is something in us as Africans  that is not in them in Europe and America , which made COVID-19 not to be disastrous here as it was there .

“In the light of this , measures that are detrimental to the livelihood and well-being of Nigerians should be avoided, so as not to kill the Nation’s economy “, he said.

He specifically faulted the policy adopted by the Presidential Task Force ( PTF) on COVID-19 which allows only private laboratories to carry out tests on intending Travellers abroad .

The measure according to him, is detrimental to average Nigerians who are being forced to cough out N75, 000 for such tests .

“The amount is too high , it should be brought down and public health Institutions laboratories should be equipped to carry out the tests .

“People are not finding things easy outside there as a result of way and manner COVID-19 pandemic is being fought in the country and as Representatives of the people, feelers reaching us, indicate revolt against government in December if drastic actions are not taken between now and then , to make things easier “, he warned.

Speaking in the same vein, Senator Biodun Olujimi ( PDP Ekiti South), took up both the Minister of Health , Dr Osagie Ehanire and PTF National Coordinator , Dr Sani Aliyu on the usefulness of face masks in Nigeria based on realities on ground.

She said based on what she saw in many communities in Ekiti State last week , residents have jettisoned its usage .
” When I visited some communities in Ekiti State last week , nobody put on the face masks and infact , some of them told me who put it on ,not to bring COVID 19 to them.

” These are clear signs that methods and approaches being used to fight the pandemic should be re- assessed and changed since the pandemic for reasons yet to be scientifically  established , is far less potent here than it is , in Europe , America etc “, she said.
She pointedly asked the PTF National Coordinator , reasons behind the success story in Nigeria .
In his response, Dr Sani Aliyu said the three reasons already identified are Poverty , Demography and aggressive nature of African Countries against the pandemic .

According to him, though the factor of poverty as part of the success story against COVID-19 in Nigeria is controversial but it is generally believed that the pandemic gets weakened in crowded and stuffy  areas .
‘ Demographically , only 3% of Nigerians are above the age 65 as against 20% , 18% etc,  of such populations in European and American countries where death casualties were high .
“Aggressive nature of African countries against the pandemic , also helped tremendously in containing the spread of the pandemic in Nigeria and many of the African Countries “, he said .
The joint committee however ordered  the Minister and the PTF National Coordinator, to enlarge the scope of laboratory testing for the pandemic by including the public ones and ensure reduction in the cost of testing .
The Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe ( APC Kwara Central) , said the committee is expecting response action plans from the Minister and the PTF within the next two weeks.

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Legislature

Its wishful thinking to believe NASS can give new constitution to Nigeria says Omo-Agege

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Its wishful thinking to believe NASS can give new constitution to Nigeria says Omo-Agege

Nigerians should not engage in wishful thinking that the 9th National Assembly will deliver new constitution because it lacks the mandate to do so, the deputy President of the Senate Omo-Agege has indicated.

Omo-Agege spoke when he hosted members of Alliance of Nigerian Patriots in Abuja.

This always contained in a statement issued by Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to the Deputy President of the Senatw Yomi Odunuga.
The senator who chairs the Senate Adhoc Committee on Constitution Review, stressed that the National Assembly has no powers to replace the current Constitution but can only amend it.

The delegation was led by Ambassador Umunna Orjiako.
The deputy Presidentnof the Senate cited advanced democracies like the United States of America where Nigeria’s presidential system of government was fashioned after as well as Sections 8 and 9 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), saying what is obtainable is piecemeal alteration of the Constitution.

He, therefore, urged those calling for a brand new Constitution to channel their energy towards participating actively in the ongoing amendment of the Constitution by the  Ninth Assembly.
In his words, “One of the issues you raised is the replacement of the 1999 Constitution. I am not so sure that we as a Parliament have the power to replace the Constitution. We can only make amendments. And it is explicit in Sections 8 and 9 of the Constitution on how we can do that and the requisite number of votes required.

“I say that because there are some top attorneys in this country, who for some reason, keep saying that we don’t even need any of this, that we should just bring a new Constitution. We can’t do  that. What we are mandated to do by law is to look at those provisions and bring them up-to-date with global best practices, especially to the extent that it tallies with the views of the majority of Nigerians. So we are not in a position to replace this Constitution but we can only amend.

“But, like I said, most of the issues you have raised here, like zones replacing states, that’s another euphemism for going back to the regions. We will look into that if that is what majority of our people want.

“You talked about devolution of powers. The preponderance of views we have received so far is that those 68 items are very wide and need to shed some weight and move them to the Concurrent Legislative List”. 

He also expressed his opinion on the call by some persons for the scrapping of the upper legislative chamber.

According to him, the country cannot practise unicameral legislature considering its large population.

“One of the issues raised by #EndSARS Protesters was that they should abolish the Senate and merge us with the House of Representatives. We are not in a position to do that. Mr. President is not even in a position to do that as well. Because they believe that he can just by fiat say ‘Senate bye bye. it will now be a National Assembly made up of only the House of Representatives’.

“But, as I said at a different forum, the President does not have such powers and I am not so sure that even we can legislate out the National Assembly,” he said.

He continued: “There are people who believe that yes, we had the 2014 confab report that has been ‘transmitted’ to the National Assembly and there is the El-Rufai Report on Restructuring, 2018, that has been transmitted to the National Assembly and that we should just take them to Mr President for his assent and we have the Constitution amended.

“But that is not how things are done here. We are a country governed by laws and the grundnorm is the Constitution. And the Constitution itself has spelt out what we can do and how we can do it”. 

Concluding, he tasked the group to reach out to other stakeholders across the country.

Earlier, Ambassador Orjiakor called for the reconfiguration of the present 36 states structure into six zones as federating units, drastic cut in the Exclusive Legislative List and expansion of the Concurrent Legislative List, reform of the National Assembly to a hybrid Presidential and Westminster systems, abolition of security votes to be replaced by regular security budget allocations and electoral reforms to ensure a truly independent INEC. 

He also called for limited immunity for entitled public officers in the Executive branch of government, provision for independent candidacy in all elections, creating a consensual balance between meritocracy and federal character among others.

Legislators who joined the Deputy President of the Senate to receive the guests include Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Saabi Yau. 

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Legislature

Senate urges FG to investigate deaths caused by strange ailment in Benue 

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Senate urges FG to investigate deaths caused by strange ailment in Benue

The senate yesterday resolved to urge the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Arbovirus and Vector Research Centre (NAVRC) to investigate the outbreak of a strange ailment suspected to be yellow fever in Epeilo-Otukpa and Itabono-Owukpa communities in Benue State that has claimed many lives.The upper chamber also Urge the Federal Ministry of Health to urgently mobilize focal persons to the affected areas to complement the efforts of the Benue State Government in ascertaining the nature of the ailment.This was sequel to a motion on urgent need to deal with the outbreak of a strange ailment suspected to be Yellow Fever, ravaging Epeilo-Otukpa and Itahono-Owukpa communities in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State.The motion was sponsored by senator  Patrick Abba (Benue SouthThe upper chamber also tasked the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to promptly put up gurveillance to contain the disease and see to the treatment of victims and protect others from further contacting  it.It urge the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), to synergize and support the people of Benue South Senatorial District and in particular the Epeilo-Otukpa and Itabono -Owukpa Communities, to treat, prevent and or reduce the number of cases and deaths.The senate further urged the Federal Ministry of Health to immediately activate and set up a multi-agency yellow fever emergency Operatives Centre (EOC) in Benue South, if the result should be positive for yellow fever.”They should conduct mass vaccination and awareness campaigns in Benue South Senatorial District, being that yellow fever is a completely vaccine-preventable disease as a single shot of the yellow fever vaccine protects for a lifetime.”Senator Moro in his motion had noted with grave pain the outbreak of a strange ailment said to be yellow fever in Epeilo-Otukpa and Itabono communities of Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue South Senatorial District, Benue State, Nigeria.He expressed further concern that the strange ailment has not yet been effectively diagnosed by health authorities.He however indicated that the Benue State Ministry of Health and Human Services has been able to intervene to some extent havi e collected samples and sent same to National Reference Laboratory to be able to establish the kind of organism that is causing the ailment and is availing victims of interim treatment.
He expressed saddeness that people the affected people in the rural localities are dying on a daily basis in their numbers with Epeilo and ltabono Communities recording 20 and 25 deaths respectively.He said death toll has been increaseing on hourly bases adding that the disease has been spreading to Ichama in Okpokwu where three deaths have been recorded. 

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Legislature

Finance bill gets accelerated consideration as it passes second reading

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Finance bill gets accelerated consideration as it passes second reading

The Finance Bill, 2020 yesterday got an accelerated consideration for first and second readings in the Senate, barely 24 hours after a presidential letter that demanded for its consideration and passage was recieved by the senate.
The executive bill seeks to support the implementation of the 2021 budget by proposing key reforms to specific taxation, customs, excise, fiscal and other laws. 
It also seeks to amend the Capital Gains Tax Act; Personal Income Tax Act; and Value Added Tax. 
The piece of legislation scaled second reading in the Red Chamber after the lawmakers debated its general principles. 
On the aalue added Tax Section 4 of the VAT Act was amended by increasing the value added tax payable by consumers from 5% to 7.5%. 
According to Section 19 the penalty payable by a taxable person for non-remittance within the specified period has been raised from 5% to 10%. 
Under section 28, the penalty for failure to give notice of change of address or permanent cessation of business was increased from N 5000 to N 50, 000 in the first month and N25000 in subsequent months. 
The bill proposes a new section 8 to cater for the registration of a taxable person upon commencement of business. 
The penalty for failure to register has been increased from N10, 000 to N50, 000 in the first month and from N 5, 000 to N 25, 000 in the subsequent months. 
The new section 15 of VAT introduces a threshold for VAT compliance. Thus companies with turnover of N25, 000, 000. 00 or more shall render their tax on or before the 21st of every month. 
On the Capital Gains Act the bill proposes to amend section 36(2) of the Capital Gains Tax Act to the extent that exemption on tax liability for compensation for loss of office which was hitherto limited to N10, 000 is now extended to N10 million. 
It also proposes a new section 32, which provides that no tax shall apply to any trade or business transferred to a Nigerian company for the purposes of better organization of that trade or business etc. 
This tax exemption is however not applicable if the acquiring company subsequently disposes of the assets within one year of acquiring same. 
On Personal Income Tax Act section 49 of the Act was amended to make the provision of Tax Identification Number (TIN) mandatory for persons intending to open a new bank account for purposes of business operations or for continuation of operation of such bank account.
The mandatory requirement for tax identification number is for accounts being operated for purposes of business transactions. 
Leading the debate on the bill, the Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi said it has become imperative that the Nigerian tax legislation is updated frequently to respond to the challenges of today’s business environment.
He said the provisions contained in the Finance Bill are intended to incentivize economic activities to stimulate GDP growth and facilitate increase in the revenue generated 
“If the Nigerian government is determined to generate sufficient revenue to finance its numerous projects and meet the sustainable development goals of eradicating poverty from the country, it is important for the government to take pragmatic steps. Such steps should include devising ingenious means of expanding the tax base and collecting taxes effectively. 
“Tax education and sensitization of the public would go a long way in achieving compliance from taxpayers,” he said. 
The Senate President Ahmad Lawan, after scaling second, referred the bill to the Senate Committees on Finance, Customs and Public Procurement and report back in one week.

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