Senate, Reps To Pass 2018 Budget On April 24

The National Assembly has fixed April 24th as the day it will pass the 2018 budget.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on this position.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, has just made the announcement in plenary.

He said the budget would be laid on April 19 and passed on April 24.

N800bn Supplementary  Budget Demanded By Reps  For Fuel Marketers

The House of Representatives is not satisfied with the state of the scarcity of petrol in the country and has asked the Executive to submit a N800bn supplementary budget to the National Assembly to pay off the debt owed the Fuel Marketers

The House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) stated in Abuja on Sunday that if scarcity will end after the debts have been paid off, then it was the best decision by the Federal Government.

Mr. Joseph Akinlaja, the chairman of the committe said the House had come to the conclusion that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation could  single handedly  handle the importation of petrol and successfully end the scarcity lingering in the country.

Akinlaja noted that with the country’s four refineries producing little or nothing to augment the importation by the NNPC, the scarcity would continue because people would also continue to exploit loopholes in the distribution chain.

He said reports at the disposal of the committee suggested that the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association and the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria were collectively owed N800bn by the government for previous importation.

He added that as a result of the mounting debts, IPMAN, DAPMAN and MOMAN stopped importing products, leaving the NNPC alone to handle the challenge.

Akinlaja also stated that amid the scarcity, the fixing of the pump price of N145 at a time the government itself had admitted that the landing cost of petrol was N171, did not help matters.

He said, “This House has passed several resolutions on fuel scarcity. We have said on countless occasions that our four refineries must work at full capacity. We have said that if it is N145 per litre, enforcement agencies must be able to enforce the price.

“Now, IPMAN, DAPMAN and MOMAN, they said government is owing them N800bn; they are no longer importing. Let the government bring N800bn supplementary budget, we will consider it for this problem to be over.

“Are we going for full deregulation? Let the government come out fully to say they want to deregulate. The House is ready to oblige them on any of these issues to end the scarcity.”

Akinlaja also said another factor to be considered was the rising price of crude oil, which must naturally affect the pump prices of petroleum products because Nigeria was an importer of fuel.

He added, “The way it is, if crude oil price is going up, that is good for us as a country, because we are making more money. But, the other side of it is that we also have to pay more for the imported refined products.

“So, price will continue to be a big issue as long as we rely on importation.”

Reps To Regulate Foreign Medical Treatment By Public Officials

Members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday expressed anguish over the sudden decline in medical facilities and services in the country, forcing many Nigerians to seek medical solutions outside the country.

They said part of the way out is to moderate movement by public officers to foreign countries for medical treatment.

Lawmakers said the move, though “draconian” in outlook, would push the same officials to invest heavily in the procurement of modern health care facilities here in Nigeria rather than spending such extravagant and ridiculous amount of money seeking help and solutions from experts abroad.

They spoke in Abuja as “A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Health Act, 2014 to Regulate International Trips for Medical Treatment by Public Officers, to Strengthen the Health Institutions for Efficient Service Delivery; and for Related Matters” passed second reading on the floor of the House.

The bill was sponsored by a Peoples Democratic Party member from Edo State, Mr. Sergious Ose-Ogun.

Ose-Ogun recalled that on a daily basis, Nigerians died of common ailments because basic services were either unavailable or they were not adequately funded.

He noted that for ailments requiring comprehensive diagnosis and treatment, often times,  hospitals and health personnel in Nigeria were not equipped to meet the needs of patients.

Ose-Ogun argued that the absence of such services, particularly in public health institutions, had resulted in the yearly journey of Nigerians to foreign countries in search of medical treatment.

He added, “Nigeria is the only country in the world where a President goes out and spends six months on medical vacation and we don’t even know the cost.

“Nigeria is a country where a former Vice-President would die abroad seeking care for ailment that he could have easily accessed at home.”

He called for major reforms in the health sector, including proper planning and adequate budgetary allocations.

An All Progressives Congress member from Katsina State, Mr. Ahmed Kaita, said it was disheartening that Nigeria did not even qualify to be a medical tourism destination for citizens of neighbouring African countries.

Kaita stated that with Nigeria’s vast resources, it could have conveniently invested in health facilities and earned revenues by offering services to Nigerians and fellow Africans.

“We wasted all the billions of dollars from oil on frivolities; much more was frittered away through corruption. Today, we are still lamenting over something we could easily have done many years ago,” he added.

A lawmaker from Plateau State, Mr. Edward Pwajok (SAN), said it was high time the Federal Government embarked on major health sector reforms.

“The state of our medical facilities is pathetic. There is nothing to write home about.

“Today, we don’t even have cancer screening machines,” he said.

But, two members, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje and Mrs. Joan Mrakpor, advised the House to define regulation clearly to avoid misinterpretation.

Both lawmakers said regulation should mean to the extent that public funds would be spent on the officer seeking medical treatment.

They noted that if public officers could afford the cost from their personal savings, it would be an infringement on their fundamental human rights to deny them treatment in foreign countries just because they occupied public offices.

“Can we actually regulate someone spending their money on their own health?”

Reps may Arrest Emefiele Over $17bn Oil Theft

The House of Representatives ad hoc Committee investigating the alleged stolen 17 billion dollars oil and gas sales on Thursday ordered Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele, to appear before it within one week.

The money was allegedly stolen through undeclared crude oil and liquefied natural gas export.

The committee threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on the governor if he failed to appear within the period.

The Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas said the international oil companies allegedly involved in the deal had provided the committee documents required to commence the investigation.

Namdas expressed concern that full investigation could not begin because of the failure of CBN to give the required details.

He alleged that CBN provided conflicting responses to its inquiry on the matter and as such the governor must appear in person to clarify issues and provide necessary details needed to facilitate the probe.

“We have sent two different letters to the CBN and the bank has provided two conflicting responses to our inquiry.

“In response to the first letter, the apex bank pleaded for time due to the volume of documents required but in response to the second letter, CBN indicated that it has no record of undeclared crude,” Namdas said.

He expressed disappointment over Emefiele’s absence without representation at the investigative hearing.

The chairman warned that the committee would invoke the law against any individual or government agency delaying the investigation.

“We expected him to be here and he is not, we are disappointed.

“We will not allow any agency of government to delay the committee’s work.

“If in the next one week, the CBN Governor did not appear before this committee, we will not hesitate to exercise our powers in line with section 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution.”

According to Namdas, the required details from the CBN are vital as the investigation cannot commence without them.

“Most of the international oil companies have furnished us with the information needed but CBN is very vital and key to this investigation and we cannot jump the gun,’’ he said.

The assembly set up the committee in September 2016 to investigate 17 billion dollars allegedly stolen from undeclared crude oil and liquefied natural gas export between 2011 and 2014.

Reps Move To Separate AGF From Justice Minister

The House of Representatives on Tuesday moved to separate the office of Attorney-General of the Federal, AGF, from that of Minister of Justice.
The move followed the second reading of a Bill for an Act to alter the 1999 constitution to introduce the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation separate from the Minister of Justice.
Presenting the Bill, Mohammed Monguno (APC-Borno), said that if passed, it would emphasise the independence of the AGF’s office and ensure it was not subjected to political consideration.
Mr. Monguno said that separation of the AGF’s office would allow for effective separation of power, adding that the two offices would be given the necessary environment to function optimally.
Mr. Monguno said, “The Attorney-General of the Federation, being the Chief Law Officer is empowered in Section 150 and 195 respectively of the 1999 Constitution to enter nolle prosequi.”
Nolle prosequi is an entry on the record of a legal action that denotes that the prosecutor or plaintiff will proceed no further in an action of suit either as a whole or as to some count or as to one or more of several defendants.
The lawmaker added that, “The power can only be exercised if office is free from any political interference.
“The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is such an office that should be seen to be Independent and not be subjected to some political consideration,

“His appointment should be seen to meet some standard in legal profession.
“The fact (is) that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) performs some quasi judicial functions hence, the need for the office to be separated from the Minister of or Commissioner for Justice.”
According to him, the AGF is the chief law officer of the federation and advises the government whether at the federal or state levels on matters relating to law generally.
“Whereas, the office of the minister of or commissioner for justice is political in nature, if read alongside other ministers or commissioners.
Mr. Monguno further advised that the office of the AGF should be based on merit and competence and the National Judicial Council be involved.
“It should be shielded from the vicissitudes of political influence”.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, referred the bill to the special adhoc committee on constitutional review for further legislative action.

Reps Reply Obasanjo, Call Him Grandfather Of Corruption

The House of Representatives on Thursday stated that a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, is the grandfather of corruption in the country, accusing him of introducing corruption to the National Assembly on its first working day in 1999.

The former President had while delivering a lecture at the first Akintola Williams Annual Lecture in Lagos on Wednesday had said the “National Assembly stinks and stinks to high heavens. It needs to be purged,” adding that the parliament operates a cabal “worse than any cabal that anybody may find anywhere in our national governance system at any time.”

But addressing journalists, the Chairman, House Committee on Media & Publicity, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas maintained that Obasanjo has no moral authority to discuss corruption, adding that he wants to bring down Buhari’s government and that he is “acting as lifetime opposition leader, blackmailer”.

In the words of Namdas, “Our attention has been drawn to a statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo at a lecture he delivered recently, wherein, in his characteristic manner accused everybody but himself of corruption.

“He ventured to accuse the National Assembly of Budget padding, accused the House of criminal activities of threatening the life of a “whistleblower”, lampooned constituency projects which he approved as President, ventured to discuss the budget of National Assembly which is highly underfunded?

Namdas said the House would ordinarily not join issues with the former President as he has held an office that deserves respect and reverence.

“However, because of the material misstatement of facts, outright lies and falsehoods, and mischievous innuendo introduced in his statement, we are left with no option but to correct him.

“We have repeatedly maintained that there was no “padding” of the 2016 Appropriation Act, which is a legitimate document passed by the National Assembly, authenticated by the Clerk to the National Assembly as provided in the Acts Authentication Act and assented to by Mr. President. It is most unfortunate that a former President of Chief Obasanjo’s stature would allow himself to be hoodwinked and procured by a renegade member of the House, who embarked on massive propaganda and lies just because he was removed from office.

“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no crime that was committed by the National Assembly by exercising its constitutional function of appropriation. If Chief Obasanjo has an issue with the execution of the 2016 Budget or indeed other Appropriation Acts, he should direct his anger elsewhere.

“He claimed that the National Assembly Budget is very high, when by all standards, the National Assembly is grossly underfunded and is hampered from effectively and legitimately carrying out its constitutionally assigned functions. The National Assembly Budget funds a bureaucracy of about 5,000 civil servants. It has some other agencies under its preview such as the National Assembly Service Commission with its own staff of about 500; even the Public Complaints Commission is now a parastatal of the National Assembly.

“National Assembly Budget also funds the National Institute for Legislative Studies, which is a legislative think-tank and highly rated academic institution that serves both National and State Houses of Assembly and even international legislators. All these agencies also have their capital budget including development of their headquarters, procurement of office equipment, procurement of regular items for running their offices; the National Assembly maintain legislative aides of about 3,000 in number, that aid the work of the Assembly; it also conducts regular public hearings involving the media and stakeholders and oversight activities, involving huge sums of money.

“The cost implication of running the National Assembly is high because of the nature of our Presidential democracy. Then of course, there are 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives that require proper equipment to function effectively. They require adequate travel and transport support to carry out legislative functions. The National Assembly also has buildings and offices to build and maintain. National Assembly staff and members attend conferences, trainings, seminars to keep abreast of legislative developments worldwide. The activities are very encompassing and expensive.

“It is also unbecoming of a former President to quote figures of sums of money that are factually incorrect. No member of the House of Representatives receives N10m every month. The salaries and allowances of members of the House are as determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). Of course further sums of money are spent as running costs, that is, the cost of running the office of a member.

“If a Minister, Chief Executive or Director in a Ministry travels on official duties, for instance, do you include the cost of his ticket and accommodation as part of his salary or allowances? Does the cost of stationeries and maintenance of equipment like computers used in their offices, form part of their salaries and allowances?

“These are some of the costs that must be taken care of by the National Assembly and the media calls these costs “jumbo pay”. For goodness sake, the National Assembly is an arm of government, not just an ordinary agency of government.”

Budget Padding: Jibrin Challenges Suspension In New Suit

Former Chairman, Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin has challenged his suspension from participating in the House’s activities for 180 days.
The legislator, who was recently suspended following his disagreement with the House’s leadership over alleged fraudulent conduct, including padding of the last national budget, is seeking N1billion damages against the defendants in a fresh suit he filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Jibrin, in the suit with House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, Clerk and others as defendants, wants the court to declare among others, that his suspension amounted to a violation of his fundamental human right to freedom of expression.
He equally wants a declaration that the resolution passed by the House, suspending him, was in breach of the provisions of Section 68 of the 1999 Constitution.
Jibrin wants an order of injunction restraining the House from preventing him from participating in its activities, including those of its Committees, or accessing the legislative chambers to perform his legislative duties.
He seeks an order for the award of N1 billion against the defendants as punitive and general damages for his unlawful suspension.
Justice John Tsosho, to who the case is assigned, has fixed hearing for November 22.
Meanwhile, Jibrin withdrew yesterday, an earlier suit he filed before before his suspension.
He had sought to restrain the House of Reps and its leadership from giving effect to the threat to suspend him.
Yesterday, Jibrin’s lawyer, Chukwuma Nwachukwu applied to withdraw the earlier case on the ground that it has been overtaken by event.
Although defendants’ lawyer, Kalu Onuoha demanded for cost from the plaintiff, Justice Tsoho struck out the suit, but declined Onuoha’s request for cost.

Reps Bicker Over Call For Sack Of CBN Governor

Members of the House of Representatives were yesterday divided over whether or not governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, should be sacked, following the continuous fall of the naira in the parallel market.

While some members asked the Presidency to remove the CBN governor, the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, who represents Isoko Federal Constituency of Delta State, opposed the call.

Ali Isa had in a motion, Call for investigation of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Forex Policies, noted that the lingering scarcity of foreign exchange in the country’s capital market had continued to weaken the naira to the point of its exchanging above N400 to a dollar.
House of Representatives
House of Representatives

He further stated that the continuous weakening of the naira against the dollar and other foreign currencies had affected the cost of goods, services and production and consequently made life more difficult for most Nigerians.

Contributing to the debate, Mojeed Alabi expressed dismay that the CBN governor, on several invitations, failed to appear before the House to rub minds with lawmakers on some of CBN’s policies.

Also, Wale Raji, while calling for the sack of the CBN governor, said Nigeria was the only country quoting “black market” figures as though they were official figures.

“Who is in charge of our Forex, CBN or the black market? This is the only country in the world where the black market rate are quoted on television,’’ he said

But Leo Ogor, the Minority Leader of the House, kicked against the sack of the CBN governor, and called on the executive and legislature to work together on solution to the problem.

Reps Charge FG On 50 Nigerian Students Arrested In Turkey

The House of Representatives on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to explore all diplomatic means of rescuing the student arrested by the Turkish Gvernment and resolve the issue.
The House also mandated its committees on Foreign Affairs, Diaspora Matters, Interior and Tertiary Institutions to investigate the matter and report back to the House in one week for further legislative duties.
The resolution of the House was sequel to the passage of a motion sponsored by a member Hon. Solomon Bulus Maren under matter of urgent national Importance.
Maren while moving the motion noted that 50 Nigerian students were illegally arrested and detained on October 1st 2016 at the Instanbul Airport on arrival to pursue their education.
He noted he continuous humiliation of Nigerian Students and nationals in various countries of the world without any diplomatic intervention by the Nigerian Government.
“Recall the murder of a Nigerian student in Dubai who was thrown from a multi- storey building, the case of our dear sister Julie who is bedridden in a rehabilitation home for the elderly and mentally ill in Italy due to doctors torture and maltreatment . The death of a Nigerian students and Nationals around the globe on flimsy excuses.
The lawmaker recalled the July 15th failed Coup in Turkey and the clampdown on 2099 schools, dormitories and Universities and the allegations that they were terrorist institutions due to,their links with Islamic scholar Fetullar Gulten “whom the Turkish Government has accused of being the mastermind of the failed coup in Turkey.”
Maren expressed concern that some of the arrested students are being humiliated and abused, while some are sick and are being held in dark rooms.
“Of the 102 countries that have students in that university, only Nigerian students are being treated in this manner, whereas other countries have sorted out their’s diplomatically,” the lawmaker said.
The Chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nnena Elendu- Ukeje while speaking on the matter said Nigeria will not normally interfere in the internal workings of any country especially when its in a situation that seem to threaten their democracy.
“As a country we also owe a responsibility to our citizens to know exactly where they are or how their doing in their host country. But we would draw the line when it comes to that number of our citizens who have been arrested in a foreign country and especially charged with treason.
“It is pretty heavy, and any responsible country and parliament would want to find out exactly what the true status is,mand that’s what we intend to do, moving forward.”
Also, the Chairman of the House Committee on Diaspora Matters Hon. Rita Orji described the arrest of the students as an assault on Nigerians.
She said that the fact that’s were taken from the airport to detention is an insult on the sovereignty of Nigeria as a whole. According to her, it is not enough to allege that the student may be linked to schools that are supposedly linked with terrorism.
She said it would have been better if the government of Nigeria had been informed on the suspicion of the Turkish government, rather than clamping innocent Nigerian into detention.
“I have to let Nigerians know that it is high time we rose up to this challenge. So that people will know that the life of every Nigerian student abroad matter.”

Gbajabiamila Describes Jibrin’s Suspension As Unconstitutional

In an interview with Thisday newspaper, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said he considers the suspension of Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin by the House for a period of 180 legislative days as unconstitutional and a breach of the rights of his constituency to have representation in the lower chamber.
“Personally, I would have preferred that the matter be dealt with, in a more transparent manner, or for that matter, not even dealt with at all. I made this clear when we had our last principal officer’s meeting, and gave my reasons for this. Sometimes silence is golden, and you can take the moral high ground and just leave this alone,” he said.
He however said his argument against the suspension was not carried because it contended with the need for a clear message to be sent to other members, that there are laid down procedures to follow, when a member is aggrieved.

“The fear of other principal officers, was that, if this message was not sent, a bad precedent would have been set, and there would be no basis for disciplining any member, in the future,” he said.
The majority leader who said he was not at the plenary during the vote for the suspension because he was at the clerk’s office with the speaker requesting for another approach.
Below is Gbajabiamila’s position on the suspension:
“My concern on the suspension, is the same that I always had, even when Dino Melaye and others, were suspended in the 6th Assembly. More so, as this was a one year suspension. Now what is this concern? I find it difficult as a Constitutional Lawyer, to accept that our rules can actually pass constitutional muster, if put to test.

“If you suspend a member for a year, you are effectively suspending his constituency and the people he represents, from participation in participatory democracy. This, in my own personal opinion, violates the constitution which delineates the country into Federal Constituencies for effective representation, at the centre.
“For every constituency, it is a right to be represented in the national assembly, not a privilege that can be taken away. The constitution says clearly that, all Federal Constituencies must be represented for 4 years, and lists, I believe, only 1 or 2 circumstances under which such a constituency can be unrepresented. e.g. by process of recall etc. Even at that, the vacancy is to be filled immediately.
“Our constitution does not envisage a situation where a Federal Constituency is unrepresented or underrepresented. If, for instance, an issue comes up in a member’s constituency, that requires federal attention or legislative address, who do they go to? We cannot take away a mandate, given by the people or short change a constituency. In law, the seat of a representative is held in trust for the constituency. It is an in rem matter, not a personam matter. This is why when a member gets up to speak, he goes through the formality of announcing his name and the constituency he represents. In fact, in other democracies and Legislatures, when a Speaker wants to recognise a Representative to speak, he addresses him or her not even by name, but as for instance, “the gentleman from so so constituency”. That is the pre-eminence given to a constituency in a democratic setting. So it is not about Honourable Jibrin, it is about Beweji Constituency.
“I do not stand in the gap for Jibrin, nor is this in any way a defence on his behalf. You may not know this, but Jibrin and I stopped relating as friends and colleagues, since March or thereabout. However, I am not one to shy away from the truth and the rule of law. I believe that there are other ways that would be constitutional, if the House wants to discipline any member.
“On whether this was contempt of court, I believe that you are speaking about the Federal High Court decision in the Melaye case, when the Court said that the House lacked the powers to suspend the members. I do not remember the basis upon which the Court made its decision, but I will definitely look at it again. I suspect it was on the basis of fair hearing, as provided in the Constitution.”

Jibrin Gives Lawmakers Three Days To Return Illegal Allowances

A former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has given his colleagues in the lower legislative chamber three days to return all questionable allowances they have allegedly being collecting.

Jibrin, in a statement issued yesterday, warned that those who refused to heed his warning should be prepared to face the consequences because he will soon publish details of how such officials perpetrated the fraud.

The Kano lawmaker’s warning is coming on the day the House sealed off his office following his suspension for breaching the privileges of members and failing to appear before the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges investigating his allegation of budget padding against the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara and some principal officers.

The former Appropriations chairman advised his colleagues to individually approach the appropriate authority and make arrangement on how to return the excess allowances to government coffers.

“I have written to the Clerk of the National Assembly to stand by in anticipation.

“In the face of the revenue challenges and biting hardship the country is currently facing, there is no better time the country needs such money than now,” he said.

The lawmaker disclosed that he resolved to take the action after receiving numerous enquiries on the need for him to back his allegations against the leadership of the House with evidence.

“I have come under intense public scrutiny and pressure to prove that there exists systemic corruption in the House,” he noted.

Jibrin had accused the House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara and other principal officers of padding the 2016 budget to the tune of over N40bn .