Reps Summon AGF, Others Over Looted Funds

The House of Representatives has summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwim Emefiele to appear before its joint committee on finance and public accounts with details of recovered looted funds from 1999 to date.

The House declared that all recovered loots and assets must be duly accounted for. Chairman of the joint committee investigating the status of recovered public funds and assets from 1999 to date, Hon Kingsley Chinda, issued the summon yesterday at the commencement of the probe.

Chinda, who insisted that the officials should appear on Tuesday, lamented the absence of the invited stakeholders to the hearing.

He stressed the importance of the exercise to the economy and development of the nation. While declaring the hearing opened, Yakubu Dogara had said that the House of Representatives would not continue to look on as confusion trails the recovery of looted funds and assets.

Dogara said, “It is common knowledge that there are a lot of conflicting reports and claims from various agencies of government concerning the status of the funds and assets recovered from some citizens and corporate entities by law enforcement agencies.

“As a parliament, we cannot fold our arms and allow the confusion trailing the whereabouts of the recovered funds and assets to continue. This is why the House of Representatives resolved to mandate this Joint Committee to investigate the issue in the interest of accountability and transparency.”

The speaker added that the investigation had become necessary in order to ascertain how the recovered resources were being appropriated, saying the enquiry was in line with the duties of the National Assembly as stated in the Constitution.

“We believe that as a parliament, we owe the people of Nigeria the duty to ascertain the resources available to government and how they are being appropriated in their interest. This is in line with the exercise of our Constitutional powers in Sections 88 and 89 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 as amended.”

He urged the committee to handle the matter with utmost seriousness as the matter was capable of eroding the credibility of the present administration.

“The total value of recovered funds and assets is estimated at $2trillion and the House has also mandated its Committee on Financial Crimes to investigate whether any crimes have been committed in the course of the management and disbursement of funds recovered by the federal government in the last 12 years”, Dogara said.

 

Reps To Sanction Permanent Secretary For Disrupting Public Hearing

The House of Representatives says it will sanction the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr Amina Shamaki, for allegedly disrupting a public hearing.

Deliberating on the matter on Wednesday at the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly, the lawmakers described the action as contempt and breach of the law.

A member of the House from Plateau State, Benny Lar, accused the permanent secretary of threatening the Director-General and other staff of the ministry with sanctions if they remained at the hearing.

The lawmakers further referred the matter to the House Committee on Justice.

On Monday, members of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI) and workers at the ministry had grounded activities while staging a protest.

They had also called for Dr Shamaki’s removal, accusing her of frustrating the activities of the research institutions.

The protesters, who locked up offices at the complex, had also embarked on a three-day warning strike across the nation.

Secretary-General of ASURI, Theophilus Ndubuaku, had also accused the permanent secretary of refusing to recognise top officials appointed by the Minister of Science and Technology.

“These three research institutions are the biggest in Nigeria. She (Shamaki) walked out the acting EVC from a meeting at the research institute some few weeks ago and said that she does not recognise his appointment,” Ndubuaku had told newsmen.

Reps Move To Prevent Telecom Firms From Storing Data Abroad

The House of Representatives has called on the federal government to mandate the Localisation of Data and Operations by Telecoms firms in the country in the interest of national security.

The house urged the Federal Ministry of Communications to take necessary action to address all undermining activities of the telecommunication firms operating in Nigeria by ensuring strict compliance with Data municipal laws.

This was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Chukwuemeka Ujam (PDP- Enugu) on Wednesday at the plenary.

Earlier, Mr Ujam said that the Nigerian Communications Commission Act of 2003 vested regulatory responsibilities over the ICT sector on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

He said that the NCC was mandated to ensure compliance with the obligations of service providers under the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations 2007, in addition to the Universal Consumer Bill of Rights.

Mr Ujam said that the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) guidelines for Nigerian content development in communication and information technology required all ICT companies to host all government and consumer data locally within the country.

According to him, it is what is obtainable in most countries which have laws that contain explicit data localization requirement.

He said following revelations by Snowden and WikiLeaks of the surveillance programmes by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), efforts to keep data within national borders gained acceptance globally.

Mr Ujam said that many countries now paid particular attention to data privacy issues and governments across the world had adopted stringent measures to ensure data sovereignty.

He explained that the Office of the Nigerian Content Development in ICT (ONC) was a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) established as a sustainable institutional framework to enforce compliance.

Mr Ujam also recalled that the ONC hosted the first Annual Summit on Data Localisation in Nigeria, in collaboration with NITDA on Jan. 26, 2016 to ensure compliance with Article 14 the guidelines.

The Article addresses data and information management, mandating data and information management firms to host government data locally, a breach of which had been criminalised under the NITDA Act of 2007.

According to him, data nationalism can be mandated by an Act of Parliament that explicitly requires data on citizens to be stored on servers physically located within national borders as stipulated in the NITDA Act.

In her contributions, Rita Orji (PDP-Lagos) said Nigerians were constantly complaining over foreigners managing bio data.

According to her, it is not done anywhere in the world except in Nigeria.

Also, Adamu Chika (APC-Niger) said that the motion was important for national security.

He said that prevention was better than cure as it was not safe to leave such critical information in the hands of foreigners.

The Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, mandated the Committee on Information Technology to ensure compliance.

Reps Member, Jagaba Dumps APC For PDP

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Interior, Adams Jagaba, on Wednesday formally decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

Jagaba, who is from Kaduna State, on Wednesday, announced his defection to the PDP on the floor of the House in Abuja.

Members of the PDP caucus in the House received him with joy and jubilation.

Reps Request N500bn Recapitalisation For FMBN

The House of Representatives on Tuesday asked the Federal Government to recapitalise the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to the tune of N500bn.

It said this was vital to making the bank more active and responsive to its functions for effective housing delivery in the country.

The recommendation to recapitalise the bank was contained in the report of the House Committee on Housing, which lawmakers considered and approved on Tuesday.

The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Katsina State, Mr. Ahmed Baba-Kaita, had investigated the non-compliance with the National Housing Fund Act and the inability of the government to deliver housing to the citizenry.

The committee had observed that a major shortcoming was the failure of contributors to the Fund, including the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks and insurance firms, to perform their duties.

The committee recommended that such contributors should be compelled to provide funds for the NHF as provided in the Act.

Another recommendation of the committee was that the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria should be given necessary government support in areas like guarantee, recapitalisation and allocations to empower the bank for maximum productivity.

“That steps should be taken to review the provisions of the Act to make it more enforceable,” the committee added.

The House opposed the creation of any parallel agency to provide the same functions as the FMBN.

“That existing Federal Government institutions should be supported rather than creating new ones to avoid duplication of functions,” the House added.

Two other reports related to housing also came before the House on Tuesday.

One was the report on “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the National Housing Fund Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the National Housing Fund Bill to Make Provisions for Additional Sources of Funding and for Related Matters.”

However, the consideration of the report was stepped down for additional work to be done on the bill.

The second report was titled: “Bill for an Act to Repeal the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Make Comprehensive Provisions for Establishment of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and its Board of Directors, and for Related Matters.”

 

 

Lawmakers Reject Bill On Paternity Leave

A bill seeking to legalise two-week paternity leave for men after their wives must have been delivered of babies has been rejected by the House of Representatives.

The lawmakers argued that since it’s the woman who carries the child for nine months, the leave should be for the woman, and not for the man.

The bill was sponsored by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Plateau State, Mr. Edward Pwajok (SAN).

Pwajok had argued that men needed some days off their work to attend fully to mother and child.

However, the majority of the lawmakers, who opposed the bill, noted that the idea of maternity leave for women was conceived for them to rest and recover fully from labour pains.

A member from Rivers State, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, held that men probably played no more role in carrying the growing foetus after putting their wives in the family way.

“The woman carried the child for nine months. The leave is for the woman, not the man,” Chinda argued.

“I don’t think that, of all the serious issues out there, our constituents will be happy seeing us on live television debating a bill on paternity leave,” Chinda added.

The bill was later rejected in a majority voice vote.

SDP Gets First National Assembly Member

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) has gained its first defector in the House of Representatives.

The member, Olamide Oni, who represents Ijero/Ekiti-West/Efo federal constituency of Ekiti state, announced his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday during plenary.

He cited division as his reason for leaving the PDP which sponsored his election into the House of Representatives.

Mr. Oni is the first elected official to formally join the SDP.

The SDP had announced that some governors and members of the National Assembly would join its fold from the ruling APC and PDP.

Outside the National Assembly, some of the PDP leaders who left include two former ministers, Jerry Gana and Tunde Adeniran.

Reps Summon Buhari Over Benue Herdsmen Killings

President Muhammadu Buhari has been summoned by the House of Representatives.

The President was summoned on Wednesday over incessant killings in the country.

He was summoned during plenary on Wednesday.

The lawmakers asked the president to appear before them to give reasons for the killings and to brief them on the security situation in the country.

Reps Flay Buhari On Payment Of $462m For Fighter Jets, Says Its Impeachable Offence

Members of the House of Representatives did not mince words on Tuesday when they said President Muhammadu Buhari committed an “impeachable offence” by authorising the purchase of $462million jets for the military without appropriation by the National Assembly.

Buhari is buying 12 Tucano aircraft from the US with the money.

The planes will be delivered in 2020.

The lawmakers became angry as soon as the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, read a letter from Buhari, informing the House that the expenditure was done in “anticipation of approval” by the National Assembly.

They noted that the letter was a “mere afterthought”, as the expenditure had been done already.

The anger caused a brief rowdiness on the floor, forcing Dogara to intervene in a bid to calm down the lawmakers.

The eventual decision on Tuesday was that the letter should be properly tabled for debate on another date by the House so that it would take a position on the next line of action.

But, before the resolution, it was the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, who raised a point of order to draw the attention of members to the alleged “constitutional breach” by Buhari.

He said both the 1999 Constitution and other laws in the country did not recognise spending by the President in “anticipation of approval” by the legislature.

Chinda stated, “This matter ($462m) came up last week. Today, Mr. President has admitted that the expenditure has already been incurred.

“We are supposed to be a watchdog, but as it is, we cannot bite. This is an impeachable offence and there is no misconduct that is more serious than this.

“I propose that we commence the impeachment of Mr. President, based on this infraction.”

Reps To Investigate Payment Of Lawyers In Abacha Loot Recovery

The House of Representatives on Thursday resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the payment of $16.9 million to lawyers by the Attorney-General of the Federation for the recovery of ‘Abacha loot’.

The committee is also to investigate the controversy surrounding the engagement of Nigerian lawyers for a fee of N6 billion after the actual work had been concluded by another set of lawyers.

The Cable reported that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, refused to approve the payment of $16.9 million fees to two lawyers for the recovery of the loot worth $321 million.

It said Mrs Adeosun also wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, raising objections to the payment.

But the minister has denied being involved in any controversy over the issue.

Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer hired by the Federal Government since 1999 to work on recovering Abacha loot, had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was Attorney-General of the Federation.

Mr Monfrini had also been paid his fees by the Federal Government.

The recovered money was then domiciled with the Attorney-General of Switzerland, pending the signing of an MoU with Nigeria to avoid the issues of accountability around previous recoveries.

All that was left after the signing of the MoU was a government-to-government communication for the money to be repatriated to Nigeria.

But Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, engaged the services of another set of lawyers in 2016 for a fee of about N6 billion.

The lawyers are Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Adebayo who both worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a legacy party of the All Progressive Congress (APC) when Mr Malami was the legal adviser of CPC

In the unanimously adopted motion moved by Mark Gbilah (Benue-APC), the House called on President Buhari to suspend the payment of the said fee of $16.9 million or any part thereof pending investigation on the matter.

The committee is expected to conclude the investigation within six weeks.

House Of Reps Adopts Bills To Prevent Concession of Ajaokuta

According to reports, the House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted two bills seeking to prevent the concession of Ajaokuta steel company and to ensure its completion.

The bills, each sponsored by 301 lawmakers, were introduced for first reading on Wednesday, March 21. The bills are An act to provide for the Ajaokuta Steel Company completion fund and a bill for an act to amend the public enterprise privatisation and commercialisation Act.

It was then passed for the second reading on Thursday, March 22 and subsequently referred to the committee of the whole.

Considering the committee’s report during plenary on Wednesday, the lawmakers resolved to use one billion dollars from the Federal government’s share in the excess crude revenue for the completion of the company.

The lawmakers also said that the money should be applied by the minister only for purposes of the steel company’s completion, and as approved by the National Assembly.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that there had been a lingering controversy surrounding the Ajaokuta Steel Company.

The lawmakers had earlier asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct Mr Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, to stop the process of the concession.

The bill amending the privatisation Act sought to remove the steel plant from the list of public assets which the Federal Government had powers to privatise or concession.

The lawmakers also wanted to strip the National Council on Privatisation of its powers as the only body backed by law to decide on which firms should be on the schedule.

The bills were unanimously adopted by the members when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara.