Ambode Charges Constitution Review Committee to Consider Autonomous State Police

The Constitution Review Committee comprising Senators and members of the House of Representatives of Nigeria’s National Assembly has opened a four-day joint working retreat in Lagos.

The Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who declared the retreat open, challenged the legislators to critically look into the issues that have occupied the front burner in the nation such as the need for each state to have its own police.

He said “The defining feature of federalism is the autonomy and recognition of the separateness and independence of each government that makes up the Federation; if this is true, we must therefore ask ourselves these salient questions: why should States be precluded from performing several important Constitutional responsibilities? Why should the Land Use Act, NYSC Act, Code of Conduct Act form part of the Constitution?”

“Should the Constitution not confer power on State Houses of Assembly to establish State Police with clear jurisdiction and well-articulated protocols for the regulation of its relationship with the federal police?”

“The effect is that whilst the States are precluded from performing several important constitutional responsibilities, the Federal Government is equally unable to function effectively as it holds legislative and executive powers on matters of local concern which over-stretch its administrative and supervisory abilities,” according to the Governor.

Mr Ambode who also noted that the current revenue sharing formula among the Federal, States and Local Governments should be reviewed added that the proposed Stamp Duties Bill before the National Assembly, would cripple states’ internally generated revenue.

“The Bill is presently before the National Assembly and it is a grave threat to the principles of fiscal federalism and as representatives of the true beneficiaries of the Act as it presently stands.”

“We need to be truthful and frank about fiscal federalism, the current revenue allocation formula by which the Federal Government takes as much as 52.68% of centrally-collected revenues in the Federation Account, leaving the States and Local Governments with 26.72% and 20.60% respectively has created a glaring and unacceptable imbalance in the financial resources of the three tiers of government,” he said.

Gunmen Kidnap House Of Reps Member

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has condemned the kidnapping of the member representing Takai/Sumaila Federal Constituency, Garba Durbunde.

Durbunde was said to have been kidnapped by unknown persons at Jere on the Kaduna-Abuja Road at about 5 pm while returning to Abuja from Kano on Tuesday.

A statement issued on Wednesday in Kano by the Commissioner for Information and Culture, Malam Mohammed Garba, said the governor was shocked by the incident, especially that it was happening during the Ramadan.

He described the kidnapping of the lawmaker as an act of wickedness perpetrated by evil and cold-hearted elements.

The governor called on the Nigeria Police and other security agencies to intensify effort to rescue the kidnapped lawmaker.

He advised members of the public to be extra vigilant and security conscious at all times.

Source: PM News

Reps to Investigate Lack of Funds for Amnesty

Nigeria’s House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament on Tuesday launched a probe into a lack of funding for an amnesty programme for militants in the country’s oil-producing heartland, a key factor in maintaining a tenuous peace in the Niger Delta and supporting crude production.

Failure to maintain funding for former militants under the 2009 amnesty could jeopardise the relative stability in the Delta and even result in oil production being choked off, as it was last year by militant attacks that cut crude output by as much as a third.

Nigeria’s House of Representatives will “investigate the circumstances leading to funding constraints affecting the amnesty programme, with a view to avoiding reoccurrence and report back to the House within two weeks for further legislative action,” it said in a motion.

It also said it would urge the finance minister to release the 15 billion naira ($49 million) set aside in the 2016 budget for the amnesty programme.

The finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The situation is becoming more serious … as tension and threats are already palpable in the Niger Delta Region and amongst the beneficiaries of the programme,” said the lower chamber.

Five months of arrears are owed to former militants, as well as education fees for students in Nigeria and overseas, it said.

Last month, former militant leaders in the Niger Delta urged the government to pay out delayed amnesty stipends or face protests.

The government is now in talks with militants to end the attacks that cut Nigeria’s output by 700,000 barrels a day (bpd) for several months last year, reducing total production at that time to about 1.2 million bpd.

Budget Reform Bill Scales First Reading

A Bill seeking to introduce radical reforms to Nigeria’s budgeting process has scaled first reading in the House of Representatives.

Sponsored by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the reform of the Nigerian budget process and proposes serious penalties for violators of the Appropriation Act.

The proposed Bill, when passed into law, will regulate the preparation, presentation, enactment, implementation, monitoring and oversight, and penalties for contravention of the Appropriations Act in each fiscal year.

It also provides for dispute resolution that may arise between the Executive and the Legislature before, during or after passage of the Budget.

The proposed penalties for violation of the Appropriations Act include written reprimand, written warning, suspension from office, surcharge, demotion or reduction in status; denial or promotion, termination of employment, impeachment and for committee chairmen in the National Assembly, removal from chairmanship of committee, among others.

Similarly, the proposed law also provides for rewards for public officers and civil servants for outstanding work which include letter of commendation, certificate of merit, public decoration, with a medal of recognition, recommendation for accelerated promotion, recommendation for national honour and gift in cash or kind among others.

It also provides for “Budget Process Calendar” which stipulates time frame as follows: budget presentation within the first week of September of every year; passage of not later than 2nd week of December and assent for 30th December, among others.

The Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to the Speaker, Mr Turaki Hassan, in a chat with NASS correspondents said the first reading of the bill “is in fulfillment of the Speaker’s pledge to reform the budget process.”

“Remember that last year, the Speaker promised to introduce a series of reforms to the budgeting process to ensure that there is more citizen participation, more disclosure on the details of the budget and to make it more responsive to the need of Nigerians, among others,” he added.

The reforms are aimed at producing, a ”realistic, credible and lasting Budget Reform process,” which will involve amending some sections of the Nigerian Constitution, such as section 318, to clearly define the financial year through which the budget must run through to ensure that its full 12 months course is completed and Section 81(1), which gives the President authority to present the estimates of revenue and expenditure ‘at any time’ within a financial year.


Reps Clash as Another PDP Member Defects to APC

Members of the House of Representatives had a brief noisy session on Wednesday as another lawmaker defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Incidentally, the member who defected on Wednesday, Mr. Emmanuel Ukoette, is from Akwa Ibom State, a PDP stronghold.
The lawmaker said the PDP was in factions to a point he no longer knew whether there was still a political party.

“I have decided to join the APC, where there is focus”, he told the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

But, his former PDP colleagues did not take kindly to the reason he gave for defecting.

They shouted him down and accused him of being a “disappointment” to the PDP.
There was more drama when APC lawmakers promptly came to the defence of Ukoette, saying that he had taken the right decision.

The Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, also exchanged words over the decision of Ukoette.
As Ogor raised a point of order and rose to oppose the defection, Dogara took sides with Ukoette and Gbajabiamila.
The speaker said, “Before the minority leader speaks, he must first tell us which PDP he belongs to.

“Are you in the (Ahmed) Makarfi group or the Sheriff group? Tell us.”

The Punch

House of Reps Wants Petrol at N70/Litre

The House of Representatives has asked the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency and Ministry of Petroleum Resources (PPPRA) to review the current price template of PMS with a view to bringing down the price of the product

The House faulted the current pricing template for Premium Motor Spirit (petrol), saying that a realistic price should be about N70.04 per litre.

The landing cost of the product today is N119.74k, while the distribution margin and other costs add up to N18.37k, bringing the total to N138.11k.

However, marketers are allowed to sell petrol in the range of N140 and N145 per litre.

But, on Tuesday, the House, acting on a motion moved by Mr. Abubakar Hassan-Fulata, noted that 90 per cent of the current cost of PMS (N124.34k) was introduced by factors that were unnecessary.

It said the factors were related to transport charges, which were transferred to consumers by the marketers.

Lawmakers argued that removing such unnecessary charges would not affect the profit margin of the marketers if the Federal Government put all the needed infrastructure in place.

In his lead debate, Hassan-Fulata listed some of the charges as lightering expenses, N4.56k; bridging fund, N6.20k; freight, N109.01k; NPA charges, N0.84k; and transport allowance, N3.36k.

He also said the landing cost had inbuilt charges that when removed would not affect the profit margins of the importers and marketers.

The lawmaker cited jetty charges, NIMASA charges, storage charges and retailers’ margin, among others, as costs that could be removed without affecting the profit margin of the marketers.

For instance, he stated that the current bridging charge of N6.20k could be reduced to just N2.00 per litre if the pipelines linking the refineries and the depots across the country were not vandalised.

Hassan-Fulata, “Bridging is supposed to be an annual event only when the refineries are carrying out their turnaround maintenance, which does not exceed three months.

“However, due to the fact that the pipelines linking the various depots have been vandalised or are in a state of disrepair, bridging has remained a permanent feature of the oil industry in Nigeria.”

Similarly, he said the N2.00 built into the price for the maintenance of storage facilities was wasteful as it did not benefit any public-owned depot.

“The fund goes to enrich an ever-growing number of private depot owners, whose facilities have now become the official storage facilities for government products, while government facilities are allowed to decay,” he told the House.

Many lawmakers also faulted the N4.56 lightering charge on the ground that vessels conveying products into the country were not docking directly at the harbours.

The motion for the review of the pump price received unanimous endorsement of members at Tuesday’s plenary, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

The House directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to ensure that the price review was done within eight weeks.

However, petroleum products’ marketers faulted the call for petrol to be sold at N70 per litre.

According to them, the landing cost alone is far higher than N70 at over N128 per litre.

The marketers stated that the challenge in accessing foreign exchange and the fall of the naira against the United States dollar were factors that would make it practically impossible to sell petrol below the regulated rate of N145 per litre.

They told one of our correspondents that the Federal Government still owed them subsidy claims as well as differentials as a result of accrued interests on the debt, running into several billions of naira.

A member of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria said, “What are their reasons for calling for N70 petrol price? Are they aware of the current economic realities and how the oil and gas sector operates? It is practically impossible at the moment, despite the huge debt being owed us, other factors show that it can’t happen.”

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, said that the oil firm would not react to the demands of the House of Representatives.

This, he said, was because the corporation had yet to get any directive to that effect from the House.