Dogara Advocates Unity as Nigeria Marks 57th Independence Anniversary

The Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara has said in a goodwill message issued in Abuja to mark Nigeria’s 57th Independence Anniversary that Nigerians need to strengthen the bond of unity and cohesion as a people of common interest and destiny in the process of nation building. He said Nigeria would come out of her current challenges.

Mr Dogara also enjoined the citizens to shun every harbinger of hate, division and violence, saying “May I use the occasion of this year’s Independence Anniversary to urge us all to reflect on those things that unite and bring us together as people, and shun individuals and groups with divisive tendencies… At this time, more than any other, we must adopt the right strategies and utilise the advantages of our diversity to our benefit as well as blend our differences for positive outcomes in the process of building the Nigeria of our dream.

“True independence will continue to elude us until and unless we attain independence from tribalism, sectionalism, primodialism, religious extremism, partisan political bigotry, materialism, corruption and ancillary forms of retrogressive tendencies that threatened to consign us to the forgotten age”.

The Speaker also promised that the House of Representatives would continue to provide the needed legislative framework that would further galvanise the people and unite the nation as well as help fine solutions to the country’s socio-political challenges.

Dogara Speaks On Controversial NGO Bill

Yakubu Dogara the Speaker of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, welcomed public criticism of the content of the controversial NGO regulatory bill.

Dogara declared this in his welcome remark after the House joined from a two-month recess.

“Public criticism of the content of the Bill is a welcome development and there are many who are doing just that,” he said.

He said it is the reason why every bill is subjected to a public hearing so that the inputs of stakeholders can be obtained to ensure public buy-in.

“I hasten to say that all Nigerians and other corporate persons including non-Nigerians, are stakeholders and have a right to support or oppose a bill,” he said.

“However when opinions are targeted at disparaging the institution of the legislature then it becomes imperative to interrogate the motives driving such, especially when this emanates from those who should know.”

The speaker said that the principal objective of the bill is to inject transparency, accountability and prevent the subversion of national security from both within and without.

“No one can nor indeed should gag the operations of NGOs in Nigeria, but just as they aspire for this freedom, it must be stated that freedom does not come without responsibility as there is no such thing as freedom to be irresponsible,” he said.

Mr. Dogara also emphasised a claim made by other lawmakers that “churches, mosques, esusu, market women associations as well as local quasi-financial institutions are not NGOs and thus the bill has nothing to do with their operations.”

He added that the National Assembly cannot be intimidated into abandoning its sacred legislative duties of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or disagree on any proposed legislative measure.

“This openness and transparency are what the NGOs have always canvassed and promoted and they should, therefore, embrace this opportunity to interrogate the issues with open arms.”

Mr. Dogara did not, however, address a major concern of opponents of the bill, that there were already enough laws to regulate NGOs.

‎One of the critics of the bill, Chidi Odinkalu, a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, has raised this as well as other elements in the bill that could make it open to being used to manipulate and gag critical NGOs.

A senator, Shehu Sani, has also voiced opposition to the bill and said he would oppose it when it comes to the Senate.

The NGO regulatory bill has passed second reading in the House of Representatives and is at the committee level. It was sponsored by the Deputy House leader, Umar Jibrin.

The NGO regulatory agency, if established, would be headed by an Executive Secretary and a 17-member Governing Board to be appointed by the Nigerian President for a five-year tenure.

Leadership Crisis Rocks House of Rep As Members Alleged Dogara of Financial Impropriety

There was palpable tension in the House of Representatives yesterday as members of the House were divided against Speaker Yakubu over unresolved financial issues.

It was gathered that some of the aggrieved lawmakers stormed out of an executive session convened by the Speaker, alleging financial impropriety against some principal officers of the House.

According to sources privy to the executive session which lasted for about two hours, members of the House queried the Speaker over alleged reckless spending of some of the deductions from the monthly and quarterly emoluments of the lawmakers.

It was also gathered that frantic efforts are being made by the leadership of the House to quell the crisis before it gets to the public domain.

The North West caucus in the House had met behind closed doors on Tuesday night and deliberated on the fate of the House leadership.

After the meeting, leader of the caucus and Chief Whip of the House, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, refused to brief waiting journalists after the meeting, as he said the meeting was regular.

Also a few minutes before the commencement of the plenary session, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus also met to behind closed doors to harmonise their position.

Leadership observed that some members displayed dispiritedness to Speaker Yakubu Dogara, when he was ushered into the chambers.

Some lawmakers yesterday refused to observe the tradition that all members maintain a standing position when Speakers  procession make its entrance into the chamber.

Some of the lawmakers were also heard ordering their standing colleagues to sit down, in a show of disrespect to the Speaker.

Irrespective of this, a reasonable  number of House members, particularly members of the PDP,  stood still and welcome the very warmly.

Meanwhile, the electronic voting system  on the review of the 1999 constitution by the House of Representatives may jettisoned be  following the inconsistencies recorded during the test running of the platform.

Except functinong of the electronic device is perfected before plenary today, ‎the devise may be unreliable for a sensitive voting, such as constitution review.

Several testing of the system by lawmakers on the floor preparatory to the voting proper, the first three attempts failed to produce any accurate figure that tally with the actual number of lawmakers who were on the floor.

Speaker yakubu Dogara who presided over the proceeding  had called for re-trials after the initial setbacks, saying that they would result to their traditional voice vote should the system fail to work.

“We want to test the integrity of the platform and it can only be as good as the result it is giving us. So please, we have to repeat the ritual to ascertain the efficiency of the the facility”, Dogara had said.

However, the syst‎em which later picked up‎ after some engineers were brought in to rectify possible glitches repeatedly produced inconsistent results in an upward disparities.

Having recorded a total of 205 votes in the mock vote wherein 151 voted Yes, 33 voted No while 21 Abstained‎, the system continued to increase the total figure in all subsequent trials conducted.

Measures To Protect Whistle Blowers A Vital Tool For Anti-Craft War – Dogara

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Tuesday said the Bill for an Act to protect whistleblowers was a vital tool for the country’s anti-corruption war.

Dogara stated this at a workshop organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes and members of the civil society on the Whistle Blowers Bill held in Abuja.

The bill, he added, would greatly enhance disclosure of information on corrupt persons when passed by the National Assembly.

He said the bill would help to uncover private collaborators who connived with corrupt public servants while providing adequate safeguards against victimisation of the person making such complaints.

The speaker said the bill, when passed, would make more information available for investigation of alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants.

He stressed the need for Nigeria to have a law that protects whistleblowers.

The Speaker said, “What we have is the Federal Ministry of Finance’s whistle-blowing programme, which is designed to encourage anyone with information about a violation of financial regulations to report.

“This has not yet been backed by any legal framework, and therefore, not legally enforceable.”

He also said the burden of corruption in Nigeria was a peculiar one that inhibited its economic and social development.

Dogara Advises Youths To Embrace Agriculture

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, while launching the distribution of 2,100 bags of fertilizer for Yamaltu-Deba consistency in Lubo, Yamaltu-Deba Local Government Area of Gombe State on Saturday, called on the youths in the country to embrace agriculture as means of livelihood.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the fertiliser was donated by Alhaji Abubakar Yunus, the member representing Yamaltu-Deba Federal constituency in the National Assembly.

“I am calling on the youths, to embrace Agriculture as means of livelihood,“ he said.

Dogara said the wealthy persons in the society who were constructing mansions, should also invest in Agriculture so that the common man can have food on his table and also be gainfully employed.

He commended the member for the assistance rendered to his constituents, describing it as timely.

“This is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy of revamping agriculture.

“When we see a member doing well, it is our duty to support and promote him.

“We need to have people like him, who can always speak for Gombe and North East, I always call him one of the defendants of the 8th Assembly.

‘This is the kind of representative we want, we can speak for him anytime anywhere,“ he said.

Speaking earlier, the donor said that members of his constituency are predominantly farmers, hence the need for the fertiliser assistance.

He said the fertilisers donated were brought to the town in three and the half trailers and each of the trailers contained 600 bags.

Yunus said he also purchased JAMB forms for 350 youths, as well as secured job for many.

Saraki, Dogara Fault Anti-Corruption War

Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday, took the Federal Government to the cleaners over its anti-corruption war.  Saraki claimed the anti-graft war was sensational and selective, Dogara also insisted the war was only “dealing with the symptoms of corruption.”

The two National Assembly leaders spoke in Abuja, at the public presentation of Senator Dino Melaye’s book, “Antidotes For Corruption: The Nigerian Story.”

Saraki particularly came hard on anti-corruption agencies, alleging that they were under pressure to justify their existence and show that they were working.

He said this led to media trials of suspects by anti-corruption agencies, noting that the agencies left the substance of anti-corruption war, but focused on the show.

He said: “Let us imagine a society today in Nigeria where all the proceeds of corruption are well utilized rather than the one minute or five-minute sensation that we see in the fight against corruption. It is my view that we must fight corruption with sincerity.

“We must aim to go to the root of the problems. We need to strengthen our institutions. We should not base the anti-corruption war on individuals.

“People who are corrupt are patient. They can wait for four or eight years or 12 years. That is why it cannot be based on individuals. We must ensure that we do our best.

“I am convinced that we must return to that very basic medical axiom that prevention is better than cure.

“Perhaps, the reason our fight against corruption has met with rather limited success is that we appeared to have favoured punishment over deterrence.

“We must review our approaches in favour of building systems that make it a lot more difficult to carry out corrupt acts or to find a safe haven for corruption proceeds within our borders.

“We in the National Assembly last week took the first major step in this direction towards greater openness.

“For the first time in our political history, the budget of the National Assembly changed from a one-line item to a 34-page document that shows details of how we plan to utilize the public funds that we appropriate to ourselves.

“One area I believe we have made remarkable progress in the past two years of the President Buhari-led administration is that corruption has been forced back to the top of our national political agenda.

“Every single day, you read the newspapers, you listen to the radio, you go on the internet, you watch the television, the people are talking about it. The people are demanding more openness, more accountability and more convictions.

“Those of us in government are also responding, joining the conversation and accepting that the basis of our legitimacy as government is our manifest accountability to the people.

“At the moment, we are considering for passage into law the following bills: The Whistleblower Protection Bill, which I am confident will be passed not later than July 2017; The Proceeds of Crime Bill; The Special Anti-Corruption Court, which would be done through constitutional amendment and; The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill.

“If we are able to build a quality public education system, especially at the basic and secondary level, which would not require parents to pay through their nose for their children’s education.

“If we are able to build an efficient public health system that provides insurance cover to ordinary citizens so that when they fall sick, they can access quality health care without running from pillar to post looking for money; if we are able to build a system that guarantees food and shelter to everyone; if we are able to do all these, we would have gone a long way in removing much of the driving force for corruption at this level.”

“Corruption, for those who are farmers, is like a tree that grows vigorously. If you end up pruning the trees and not attacking the roots, there is no way you will deal with that thing.

“So, when those who celebrate the successes of the fight against corruption in terms of the high-profile investigation, high-profile prosecution and even detention, they are missing the point because that is dealing with the symptoms of corruption. That is punishing corruption. But how are we developing remedies that we can apply to ensure that the tree dies?

“Recently, we went for May Day and some of us were nearly held hostage. You can’t blame the workers. While they were agitating for their rights, agitating for minimum wage, some of us are talking about living wage. The workers control, perhaps, about 96 percent of the budget.

“In the National Assembly, we have about 92 percent, judiciary and the rest. So, if you don’t make the environment conducive for those who administer this money not to want to be corrupt, you will end up jailing people.”

Dogara Seeks Constitutional Role For Traditional Rulers

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Sunday called for constitutional role for traditional leaders in the country.

Mr. Dogara made the call during a courtesy visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi in Birnin Kebbi, on the sideline of the turbanning ceremony of the Chief Whip of the House, Alhassan Adodoguwa, as the Dallatun Kangiwa in Arewa Local Government Area of the state.

The speaker was represented at the occasion by the Deputy Leader of the House, Umar Jibril, who also led other members to the state.

He said that it was time for Nigerians to give traditional rulers constitutional recognition because in the past, people derived their power and authority from them.

“It is high time we started going down the memory lane to actualize this dream. We pray that we shall achieve this and promote the traditional rulers to their actual positions in the country.’’

Mr. Bagudu, while responding, urged the National Assembly to provide mechanisms that ensure increased funding to agriculture sector.

He said that if Nigeria had spent a lot on the sector, the country’s economy would have been diversified.

Reacting to his new title, Mr. Adodoguwa described it as a gesture that would further bridge the gap among the people in the North, especially among the people of the North-West.

Godfatherism, Rotational Candidacy The Bane Of Lawmaking In Nigeria – Dogara

Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has lamented the high rate of turnover of legislators in the National Assembly.

He attributed to this reasons including godfatherism and the clamour for rotational representation at the expense of quality legislation and the high cost of training invested in members, once elected.

Dogara said:

“Obviously, there’s no way one would not be bothered about the rate of turnover of legislators It is an issue that is being discussed on board, but so many factors are responsible and it is based on the practice of democracy in Nigeria.

“In some cases, some people have acquired some dominance in politics, they can just sit down and decide that they don’t like your face or that you have some kind of competence that is challenging to them, so they want to do away with you completely and eliminate you from politics.

“In some cases, it is based on the local arrangement where a constituency consists of 2 or 3 local governments and each local government would want its turn to be represented at the National Assembly. So, the pressure is always there to claim turns at representation.”

“As soon as you send someone for four years, the agitation from the other local government is that it is their turn coming, so at the end of the day, you then have this high rate of turnover in the National Assembly and it is not helping the system. Any system that doesn’t have the capacity to retain what is known as institutional memory is doomed, and in that process we have had well-trained and competent lawmakers where Government and National Assembly have expended huge resources in training and developing them, they are retired after four years when they are just getting really well developed, then they bring new sets of members who are trained for another four years and then asked to go back home.”

While explaining the effects of the loss of institutional memory, he said: “It doesn’t matter whether you are the best lawyer or made a First Class in Law; when you come to parliament you’ll discover that even professors have been lost on the floor, you don’t hear their voices, you don’t even know that they are professors, sometimes you won’t even believe that we have professors. So, whatever it is that is your profession or qualification when you come to the National Assembly, you must wait first, there are so many things you must learn. If you are a fast learner; maybe within 2 years, you may be able to catch up. In some cases, however, it takes members more than 4 years to finish learning the ropes.”

Mr Dogara also said that retaining lawmakers would help strengthen oversight and eliminate what he referred to as “petty squabbles” during plenary, and that “if Parliament itself must endure and function efficiently, we have to find a way of retaining the majority of the members every four years.”

 “You can imagine if some of the experts we have now come back, like say we have 80 percent return rate. You can imagine, you don’t have to lecture anybody, you don’t have to waste so many resources to train people, they are already trained, they are ready to hit the ground running from day one, but that’s not the case in the National Assembly where you bring new members, train them for four years, invest in them and then you retire them. So, to be candid it is something that worries me, because I know that if we improve the retention rate of members, we would improve the quality of the membership and the quality of the legislation that comes out, improve the quality of debate that comes out of the National Assembly, but unfortunately that is not the case at the moment.”

2017 Budget Report: Dogara Gives Committees Deadline

The Speaker House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, on Tuesday gave Friday deadline to committees yet to submit report of 2017 budget to the Committee on Appropriation to do so.

Dogara gave the deadline at plenary and said that there was urgent need for the House to conclude work on the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

He said that any committee that failed to meet the deadline will face the consequences.

According to him, the affected Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of committees should endeavour to submit their reports latest March 30 to enable the Appropriation Committee hasten the process of passing the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

Spokesman of the House, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas, had on March 16, told newsmen that March 30 deadline set by the National Assembly for the passage of Bill was not sacrosanct.

Namdas had explained that the inability of the lawmakers to meet the deadline was due to the new software being used in the process.

According to him, the new software is slowing down the work of the Appropriation Committee.

“The new budget software is different from what we used to have before and it is slowing down the process of the Appropriation Committee,’’ Namdas added.

 

NAN

Dogara Queries N2.7 Trillion Spent On Power Without Commiserate Results

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara, has queried the utilisation of N2.74 trillion spent on the power sector from 1999-2015, saying the sector depreciated more as more funds were pumped into it. Dogara, who was speaking at a 2-day stakeholders Interactive dialogue/workshop on the Nigerian Power Sector organised by the National Assembly at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, also noted that the challenges faced by the sector calls for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to address them.
“Perhaps the most important question is what happened to the N2.74 trillion spent on the sector from 1999-2015? Why is it that the more we spent on the power sector, the more darkness we attract?”, Dogara queried.
The Speaker said it is in order to change the epileptic power situation that the National Assembly organized the workshop as a platform for power sector experts and other stakeholders to do a holistic diagnosis of the challenges impeding the development of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) and proffer practical solutions.
“These challenges run across the entire power value chain of generation, transmission and distribution. The myriad issues are apparently exacerbated by inadequate funding, poor energy mix, fuel supply issues, flawed regulatory framework, commercial issues among others. There is, therefore, a need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to address these myriad problems,” he stated.
“The diagnosis includes but is not limited to a critical analysis of the extant legislation and regulatory framework guiding the Nigerian Power Sector to determine if there is a need for amendments or enactment of new laws that will galvanize the sector to deliver the required results,” he added.
Dogara also urged the participants to focus on the following questions with an aim to finding answers that will lead to the repositioning of the power sector for effective delivery to Nigerians.
• Why has power generation remained at less than 5000MW since the last 56 years?
• Why have various policies by successive governments failed?
• Why has the transmission infrastructure remained inadequate in wheeling the available power?
• How can the Federal Government rapidly expand the transmission infrastructure?
• Why are electric meters not available to most consumers thereby leading to contentious estimated billing?
• How can NERC establish a cost reflective tariff and reduce inefficiency in support of affordable end user tariffs?
• Why has there not been an effective Gas Master Plan for Nigeria which would have preceded the building of the gas fired power plants?
• What is the solution to the perennial pipeline vandalism that disrupts delivery of gas to the gas fired power plants?
• What can be done to improve local and foreign investment in gas gathering, processing and distribution?
• Why is there local and foreign investor apathy in investing in the Nigerian power sector?
• Why are the local and foreign financial institutions not funding the sector?
• How can the FGN create and sustain a stable investment climate for private sector participation in the power sector?
• How can the FGN maintain a creditworthy off-taker (NBET) of electricity?
• How can we maximize options like mini hydro and small solar projects to power rural communities?
• Why are most of the companies licensed by NERC not able to start their projects?
• What can be done to improve the poor energy mix?
• Why has the FGN not embarked on Energy Conservation campaign that will emphasize the use of energy saving bulbs etc.?
• What kind of guarantee is needed by foreign investors to facilitate investment in the power sector?
• What role can the legislature play to facilitate a rapid development of the power sector?
• Is there a political will to tackle head on the challenges of the power sector?
• Is there any need for amendment of extant legislations or enactment of new laws to galvanize both local and foreign investment in the Nigerian power sector?

Dogara Seeks Infrastructure Bond For Road Projects

Concerned about the huge debt owed to local road contracters in the country, speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, has proposed an Infrastructure Bond for funding road infrastructure in the country.

Speaking when he received the report of the Technical Committee for the Review of the Roads’ Funds Bills in his office, Dogara noted that it is very important to ensure that these debts that have led to countless loss of jobs for Nigerians are settled for good.

“There is this existing humongous debts owed firms constructing roads. How do we exit from these debts so that the contractors and their workers can go back to work?”

He added, “I think we have to look inwards. I think we should think about floating an Infrastructure bond that will capture road infrastructure. We should just start on a new slate.”

The speaker, while stressing that countries with good road network develop at a faster pace than those that don’t, also noted that, “Nigeria’s road funding has been strictly through fiscal allocation since 1970; and whereas the recommended expenditure plan for road is 3.0 per cent of the annual gross domestic product  (GDP), we currently spend an infinitesimal 0.5 to 0.1 percent GDP.

“The burden of these long years of inaction on our road is high because for every N1 we fail to spend on road infrastructure, the country loses N5 in return. The loss in the man-hours per annum is put at 10 billion hours or N1.0 trillion. These are apart from cost of impairment, trauma, and loss of lives resulting from road crashes.”

The speaker also decried the high toll of inadequate and poor road infrastructure in Nigeria.

Giving assurance of the commitment of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly to revamp the nation’s existing road networks and building of new ones through the Road Fund Bill, to provide alternative, adequate and sustainable source of funding, Dogara said the country could not talk about economic diversification or joining the industrialised world without a sound road network.

“Nigeria needs at least 300, 000km of sound road network to actualise the Vision 2020. The country’s road network stands at a meagerly 194, 200km as at April 2016, with federal roads accounting for 34, 120km, while the local government account for 129, 580km and of that number, only 9,212km are rated as good, while 13,307km are rated fair and and 11,601km are rated bad.”

“If we must meet the self appointed benchmark of becoming one of the 20 largest economies by 2020 or in the near future,we must work to increase total road network from 194,200 we have today, to at least, 300, 000km by 2020. It means that we have to provide a minimum of 21, 000 km per annum.

“In fact, we need to make a planned and sustained N250 billion expenditure on the roads, in addition to N140 billion maintenance expenditure for the next 6 to 7 years. And we cannot do all these with government funding alone,hence the import of the Roads Fund Law.”

He commended the House Committee on Works and members of the Technical Committee for a job well done and promised expedited action on the recommendations.

Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the 27-man technical committee, Engr Chris Okoye, said the committee researched road development plans across many continents to come up with a workable plan for the Nigerian environment.

He said the committee recommended toll fees, fuel levy, axle load control charges, among others, as reliable sources of funding for road development and maintenance.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Committee on Works, Hon Toby Okechukwu, assured the speaker that they will put in all the necessary efforts to ensure that the House’ vision for quality road network for the nation was realised.