…query MDAs on 2019 budget implementation
The Senate, yesterday, continued debate on the 2020 budget estimates, which President Muhammadu Buhari laid before the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
During the resumption of debate on the N10.33 trillion money bill, some of the lawmakers, mostly of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the content of the budget.
Those who spoke positively about the budget, claimed that it has the potential to promote economic growth and mitigate challenges of unemployment, among other issues.
Some of the senators commended President Buhari for adhering strictly to the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by ensuring timely submission of the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.
The lawmakers said early submission of the appropriation bill will facilitate its quick passage by the National Assembly as well as return the country’s budget cycle to the January-December timeline as provided by the constitution.
Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) applauded President Buhari over his determination to reverse the poor annual budgetary practice that characterised late submission of the appropriation bill to the National Assembly.
He said: “What President Buhari did this year is a complete deviation from what we have been seeing in terms of procedure in the presentation of our annual budget estimates to the National Assembly.
“For the first time, the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) were strictly adhered to. Last year, we had the budget presented to the National Assembly before the MTEF/FSP came.
“We know the Act states very clearly that MTEF/FSP must come first, and the National Assembly must pass it, before the budget estimates come. This is the first time we are adhering strictly to this procedure. It is commendable on the path of President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly.”
Urhoghide, while calling on the Federal Government to ensure that capital expenditure in the 2020 Budget benefits Nigerians, added that “the provisions of the FRA as regards the budgetary execution and meeting of targets must be adhered to.”
He further said: “It is the responsibility of the Finance Minister to meet with the joint Committee of Finance of the Senate and House of Representatives, so that there is a quarterly briefing of releases and distribution of funds. This is lacking, that is why there are mistakes in the execution of the budget.”
Another lawmaker, Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North East), also commended President Buhari for throwing his weight behind the amendment of the Deep Offshore Inland Revenue Act.
According to him, Nigeria stands to benefit “an additional N400 billion for this year” with an amendment to the Act.
He, however, stressed that the Committees on Appropriation and Finance of the National Assembly have a task to balance the submission of the President.
“What we do as a National Assembly must reflect equitable distribution of available resources to the good of all Nigerians,” Akpan said.
Senator Clifford Ordia (PDP, Edo Central), while lending his voice to the debate of the budget estimates, said: “this budget of growth and job creation is apt at this point in time in the history of our national development because when fully implemented, it will go a long way in removing our youths from the streets.”
He added: “The infrastructural development of this country needs to be handled holistically with timelines. This is the only way we can be able to attract investors to this country.”
While commending President Buhari for providing N296 billion sinking fund for payment of local contractors, Ordia urged the Federal Government to ensure that those owed over a period of time are duly paid.
Speaking on the manufacturing sector, the lawmaker said: “It is supposed to be one of the major sectors contributing to our GDP. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
“Presently, the manufacturing sector and in fact the private sector only contribute about nine percent to our GDP. This will not create the right environment that would create jobs for our young school leavers.”
Senator Ayo Akinyelure (PDP, Ondo Central) bemoaned the high level of unaccountability by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government charged with the responsibility of revenue generation.
According to him, revenues accruable to agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) if accounted for, are sufficient to fund the Nigeria’s annual budget.
He said: “Not much emphasis is made in the revenue of government. The revenue of NNPC if accounted for can fund the national budget. The internal revenue of the immigration is not accounted for. They are made away with by contractors. When we talk about increase in VAT, the Federal Inland Revenue must double its efforts when it comes to remittance of revenues.”
Senator Akinyelure, however, advised that if revenues accruable to government are properly allocated to several projects, same would go a long way in bringing about the much desired development expected by Nigerians.
However, majority of lawmakers from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised serious concerns over source of funding of the budget and the inadequacy of allocations to some critical sectors.
Some of the sectors mentioned by the lawmakers as not having adequate budgetary provisions include: education, defence, and health while faulting the heavy load on the debt services and high deficit factored into the budget.
Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP, Taraba South), said there was need to entrench disciplinary measures to ensure full implementation of the budget, noting that Nigeria since 1999, had not implemented 70 per cent of any of its annual budget.
“Presidents present budgets every year, but we do not take disciplinary measures expected to make the budget effective simply because we like to speak from both sides of our mouths.
“It has become an annual ritual and we still do it. A president by tradition will lay the budget and whatever comes out of it is nobody’s business. I’m saying this because since 1999, gudget implementation has not reached 70 per cent.
“This is very worrisome. We are discussing the 2020 budget estimates, is it fair to say we have a 2019 budget which has not been implemented? As we speak now, nothing has been done. We have the 2019 Appropriation Act and we are discussing the 2020 budget proposal.
“We refused to address this aspect of our shortcomings. No nation moves forward without discussing what happened in the past. Some of the projects being implemented now are not even in the 2019 budget. As a parliament, we do not care to follow up by asking questions for obvious reasons.
“We need to diversify our economy because we are operating a mono economy. However, the budget estimates before us did not reflect this posture. The allocation to the agriculture sector does not really portray a nation that is prepared to diversify. We are only prospered to speak from both sides of our mouths.
“We need to walk the talk if we really want to achieve a significant growth in our economy. This is a worrisome development in our budget system. We do not take budgeting as a serious business.
“It may be difficult to achieve 100 per cent implementation but we could achieve a significant improvement in our budget implementation. Oversight functions have also become a ritual. We have to take it seriously as a parliament,” he noted.
Senator Ajibola Basiru (Osun Central), while contributing, said: “The 2019 budget was not being fully implemented because it was passed and signed into law towards the end of the 8th National Assembly.
“What struck me looking at the budget is that the revenue projections and infrastructure show a 70 per cent deficit in the 2019 budget and in the 2020, it has already been highlighted that N2.18tn will be the proposed deficit.
“People are looking at allocation to key sectors and the revenue to fund the projects. For instance, when you talk of the N262 billion being allocated to Works, I have it on good authority that what is even required to take care of the outstanding in the Ministry of Works and Housing is in the excess of N500 billion. Yet many people are hailing the N262 billion allocated for Works, describing it as huge. We should also be looking at the aspect of progressive taxation.”
Senator Onyewuchi Ezenwa (Imo East) said: “It is not only about sending a budget estimate to the National Assembly as has been rolled out here, we must resist the pitfalls. We know that once budget has been laid we must invite the Ministries, Departments and the Agencies of government to defend the budget and we must make sure that the chief executives do not frustrate our efforts.
“I will expect that the MDAs are alive to their responsibilities and we must ensure adequate releases of funds to the MDAs and we must find out level of releases. In the past when you go for oversight you find out that funds appropriated to execute capital project did not receive sufficient funds.
“We must also strengthen our oversight responsibility to make sure that these funds are applied to the projects earmark for them. Again I think we should broaden our tax base targeted toward boosting our revenue.
“We should target those who are not paying tax and going forward we should look into non-oil revenue as alternative source of revenue. Again we are expected to spend larger portion of the budget to service debt and at the same time we are borrowing to service 2020 budget proposal.”
Senator Gyang Istifanus (PDP Plateau) said Nigerians are very much interested in how the budget could translate into solving the challenges of insecurity, hunger and creation of development of human capital.
He urged the Senate to take a look at allocation to defence, noting that the figure was inadequate.
Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC Ogun) called for diversification of the economy to generate more funds needed for implementation of the budget.
Senator Ibrahim Shekarau (APC Kano), in his presentation, commended the President for the timely presentation of the budget. He urged his colleagues in their oversight functions to ensure that funds voted for MDAs are utilised accordingly.
He added that implementation of the budget must be focused on developing human capital via jobs creation to end unemployment. He further said it was cherry that the welfare of the Police was being considered in the budget.
Senator Eyakenyi Etim (PDP Akwa Ibom,) said the budgetary allocation to education was inadequate, given its importance to the development of the country.
She said the 1.5 per cent allocation to education was grossly inadequate, compared to the UNESCO benchmark of 26 per cent.
She also advised that measures be put in place to ensure revenue generated via VAT was channeled into addressing infrastructure decay and insecurity.
After extensive deliberations on the Appropriation Bill, the Senate adjourned debate on it till next week Tuesday.
Violence, ballot snatching, killings mar Kogi elections
*Six killed, several others injured in Abocho, Ayetoro-Gbede
* As hoodlums, gunmen snatch ballot boxes
* Helicopter aides in ballot snatching in Lokoja
Saturday’s governorship and Kogi West Senatorial rerun elections in Kogi State were marred with violence, ballot box snatching, killings and burning of properties across the state.
New Telegraph learnt that six people were killed at different polling units and many others injured by gunmen and hoodlums, who stormed various voting centers, disrupting the process and carting away ballot boxes.
A building belonging to an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain was also set ablaze in Lokoja, the state capital, during the election.
At Lokongoma community in Lokoja Local Government Area, a helicopter was alleged to aided in the snatching of ballot papers.
The helicopter, was said to have descended as if it was going to land, thereby raising thick dust to scare electorates away, before the ballot boxes were carted away.
At Abocho community in Dekina Local Government Area, two persons reportedly lost their lives during the governorship election in Kogi State.
The deceased persons who are names were issued by the natives, as Umoru shuaib and Faruk Suleiman, died during gun battle between supporters of the ruling APC and main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Witnesses said the incident happened while voting was going at Barrack Polling Unit 001 in Dekina council.
It was learnt that the assailants from all indications, came for Umoru Shaibu, one of the victims in the attack.
“They came in a bus while voting was taking place and were wearing police uniforms, so we didn’t suspect anything.
“Umoru had voted and was chatting with Faruk close to the poling unit, when the bus drove by. None of the occupants who were in police uniforms alighted from the vehicle.
“We just heard gunshots and shouts from the victims as well as onlookers. The attackers then drove off,” a resident in the community, who identified himself as Michael Ochimamna, disclosed.
The major street in the ancient town was deserted when our correspondent visited the area.
Stones and sticks littered the road, while tyres earlier burnt by youths protesting the attack were still emitting smoke.
Three people were also reportedly killed in Adankolo in Lokoja, the state capital. They were killed in different polling units by hoodlums who shot sporadically while trying to cart away ballot boxes but were prevented by some electorate and residents in the community.
A voter was also killed in Ayetoro-Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area and two other people shot at by hoodlums who disrupted the voting process at Ayetoro Town Hall in Ward 03 of the local government.
The hoodlums also snatched ballot boxes at Ayetoro Town Hall and Oke Ibukun in Ijumu Local Government Area. But the ballot boxes was later recovered.
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: APC will win in Bayelsa, says Sylva
* Lyon also confident
Pauline Onyibe, Yenagoa
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva has said that he has said it many times that the APC was the preferred party in Bayelsa adding that he was sure that the party will win.
He also expressed confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adding that the Commission did better this time around.
Speaking in his Okpoama Brass Ward 4 Unit 4, the minister said that every year the processes was getting better.
He said “I think we have had a better outing from INEC this time. And I believe that this election will be better than the last one.”
Also, the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief David Lyon, who voted in Olugbobiri Community in Southern Local Government Area, has described the election process as peaceful so far, saying the INEC did a better job this time.
While expressing confidence that his party, APC, would emerge victorious at the end of the poll, Lyon called on security agents to remain neutral and professional as they have been so far in their conduct during and after the election.
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Reject results from Okene, Okehi LGAs – PDP tells INEC
Onyekachi Eze, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reject results coming from Okene and Okehi local government areas of Kogi State, alleging that they have been compromised.
The party in a statement Saturday by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, accused the agents of Governor Yahaya Bello and the All Progressives Congress (APC) of threatening and forcing INEC presiding officers and members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to endorse pre-filled results sheets in favour of the APC, in some local government areas.
PDP further alleged that the governor and the APC were desperate to to allocate fictitious votes and fabricate results in their favour in Okene and Okehi Local Government Areas in Kogi Central senatorial zone.
“For instance, in Kabba/Bunu Okekoko Ward Unit 9, the baby units have been reduced from two to one, a situation that will lead to disenfranchising of voters to reduce votes belonging to the PDP.
“Also the serial numbers on the ballot papers brought to the area is different from numbers on ballot papers released in Abuja for the area,” the party alleged.
PDP said it would not accept manipulated results coming from Okene and Okehi local government areas
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Melaye condemns Kogi polls, says ballots stronger than bullets
Temitope Ogunbanke, Lokoja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye has condemned Saturday’s governorship and senatorial election in the state.
Speaking to journalists in Ayetoro-Gbede after casting his vote, Senator Melaye said an election that is militarised, full of violence and ballot boxes being easily carted away by gunmen, is not an election.
He said irrespective of the level of violence and snatching of ballot boxes, the people of Kogi State are ready to prove that the ballot is stronger than the bullet.
His words: “I am happy that our cry that Yahaya Bello is trying to militarise the environment, he wants to kill and wants to be governor by all means, that he is unpopular, that he only wants to use violence to get back into Government House is already established.
“All the arrests that have been made so far were APC members and they have all confessed to who sent them. We must see to the end of this matter; it cannot be buried. We will not allow it to be buried .
“This is not an election. Election that is militarised, election that is full of violence, election where ballot papers and ballot boxes were easily carted away by gunmen, honestly is not an election.
“If they (APC) are popular, they will not introduce violence. All the ballot papers that scattered after election was disrupted in polling units in my local government were PDP thumb printed to show my popularity and acceptance by the people. The difference between me and Smart Adeyemi is the difference between light and darkness.”
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Voters, party agents commend peaceful process in Bayelsa
Some voters and party agents in Yenegoa Local Government Area have commended the peaceful voting process in the ongoing governorship election in Bayelsa.
They also commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the orderly process of the election.
Mrs Yohana Juliana, a retired civil servant, who voted at Polling Unit 16, Epie III, Ward 006, Fankuku Primary Health Centre, Amarata, commended the large turnout of voters at the centre.
Juliana also described the voting environment as peaceful in spite of the crowd.
A 67-year-old woman said she came out for election since 6.30 a.m.because she wanted a better future for the youth.
“I don’t have any money for transportation to this place but I trekked from my house to this place,” she said.
Another voter, Mr Bikowe Aiman, commended the peaceful conduct of the Bayelsa people.
He said that people chose peace and orderliness rather than fight themselves because they wanted the best for the state.
Political parties agents who also spoke with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said that they were happy with the process.
Mr Ben Ogabra, the agent of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Attisa 1, Polling Units 005, Government House Agric Ward, Onopa in Yenegoa said that the voter’s turnout and voting process were commendable.
Ogbara also commended INEC and personnel of security agencies for professional conduct.
Chief Samuel Merriment, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) agent, also commended the peaceful process and the conduct of security agent at the polling centre.
Merriment said there was no much issue with the use of Smart Card Readers at the voting centre.
At Polling Unit 10, Ward 1, Agric Meeting Hall, Yenegoa, the Election Presiding Officer, Miss Emmanuel Beatrice, said there was no any incidence of violence, adding that card readers also function well.
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Two shot in Kogi
Two persons have been reportedly shot at Egume Police Station Polling Unit, Dekina LGA of Kogi State.
Meanwhile, New Telegraph has learnt that violence has broken out in at least four polling centres in Lokoja, the state capital.
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Bayelsa govt expresses reservations with ongoing poll
The Bayelsa State Government has expressed reservations on the ongoing governorship election in the state.
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said there were incidents of violence in areas considered the strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said violence was reported at some areas in Southern Ijaw where he alleged that thugs sympathetic to the All Progressives Congress (APC) disrupted voting through ballot box snatching and shootings.
He said: “My area in Opume Ogbia is peaceful so far even though a number of people Express apprehension over the number of soldiers deployed in my polling unit. Over the years, Opume has been known to be very peaceful. But we were surprised by the large number of soldiers, who came here.
“We have been receiving reports of incidents across the state particularly in Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa especially in Famgbe where sporadic shooting was reported. People were scampering for safety. A number of people had been injured and electoral materials hijacked.
“In Southern Ijaw, Ward 17 they actually destroyed Electoral materials with the voting process disrupted. In Imiringi, the report reaching us was that armed military men, now what is not clear to us is whether these are real military men or whether they are thugs given military uniform, hijacked the materials and took them somewhere for thumb-printing.
“The reports are coming in their torrents but what is not clear is the role of security agencies deployed for this election given the backdrop of the police deploying 32,000 personnel, you be shocked that in Yenagoa, the state capital, there were reported cases of violence, but the presence of security agencies is not felt in those areas.
“In Opolo, thugs came and shot everywhere and scared away voters and you know these are the strongholds of the PDP. A number of the local government areas is our strongholds. I am afraid that this election has fallen short of the required expectation in Bayelsa.
“Well it is still early period, we are waiting to see the final outcome, but from the initial reports across the local government it gives us cause for concern.”
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Dickson votes, alleges hijacking of voting materials
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa voted at Polling Unit 005, Ward 2, Toru-Orua community, Sagbama Local Government Area of the state, alleging that the All Progressives Congress of working with security agencies to hijack voting materials.
He said after voting that security agencies had aided the APC to move voting materials meant for Nembe and Southern Ijaw local government areas to unknown destinations.
“There is a well-organised election crime ongoing in our state; they have established unofficial collation centres in some places.
“There whole intention is to subvert the will of the people and jeopardise the efforts of well-meaning Bayelsa people to develop the state,’’ he said.
He, however, commended the people of Toru-Orua for their turn-our during the election, saying, “ your passion for positive change is commendable’’
But some community people, who spoke to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), expressed satisfaction at the level of calm and order in the conduct of the poll.
They said that the presence of security personnel in the community had reduced the tension among the voting public.
Chief Abite Alawei, a community leader said that he was confident that the process would be concluded without violence.
“We have not witnessed any breach of law and order in the community since the process began, our people have conducted themselves orderly.
“As you can see, voting is also ongoing, and the process is orderly, we pray it continues this way till the end,’’ he said.
Mr Amaye Soldier, a teacher, also told NAN that he was satisfied with the conduct of the polling officials in the unit.
“We are watching the process, so far, we are comfortable with the conduct of the election officials, they have shown fairness and purpose,’’ he said.
Governor Dickson’s residence did not witness the usual beehive of activities that characterise a governor’s country home during elections.
Some local community people say the attention and loyalty of political followers had shifted to candidates of the major political parties contesting the election.
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Thugs attack voters in Yenogoa
Armed thugs dressed as soldiers on election duties attacked voters in Famgbe Community in Yenogoa LGA of Bayelsa State.
Although no deaths occurred but a number of voters suffered serious head injuries.
The thugs just attacked and disappeared commando style.
Kogi/Bayelsa decide: Vote buying taking place in Yenogoa
There is massive turn out of voters in Yenogoa, the Bayelsa State capital, and environs despite the late arrival of electoral materials.
Meanwhile, vote buying and selling is going on quietly in some voting centres.
The standard rate is N2000 per voter.
In some voting centres in Yenogoa, voters are the ones looking for the vote buyers
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