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Budget 2020: From boos to cheers

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Budget 2020:  From boos to cheers

PHILIP NYAM takes a cursory look at the renewed relationship between the executive and legislature leading to the expedited action on the 2020 budget estimates presented by President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday

 

T

he House of Representatives made history to have passed the 2019 Appropriation Bill for second reading within 48 hours of its being presented by President Muhammadu Buhari. This was a sharp departure from what has been the practice in the National Assembly in the last 20 years of sustained democracy.

The rancor that usually characterised debates on the budget proposal has been virtually non-existent even from the opposition lawmakers in both chambers. In spite of the fact that the details of the 2020 budget projections had not been made available to the lawmakers, they have resolved to pass the document before the end of the year.

 

2019 budget

 

President Buhari never had it good with the 2019 presentation on December 20, 2018. It will be recalled that on December 20, 2018, the clash between members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the National Assembly marred the president’s presentation of the Appropriation Bill.

 

 

Attempts to persuade the PDP lawmakers particularly, in the House not to disrupt the presentation ceremony were unsuccessful. Even before the president came, there were rumours that opposition members in the House had planned to stage a protest against him. As soon as he sauntered into the chamber, the PDP lawmakers began singing ‘Freedom comes by struggle, by struggle; freedom comes by struggle by struggle o, freedom comes.’ Although the APC lawmakers had staged a counter hailing song “Sai Baba! Sai Baba! Sai Baba!, the negative chants overwhelmed their effort.

 

 

When Buhari mounted the podium to deliver his budget proposal, the distraction worsened as he was interrupted intermittently with the shouts of ‘No!’ Lie! Boo!, Boo!, Boo!, Boo!’. When the noise became intense, the police band hurriedly sang the national anthem and the president left unceremoniously. It was so bad that the occasion ended abruptly without the traditional vote of thanks being delivered by the Speaker.

 

2020 Budget

 

 

Unlike last year when the budget presentation ended abruptly without the traditional vote of thanks by the Speaker of the House, the presentation of 2020 budget proposal on October 5, 2019, was marked by a very hospitable environment as both the President and his entourage and the lawmakers from both chambers were all full of smiles. Instead of boos that heralded the 2019 budget presentation, the 2020 budget was conducted in a convivial environment. President Buhari was rather hailed all through the event and there was no single dissenting voice; no negative shout or sign of opposition.

 

 

Laying the foundation for the receipt of the budget, Chairman of the National Assembly and Senate President Ahmad Lawan said: “This function being the first in the 9th session of the National Assembly makes it even more significant as both the legislature and the executive have demonstrated readiness and commitment to work together in order to pass the 2020 budget in good and desirable time. Clearly, these efforts is to enable the federal government provide those laudable objectives of physical infrastructure and socio-economic services to our citizens.”

 

 

Continuing, Lawan assured that “the National Assembly will treat the 2020 budget estimates with the same commitment or even more. In our effort to pass the budget, we will also be guided by the legislative requirement of a thorough scrutiny” adding that “our committees will be expected to conclude their work on budget defense within October, this year. The subsequent necessary legislative work will be carried out in November and December, leading to eventual passage before the end of the year.

 

 

In his vote of thanks, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila reechoed that: “The appropriation bill that Mr. President has presented to us today is a statement of intent. The budget we enact into law will be proof of our priorities and a reflection of the values we hold. What are those values? Integrity, accountability in managing the affairs of state and absolute commitment to the best interests of the Nigerian people.

“What are our priorities? Building an economy that provides sufficient opportunity for our people to achieve the dreams they hold dear – equipping our children with an education that prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world – protecting the rights of our citizens and securing them from internal and external aggression. This is our commitment and we will ensure that this commitment is reflected in the 2020 Appropriation Act.”

 

 

The Speaker admitted that there were loopholes in the budgeting and implementing process but reiterated the resolve of the House to amend it.

 

 

“There are significant flaws in the process of passage and implementation of our annual national budgets. Some of these problems are structural; others are a function of failures of process and inadequacies in attitude.

“We intend in this 9th Assembly to improve on these past imperfections and to leave a legacy of budgets that are enacted without rancour, implemented diligently and that achieve the objectives of national development for which they are intended. We fully intend to return to a January to December budget cycle and

to put an end to the policy instability and economic uncertainty that is a consequence of an unpredictable budget cycle,” he assured.

According to Gbajabiamila: “We recognise that our highest ambitions and the collective best interests of our nationhood can only be achieved when the legislature and the executive work together in pursuit of our shared ambitions. Therefore, we will make every effort in this 9th assembly to achieve constructive collaboration with the executive on all matters of appropriation, implementation and oversight.

“We will seek collaboration, but we will not yield on our constitutional obligation to ensure faithful compliance with the letter and spirit of the Appropriation Act by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government. We will strive for big wins, resisting the temptation to bask in the false allure of mediocre achievements because this moment calls for nothing short of grand ambition, and transformative ideas. Above all else, we will hold ourselves in the legislature and others, to the highest standards of probity because to fall short of excellence will be to betray the calling of leadership to which we all have answered.”

The debate

For the first time since 1999, debate on the federal budget estimates began a day after it was presented. The House of Representatives passed the estimates in a record two days and mandated all standing committees to commence interface with ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), giving a November 28 deadline as the probable date to collate all reports preparatory to its final passage. The House consequently embarked on a working recess by suspending plenary till October 29. It is expected that the budget defence with MDAs must have been completed within the period of the suspension of plenary. The senate is likely to pass it next week, having debated it for two days and scheduled further deliberations for Tuesday.

Presenting a synopsis of the budget for debate on the first day, House Leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano), said the time table set out by the House for the consideration of the budget was sacrosanct and as such, no ministry, department or agency would be entertained at the end of October. He said the House was committed to passing the budget before the end of the year as promised by the leadership of the National Assembly.

Contributing to the debate, Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), said the philosophical cornerstone of the budget was investing in critical infrastructure. He said: “Our population is growing at geometric proportion and our ability to put food on the table is growing at arithmetic proportion.” Monguno said he was “happy that N83 billion has been earmarked for agriculture, although we are far away from the Maputo declaration.”

He said: “Another aspect of concern is the N38 billion to the North East Development Commission. We are aware of the devastation of the insurgency in the Northeast; the N38 billion will go a long way and the N10 billion on defence centre will also go a long way in equipping the military”. Continuing, Monguno said “I am also happy with the exception of VAT given to small businesses under N25 million capital and everyday foodstuff.”

Also, speaking on the budget, Hon. Mohammed Jega (APC, Kebbi) observed that VAT increment as announced by the president would be beneficial to states and local governments.  It is important that the VAT regime excludes small scale enterprises with less than N25 million capital and also foods consumed by the people.”

Supporting the bill, Chairman of the House committee on federal judiciary, Hon. Luke Anefiok (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), commended the president for bringing the budget in time. He said: “We were promised infrastructure, we were promised sustained growth in 2020, now I am glad the president tagged this budget of sustainable growth and job creation.

“Of importance is the increase in recurrent expenditure, which the president explained is to take care of minimum wage, and funding of salary of security personnel, because over the years the morale of civil servants has been low. It is important that they are paid.”

Also, giving support to the bill, Hon. Francis Ejiroghene Waive (APC, Delta) said the 2020 budget projection was an indication that President Buhari was sensitive to the plight of Nigerians. He commended the executive for the huge funds allocated to works and power sector. “Nigerians are impressed with the N100 billion earmarked for defence, especially with the kidnapping and general insecurity we are facing; this is the right step in the right direction.”

Continuing, Waive said: “The oil benchmark is feasible with our recent history. I will like to point our attention to the steady GDP growth in the past year. It is important that VAT regime excludes small scale enterprises with less than a N25 million capital and also foods consumed by the people.”

Earlier, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had rebuffed a call by Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), to suspend debate on the budget pending the provision of its details by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.

Chinda had through a point of order argued that the “budget was unripe” for debate because the breakdown was not available to lawmakers, but Gbajabiamila ruled him out of order explaining that “what the president laid yesterday is actually in line with our constitution”

Second debate

On the second day, Thursday, October 10, the House sat for the second reading the 2020 Appropriation Bill, as promised by the National Assembly leadership. Continuing with debate on the bill, chairman of the committee on media and public affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) commended the president for projections adding that “but that will not be right without speaking on the timing of the budget”.

He said the 2020 budget projections look good for the private sector explaining that “It helps the private sector to plan, as they know the direction the policy is going, I commend them, but we cannot discuss 2020 without discussing 2019.”

Acording to him, the new tax regime proposed by the budget was in the right direction. He said: “One of the man things is the digitisation of tax collection. Over the years, it has been difficult to meet our tax target; the current budget is proposing a new tax burden.

“What this does to an emerging economy is that activities are reduced which causes unemployment and low productivity, which is like a cycle that will continue unless there is a paradigm shift.”

“The business environment… will it allow things to take place? It is important to copy from Rwanda. It is the first country that has started the manufacturing of smartphones from scratch. I commend the government for the shift to the non-oil sector.”

In his contribution, Hon. Dan Asuquo (PDP, Akwa Ibom) expressed dismay that details of the budget were not available to enable members make an informed debate on the Appropriation Bill.

He said: “I am commenting on the speech and the intention of the Executive for 2020. I don’t have the details yet. I cannot speak about the budget I don’t have the details. For us, I will advise the leadership of the House, Senate and the executive that Nigerians…I will address my people when the details of the budget come.”

Also toeing the way of the House spokesman, deputy minority leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), expressed delight with the timely presentation of the budget proposal saying “that this is one of the times that budget is brought in early.”

He, however, queried the huge amount of money earmarked for debt servicing arguing that no nation can survive with such an economic policy. “The capital expenditure has been reduced from 2019, the debt servicing of 2.8trillion. There is no country that can make progress with this. The health budget is N48 billion. How can we make progress? This time, we are putting the cart before the horse,” he said.

Okechukwu also picked holes in the tax policy insisting that with such a proposal, the budget cannot work. “Nigerians are burdened with so much tax; I believe the budget will not work. I believe the money bill should have been brought before this. I was House committee chairman for works; I stated that the commitment of the Ministry is N4 trillion of contracts awarded. Any belief that the country will move forward with this budget is a mirage.”

Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnaji Nnoli, (PDP, Enugu) said his main concern was the aviation sector. According to him, “Our airports are our gateway, I believe our airport should be given attention, I do not believe that our aviation is getting enough. I believe that if we can consolidate the 25 percent of FAAN IGR to the Federal Government that will help the airports.

“We can have a 10 years plan for the funds to be used by FAAN. We can develop our airport,” he stated.

On his part, Hon. Ken Chikere (PDP, Rivers) emphasized the need for us to know the population of the country to enable it to generate the necessary data and statistics for proper budgeting systems arguing that what is need is to ensure proper implementation of the 2020 budget when it is eventually passed.  “I plead with the House to see there is proper implementation of the budget. It is our duty now to look at those estimates and come up with a budget. We should be mindful of the implementation of the budget. Lack of implementation is illegal. This country as presently constituted cannot make any progress unless the senate and the house come together.

“We cannot make progress if we don’t know how many we are. We must not be shy in discussing how many we are. We are unproductive 200 million. I am not one of those who are carried away by 200 million population. I think this budget should be inclusive. Take the case of Rivers State for instance; there is no single federal government project there. We have a state that is not included in the projects. Our budget should also look at the issue of unemployment, insecurity and general infrastructure,” Chikere stated.

The budget was subsequently passed at the session presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase.

This is the first time that a budget would be passed in so short a time. In the last 10 years, no president had even presented his budget proposal to the National Assembly earlier than December. For example, the 2019 budget, which was presented on December 2018, was eventually passed in May 2019 and it will elapsed in May 2020, meaning both the 2019 and 2020 budget would run concurrently till end of May, 2020.

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Soyinka, others flay DSS for invading court, re-arresting Sowore

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Soyinka, others flay DSS for invading court, re-arresting Sowore

 

 

Noble Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, yesterday described the commando fashion, in which the Department of State Security (DSS) officials yesterday invaded a courtroom to re-arrest the convener of #Revolution- Now movement, Omoyele Sowore, as alarming and degrading of the nation’s judiciary even as Sowore’s counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), said it was “horrendous, bizarre, and barbaric contempt of court” never experienced under “even the most brutal of past dictators that have ever ruled Nigeria.” He added: “Under the military regime, the so-called enemies of the government would not be arrested in the web of the court which is considered a sanctuary.

 

“The military regimes would always show some respect for the court and would only arrest after the person left the court premises. What we have witnessed today is alien to Nigeria.”

 

At a meeting which Justice Ojukwu called to be held in her chambers along with the prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), the judge “expressed dismay” over the development as she recounted that “she was made to flee her court”. The invasion, which paralysed judicial activities in the court, was like a scene from a war movie as armed DSS operatives cocked their guns to re-arrest Sowore just after the judge had adjourned his trial till February 2020.

 

Sowore and his co-defendant, Adebayo Bakare, who are being prosecuted on charges of treasonable felony following their call for the #RevolutionNow protests across Nigeria, were earlier released from a four-month custody after the court issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the DSS for their release. The judge had adjourned till Friday for a report of compliance with his fresh order for the release of the two men.

 

At the close of yesterday’s proceedings, Sowore and Bakare were leaving the courtroom and the judge was already attending to another case when about 15 armed DSS operatives who, appeared to have laid ambush for them, made to arrest both men.

 

The move forced Sowore and Bakare to make a dash for the courtroom but Sowore was quickly held by an operative as a struggle ensued. Sowore, who managed to free himself, ran back into the court with the invading operatives cocking their guns as they went after him.

 

The development disrupted the ongoing proceedings at Justice Ojukwu’s court, forcing the judge to quickly flee the court and call off the day’s proceedings. Sowore, along with some of his supporters, was able to resist the arrest for a while as he continued to raise the alarm that the DSS’ moves were aimed at eliminating him.

 

After emerged from the meeting with the judge, Falana offered to drive his client to the DSS headquarters in Abuja, an arrangement to which the operatives agreed as they positioned their vehicles in front and behind Falana’s car as the convoy headed to the DSS headquarters. Falana later briefed journalists that said on reaching their office, DSS officers refused ti let him meet Sowore as he was asked to come back later.

 

In a related development, a group of protesters under the aegis of Guardian of Democracy Initiative, on Friday, stormed the premises of the Federal High Court, venue of the ongoing trial of #RevolutionNow convener Omoyele Sowore. The protesters, who booed at Sowore upon his arrival in court, demanded for the prosecution of the former presidential candidate as they displayed placards and chanted anti-revolution now songs.

 

They demanded that Sowore must be prosecuted for trying to destabilise the peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.

 

Addressing newsmen at the court premises, the leader of the group, Danesi Momoh, declared support for the move by DSS to arrest Sowore and members of his group. Momoh said that they were in court to support the Nigeria constitution, stressing that Sowore must not be allowed to trigger any form of insecurity in Nigeria and cautioning that the only constitutional means of removing a government or taking over power was through the ballot box and not through a revolution.

 

On his part, Olayemi Success of Coalition of Civil Society Organizations said that the protest was a peaceful one to demand the speedy prosecution of Sowore, saying there was every need to protect Nigeria from actions capable of destabilising it to ensure that peace and developments continue to thrive. Soyinka in a statement he personally signed and made available to Saturday Telegraph, reiterated the “nation’s concern, indeed alarm, about the escalating degradation of the judiciary through multiple means, of which disobedience of court orders is fast becoming the norm.”

 

He called on President Mohammadu Buhari to “rein in your wild dogs of disobedience.”

 

The statement titled “LESSONS FROM THE AFRICAN WILD DOG (Lycaeon Pictus)” reads in part: “Only yesterday, in my commentary on the ongoing Sowore saga, I pointed out the near perfect similarity between plain crude thuggery and the current rage of court disobedience. Little did I suspect that the state children of disobedience would aspire to the level of the African wild dogs on a pack hunt. “I apologise for underestimating the DSS capacity for the unthinkable.

 

I reiterate the nation’s concern, indeed alarm, about the escalating degradation of the judiciary through multiple means, of which disobedience of court orders is fast becoming the norm. “May I remind this government that disobedience calls to disobedience, and that disobedience of the orders of the constitutional repository of the moral authority of arbitration – the judiciary – can only lead eventually to a people’s disregard of the authority of other arms of civil society, a state of desperation that is known, recognised and accepted as – civil disobedience.

 

“It is so obvious – state disobedience leads eventually to civil disobedience, piecemeal or through a collective withdrawal of recognition of other structures of authority. That way leads to chaos but – who set it in motion? As is often the case, the state, unquestionably. Such a state bears full responsibility for the ensuing social condition known as anomie.” According to Soyinka, “It has become imperative and urgent to send this message to President-General Buhari: Rein in your wild dogs of disobedience.

 

And for a start, get a trainer to teach them some basic court manners!” Okei-Odumakin: Nigeria beyond redemption The President of Centre for Change, Dr. Joe Okei- Odumakin, has condemned the decision of the Department of State Services (DSS) to re-arrest the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, less than 24 hours after he was granted bail. Okei-Odumakin in a statement issued yesterday, shortly after DSS invaded the Federal High court where So- wore was being tried and rearrested him, said any society that tolerates thuggish disposition of its security forces is lost beyond redemption.

 

The statement reads in part: “Our attention has been drawn to the brazen and barbaric invasion of the Federal High court where Sowore was being tried. “The gangsteric conduct of the men said to be DSS operatives, who led to the chasing away of the presiding judge, harassment of lawyers, journalists and manhandling of Sowore was a crude assault on the hallowed seat of justice and further desecration of our judiciary. “Any society that tolerates this thuggish disposition of its security forces is lost beyond redemption.

 

The only way the government can attempt to prove it does not sanction this bestial conduct is to fish out those responsible for this barbaric conduct and ensure the rule of law is followed in the case of Sowore.”

 

Affront to rule of law, judicial independence – CACOL The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) has taken a swipe at the Directorate of State Security (DSS), for rearresting Omoyele Sowore and Adebayo Bakare, aka, Mandate, inside the court premises on Friday. Both men have been standing trial for treasonable felony with the hashtag #RevolutionNow. In a statement issued yesterday by its Executive Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, CACOL called on security apparatus of the state to be more circumspect and mindful of democratic requirements under a civil government.

 

“From the video clip of the unfortunate incident at the court earlier today (Friday), it was clear that had it not been for the timely and courteous intervention of some journalists and legal practitioners, including his lawyer, Barr. Femi Falana (SAN), who later cautioned on the implications of the DSS’ insistence to desecrate the known tenets and ethos of democratic practice, by forcefully getting hold and whisking the duo away from the court premises, one could not imagine the dimension of wanton violence and probable loss of lives that could have taken place even in the full glare of national and international media.

 

“Apparently, this is not the kind of compliments any responsible and worthy security agency should attract for itself and the country’s leadership even under a dictatorship. “As a responsible civil society organisation, we reiterate our calls for the security apparatus of the state to be more circumspect and mindful of democratic requirements under a civil government so as not to scare foreigners away, thereby jeopardise our investment portfolio or precipitate breakdown of law and order in a way that the sovereignty and survival of the nation itself becomes threatened.”

 

While calling for the unconditional release of the men, CACOL further stated: “Even if the DSS has any cause to file fresh or additional charges against the accused, either before same judge or other court of competent jurisdiction, this would have been done in cognizance of known procedures that would not precipitate contravention of law and order. “We therefore, call for immediate and unconditional release of same accused since nothing has shown them to be any cogent threat to the continued survival and peaceful coexistence of the Nigerian nation, while issues of perennial conflicts are objectively looked into for the nation to take its rightful place amongst comity of nations.”

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Our members attacked Amaechi in Spain –IPOB

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Our members attacked Amaechi in Spain –IPOB

IPOB acclaims attack

 

 

The Indigeneous People of Biafra (IPOB), has claimed that the members were responsible for the attack in Madrid, Spain on the Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi. A a report by Thecable, online news portal, the spokeperson for the group, Emma Powerful, confirmed that the attack, which the minister said was by hoodlums, was actually carried out by their members in Spain.

 

Amaechi had yesterday made the attack on his person known himself on his Twitter handle when he confirmed the attack, which was akin to that of the former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in Germany.

 

Amaechi tweeted: “Some minutes ago, I was attacked by a few misguided Nigerians while on national assignment at a climate change event in Madrid, Spain. They were quickly repelled by the Spanish police before they could do any harm. I am fine. I was not hurt.

 

Thanks for your support and prayers.” At the time, Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB leader, described the attack as targeting “those engaged in selling (Igbo) collective interest to Fulani caliphate”.

 

 

Kanu left the country after security agencies stormed his father’s house in Abia state during a military exercise. He had been granted bail in the course of his trial before an Abuja court, but the judge revoked the bail after he failed to show up in court. According to Thecable, an online news portal, the spokesperson for the Indigeneous People of Biafra (IPOB), Emma Powerful, confirmed that the attack, which the minister said was by hoodlums, was actually carried out by their members in Spain.

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Makinde jokingly jabs Ajimobi in LAUTECH address in video

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Makinde jokingly jabs Ajimobi in LAUTECH address in video

The hardworking Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, explored his soft side days ago during an interaction with students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) during a recent visit. The governor, who continues to resonate with the people through his visionary style of governance and purposeful leadership, was laying out his action plan to the students which he said would be the panacea for the lingering crisis of the university.

 

As he spoke, a few students here and there interrupted him, like they did to immediate past governor of the state, Abiola Ajimobi in a viral video a few years ago. But unlike Ajimobi, who delivered his now famous “Constituted Authority” “Are you a student too?” “What course are you doing?” and “Bring that boy for me” among others, Makinde simply, jokingly said: “All these things you people are doing, can you do them in front of Constituted Authority?” It led to an eruption of laughter as the students, lecturers and other stakeholders of the university cheered him.

 

In tweets accompanying the event, Governor Makinde wrote: “We visited the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso (LAUTECH), this morning to meet with all stakeholders, in order to resolve the current crisis which resulted in strike action by staff on November 18, 2019.”

 

In another, he said: “I assured them Oyo State would intervene in the current crisis so studies can resume, if the various staff unions reach an agreement on how to utilise the intervention fund. However, I told them we need their support to implement a lasting solution to the university’s challenges.”

 

Finally, he noted: “We believe our proposal for sole ownership for LAUTECH is the solution the university needs. I reiterated that this was not a rejection of Osun State people as our brothers and sisters but a pragmatic solution, as Oyo State is financially prepared to shoulder the responsibility.”

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Experts: Early passage of 2020 budget’ll boost economy

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Experts: Early passage of 2020 budget’ll boost economy

Following Federal Government’s return to January –December budget calendar with the 2020 version, economic and financial analysts have declared that the early passage will add value to the economy and also lead to some measure of buoyancy. In their separate submissions to our correspondent’s inquiry, they agreed that the early passage would also allow proper implementation of project distributions.

 

After years of futile attempts to return the country’s budget circle to a predictable and structured January to December budget calendar, the jinx was broken Thursday with the passage of 2020 N10.59 trillion budget by the upper chamber of the National Assembly, the Senate. President Muhammadu Buhari had on October 8, laid the N10.33 trillion 2020 ‘’Budget of Sustaining Growth and Job Creation” before a joint session of the parliament.

The budget was laid at record time before members of the 9th National Assembly, who pledged to work with the executive arm to pass the budget by December. Reflecting on the enormous advantage of January to December calendar, Task Team Leading Consultant for World Bank, Prof. Ken Ife, said the economy would reap positively from the January to December budget circle.

 

He said: “it is a very remarkable achievement for both parties- executive and the legislature. It’s also very important for private sector to syncronise with government spending pattern. It’s also to the advantage of development assistance. Almost two per cent of our GDP comes as development assistance. Most of them function in the same horizon. “In terms of capital releases, it makes sense to release money on time for projects. They have to be released and spent within a particular calendar year. From our previous experiences, projects were delayed because the whole arrangements didn’t sync.”

 

He added that Nigeria’s budget now rooted in January- December calendar, going forward, would impact positively on the economy, noting that it would give private sector players sense of predictability. On his part, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, advised the Federal Government to expand its revenue sources in order to raise adequate revenue to finance the budget

 

He said government should free itself from funding numerous programmes, saying that would reduce the need for borrowing and the demand for funds to pay back and service debts. “Generally, our revenue projections have severally missed the mark over the years.

 

The projections and forecasts suffer from lack of realism. In 2016, revenue projections fell short by 23 per cent; in 2017, it fell short by 47.73 per cent and in 2018 by 45 per cent. This indicates that overall, a good part of our revenue projections has not been based on empirical evidence. “Further, if projected revenue in 2018 was N7.1 trillion and we missed the mark by 45 per cent and have also missed the mark by 30 per cent in the half year of 2019, the further increase in projected revenue to N8.15tn in 2020 seems to be hanging in the air,” he said. The 2020 Appropriation Bill, officially laid was passed into law after a clause by clause consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

 

The Senate specifically approved N10.59 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year. The breakdown shows that N560,470,827,235 for statutory transfers, N2,725,498,930,000 for Debt Service; N4,842,974,600,640 for Recurrent (Non- Debt) Expenditure; and N2,465,418,006,955 for Contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on December 31, 2020. The budget has a fiscal deficit of N2.2 trillion and Deficit/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 1.52 per cent. Also reacting, a former Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who started the pursuit of January to December budget calendar, lauded the new era of budget calendar.

 

Udoma started the campaign for the return to the January to December budget cycle. He consistently blamed the inability to achieve more strategic fiscal cycle on the frosty relationship between the two arms of government; but he was hopeful that the present administration would still achieve it once the leadership of the National Assembly is convinced and aligned with the Executive.

 

In a statement by his Special Adviser, Akpandem James, he regretted that the administration was unable to achieve it in the first four years because of the friction between the two arms of government. He had predicted that “in Mr. President’s second term we might have a situation where the Executive and the leadership of the National Assembly are much more aligned. This will help not only to achieve a return to the January to December fiscal year, but to have a much smoother budget process.”

 

In order to achieve a return to the January 1 commencement date, Senator Udoma indicated that the budget must ideally be delivered to the National Assembly by September. “But when you are operating a budget which commenced only in June or July, by September you would have had no idea how the existing budget is likely to perform. “Indeed, given the procurement process, for a budget which starts running in June or July, there might have been little or no capital releases by September.

 

The only way to return to a January to December fiscal year, under those circumstances, is for there to be agreement between the Executive and the National Assembly to produce a budget on the basis of significant assumptions.” The former minister was delighted that the alignment between the 9th Assembly (in its first budget outing) with the Executive was poised to return the country to the January to December calendar

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Orifite killings: Youths flee homes as JTF storms community

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Orifite killings: Youths flee homes as JTF storms community

Orifite community in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State has become a ghost town following the fleeing of youths and some villagers in the area since the deployment of the Joint Task Force (JTF) made up of the police and soldiers. It would be recalled that two masquerade cult groups had been at war over who heads the traditional leadership of the community’s masquerade organisation which led to the clash by both rival groups of Otu Eke and Out- Afor respectively. The clash led to the invitation of the rival groups by the Anambra State police command. But one of the groups, Otu-Eke, led by the lawyer of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOP) Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor refused to honour the invitation. It was the refusal of the Out-Eke masquerade cult to honour the invitation that led to the police embarking on the arrest of the group who are also members of IPOB.

 

It was this that led to the killing and burning of the Area Commander Ichi town and the officerin- charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Orifite, Abbey Oliver and Joseph Akubo by suspected youths of the masquerade cult.

 

When this reporter visited the town youths in the area have taken flight for fear of being arrested by the Joint Security Task Force. Some villagers who are scared of being arrested fled also. Everistus Nwosu, a trader told Saturday Telegraph that: “The Police and army people are so many and the way they are operating in our community shows that innocent people would be at the receiving end in the aftermath of these killings.

 

“So you cannot expect youths in our town to be walking about the town freely without the police trying something funny and it may lead to another clash between the boys and the security task force.”

 

 

Mrs. Ngozika Izuchukwu a teacher told Saturday Telegraph that there have been reports of harassment by some policemen of the villagers. She said: “I don’t know how true it is but people have been complaining of harassment by security men who claim that they are searching for the boys that killed the OC SARS and the Area Commander. So everybody is afraid of the security men and our town is under tension.” Currently, over 80 policemen and soldiers are already in charge of security formations and major flash points of crime in the community.

 

According to the President General of Orifite Improvement Union (OIU) Sir Sunny Igboanuzue, “You know that we have banned all masquerade groups in our town because of this incident and the presence of security men here is to maintain law and order and we have not experienced any problem between the community and the security men. “People should remain calm and go about their lawful duties because we are also here to settle whatever fallout that may arise.” According to the public relations officer of the command in Anambra State Mr Mohammed Haruna who spoke to Saturday Telegraph there are no proofs of any act of harassment by policemen.

 

He further stated that such allegations should be put in writing by the affected villagers and forwarded to the office of the Commissioner of police for necessary action. Haruna also stated that the prime suspect in connection with the killing of the OC SARS and the Area Command for Ekwusigo is still at large and that the command is continuing the hunt for him and his cohorts. But Haruna contended that the officers and men deployed in the community were given express order to maintain law and order in the area and that anyone saying something contrary is only trying to deceive the public.

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EFCC raids illegal microfinance bank in Sokoto

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EFCC raids illegal microfinance bank in Sokoto

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Sokoto Zonal Office, has apprehended a 27-year-old girl, operating an illegal bank, Olive Microfinance Bank, in Sokoto, the state capital city. The EFCC zonal Head, Abdullahi Lawal, stated this while briefing newsmen in Sokoto yesterday.

 

He said that the suspect had collected N897, 500.00 from 108 victims. He said the operatives of the commission raided the office and premises of the bank located at No.26 Dubabe Plaza, opposite Asibi, Eastern Bye Pass Road, Tamaje area, Sokoto, following a tip off by a well – meaning Nigerian on December 4.

 

The EFCC Zonal head further explained that one, Amina Kabo popularly known as Fauziyya Kabo, an indigene of Bali, Taraba State, who was the manager of the bank was arrested alongside three others whom she recruited as stated. According to him, the three employees are Mariam Usman, Abdullahman Lawali and Shehu Ibrahim.

 

Lawal said several incriminating items including a cash amounting to N533, 805.00 and additional N49, 505.00 were recovered. He explained that the suspects were alleged to have been collecting money ranging between N5000 and N10000 from their unspecting victims under the guise of opening accounts for them, with a view to granting them loans.

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Buhari wants process for land ownership in states simplified

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Buhari wants process for land ownership in states simplified

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to state governments to simplify the process of land ownership. The President said this will enable more Nigerians access bank facilities for affordable homes. Buhari made this call on Friday while receiving the Governing Council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) led by the chairman, Dr. Uche Olowu, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

 

The President expressed concern over some of the challenges being faced by Nigerians, such as land and other collateral related issues, hindering the banking industry’s ability to lend to the real sector.

 

“As a government, we are also facing such challenges as part of our various affordable housing programmes. But I am urging state governments to assist by simplifying and rationalising land matters,” he said.

 

Commending the banking industry for increasing their lending in key job-creating areas such as agriculture in the last four years, the President welcomed their collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria in this regard, noting that the partnership had been a “key anchor” to the food security programme of his administration. “We can only feed ourselves by deploying capital in the right areas. I implore the banking community to keep this trend up,” he said.

 

Affirming that the banking sector is critical to the economic development of any society, President Buhari said he is proud that Nigeria has the most vibrant, creative and innovative banking sector in Africa. “Nigerian bankers have not only proved themselves in Nigeria alone but across the entire continent and in other parts of the world.

 

“I am proud when I visit African countries and see posters or branches of Nige- rian banks. I will ask all your members to continue to be great ambassadors of Nigeria as you expand within Africa and beyond, “the President said. In his remarks, Olowu expressed gratitude to President Buhari for the plethora of interventions to drive inclusive growth in the country, through initiatives such as Anchor Borrowers Programme, the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, and diligent progress in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, among others.

 

The chairman declared the institute’s support for the current policy by the Federal Government to close Nigeria’s land borders. He said the policy would protect and promote Madein- Nigeria products as well as prevent the country from being used as a dumpsite for substandard products and other illicit cross border activities. The institute’s chairman also raised topical issues affecting the Nigerian economy especially the banking sector.

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Sanwo-Olu kicks off Badagry Heritage Festival

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Sanwo-Olu kicks off Badagry Heritage Festival

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday kicked off the Badagry Heritage Festival with a Symposium themed ‘Harnessing Badagry’s Tourism Potential for a greater Lagos’.

 

The three-day festival involving 10 local government and council areas in Badagry axis, will also involve a water regatta to be held today along with family picnic tomorrow in the ancient town.

 

Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Tourism, Art &Culture, Mr. Bonu Solomon Saanu, said the festival was aimed at promoting tourism potential in Badagry division for a greater Lagos.

 

“Before, Badagry used to be one local government, which is from Seme and Ajegunle and is one but the vision to foster unity, especially because of the tourism potential, we were brought together.

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Ebonyi bans Christmas fireworks student’s hand was chopped off

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Ebonyi bans Christmas fireworks student’s hand was chopped off

Ebonyi State government yesterday banned the use of fireworks popularly known as ‘Knockout’ in the state. The ban follows the chopping of an SS2 student’s left hand at Glory Land Secondary School, Azugwu, in Ebonyi Local Government Area of the state.

 

Addressing journalists in Abakaliki, the Special Assistant to Governor Dave Umahi on Media, Francis Nweze, warned that anyone caught in possession of fireworks would be arrested. “When his Excellency received the message about alleged bomb explosion in one of the secondary schools in the state, he was shocked.

 

And he gave immediate directive for further investigation into the matter. “It was later found out that it was a mere knockout. As a result of this, His Excellency ban the use of knockout in the state, especially in this festive period.

 

He gave the directive this afternoon and that is the position of the governor.

 

“When the governor gives a directive, it is expected that the general public should obey it, if they don’t, any person caught will face the full wrath of the law and the government disciplinary committee” he stated.’’ Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Chief Stanley Okoro Emegha, had threatened to shut all shops selling knockout in the state.

 

He dismissed the rumours making the rounds that there was bomb explosion in Holy Land Secondary School. “The way the incident was blown is unfortunate. There was nothing and absolutely nothing like bomb explosion incident in that Glory Land school, Azugwu.

 

“There was nothing like explosive device in that place. You know that this is a Christmas period, that thing was Christmas fireworks.

 

“A student smuggled one into the class room while others were taking their exams and he was playing with it.

 

And in the process, one exploded and got him wounded. Some of the students were not expecting such and the shock got them down.

 

“I was called immediately and on getting there, I meet with the affected student. I was there when he was rushed to hospital. The two other who were affected later regained consciousness and continued with their exams.

 

 

“I was the one that told the parents to go back to their home because it was a knockout. As I was leaving to the place, I called the state police command and DSS to start moving to that place, thinking that it was an explosion. And we discovered that it was a knockout.”

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Work has improved in 2nd Niger Bridge –Umahi

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Work has improved in 2nd Niger Bridge –Umahi

Chairman South East Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, yesterday said the pace of work has improved in the ongoing construction of the second Niger Bridge.

 

He said the issues between the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and the host communities had been sorted out and commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the project. Umahi debunked a media report that South East leaders were sabotaging Buhari in regard to the work.

 

Umahi said all the leaders in South East zone were happy over the construction work and described the said media report, which quoted him as saying that South East leaders were sabotaging the construction work as misleading and untrue.

 

In a statement signed by his Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Barrister Uchenna Orji, he said, “the governor did not at any time mention that leaders of the zone are sabotaging ongoing construction of the second Niger Bridge as reported. “The issues between the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and the host communities, and the progress of work at the second Niger Bridge have been sorted out generously.

 

The pace of work has improved and for us it is a major achievement in the socio-economic profile of the South East, for which we shall continue to be grateful to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.”

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