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Daily Archives: October 17, 2019

Senate kicks as NDDC allegedly ups water hyacinth clearing from N2.5bn to N65bn

The Senate says it is probing the award of Water Hyacinth Emergency and Desilting Contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2017 to 2019.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, made this known when the Director, Special Duties of the NDDC, Nosakhare Agbongiasede, appeared before the committee in Abuja on Thursday.

Urhoghide said investigation became imperative because the initial cost of the contract at N2.5bn was allegedly increased to N65bn.

“Of course, that is a very serious offence. What we are hearing or what we know is that N2.5bn was budgeted for this activity, that is, desilting and clearing of water hyacinths.

“We are hearing that the Commission has spent N65bn, so, we want to know if it is true.

“We had invited the acting Managing Director and Management of the NDDC to come and testify before this committee of the Senate on Public Accounts on an issue that has become of national importance.

“That is, the award of contracts that has to do with the clearing of water hyacinth in the Niger Delta region, and of course the desilting contracts that were awarded by the NDDC under its emergency programme.

“We want to be able to ascertain if due processes were followed in the award of these contracts, particularly with the information we have at our disposal that they exceeded budget limits.

“It is an allegation. It is still an assumption until they come to clear the air surrounding this.

“This is why the senate is particularly interested and has mandated this committee to carry out full investigation.

“So, we want the Acting MD to come. We are aware that the acting MD assumed duties a few weeks ago but government is a continuum.

“It is not a case of whether she is the one that was in office or not, and again we are very clear that this committee is not out to witch hunt anybody,” he said.

Ex EFCC boss urges govts to honour 5% whistle-blower commission

Prof. Abdullahi Shehu, former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has called on governments and anti-graft agencies to honour the five per cent whistle-blower commission to motivate people to give information.

Shehu made the call on Thursday in Abuja at the inauguration of the African Centre for Media and Information (AFRICMIL) Corruption Anonymous (CORA) second year report.

According to him, corruption is on the concurrent legislative list so it needs to be tackled with all hands on deck, thus the introduction of the whistle-blowing policy.

He said that it was unfortunate that whistle-blowers were not being motivated as promised.

“The whistle -blowing though is a policy, is as effective as a law. Just recently, I read that someone sued the Federal Government to court for refusing to pay the five per cent promised on account of blowing the whistle.

“I think this is where the main challenge is with respect to enforcing this policy, when you make a commitment that if you do this, I will do this, I think it should be honoured.

“Therefore, I will like to call on the governor and whosoever is involved that if the five per cent was promised as a motivation for people to report, then government agencies should honour it.

“This is in order to make the policy more effective and by having the masses contribute.’’

Shehu also expressed worry over the management of recovered funds, adding that over the years, millions had been recovered even though there was no concrete statistics on the actual recovery.

He said that it was important that the recovery process was transparent for Nigerians to know how much was recovered in order to strengthen their confidence to contribute to the anticorruption fight.

He commended the courage of AFRICMIL for putting the whistle blowing policy on the front burner of the ant-corruption fight and urged other stakeholders’ key into it.

Also speaking, Mr Oludare Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of Whistle Blowing, Federal Ministry of Finance, said whistle blowing policy order came through the Federal Executive Council and its three years now.

Oludare said that the concern still remained the absence of the legal framework for the protection of the whistle-blowers and this was hampering the anti-corruption fight.

He said that presently, the Ministry of Finance was working with other stakeholders under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Justice to work on the bill.

This, he said would give it a robust bill that would guide the policy implementation because there had not been law backing the whistle-blowing policy and it had been a challenge for the past three years.

Earlier, Mr Chido Onumah, Coordinator AFRICMIL said that as part of its good governance initiative, the centre inaugurated the Corruption Anonymous (CORA) project in early 2017, especially to track the achievement of the policy.

Onumah said that though the path had not been an easy one due to victimisation of whistle blowers but AFRICMIL had in the last two years helped in getting three whistleblowers back to work.

“Going forward, the CORA project plans to transform its website (www.corruptionanonymous.org) into a platform to investigate and report on tips by whistleblowers that fall through the cracks.

“The aim is to put as many tips as possible by whistleblowers out in the public to reassure potential whistleblowers of the importance of their role, and provide tools for anti-corruption agencies.’’

Mr Kole Shettima, African Director Mc Arthur Foundation, said the organisation supported AFRICMIL to carry out the CORA project because it wanted to support Nigeria by contributing toward uplifting the poor people. (NAN)

Man sues in-laws for giving him already pregnant daughter

A 35 -year-old man, Ibrahim Adamu, on Thursday dragged both his parents-in-law before the Magajin Gari Shari’a Court in Kaduna State, accusing them of foisting their already pregnant daughter on him in marriage.

The defendants are Sani Dogon-Zikiri, his father-in-law and Laura Sani, his mother-in-law, both accused of deceit and breach of trust.

The plaintiff, who resides at Rijjana village, told the court through his counsel, Mr. Hussaini Yakubu, that the defendants had deceitfully gotten their daughter married to him knowing she was already pregnant.

The plaintiff also accused his wife, Nafisa Sani of allegedly conniving with her parents to deceive him.

“The complainant and his wife had conducted a pregnancy test shortly after marriage which confirmed that she was two weeks pregnant before the wedding. He then asked his wife about the pregnancy and she confirmed that the pregnancy wasn’t his”, the counsel to the plaintiff’ told the court.

The counsel prayed the court to compel the defendants to pay his client the sum of N100,000 as compensation for deception.

The defendants, through their lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, denied the allegations. Suleiman argued that the plaintiff ought to have raised alarm the very moment he discovered his wife’s alleged pregnancy rather than wait until the baby was born

Mob stopped us from accessing Onitsha fire scene – FFS

The Federal Fire Service (FFS) has said that a mob stopped its men from getting to the scene of Wednesday’s fire incident at Ochanja Market, Onitsha, in Anambra.

Spokesperson of the agency, Ugo Huan, said this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.

“The Federal Fire Service received a call about the fire outbreak around 2.00 p. m.

“The control room at the headquarters in Abuja immediately turned out its nearest station at Asaba, Delta State, to attend to the fire.

“Our men immediately headed to the scene but it was not possible to contend with the heavy traffic at the Niger bridge head, coupled with the behaviour of an angry mob who pelted stones at them.

“Thus, it was not possible for the firefighters to get to the scene and fight the fire in such a hostile environment”, Huan said.

Reports say that no fewer than five persons, including a woman and her child, died in the inferno caused by the explosion of a petrol tanker.

Many buildings and shops were also torched in the disaster, according to reports.

The spokesman said the FFS Controller General, Mr Liman Ibrahim, was deeply saddened by the incident, and had expressed his heart-felt condolences to the victims and their families.

“The Federal Fire Service is committed to ensuring the safety of lives and property, with the procurement of new state-of-the-art firefighting trucks distributed to the 12 zones of the service across the nation.

“The service is always ready to respond to fire outbreaks and other emergencies across the nation.

“It is worthy to note that similar situations in recent past in  Sokoto, Uyo, Minna, Ibadan, Osun and Lagos were prevented from escalating to a major disaster by the Federal Fire Service.

“The case of Ochanja market was an unfortunate one, as one will wonder why individuals will want to attack firefighters that came to help put out fire that was threatening lives and ravaging property,” he said.

Huan added that “the service will like to use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians that in as much as the fire service is prepared and committed to saving of lives and property in emergencies, their support and cooperation is highly needed to do that.”

He further explained that the service remained committed to its mandate of saving lives and property of Nigerians and others residing in the country. (NAN)

 

Buhari orders forensic audit of NDDC

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2001 to 2019.

The decision followed persistent criticisms of the operations of the commission.

A statement by the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Femi Adesina, said Buhari gave the directive after receiving governors of the states that make up the NCDC, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.

The President said what was presently on ground in the South-South region did not justify the huge resources that had been made available to the agency.

He said, “I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.

“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent.”

Buhari admitted that developing the Niger Delta area required enormous resources compared to other parts of the country with firmer lands.

“I am acutely aware, with my experience, that projects in your area are very expensive; that is why if any job is given, we must make sure that the company is competent and has the capacity to do it well with experienced consultants”, he said.

Buhari however said that he would wait for the report of the audit before deciding on the next line of action regarding the organisation.

Earlier, Dickson expressed the disappointment of other governors with the operations of the NDDC which, they said, was characterised by poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of the required support for the efforts of the states and local government administration in the region covered by the organisation.

He, therefore, called for the repositioning of the NDDC in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.

FG mulls new tax on soft drinks

Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, says the Federal Government is considering introducing excise duty on carbonated drinks.

The minister made this known while addressing the media on the sidelines of the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group.

Excise duty is a levy placed on the manufacture of locally produced goods.

Information on the Nigeria Customs Service website shows that excise is currently placed on non-alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, beer, stout and alcoholic beverages.

According to Ahmed, the government is working on maximising existing revenue streams while trying to identify new revenue streams.

“Our objective is to be able to harness the existing revenue streams that we have by ensuring that enforcement is effective to expand the tax base and also to identify new revenue streams that we can add to expand the revenue base,” she said.

“So in expanding the revenue base, we have proposed the increase of VAT but there are also other revenue streams that we are looking at and some of them include the introduction of excise duties on carbonated drinks but there is a process to doing these things.

“Any tax that you are introducing will involve a lot of consultations and also amendments of some laws or introduction of new regulations.

“There are several cost-cutting measures also in the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative (SRGI) and also a number of cost-cutting initiatives such as innovation and automation as well as capacity building of our people.”

The minister described it as an anomaly that Nigeria’s previous budgets have been funded largely with oil revenue.

“The budget of countries is supposed to be based on taxes that the country is able to generate. It is an anomaly for us in Nigeria that our budgets have not been focusing on revenue,” she said.

“We can only develop in a manner that is sustainable when we are using tax revenues to fund our national and sub-national budgets. It is an anomaly that we are depending largely on oil and gas revenue, which is a resource that is finite. It is going to go out of existence before you know it. So we have to develop the domestic tax base. The main focus will be on expanding the tax base ensuring enforcement of the existing laws and then blocking leakages.

“What we are trying to do in 2020 is to harness the full potential of revenue mobilisation. The only increase in taxes in 2020 budget is just VAT. Everything else is just maximizing the potentials of existing tax streams that we have and we hope that we will be able to do this to be able to move our tax to GDP ratio from the current seven to eight per cent of GDP to 15 per cent.”

Ahmed also expressed hopes that the finance bill will be passed along with the 2020 budget so that the government’s capacity to finance the budget is enhanced.

 

 

Why Nigeria is borrowing fresh $3bn from World Bank —Ahmed

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has said the $3bn loan being sought by the Federal Government from the World Bank would be deployed for reforms in the power sector.

She said this during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings holding in Washington DC, United States.

Ahmed, who is leading the Federal Government’s delegation to the meeting said she would be holding further discussions with the management of the Bank to present how the fund would be disbursed for the project.

She said based on the plan of the Federal Government for the power sector, the loan would be used for the development of transmission and distribution networks to enhance the delivery of electricity.

Ahmed also said the loan would be used in addressing some of the challenges that the country is currently facing in the power sector.

She said, “There is a proposed $2.5bn to $3bn facility for the power sector development programme in Nigeria and this will include development of the transmission networks and the distribution networks as well as removing the challenges that we currently have now in the electricity sector.

“We are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery programme and back home we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design how this programme will be implemented.

“So we have an opportunity now to have a direct meeting with the leadership of the bank and to tell them the plan we have and how much we need from one to five years.”

The finance minister explained that the government would be pushing for the disbursement of the $3bn facility in two tranches of $1.5bn each.

When asked to comment on concerns being raised by the IMF about Nigeria’s debt which stands at N25.7tn the finance minister insists that Nigeria does not have a debt problem.

She said what the government needed to do is to increase its revenue-generating capacity in order to boost the revenue to about 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

She said with Nigeria’s current revenue to GDP ratio standing at just 19 per cent, it’s underperformance is significantly straining the government’s ability to service its debt obligation.

The minister said, “Nigeria does not have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue problem.

“Our revenue to GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It’s about 19 per cent of GDP and what the World Bank and IMF recommended is about 50 per cent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem.

“The underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt and to service government day-to-day recurrent expenditure and that is why all the work we are doing at the ministry of finance is concentrating on driving the increase in revenue.”

When asked why the Federal Government decided to increase the revenue projection in the 2020 budget to N8.9tn at a time when government revenue performance is less than 60 per cent, she said a lot of measures are being put in place to correct the anomaly.

I never indicted Ambode – Ex Commissioner

Olusegun Banjo, former commissioner for economic planning and budget, says he told the Lagos State House of Assembly that there was no provision for the purchase of 820 buses in the budget managed by his ministry at the time he assumed office.

Banjo was reacting to reports that he made statements before the assembly indicting Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of the state, under whom he served.

In separate statements issued on Tuesday by Banjo and Olawale Oluwo, former commissioner for energy and mineral resources, both men said the reports that they testified against Ambode was not true.

Banjo said he told the assembly that he was not informed about what transpired regarding the 820 buses because the matter preceded him.

“I informed the committee that I was appointed in February 2018 when the issue of bus purchase had already been on the ground. I also explained that the bus issues were not contained in the budget I managed but could have been in earlier budgets,” he said.

“Regarding the operations of the Ministry, I brought it to the attention of the house that the operating system need to be reviewed and also mentioned other weaknesses in a professional manner.

“It is pertinent to note that these observations had earlier been included in my handing over note to the new administration and as it affects all arms of Government and not the executive alone.

“I wish to state that I am not in a position to know what exactly transpired on the issue of the buses as I was not in Government when the issue was tabled and approved by the State Executive Council and neither was I drafted into the bus Steering committee on assumption of duty in February 2018.

“My response to questions asked by the committee under oath was intended to explain technical issues pertaining to the operations of the Ministry and explain the anomalies they noted and seek explanations to, and nothing said by me there was intended to or said in any manner as to condemn or indict anyone.”

Also, Oluwo said he did not make any statement to indict his former principal.

“Suarau was asked questions on the Lagos State Rice Mill project in Imota while I was asked questions on the LED UK street lights installations (a UK Exim Bank funded project),” he said.

“I answered the committee’s questions to the best of the information available to me and at no time was anyone of us asked questions on Oshodi Interchange or any other projects outside the two mentioned above;

“For the avoidance of doubt, I reiterate that I DID NOT AND COULD NEVER HAVE INDICTED FORMER GOVERNOR AKINWUNMI AMBODE!!! I am a committed democrat, a loyal team player and a strong believer in the principle of collective responsibility.”