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N70billion NASS funds: Falana, others taking nonsense, Senate fumes *We need our comfort

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The Senate has said that there was no padding of the supplementary budget, saying it was not prepared to join issues with those it described as some misguided and mischief makers on the recently appropriated N70bn for the National Assembly which they have mischievously described as a “gift” from the Executive arm of government.

In a statement Sunday in Abuja by the Chairman,, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, the Senate also said that the passage of the Supplementary Appropriation Act was part of the constitutional duties of the Senate to accommodate funding for the Federal Government’s Palliative for the Nigerian public among other National demands.

The statement read: “After the passage of the Supplementary Budget to accommodate funding for Federal Government’ Palliative for the Nigerian public, among other urgent national demands, the socio-political space has been inundated with spurious, inaccurate and irreverent misinterpretations.

“Suffice to say that the passage is part of the absolute constitutional duty of the Senate. We would therefore, not wish to join issues with the mischief and misrepresentation that a portion of the just passed Amendment Act that appropriated 70b Naira was a ‘gift’ to the Legislators.

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“A visit to the Suites, offices and the general structures of the National Assembly complex would reveal a yawning and the need for exigent attention. Many Senators had to bring their chairs, tables and electronics and in many cases, do sundry repairs.

“The so much debated allocation will not be paid to any Legislator. This will be managed by the National Assembly Bureaucracy. It’s pertinent to also note that the National Assembly complex does not house only the Legislators. There are thousands of workers and service providers, whose working environment need a face-lift, and/with necessary tools.

“Since the Assembly Complex is not owned by Legislators who are merely political birds of passage, such allocation cannot be termed by anyone as a palliative to the Legislators. The alleged padding of the palliatve Budget by the National Assembly only exists in the minds of those who are all out to discredit the 10th Assembly. There is nothing like padding as being alleged in some misinformed media outfits.

“We wish to urge fellow compatriots to see the National Assembly as partners in the progress of Nigeria.The National Assembly is the soul of democracy and the 10th Senate shall join hands with other arms of government and our forward looking Nigerians to sing new songs of progress, development, safety and all round economic recovery and growth.

Adaramodu had said, immediately after the approvals that: “Yes, the other issue which the Senate treated is the issue of N500 billion palliatives which the President asked for in order to cushion the negative effects of the fuel subsidy removal on the common Nigerians. Definitely, that may not be enough because there are many other aspects which the government can delve into especially as we learnt that government has been having talks with the organised Labour, and I think the Federal Government is going to do something in that area.

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“But in the immediate, what is the stopgap for especially the dependent Nigerians so as to lift them up before other palliatives come. We feel the problems too, and that is why we believe that the average Nigerians must be assisted because we are running a human face government. When we are running face government, then everything that will be done must be targeted at Nigeria. That is why we expeditiously aceded to the request of Mr. President because appropriations belong to the National Assembly. So, no Kobo can be spent without appropriating it by the National Assembly. It took us time to pass it because we have all pointers that this palliative is going to yield result. It is going to touch those people that it supposed to touch. So, that is why it was passed.

“Then, on the issue of $800 million, which is like a social security scheme, which the Federal Government has sourced for because we know that the N500 billion cannot do the magic; so the $800 million will follow in and assisting Nigerians overcome the economic hardship in the country. So, that is why we approved these requests by Mr. President.

“You know we were not part of the previous palliatives, and for this 10th Senate, when we asked questions because all of are concerned; my town is concerned, my Senatorial District is concerned and my State is concerned, and every other person. So, we were not part of any previous palliatives and we are not concerned about what was given before. I am not aware of whatever palliatives that had been done before but what is on ground is that when we asked questions about data, data was supplied; and when we asked questions about modus operandi, modus operandi was supplied.

“Therefore, there is no reason and there is no point that we should doubt the veracity of those explanations, empirical one for that matter. Another thing is that, even when you talk about palliatives in the past, fuel subsidy had never been removed before. So, this one is that fuel subsidy had been removed and everybody knows that one. And this one is targeted to cushion the effect of an action of government, to shore up the economy of Nigeria. Therefore, this one cannot go the way of the others. We all know that there had never been a time the government came to the National Assembly to ask for palliatives. It used to be through a Ministry such Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. But this one is a direct Federal Government dealing with the citizens and we don’t have any reason to doubt the genuineness of the scheme.”

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Adaramodu also spoke on why the government sought to $800million loan, sayind: “We are all journalists, we know that this issue of $800 million came up towards the end of the last government. The opinion of many Nigerians was that, when it was just few days to go, where will you expend it? Can you bring up a very good agenda of how you are going to expend it? And if any such money is coming to the coffers of Nigeria, it has to be legislated and it must be targeted at something. And you know that it is a World Bank facility. It has been on before the advent of this government.

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“So, it is not borrowing, it is for the national social safety net. So, it is very different from the palliatives targeted specifically at Nigerians and to be sourced among Nigerians. It is not borrowing; it is not a loan, we are not approving a loan for the Federal Government. It is a World Bank assisted facility that has been there before the 10th Senate.

“But any money that is coming from outside or that is being taken out of Nigeria coffers must be legislated upon, so that is what we did today. I have always being recommending something. When ever appropriation is done, let us avail ourselves of the opportunity of reading through. So that oversighting does not reside only with Assembly people even we as journalists can oversight. So if we oversight very well we know that, not a new thing as a budget.

“When you look at all items here they were part of 2022 budgetary provision. The only one that is new is that N500b which had to be sourced for within the budget that had been in existence. So any other budget tittle or heading that is there. Because of the N500b we now first line charge towards the next budget of 2024 which have to start from September. That is the implication. I always say one thing. Even if it is 10k in the budget they write National Assemby that is what Nigerians will first talk about.

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“The would have forgotten that National Assembly is not only about senators or house representatives members only. We cannot give ourselves salary, it is not possible, it is illegal. That person will go to jail,there is an organ RAMFAC that do that. Either salary or allowance National Assembly cannot give themselves kobold. They can’t add or even subtract. RAMFAC will never do it for only National Assembly. When they are doing it they will do it for everybody and they have no reason to do it and it has never been done. Nothing like that has ever happened. Even when I read sometimes ago, 831% increase, whatever. I said where’d did that one come from.

“When they gave me my salary for May, I found out it did not change, it was the same thing with 2019 salary of June 2019. That 4 years, my salary never changed. But it is good that we are very alive to it, we have even forgotten that NASS includes all those people that work here, messengers and all sorts. You don’t know if I senator Daramodu is not here many Nigerians too will not be here. They will be unemployed too. Those people who sweep the office, they are there because I am there. There will not just include them to start sweeping outside there, the drivers, the sweepers, and several others and consider even the energy, power and so on.

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“When you look at it, it will be paid by the budget allocated to the National Assembly. So when you see National Assembly it is not definitely members. If we avail ourselves of having looked at 2022 budget very well you will find out that nothing there is new. The only thing that is new there is that N500b. Why all other things must be brought forward is that we must show it in appropriation to make it a law that yes, these have been like this, these have been like this, we remove N5 from here N2 from there and N3, we joined them to make N10, that is that N10 that we are spending but everything must still come together. So it is not anything to anybody. Our salary, has not increased, allowances have not increased. If it is going to I will clap for myself.”

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Obi: Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, not now, may take 20-30 years

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Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), in the February 25, 2023 election on Monday, raised issues with the controversial Lagos-Calabar coastal highway awarded by the Federal Government to Hitech Construction, at the whopping amount of N13trillion, saying such a gigantic road project was not needed now at a time most of the Federal roads across the country are death-traps.

Obi, former Governor Peter Obi, who broke his silence for the first time over the project, since the news was first broken that the Federal Government had since awarded the contract, while acknowledging its potential benefits, expressed serious concerns about its pricing and raised questions regarding the timing and prioritization in the current Nigerian situation.

The LP boss, who highlighted the pressing issue of numerous uncompleted roads across the country, emphasising their role in economic growth and regional connectivity, maintained that the government should invest such huge resources to deal with the various roads across the country which were in various stages of disrepair, rather than plunging it into one road.

He listed critical roads in various zones, many of which have been under construction for several years due to poor funding and planning to include:

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  1. NORTH-WEST Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road, – Sokoto – Funtua – Zaria Road, Kano – Hadejia Road, Kano – Katsina Road , Zaria – Funtua – Shema – Tsafe – Gusau – Talata – Mafara – Sokoto Road , Kano – Kwanar – Danja – Hadejia Road
  2. NORTH-EAST Kano – Damaturu – Maiduguri Road – Mubi – Maiduguri Road, Nguru – Gashua – Bayamari Road, Gombe – Biu – Numan Road, Dikwa – Marte – Monguno Road, Potiskum – Fika – Bajoga – Gombe – Biu Road, Mayo Belwa – Jada – Ganye – Tongue Road, Tumu – Pindiga – Kashere – Bashar – Wase – Wamba – Nassarawa Road.
  3. NORTH-CENTRAL Abuja – Lokoja – Okene – Auchi – Benin Road, Ilorin – Jebba Road, Kabba – Omuaran Road, Suleja – Minna Road, Makurdi – Gboko – Yandev – Katsina-Ala Road, Buruku Bridge across Katsina River.
  4. SOUTH-WEST Lagos – Badagry Road, Ibadan – Ife – Ilesha – Osogbo Road, Itoikin – Ijebu Ode – Ibadan Road, Ibadan – Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Bokani Junction Road, Abeokuta – Ibadan Road, Ikorodu – Shagamu Road, Ado – Igede – Aramoko – Itawure Road, Ajasse Ipo – Offa – Erinle – Osun State Border Road.
  5. SOUTH-EAST: 9th Mile – Oturkpo -Makurdi Road, Enugu – Port Harcourt Road, Onitsha – Awka — Enugu Road, Onitsha – Owerri – Umuahia Road, Bende – Arochukwu – Ohafia Road, Okigwe – Afikpo Road, Nsukka – Obollo Afor – Ehamafu – Nkalagu Road, Oba – Nnewi – Okija Road.
  6. SOUTH-SOUTH: Benin – Sapele – Warri Road, East – West Road, (Warri – Kaiama – Ahoada – Port Harcourt – Eket – Oron) Yenegoa Road, Junction – Kolo – Otuoke Road, Sapele – Agbor – Ewu Road, Benin – Akure – Ore – Ife Road, Ikot Ekpene – Aba – Owerri Road, Jattau – Fugar – Agenebode Road, Bodo – Bonny Road with Bridge across Opobo Channel, Port Harcourt – Onne Road, Agbor – Sakpoba – Ogharefe Road, Odukpani Junction – Itu – Ikot Ekpene – Umuahia Road.
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With the Federal Ministry of Works allocating a capital budget of N892 billion for 2024, in addition to funding from multilateral loan projects and other sources, Obi questioned the wisdom of embarking on another massive project that may not be completed for the next 20 or 30 years.

He warned against exacerbating the problem of abandoned, incomplete projects that do not contribute to economic growth, urging the prioritisation of existing uncompleted projects, while emphasising the need to allocate resources towards repairing and completing vital infrastructure.

The former governor, who stressed the importance of focusing on the urgent needs of the people and ensuring that investments serve the collective good of the nation, advocated for prioritising the completion and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure over embarking on colossal new projects with uncertain completion timelines, adding that fiscal discipline and strategic prioritisation in addressing the country’s infrastructure challenges, must be paramount to leaders of the country.

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Fubara, Rivers assembly return to trenches! Lawmakers override gov on LG laws

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The seemingly unabating schism between Siminalayi Fubara, Governor and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, assumed another stage on Monday, with the lawmakers deciding to pass the local government Amendment Bill into law without the assent of the state governor,

The Assembly, in apparent defiance of the state High Court’s order directing the status quo on the issue of elongating the tenure of elected local government officials, which formed part of the amendment, went ahead to screen as well as confirm the chairman and other members of the Assembly Service Commission in the spirit of the new law.

Martins Wachukwu, spokesman of Martin Amaewhule, Speaker of the assembly, conveying the development in a statement, said the lawmakers made the decision at its 159th Legislative sitting held at the Assembly Quarters in Port Harcourt, which has since served as their sitting venue since the demolition of the main House of Assembly quarters by Fubara, last year.

Stating that Fubara declined assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill initially passed into law on March 13, 2024, by the House, the statement, said the lawmakers were bent on performing their constitutional duties and therefore decided to override the governor’s decision on the matter by a two-thirds majority.

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The statement read: “Determined to perform its Constitutional duties, the Bill was represented by the Majority Leader, Hon. Major Jack and debated upon by Members. Thereafter, the House in accordance with the provisions of Section 100(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered, which empowers the House to override the Governor, where he withholds his assent; the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Martin Amaewhule put the question, and with a two-thirds majority vote, the House agreed to override the Governor and passed the Bill into Law.”

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In another development, the House screened and confirmed nominees for the position of Chairman and Members of the Assembly Service Commission, including: Sampson Worlu as Chairman, Abinye Blessing Pepple, Blessing Belema Derefaka, Gbaranen Robinson, and Dorcas Amos as Members.

The statement recalled that on March 22, 2024, the House passed the Rivers State Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Bill into Law, wherein the House donated back to itself the power to appoint the Chairman and Members of the Assembly Service Commission.

The statement added: “On a sad note, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Amaewhule, announced the demise of Mr Lucky Amadi, the husband of the honourable Member for Obio/Akpor Constituency II, Hon. Emilia Lucky Amadi, and stated that Members would pay a condolence visit to their colleague.”

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BREAKING: Five days after sacking Ganduje, Kano judge reverses self

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Justice Usman Mallam Na’Abba, of the Kano State High Court, on Monday, reversed himself five days after making an order barring Abdullahi Ganduje National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from parading himself or performing any official function in that capacity.

In vacating the order made ex-parte, following a plea by Haladu Gwanjo and Laminu Sani Barguma, who claimed to be the Chairman and Secretary of the APC Ganduje Ward in Dawakin Tofa Local Government area of the state, for the suspension of the former Governor of the state from his present job, Na’Abba said he relied on fresh arguments made on the matter.

The fresh applications were brought by Glory Adah, a litigation secretary at the law firm representing the APC boss in a motion ex-parte, accompanied by a 27-paragraph affidavit in support, and a written address dated April 22nd, countering the grounds of his previous orders.

Na’Abba, who adjourned the case to April 30 for the hearing, said: “An order of interim injunction is hereby granted staying the execution of the order of interim injunction contained in the ruling of this court delivered on 17h April 2024 directing parties to maintain status quo ante as at the 15th day of April 2024 in relation to the suspension of the 4th respondent/applicant from the 1st respondent by the Ganduje Ward Executive Committee pending the hearing and determination of the 4th respondent/applicant motion on notice.”

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