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Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Days Of Dependence On Crude Oil Are Numbered, FG Warns [LEADERSHIP]

The federal government warned yesterday that the era of depending heavily on the nation’s crude oil would soon be over.

Accordingly, it stressed the need to take advantage of the resources now through a robust legislative intervention that will guarantee a fair deal for the country.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, sounded the warning at a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly to discuss the redrafted Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 (PIB) forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Both chambers of the National Assembly will formally unveil the Bill at plenary today on resumption from their over two-month annual recess.

The minister who lamented various attempts to have a petroleum industry law in the last 20 years without success, however, noted that PIB remained one of the most important piece of legislation that the country needed at the moment.

He said, “It is for good reason that the PIB happens to be at the core of the Nigerian economy and if you are in the process of making some changes in that core, you know those changes will impact on various other sectors of the economy.

“Today, there is a forecast in the oil industry sector that oil is going to be playing less and less a role in the global energy usage. Some begin to think that by 10 years the world’s dependence on oil would have reduced to 50 per cent.

“At OPEC, the projection is in 2040 that in 20 years from now the world’s dependence on oil would have reduced to 50 per cent. So, whichever way you look at it, it appears that the days of oil are numbered. I always tell people that coal did not finish; the deposits of coal did not run out before the world moved away from coal.

“Today the world is talking about alternative forms of energy, and we must also move with that trend but our focus should be in ensuring that we take advantage of our resources when it matters. Let’s make hay while the sun shines”.

Sylva added that one of the federal government’s objectives was to make Nigeria an “attractive investment destination” as the oil sector will be transformed through the PIB law.

There was however a mild drama when the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, interjected and asked the minister to stop reeling out the details of the Bill in the presence of journalists who were covering the meeting.

At that point, journalists were asked to leave while the meeting continued behind closed-doors till about 7.41pm.

Earlier, the Senate president and chairman of the National Assembly, Ahmed Lawan, said even though the PIB appears to be jinxed, the 9th Assembly will break the record by passing it into law in record time.

“In the 9th Assembly we promise to break that jinx. We want to see an oil industry that is competitive and beneficial to Nigeria. We will at the end of the day break the jinx and make history,” Lawan added.

He assured that the PIB will be passed “as soon as possible” because of the nation’s economic situation occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, reiterated that the PIB was the most important legislation that will come out of the 9th National Assembly, even as he warned that the parliament will not sacrifice thoroughness on the altar of speed in considering the bill.

He stated: “We are here to talk about, perhaps, the most important piece of legislation that will come out from the National Assembly in the lifetime of this government. It is a most important piece of legislation because we all know what oil represents in terms of our economy.

“Everyone has been waiting for the arrival of the PIB. That is the legislation that is on the lips of every Nigerian, whether he knows anything about petroleum or not. It is the most popular and most common bill. Everybody talks about PIB because oil represents the lifewire of our state. That underscores the importance of this Bill.

“The bill has been long in the making for several years but I believe this is the time to pass it. We will pass this bill speedily. However, its passage will not sacrifice thoroughness. We will not sacrifice thoroughness on the altar of speed, because it will be in the nation’s best interest”.

The Speaker added that in the House of Representatives, a “crack team” of legislators who are versed in the workings of the oil industry had been assembled to work with relevant stakeholders towards achieving a common goal.

He continued: “It is an Ad-hoc committee drawn from the House committees on Oil, Upstream, Downstream, Local Content and Gas. So, there is a crack team that will be working with you as we are all trying to go to the same destination.

“Talking about passing it speedily, unfortunately it is coming at a time when it will be competing with the passage of the budget. It is going to be a busy three months for us. I am not saying the PIB is going to be passed in three months”.


FG Weeds Out 25,000 Ghost Workers Exposed By Whistleblowers [LEADERSHIP]

The federal government has removed over 25, 000 ghost workers from the payroll of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government under its whistleblower policy.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who revealed this however did not give details on how they were discovered and weeded out as well as the specific ministries that were involved in the fraudulent exercise.

The whistleblower policy is the result of the current administration’s resolve to vigorously fight corruption in the country.

The policy is designed to strengthen the fight against financial crimes and corruption by increasing exposure of financial crimes and rewarding whistleblowers.

The minister noted yesterday that the federal government was committed to driving corruption down the line and entrench a culture of transparency and openness.

She made the remarks during the national conference on whistleblower policy in Nigeria held in Abuja.

The federal government had constituted a committee with representatives from anti-graft and security agencies chaired by a representative of the ministry of justice to draft a whistleblower Bill.

The draft bill was subjected to a validation exercise with stakeholders including non-state actors like MacArthrur Foundation, Afrimill and others.

The minister said, “We hope to develop a robust draft bill for the consideration and approval of FEC and eventually the National Assembly.”

Meanwhile, in a bid to broaden and enhance the efficacy of the policy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called for expansion of the scope of the current framework to include issues of public safety, security, gross mismanagement of the rights of people, and waste of resources, among others.

Osinbajo said there are a whole range of issues that may not endanger public finance directly but may constitute public safety or security risks, saying reporting such may save lives and or property.

“The scope may then cover such matters as a violation of law, gross mismanagement of the rights of people and waste of public resources, or acts inimical to public health or safety,” he stated.

Speaking on the need to enhance the whistleblower policy, the vice president said, “Although, some progress have been achieved through this policy, especially at the Federal Level – with recoveries, prosecutions, and convictions; it is essential that the policy operates widely in States and Local Governments as the tiers closest to the people and overseers of about half of the nation’s revenues. Exposing corruption is for the good of our nation”.

He added that the goal is to harness “the huge potential of the people to deliver on their moral obligation to report cases of corruption within their immediate environments.”

Calling for a legislative backing for the policy, Osinbajo said an Act of the National Assembly to back the policy was a necessity.

He stated: “Such a law should also provide for comprehensive protection of whistleblowers, including against reprisals from their employers and those whose activities they expose.

“These may include witness protection type provisions and this will give the whistleblower some protection where they may have to appear in court”.

On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, pledged to back any legislative draft on anti-corruption, especially on whistleblower that may be presented to the house for legislation. He said the fight against corruption needs to be strengthened.


 30 Years After, PMB Flags-off Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail Line [LEADERSHIP]

After over 30 years of delay, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday inaugurated the 326km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation.

The president flagged off the ancillary facilities yard at the recently named Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex in Agbor (Owa-Oyibu), Delta State.

At the virtual opening of the rail line linking Itakpe to Warri, President Buhari directed the Federal Ministry of Transportation to link all the nation’s ports of origin and destination – Apapa, Tin.

Can, Warri, Onne, Calabar Ports- to the rail network in order to significantly improve overall transportation and economic capacities.

The president declared that his administration recognised the importance of the railway mode of transportation as a vital backbone to support industrialisation and economic development.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying: ”Accordingly, I have approved the prioritisation of viable railway routes for either new rail lines or the reconstruction and rehabilitation of some, to achieve effective and efficient train services supporting the country’s trade and commerce.

”The Railway Infrastructure that I have the honour to commission today is the rail line from Itakpe via the steel town complex of Ajaokuta to Warri, and is an important link for the country’s economy as the central rail line.

”This government has also approved to link this line further from Itakpe to Abuja, thereby, connecting the Northern Zone of the country and also extending southwards to link the Warri Ports”.

The president expressed confidence that the project, which serves as a vital link of South-South geopolitical zones of the country to the Northern zones would be completed during the tenure of this administration.

”It will link people across the cultural divides and expand the

frontier of trade and commerce, which will lead to better standards of living for our citizens,” the president added.

President Buhari recalled that to further give recognition to Nigerian sons and daughters who have distinguished themselves at nation building and development, 11 railway stations and railway villages were named after some deserving citizens.

He listed them as follows: Adamu Attah Station, Itakpe;  Abubakar Olusola Saraki Station, Ajaokuta; Augustus Aikhomu Station, Itogbo; George Innih Station, Agenebode; Anthony Enahoro Station, Uromi; Tom Ikimi Station, Ekehen and Samuel Ogbemudia Station, Igbanke.

He further listed others to include Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex, Agbor, Owa-Oyibu; David Ejoor Station, Abraka; Michael Ibru Station, Opara; Alfred Rewane Station, Ujevwu; and Michael Akhigbe Railway Village, Agbor.

The president, however, enjoined all Nigerians in the transportation industry, especially the railway sub-sector, to continue to support the government in its stride to achieve other railway infrastructure projects.

He also enlisted the support of all at realising this milestone of a

functional and full-fledged central railway, after more than 30 years during which the project has suffered several setbacks and false starts.

Buhari said, ”I implore those who work on this line to uphold maintenance and safety culture necessary for long-lasting service in this difficult terrain.

”By the same token, I urge other sectors who will be primary beneficiaries of this transportation backbone, including, the iron and steel sector, stakeholders in agricultural and mining sectors on this corridor, as well as the host communities to protect and sustain this infrastructure and maximize the benefits that could be derived from it and which is readily available at their doorsteps.

”This project will increase the volume of their trade and kickstart and resuscitate the iron and steel complexes. All these, I hope will improve our industrial potentials and capacities as well as boost employment”.

President Buhari further said projections indicated that the commencement of operation of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line  would account for close to one million passengers annually and also unleash approximately 3.5 million tonnes capacity of freight annually that will service all off-takers on the corridor and beyond.

While congratulating the minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his team on successfully completing the project, the president recognised the host communities on this corridor for their patience during the long wait of over 30 years for the realisation of the project.

He also commended the host communities for their cooperation during the completion works by the federal government.


Setback for 774,000 Public Works jobs take off date [THE NATION]

THE Special Public Works (SPW) programme of the Federal Government won’t take-off tomorrow as planned.

It was learnt that the Ministry of Labour and Employment has written to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval to extend the commencement of the programme by 19 days.

A highly placed source told The Nation that the supervising ministry is waiting for the presidential approval.

It was learnt that delay in the release of funds for purchase of equipment for the programme necessitated the call for extension.

It was also gathered that some of the sites for implementation of the programme are flooded due to rainfall.

The programme is designed to put 774,000 young artisans to work on public facilities between October and December.

Each beneficiary is to be paid N20,000 per month. Fifty-two billion naira is voted for the programme in the budget.

One thousand beneficiaries are being selected from each of the 774 local government councils.

A source said: “The funds to be used to purchase light equipment to be used was released very late, as late as last week.

“The minister has written to the President requesting an extension. He has insisted that there must be due process in the purchase of equipment.

“You don’t buy things across the shelf like that in government. It has to go through due process. Because the fund for the purchase of some of those light equipment came in late and we need to follow the due process, we had no choice but to ask for two weeks or 19 days extension.

“Don’t forget that we need to go through the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP).

“The second reasons is that this is a dry season programme but the water level is still very high in some of the chosen sites. We expect the water level to drop. We think in the next two to three weeks it will be okay for us to start work at some of those sites. Before the end of October, they would have dried up.

“We are looking at the end of the second week of October to officially begin implementation of the programme.”

Only 15 states have completed recruitment process and submitted the names of successful applicants.

Some of the states that have completed the selection and submitted names include: Ebonyi, Yobe, Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe, Oyo and Benue.

He assured Nigerians that his administration would continue, within available resources, to judiciously connect commercial and industrial hubs to boost trade, generate wealth and create employment.

In his remarks, Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa commended President Buhari’s bi-partisan approach to governance, saying, ‘‘it is a thing of pride and joy that this rail line was completed under your watch.

”Deltans are excited that this day has come,’’ he noted, adding that the Ika nation is glad of the recognition accorded former President Goodluck Jonathan, in naming the railway complex in Agbor after him.

Okowa urged the private sector to take advantage of the historic corridor by establishing investments that will create jobs for locals, curb youth restiveness and stem the tide of criminality.

”It is imperative that the federal government in collaboration with the states provide adequate security cover for this rail line corridor,” he said.

In his remarks, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki congratulated the president on the feat of completing the project, saying it is quite fortuitous that few days to the country’s 60th independence celebration, the president has achieved the completion of this critical infrastructure.

”For us in Edo State, we are excited that we have a few stops that have been completed and we are going to be working with you to utilize this infrastructure,” he said.

Obaseki, however, appealed to the minister of Transportation to extend the rail line to the industrial park in Benin City to facilitate the movement of goods to the northern part of the country.

Meanwhile, the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi in his remarks, said the project was fully funded by the Nigerian government, adding that 8 of the 10 stations were in the Niger-Delta/ South-south region of the country.

”There is no loan on this project, it was funded from the budget and I had the directive of the President to go and revive it and complete it as soon as possible,’’ he said.

According to the transportation minister, the project started under the military era in 1987 but ‘‘underwent protracted hiccups, prolonged abandonment and massive vandalisation,’’ before it was resuscitated by the Buhari administration.


NERC delays halt of electricity tariff hike [THE NATION]

MORE than 48 hours  after the Federal Government directed that electricity tariffs be reverted to the old rates, Distribution Companies (DisCos) have not complied.

Their reason is that a directive  to that effect had not been received from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission  (NERC).

But the NERC said it was working on how to get the DisCos to comply.

“We are just typing the memo to inform the DisCos to stop the new tariffs and revert to the former one. The statement will soon be out,” NERC, chairman James Momoh told The Nation in Abuja yesterday.

Momoh explained that the regulator could not issue the directive immediately the Federal Government  reached the agreement on the matter  with the labour leadership  because  the meeting held on a Sunday.

Since the announcement of the new power rates which came into effect September 1, consumers and  stakeholders have been chiding the government and  the DisCos over the development.

Labour unions  had  threatened to commence  strike on Monday  over the increment before they reached a truce with the Federal Government for a two-week suspension of the new rates.

Our correspondents in Abuja, Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Edo, Enugu, Plateau  and Adamawa states  reported that  consumers on pre-paid meters  have been paying the new rate since September 1..

Those on post-paid meters may however enjoy the two-week relief as they will  pay their September  bills in  October.

While some of the electricity distributors said they were awaiting the NERC directive, some simply kept mute.

At the  Abuja Electricity Distribution Company  (AEDC ) vending outlets in   Byazhin Across,  Kubwa, N1,000 could buy only    20.4 units of power   instead of  the  38.3 units of the 2015 rate.

One of the vendors   said the  “AEDC has not reverted to the former tariff.”

The Nation’s attempt to ask the company’s   General Manager,  Corporate Communications,  Mr. Oyebode Fadipe, , proved abortive as calls put across to him rang out.

Head, Corporate Communications, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Felix Ofolue, also  did not respond to several calls put through to his mobile telephone  number. He   didn’t respond to a text message sent to him over the issue.

At the Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), a senior official directed The Nation to contact the Association of Electricity Distributors (ANED, which he said speaks on behalf of the  DisCos.

ANED’s Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Barrister Sunday Oduntan, in a telephone interview ,however, explained that as law abiding organisations, DisCos have no choice than to comply with its regulator’s directive.

“As operators, we must comply with whatever decisions our regulators give us. Therefore, for us, since we have been directed to revert to the old tariff, we have no choice than to comply; so we won’t disobey directives issued to us,”  Oduntan said.

When contacted, the Media Relations Officer, Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), Busolami Tunwase said the company  was  ready to comply with any directive from NERC.

“IBEDC is a law abiding company, the Service Reflective Tarrif (SRT) came  onboard by NERC order,therefore the suspension is also done by an order from  NER,.”  she said.


40 per cent of bank deposits in dollars [THE NATION]

HIGH networth Nigerians now prefer to save their cash in dollars, a report has shown.

The Coronation Research in a survey discovered that dollar deposits constitute 40 per cent of banking sector deposits.

Many investment banks are floating dollar funds, giving depositors and savers opportunity to hedge against naira depreciation.

Head of Research at Coronation Asset Management, Guy Czartoryski, said review of deposits in top 10 banks showed that 40 per cent of customers’ total savings, current and term deposits accounts are in dollars.

He said the financial sector has also seen a rise in the number of customers liquidating their savings deposits, and moving the funds to Mutual Funds, where interest are higher.

Speaking at the virtual launch of the Coronation Research: The Shifting Appetite of the Nigerian Investor: From Savings to Mutual Funds, he said movement of deposits to Mutual Funds increased after the last Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting which reduced the Policy Rate to 11.5 per cent from 12.5 per cent.

“We are leaving behind a period when interest rates were so high that bank deposits provided the default for Nigerians’ savings. Over the period of  2010 to 2019, T-bills rates generally were 2.57 percentage points above inflation. This is no longer the case. As interest rates have come down savers have been turning to mutual funds to manage and protect their money,” he said.

The impact of the rate cut is already being felt on the savings deposit rate, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) recently capped at a minimum of 10 per cent of the MPC from 30 per cent . This indicates a reduction on interest rate on savings deposit to 1.15 per cent from 1.25 per cent to support the profitability of commercial banks under a reduced cost of funds.

Explaining the conditions behind this growth, Czartoryski said the total Assets Under Management (AUM) of Nigeria’s mutual funds (also known as Collective Investments Schemes) rose by 305 per cent in the period between 2015 and 2019, more than doubling in inflation-adjusted terms.

As commercial banks progressively offered lower rates on savings accounts, “more money switches to Mutual Funds. And the introduction of tech-based savings platforms introduces a new generation of young savers to Mutual Funds,” he said.

He explained that the AUM of the fund management industry stood at N1.3 trillion ($3.4 billion), comprising money market funds, (61.4 per cent Fixed Income funds (16.6 per cent); U.S. dollar bonds funds, 10.4 per cent; Infrastructure fund (one fund) (4.4 per cent); Real Estate funds (3.2 per cent); Mixed funds (i.e. money market plus fixed income plus equity) (1.9 per cent); Exchange Trade funds (1.0 per cent); Equity funds (0.8 per cent); Ethical funds  (0.3 per cent).


Nigeria-China: Celebrating 50 years of friendship [THE NATION]

Friendship as a function of strong relationship between two or more persons or entities has always existed since creation of man. Sometimes it is influenced or goaded by some natural, social or physical phenomenon, but the nature, depth or direction of the friendship is determined by the choices the two entities make in the level of their commitment to each other in the relationship.

If we look at friendship from that perspective we will best appreciate the “how” and “why” of the five decades of fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship between Nigeria and China. Like every other actor on the international arena, the international environment also always determines the direction and strength of friendship.

The relationship is traceable to mid-1950s when, driven by identical tasks and challenges of development, independence, peace and security, representatives of some African and Asian regions met in Bandung (Indonesia) in April 1955. This was the first time African and Asian countries met to discuss their common problems without the presence of the colonial powers. The 10-point declaration on promotion of world peace and cooperation, which became known as “the Spirit of the Bandung Conference” played such a strong influencing role.

For instance, Chairman Mao Zedong declared in the presence of some African friends in Beijing in August 1963 that “the Chinese nation is on your side” This statement, which was in the spirit of the Bandung conference, “was very reassuring and inspirational to Africans, and the course of African unity “which had just been articulated at the OAU summit three months earlier on May 22-26, 1963. Encouraged by this spirit, African nations shook off the yoke of colonialism and realised national independence and emancipation. Basking in the euphoria of this consciousness, Nigeria, as other African nations, felt drawn to China and Asian countries.

But they also became active participants in the Non-Align Movement and decolonisation activities in line with the Spirit of the Bandung conference. As an independent country, and barely a few months after its Civil War, Nigeria was still conscious of the importance of a commitment to the friendship. On February 10, 1971, the two most populous developing nations (Nigeria in Africa and China in Asia), established formal diplomatic relations for a better shared future. As an African saying goes, “there is no second chance to make a first impression”, the moment of establishing the relationship became the platform and opportunity for Nigeria and China to make conclusive and positive impressions on each other.

Driven by this impression, about eight months later, in October 1971, Nigeria joined the fight to facilitate the restoration of China’s sovereignty at United Nations (UN). Nigeria was among the leading nations from Africa, Asia and Latin America, which withstood outside pressure, and boldly affirmed and upheld “One China Policy”.

By this support to a worthy friend, China was successfully restored to its legitimate seat in UN instead of Taiwan. From this seemingly lowly base, Nigeria-China friendly disposition and exchanges became a solid foundation for the comprehensive development of deeper relations. The formal establishment of diplomatic relations had paved the way for deep continued friendship.


Nigeria records new 187 COVID-19 cases in 12 states, FCT [THE NATION]

Nigeria’s confirmed cases of coronavirus reached 58,647 on Tuesday night following 187 fresh infections, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in an update.

Lagos recorded 74 cases, Plateau and Rivers with 25, followed by Gombe and FCT with 19 each.

The rest are: “Osun – 10, Kaduna – 5, Borno – 3, Katsina – 2, Nasarawa – 1, Bayelsa – 1,  Edo – 1”

The total confirmed cases so far in Nigeria now stands at 58,647 of which 49,937 have been discharged.

However, the infection has claimed 1,111 lives.


Reps withdraw water bill as lawmakers clash [PUNCH]

Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday clashed over the controversial National Water Resources Bill.

Members of the House, mostly from the southern part of the country and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, raised various legal and procedural issues on the bill.

Efforts by their northern colleagues to save the bill proved abortive as arguments by the PDP members and other opponents of the bill forced   the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to order  its withdrawal and reintroduction.

He said the controversial  the bill  should be properly  gazetted  according to the rules of the House.

The clash over the bill  began when a first-time member from Benue State, Mr Bem Mzondu, raised a point of order, under Order 6 Rule 1(2) and (3), alleging that his legislative privilege was breached as the bill did not follow the due process and that a copy was not made available to him.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, had moved a motion on July 23, 2020, calling for the reopening of 11 bills, including the water resources bill,  not passed by the eighth  Assembly.

Fulata had prayed that the bills be withdrawn from the committees they were referred to and considered by the Committee of the Whole, as the panels had failed to meet their deadlines. The motion was unanimously adopted.

In an interview on September 7, Fulata described the passage of the bill as a done deal, saying the process would not be reversed.

He said, “The bill can’t be stepped down because  the House has passed it already. The lawmakers that are saying that they will step it down or that it was introduced illegally is because, may be, they were not there on the floor of the House when the members were given the opportunity to look at the bill not once or twice. Remember it was passed by the eighth Assembly.”

Bill not regazetted, process  flawed – Lawmaker

But on Tuesday, Mzondu, a PDP  member, recalled that on July 23, 2020, the House revisited the bill without following the standing rules. “I was deprived of my legislative privileges of sighting a gazetted copy of the National Water Resources Bill,” he said.

The lawmaker added that he was denied being part of the legislative process on the bill, noting that while the rule says new bills must be gazetted for consideration and the old ones abandoned by the previous Assembly must be re-gazetted, he could not find any document showing that the water resources bill was gazetted.

According to Mzondu, the rules of the House have been misapplied on the bill and the onus is on the Speaker to interpret the rules.

Bill didn’t go through first, second and third readings – Rep

Mzondu said, “This same water bill was listed as National Water Resources Bill 2020 but it was not treated as such. A bill that emanated in 2020 should have gone through first reading, second reading and third reading before passage. It was not treated as such and this is a denial of my representation of my people.”

The lawmaker also cited Order 12 Rules 16, 17 and 18 as stating that the bill “has no life” until it is treated as an old bill. He also stated that a bill should either be gazetted or its copy be made available to members. According to him, Rules 16 and 17 are about movement of bill from session to session while 18 is about assembly to assembly, which means the bill must be re-gazetted, being from the previous Assembly.

Mzondu said, “I,  therefore, rely on Order 8 Rule 8 that, that bill be rescinded and expunged from our records or be made to go through the necessary considerations that a bill will have to go through before it is passed, particularly considering the mood of the nation. We are here to serve the Nigerian people and not to serve ourselves. If Nigerians do not desire a bill,  we put it at rest or up for public debate and scrutiny for them to have their inputs.

“My rights have been infringed upon and as I stand, I cannot go to my constituency because I need to show them copies of this bill, and I have gone through all our journals but it is not there. I, therefore, move that this bill be rescinded, expunged or begin its journey from the start.”

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had in 2017 presented the controversial bill to the National Assembly. The proposed law seeks to transfer the control of water resources from the states to the Federal Government.

The bill was titled, ‘A Bill for An Act to Establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, Provide for the Equitable and Sustainable Redevelopment, Management, Use and Conservation of Nigeria’s Surface Water and Groundwater Resources and for Related Matter.’

It partly  reads, “This Act repeals the Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004; River Basin Development Act Cap R9 LFN 2004; Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N110A, LFN,2004; NationaI Water Resources lnstitute Act Cap N83 LFN 2004; and establishes the National Council on Water Resources, Nigeria Water Resources Regulatory Commission, River Basin Development Authorities, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, and the National Water Resources Institute.”

At the plenary on Tuesday, a member, Mr Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP/Abia), said the bill was against the provisions of the constitution. He cited Section 315, Item 64 on the Exclusive List and various other sections of the constitution relating to the Land Use Act, saying, “Constitutionally, we have no right to discuss that.”

Gbajabiamila, however, interrupted  Nkem-Abonta and  urged   lawmakers to  first speak on  the issue of procedure.


CAN tables 10-point demand, says lopsided appointments generating tension [PUNCH]

The Christian Association of Nigeria on Tuesday outlined a 10-point demand to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), including revisiting the 2014 national conference report with a view to using it to address some problems militating against the peace and unity of the country.

The organisation also recommended reducing the cost of governance if the governments would be sincere in fixing the economy or practise an inexpensive presidential system “if it is too late to return to the parliamentary system.”

The President of CAN and President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Dr Samson Ayokunle, expressed these views in a statement titled, ‘Pursuing the right path to greatness,’ in commemoration of the 60th independence anniversary of Nigeria.

He said it was a shame that the nation’s political leaders and others who had not done their best in various places of leadership, including the military misadventures, had failed to invest in the future of Nigeria.

He said Nigerians had been paying a “lip service to godliness and patriotism, hence our country is still crawling at 60, while we have collapsed infrastructure everywhere.

“They (political leaders) failed to build an enduring institution, but instead enriching themselves at the expense of the dreams of the founding fathers of the country.”

Part of the statement reads, “We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sign the Electoral Reform Bill, which has been gathering dust on his table since last year.

“Our elections should be free, fair and credible if we want the governed and other nations to respect our political leaders. Trust is earned, not imposed or enforced.

“Our governments should be sensitive to the yearnings and the groaning of the governed. The era of asking the people to tighten their belts while those in power are loosening theirs should stop.

“Both the federal and state governments must give a sense of belonging to all citizens irrespective of their religious, tribal, and political persuasions.”


Fraud: Ex-banker jailed 98 years, to return N49m, $368,000 [PUNCH]

A former employee of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Oreoluwa Adesakin, has been handed a cumulative 98 years in prison on Monday.

Adesakin was found guilty of stealing N49,320,652.32 and another $368,203 belonging to the bank.

She was said to have converted the sums to her personal use.

The convict was prosecuted by the Ibadan zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and convicted on 14 counts bordering on stealing, forgery and fraudulent accounting.

One of the charges read, “That you, Oreoluwa Adesakin, sometime between the months of May, 2013 and November 2013, at Ibadan within the Ibadan Judicial Division, whilst being a staff member of First Bank Plc, stole the sum of N25,974,116.13 from First Bank Plc MoneyGram payment naira account, property of First bank Plc.”

She, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges, which necessitated her trial.

The prosecution counsel, Usman Murtala, presented vital documents and witnesses, which nailed the convict.

Justice Muniru Olagunju of the Oyo State High Court noted that the EFCC’s evidence against the convict was clear and showed that the agency did a diligent investigation on the case.

The judge pronounced Adesakin guilty of all the charges and sentenced her to seven years in prison without an option of fine on each of the 14 counts. The jail terms are to run concurrently.

The convict is also to pay restitution of the money she stole to First Bank through the EFCC.

The convict was arraigned on April 4, 2014, by the EFCC following the conclusion of investigation into a petition dated December 18, 2013, which was written by her former employer.

The bank alleged in the petition that Adesakin, as its money transfer operator saddled with the responsibility of effecting payment through Western Union Money Transfer and MoneyGram platforms, fraudulently manipulated the accounting system and withdrew the sums of N49,320,652.32 and $368,203 for herself, which it uncovered while reviewing its internal account.

The EFCC also established the fact that the convict used part of the proceeds of her crime to acquire landed property in different parts of Oyo State.

Meanwhile, Justice Simon Amobeda of the Federal High Court in Calabar, Cross River State, has sentenced 14 Internet fraudsters to various jail terms.

The fraudsters, Victor Ogadibo, Unwana Edem, Michael Omos, Emediong Iwoenang, Christian Okechukwu, Ogbuechi Ifeanyi, Anozie Franklin, Clinton Onyekachi, Princewill Egerue, Akpodiete Moses, Innocent Japheth, Ugwuegbu Ikenna, Ndulaka Chukwuebuka and Opara Daniel, were arraigned before the court by the EFCC and pleaded guilty to the charges.

Justice Amobeda sentenced Edem, Ikenna and Franklin to six months’ imprisonment each with an option of N500,000 fine, while Onyekachi, Ifeanyi, Victor, Ndulaka and Opara were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment each with an option of N200,000 fine.

Princewill and Moses were sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment each with an option of N700,000 fine, while Christian, Michael and Innocent were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment each with an option of N1m fine. Emediong was sentenced to three months imprisonment with an option of N100,000 fine.

The court further ordered that Onyekachi, Victor and Ifeanyi should return the sums of $2,000, $3,000 and $200, respectively to their victims through the prosecution and should forfeit the instruments used to commit the crime, including their phones, laptops and cars to the Federal Government.

The Head, Media and Publicity, EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, in a statement on Tuesday, said the 14 convicts admitted to the crime and made confessional statements to the agency, adding that forensic analysis of their phones and laptops revealed that while some of them specialised in love scams, others impersonated military personnel of the United States purportedly on a foreign mission and needed financial help as they could not access their funds.

Uwajaren added that the convicts made their victims give them gift cards, which they changed to Bitcoin and then to naira.


Lagos, Ogun demand tax from Laycon after BBNaija win [PUNCH]

The Lagos Internal Revenue Service and its counterpart in Ogun State have indicated interests in the collection of tax from the winner of the 2020 edition of the Big Brother Nigeria reality TV show, Olamilekan ‘Laycon’ Agbeleshe.

The agencies made this known while congratulating Laycon over his victory.

“Congratulations @itsLaycon winner @BBNaija Lockdown edition. More wins!! We look forward to seeing you in Y2021 as you #payyourtax,” LIRS tweeted.

A few hours after the LIRS asked the rapper to pay his tax to Lagos State, the Ogun State Internal Revenue Service also tweeted a similar post encouraging the celebrity to pay his tax to Ogun State.

“The Ogun State Internal Revenue Service is delighted to congratulate one of our own in the State, Olamilekan Agbelesebioba, AKA @itsLaycon for emerging winner of @BBNaija Lockdown. We look forward to having a robust relationship with you in year 2021 as you pay your tax,” it tweeted.

Earlier, the governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, described Laycon as a pacesetter, saying his victory was aptly a confirmation of his brilliance.

Attempt to reach Laycon to comment on the states’ request proved abortive.

For winning the show, 26-year-old Laycon got N30m in cash. He will also receive various gifts and incentives valued at N55m.

They include an all-expense-paid trip to Dubai for two, a two-bedroom apartment, a Sport Utility Vehicle from Innoson Motors, a Scanfrost electronic makeover, one year supply of Pepsi Cola, one year supply of Munch It and Indomie noodles, and VIP tickets to watch the European Champions League final.


No godfathers for Obaseki, Oba of Benin tells PDP [SUN]

The Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, yesterday evening, admonished  the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to allow unscrupulous members of the party play the role of hidden godfathers to Governor Godwin Obaseki.

The Oba made the plea when the PDP governors led by its chairman, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, visited to thank him on the role he played to ensure a peacecful governorship election in Edo State.

Others in the entourage were the National Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council for the Edo State election, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, South-South National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih and host Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.

The Oba enjioned the governors to ensure they act what they have been preaching about the ills of godfatherism, just as he advised Governor Obaseki to ensure he acts as governor of the whole of Edo State.

“I remember I said in one of my comments that I don’t like this idea of godfatherism, that it is becoming too much. I want to on this occasion plead with the PDP that you also as you have always been talking about the concept of godfatherism, you will uphold it and don’t let unscrupulous members of you party try to now come out and start to use your party by proxy or remote control to control our governor and end up being the hidden godfathers, we don’t want hidden godfathers,” he said.

The Benin monarch thanked the ancestors and God for hearing his   prayers and for ensuring that peace reigned during the election.

Earlier, Governor Wike had said they were in the palace to fulfil the promise they made that they would return to thank the Oba if their candidate wins.

Governor Obaseki promised to abide by the advice of the monarch.

“I want to assure you that as the governor of Edo State I have heard your admonishments. I want to promise that I will rededicate myself in my next tenure to the full service of Edo State and the people of Edo State. We will always rely on your wise counsel, we will always rely on you to pray for us and ensure that we get the required peace so that we can do all the good things that God desires of us to do for our people,” he said.


‘Nigeria Customs to rank among world’s best with modernisation’ [SUN]

Acting Assistant Comptroller General of Customs in charge of ICT/ Modernisation, Aliyu Galadima Saidu, has described the recent approved e-Customs Project as one that would make Nigeria rank with countries with best Customs administration in the world.

Saidu who said the project would enhance International trade and support government drive revenue collection added that it has been attracting accolades to the Comptroller General of Customs from other countries and international organisations

Speaking in Abuja at a Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) organised programme, Customs Duty, Saidu said the project would also  strengthen the service capacity for information sharing with other agencies of government and private operators.

He added that contrary to the thinking by some persons that the project is a concession to take over customs function, officers of the NCS will be fully involved in the running of the project as it will boost their capacity and increase their productivity.

Saidu said “E-Customs is an integration of Customs application processes, platform, hardwares involving all-in-one nationwide import, export , excise and office management under one digital platform.

“In addition to this, it is a solution  to facilitate processes of licensing clearance, cargo management, revenue collection and payment.

“The automation of Customs procedures has been a key component in Customs reform and modernization globally. It is not only peculiar to developing nations and this initiatives and support across the globe has been facilitated and emphasised by international donor organisations like World Trade Organisation, World Customs Organisation and other organizations globally.

“The impacts are enormous. Number one, it is going to facilitate international trade. It is going to block all the loopholes and leakages in revenue generation and the end result is going to enhance our revenue collection. It is going to enhance border security.

“We are going to have a robust platform of sharing information. It is going to enhance the capacity of Customs officers and men and the clearance procedure is going to be shorten . This will provide us with best technology to support the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

“ It will also strengthen trade facilitation has being advocated by the  World Customs Organisation. It is going to enhance professionalism and specialization in Nigeria Customs Service.

“In the process, our entire border stations, seaports and airports  are going to be fitted with scanners. I mean  the model hi-tech scanners which will facilitate clearance of goods and passengers and the end result also will be less human contacts and easy detection of concealing methods by smugglers.

“This project is not a concession. Let me break it down- we are inviting experts, people are bringing their money to enhance our capacity to give us this technology.

“The whole process will be driven by Customs. A typical example is that  each scanning site will enhance our capacity then the image analyses will be done by Customs.  I don’t see any concession here. All our platforms will be run by Customs and that is why one of the key component of this project is enhancement of our capacity . They are going to give us a robust training.

“We have been clamouring for this for long we want to be among the top class Customs administration in the world and since the Federal Executive Council approved this project, our CGC has been receiving calls from member nations of Customs under World Customs Organisation congratulating him because is a Customs project initiated by Customs and is going to be driven by Customs” Saidu said











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