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Falana: N110bn Palliative to NASS Members Illegal

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Palliatives to NASS members

By Prominent human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, Sunday condemned the National Assembly’s decision to allocate N70 billion as palliatives for its members, labeling it as illegal and contemptuous.

In a press statement, Falana called attention to the blatant breach of the relevant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and urged the immediate reversal of these controversial measures.

The allocation of N70 billion, disbursed among 306 newly elected members, in addition to N40 billion set aside for the purchase of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members, has sparked public outrage.

Falana emphasized the callousness and insensitivity displayed by the National Assembly, especially when considering the economic hardships endured by the majority of Nigerians.

According to Senior Advocate (SAN), these decisions blatantly contravene Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which outlines the appropriate remuneration and allowances for members of the National Assembly.

Read Also: NASS Will Provide Resources in 2022 Budget to Fight COVID-19 – Lawan

Citing recent court judgments, including Monday Ubani & Anor vs Attorney-General of the Federation & Ors and the case filed by the Socio-economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT against the National Assembly, Falana affirmed that the judiciary had already ruled against such excessive allowances.

The Federal High Court, in both cases, declared that the National Assembly Service Commission has no authority to determine the remuneration and allowances of its members. The court emphasized the need for the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to review and adjust salaries and allowances in line with the country’s economic realities.

Falana stressed that these judgments remain valid and binding, and the National Assembly’s actions are therefore illegal and contemptuous. He called on the leadership and members of the National Assembly to reverse the controversial allowances and the purchase of luxury vehicles.

In the event that these actions are not promptly rectified, Falana urged the RMAFC to take immediate measures to prevent further usurpation of its constitutional functions. He warned that failure to do so would result in contempt proceedings against the Chairman of the RMAFC and the leaders of both chambers of the National Assembly.

“Out of sheer insensitivity coupled with impunity, the members of the National Assembly, regardless of political affliation, conspired to breach the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 by padding the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2023 to provide the so called palliative of N70 billion for 306 newly elected members. While the masses of Nigeria are groaning under the excruciating economic pains unleashed on them by the ruling class, the National Assembly has awarded N228.7 million to each of the newly elected legislators.

“As if that is not enough, the members of the National Assembly have earmarked N40 billion to purchase 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members. However, the legislators approved the sum of N500 billion for 12 million indigent people in a country where the National Bureau of Statistics has said that “62.9 percent of people (133 million) are multidimensionally poor.”

“The callous and insensitive decisions of the members of the National Assembly constitute a flagrant contravention of Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, which stipulates as follows: ‘A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine’,” the statement read in part.

Making reference to a previous case, Falana said, “In Monday Ubani & Anor. v Attorney-General of the Federation & Ors (Suit No FHC/LA/CS/690/ 2018), the learned trial Judge, Professor Chuka Obiozor had cause to interpret the above provision of the Constitution when he held that, “The national assembly service commission has no power whatsoever to fix and determine or allocate the remuneration, allowances, salaries, emoluments or monetary values to the members of the national assembly.” His Lordship observed that “Given many years of extreme poverty in the country, and the inability of several state governments to pay salaries of workers and pensions, the refusal or failure of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review and cut the salaries and allowances of members of the national assembly is a gross violation of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the commission’s own Act.”

“For the avoidance of doubt, the learned trial Judge held that, “The allowances of wardrobe, newspapers, kitchen travelling domestic and constituency project allowances of the members of the national assembly are never contemplated or in the intendment of the constitution which created them and specified how they can be remunerated.” Consequently, the Court ordered the RMAFC to review the salaries and allowances of members of the national assembly to reflect the country’s current economic realities.

“The epochal judgment was adopted by the Federal High Court in the similar case (Suit No FHC/LA/CS/943/2019) filed by the Socio-economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT against the National Assembly on the same subject matter and assigned to the same Judge.

“It is pertinent to note that both judgments of the Federal High Court have not been set aside by any higher court. Neither has the execution of the judgments been stayed or varied either by the Federal High Court or the Court of Appeal. Therefore, since the judgments are valid and subsisting, they are binding on all members of the Legislative and Executive Organs of the Federal Government.

“In view of the foregoing, it is crystal clear that by approving allowances in the form of palliatives for themselves without the approval of the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission the members of the National Assembly deliberately acted illegally and contemptuously. As such actions cannot be justified in a democratic society which claims to operate under the rule of law, we are compelled to call on the leaders and members of the National Assembly to reverse the scandalous palliatives and purchase of exotic vehicles.

“However, if the illegal decisions are not reversed, we call on the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission to take urgent steps to prevent the National Assembly from further usurping its constitutional functions. Otherwise, we are going to commence contempt proceedings against the Chairman of the RAMFC and the leaders of both Chambers of the National Assembly”.

Catholic Bishop Tasks FG on Even Disbursement of Palliative

The Auxillary Bishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Anslem Umoren, has urged the Federal Government to ensure even disbursement of the N8,000 palliative to the targeted beneficiaries to alleviate the suffering of poor and vulnerable Nigerians.

Umoren made the call yesterday while speaking with the journalists on the sidelines of the Mass and Charter Presentation ceremony of Serra Club, Garki, Abuja.

“I want to call on the government to do all it planned to alleviate the sufferings of the people, it cannot be business as usual.

“I don’t want to believe all that I am seeing in the media is true; 8,000 households, which data are you using? who is going to benefit from it? We are over 200 million.

“They need to rethink what they are trying to do to make sure that what they are doing will reach out to everyone, otherwise it will be the same as before,” he said.

The Bishop also encouraged the new President and officers of the Club to adhere to their mandate towards promoting and supporting the vocation.

Also commenting, former Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen lauded the federal government efforts, adding that it would reduce the hardship caused by fuel subsidy removal.

“I want to commend the president for taking that step and also the National Assembly for passing that because the problem created by subsidy is biting everybody hard in Nigeria.

“With this palliative, it will cushion the effects of what everybody is feeling, especially the low income people.

“So it is highly commendable and very soon the pressure of this will stem down and everybody will enjoy normal life,” she said.

Tallen, who is also the mother of the day, enjoined members of the Club to commit towards promoting the vocation and evangelism for the betterment of the nation.

The newly installed President of the Club, Mrs Justina Avong-Maimagani, reiterated commitment towards promoting evangelism.

“Our duty is to make sure that the Church continues growing and members grow spiritually.

“It is not enough to make sure there are labourers in the vineyard, but also ensure that you yourself is worthy and qualified spiritually to do the work.”

Maimagani, also advised Christians to show love, peace and tolerance wherever they are.

“A Christian has the duty to peace in the society because our Lord Jesus Christ is peace.

“And that is exactly what he came to do. So you cannot call yourself a Christian and you are not a peaceful person in your home, smaller group and wherever you are,” she said.

Also, Mrs Jummai Idonije, a member of the Club and former Special Adviser, Technical, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, stressed the need for the Club to spread its outreach within the FCT and other northern region.

This, she said, would promote religious life and moral standard of citizens.

Highlights of the event was the installation of the President and officers of the Club to run its affairs in the next two years.

It will be recalled that the federal government has announced plans to disburse N8,000 palliative to 12 million Nigerians over a period of six months,  to mitigate the effect of subsidy removal on vulnerable households.

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BDCs: CBN Decries Distortions at Forex Market

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Following the on-going reforms in the foreign exchange market, with the objective of achieving an appropriate market determined exchange rate for the naira, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has observed the continued distortions in the retail end of the market, which is feeding into the parallel market and further widening the exchange rate premium.

To this end, the bank has approved the sale of FX to eligible Bureau De Change (BDCs) to meet the demand for invisible transactions.

The sum of $20,000 is to be sold to each BDC at the rate of N1,450/$ (representing the lower band of the trading rate at NAFEM in the previous trading day).

This was contained in a circular signed by A. A. Mahdi on behalf of the CBN Acting Director of Trade and Exchange Department and made available in Abuja on Thursday.

The circular reads, “All BDCs are allowed to sell to eligible end-users at a margin not more than one point five percent (1.5%) above the purchase rate from CBN.

“All eligible BDCs are directed to make the naira payment to the listed CBN Naira Deposit Account Numbers and submit confirmation of payment with other necessary documentation for disbursement at the appropriate CBN branches (Abuja, Awka, Kano and Lagos).

“Please be guided accordingly.”

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Amidst High Stake Intrigues, Tinubu Approves N70,000 Minimum Wage

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By Lubem Myaornyi, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu yesterday in Abuja increased the Federal Government’s offer on the national minimum wage from N62,000 to N70,000, with an assurance that it will be reviewed after three years, instead of five years.

In a meeting with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and that of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the Presidential Villa, President Tinubu said he had to intervene in the negotiations, knowing the economic challenges faced by many Nigerians, and the need to provide urgent succour.

“I have heard all your presentations. You came here with the intention to get something on behalf of your members. It has been tough globally.

And if you review my track record, I have never been found wanting in ameliorating the problems of workers. I belong to the people and to all of you in leadership. Without you, this job is not interesting.

“You challenged the thinking faculty of leadership, and we have reviewed the position. I have consulted widely, and when the tripartite committee submitted their reports, I reviewed them again and started to think and rethink.

“Last week, I brought the workload to you because we have a timeline. We have a problem, and we recognize that you have a problem too. We are in the same economy. We are in the same country. We may have different rooms, different addresses, and different houses; we are just members of one family that must care for each other. 

“We must look at the parameters of things. Here, I have a speed limit, and I must pay attention to traffic warnings; slippery when wet, curved roads, and be careful not to have an accident. That is why I went as far as having this meeting today.

“We are driving this economy together. Let us look at the tenure of review. Let us agree on that, and affirm three years. Two years is too short. We affirm three years. We will review.

“I am going to move from the tripartite committee. I am going to edge a little bit forward, looking at the review that we have done. Yes, no one in the federal establishment should earn less than N70,000. So, we are going to benchmark at N70,000,’’ the President said. 

President Tinubu explained that renewing the hope of Nigerians extends to providing infrastructure that will improve their livelihoods and create an inclusive economy that all can participate and benefit.

 The President said the government was committed to reducing the cost of transportation with the introduction of Compressed Natural Gas-powered buses, which will be cheaper and efficient, and also assured the labour unions of providing buses that will be deployed across the country.

President Tinubu also said the entitlements of members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU) will be considered, urging the Ministries of Finance, and Budget & Economic Planning to look at the possibilities of clearing the backlog.

At the meeting, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, thanked the President for his consideration of issues as the “Father of the Nation’’ and scheduling two meetings to resolve the initial impasse.

“Mr. President, at the tripartite meeting, and the resolutions of the government, Organized Private Sector and labour unions; we were all united as one family to promote and grow our economy, and deepen our democracy, by implication to the benefit of all. Basically, that is what we are saying today. We have a listening President here,’’ the Secretary to the Government of the Federation said.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, and that of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Festus Osifo, thanked the President for creating time to host two meetings on the review of the national minimum wage.

The two labour leaders acknowledged that at the last meeting, the President directed the rescheduling of an official trip in order to attend the second meeting.   The labour leaders also expressed their appreciation to the President, applauding him for his clear show of commitment to the welfare of Nigerian workers.

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Education Minister Bows to Pressure, Pegs ‘Varsity Entry Age at 16

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By David Torough, Abuja.

Education Minister, Professor Tahir Mamman yesterday, bowed to pressure mounted by Vice Chancellors of universities and heads of tertiary institutions in Nigeria to peg the minimum entry age to Nigerian universities and tertiary institutions at 16 years.

This was just as the nation’s universities adopted 140 as the baseline score for admissions as well as 100 for polytechnics and Colleges of Education (CoEs) for the next academic session (2024/25).

The 16-year age approval came moments after the minister had already announced emphatically in his speech at the opening of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) policy meeting for 2024 that the  entry age would be 18 as prescribed by extant laws of the country, particularly the National Policy on Education.

In his initial directive, the minister had explained that the minimum six years of age for primary education automatically implied that any applicant who began primary school at the prescribed age would have attained 18 years  at the time of completion of secondary education and application for university admission.

The minister’s declaration was however, met with shouts of disapproval from most of the over 3,000 top education administrators in the audience.

As the education administrators sustained their opposition, the Vice Chancellor of Elizade University, Professor Kayode Ijadunola moved a motion for reduction of the age limit to 16.

Ijadunola argued that since the applicants had already taken the UMTE, so the entry 18 years entry age be enforced in subsequent years.

After due consultation, the Minister accepted the proposals from the academic institutions but ruled however, that after the 2024/25 academic session, admission age would be pegged at 18.

He directed JAMB to ensure that adequate publicity as given to the new directive to guide future applicants and parents.

The policy meeting, attended by Vice Chancellors, provosts of CoEs, rectors of polytechnics and heads of education agencies is convened annually by JAMB to adopt admission policies and procedures after the annual Universities and Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

Mamman warned admission officers and heads of tertiary institutions to adhere strictly to the guidelines as proposed by JAMB and democratically approved by yesterday’s Policy Meeting.

He regretted that improprieties in the admission process had led to the illegal admission of one million students in the universities, polytechnics and COEs since 2017 but warned that such would no longer be condoned.

The minister announced that a new curriculum for secondary schools in the country with emphasis on skills acquisition would be introduced from September and said the new policy would be presented to various stakeholders including the National Council on Education for approval before its eventual launch at the start of the next academic session.

According to the minister, the new policy was the ministry’s response to the problem of unemployment of school leavers and crisis faced by many secondary graduates in the pursuit of admission in the tertiary institutions.

“These young children live with us and we must care about their future,” he stated adding that the graduates with reasonable skills would better fend for themselves if they could not pursue higher education.

The minister warned the recently inaugurated governing councils of Federal Government owned universities and tertiary institutions to ensure they operate according to the laws guiding their respective institutions and to avoid the temptation to usurp the powers of the heads of the institutions on critical issues such as appointment of principal officers and procurement of goods and services.

He also clarified that there was no plan by the Federal Government to privatise any of its tertiary institutions or transfer its management to private hands, contrary to what he described as “propaganda in certain quarters”.

Registrar of JAMB, Prof Is-haq Oloyode, who led participants through adoption of the comprehensive admissions policy for 2024/25 academic session warned that the board will not condone any sharp practices in line with its zero –tolerance on corruption in the admissions process.

He assured that the huge investment in technology by the board had made it impossible for criminally minded applicants to circumvent the rigorous examination and admission processes and vowed that anybody who attempted to manipulate the system would be fished out and punished according to law.

He said some applicants and staff of some institutions were already in police custody over various infractions of the law and assured that the suspects would be taken to court to face the law.

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