…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.
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.
Tinubu Presents N27.5trn Budget to NASS with N8.25trn for Debt Servicing
By Ubong Ukpong & Johnson Eyiangho, Abuja
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Wednesday, presented a budget of N27.5 trillion for the 2024 fiscal year to the joint session of the National Assembly.
The newly adopted parameters in the budget estimates showed that N9.92 trillion was allocated for non-debt recurrent expenditure, while debt service was projected to be N8. 25 trillion, and capital expenditure pegged at N8.7 trillion.
Addressing the joint session of both chambers, President Tinubu disclosed his administration’s resolve to adopt the “revised 2024-2026 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP)” as the parameters for the 2024 budget, yet to be presented to the National Assembly.
After the presentation in the National Assembly, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun insisted that the President Tinubu-led government will focus less on borrowing and pay more attention to raising revenue from taxes.
Edun said, “The budget deficit is being brought down from about over 6.11 percent of GDP to over 3.88 percent of GDP.
“That is a huge change in direction from unlimited and limitless borrowing to refocusing on revenue and expenditure management to give value for money.
“We heard that the key target is to increase tax-to-GDP from roughly under 10 percent now to 18 percent in a couple of years time. That target is a hugely ambitious one, which clearly we need to meet to reduce reliance on borrowing.”
He emphasised that the budget would position the economy for foreign investment to come into the country through private partnerships.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) swiftly reacted, saying Tinubu’s 2024 Budget is deceitful, strangulating and hopeless.
The party was miffed by the rendition of Tinubu’s presidential campaign in the chamber of the National Assembly saying it is unacceptable.
Tinubu disclosed the administration’s plan to grow the economy by a minimum of 3.76 percent, above the forecasted world average, with inflation expected to moderate to 21.4 percent in 2024.
“After a careful review of developments in the world oil market and domestic conditions, we have adopted a conservative oil price benchmark of $77.96 per barrel and a daily oil production estimate of 1.78 million barrels per day. We have also adopted a Naira to US Dollar exchange rate of N750 per US Dollar for 2024.
“Accordingly, an aggregate expenditure of N27.5 trillion is proposed for the Federal Government in 2024, of which the non-debt recurrent expenditure is N9.92 trillion while debt service is projected to be N8.25 trillion and capital expenditure is N8.7 trillion.
“Nigeria remains committed to meeting its debt obligations. Projected debt service is 45% of the expected total revenue.
“Budget deficit is projected at N9.18 trillion in 2024 or 3.88 percent of GDP. This is lower than the N13.78 trillion deficit recorded in 2023, which represents 6.11 percent of GDP.
“The deficit will be financed by new borrowings totaling N7.83 trillion, N298.49 billion from Privatization Proceeds, and N1.05 trillion drawdown on multilateral and bilateral loans secured for specific development projects”, the President stated.
While reiterating his administration’s resolve towards broad-based and shared economic prosperity, he disclosed that plans are ongoing to review the social investment programmes to enhance their implementation and effectiveness. In particular, the National Social Safety Net project will be expanded to provide targeted cash transfers to poor and vulnerable households.
“In addition, efforts will be made to graduate existing beneficiaries toward productive activities and employment.
“We are currently reviewing our tax and fiscal policies. Our target is to increase the ratio of revenue to GDP from less than 10 percent currently to 18 percent within the term of this Administration. The government will make efforts to further contain financial leakages through effective implementation of key public financial management reforms.
“In view of the limited resources available through the federal budget, President Tinubu disclosed that his administration is exploring Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements to finance critical infrastructure.
“We, therefore, invite the private sector to partner with us to ensure that our fiscal, trade, and monetary policies, as well as our developmental programs and projects, succeed in unlocking the latent potential of our people and other natural endowments, in line with our national aspirations.”
While giving an update on the 2023 budget performance, he disclosed that an aggregate revenue of N11.045 trillion was projected to fund the 2023 budget of N24.82 trillion with a deficit of about 6.1 percent of GDP.
As of Sept. 30, the Federal Government’s actual aggregate revenue inflow was N8.65 trillion, approximately 96 percent of the targeted N8.28 trillion. Despite the challenges, we continue to meet our obligations.
In his remarks, Speaker Tajudeen Abbas lamented the impacts of the economic hardship on millions of Nigerians and called for urgent intervention to alleviate their sufferings.
He said, “Mr. President, it is a well-known fact that millions of our constituents are living through incredibly difficult times. For this reason, they also look to the Tinubu-led government to provide quick and sustainable solutions. The antecedents of the President and your track record in governance inspire a lot of hope in Nigerians.
“Mr. President, it is for this reason that we cannot afford to fail Nigerians. If anyone can change the rot and chart a new course for Nigeria, IT IS YOU! I have no doubt whatsoever that we can measure up to the expectations of Nigerians through your visionary leadership and the commitment of the National Assembly.
“Accordingly, the budget laid before us today should not be seen as a mere financial document but a reflection of our collective resolve to address the most critical needs of our long-suffering citizens. In order to promote economic growth and development, the 2024 Budget should prioritize social welfare programs to help reduce poverty and inequality.
“Mr. President, let me, on behalf of my colleagues in the National Assembly, assure you that we will give this bill the utmost priority it deserves. While we would give it accelerated consideration, we will diligently scrutinise it alongside Nigerians to ensure that when it is passed, it will be a budget that best addresses the most critical needs of our people,” he said.
The National Publicity Secretary of the opposition PDP Debo Ologunagba said in a statement that the rendition of Tinubu’s campaign tune amidst proceedings in the chambers of the National Assembly by government’s security band further confirmed the apprehensions by Nigerians of creeping totalitarianism and fiefdom.
He noted that an individual is being elevated as a Sovereign in clear undermining of the Legislature and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“This condemnable episode validates the concerns of the PDP as expressed on several occasions, the latest being on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 where our party raised alarm and cautioned that our nation is dangerously sliding into cronyism and totalitarianism under the Tinubu-led APC administration.
“The National Assembly is the symbol of the collective sovereignty of the Nigerian people which cannot be appropriated by or surrendered to any individual or cabal under any guise or circumstance whatsoever.
“Moreover, the PDP is appalled by President Tinubu’s description of Nigerians in his budget presentation as the ‘ordinary people out there’; a statement which further exposes the disdain and utter disregard for the sensitivity of Nigerians as reflected in the formulation of polices, programmes and implementation by the APC administration,” Ologunagba said.According to him, this apparently explains why the 2024 budget as presented by President Tinubu heavily provided for luxury appetite of the privileged few in the Presidency and APC leaders with no corresponding positive plan for the wellbeing of other Nigerians.
Member- states Owe NDDC N2trn from Allocations since 2000- Ogbuku
By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr Sam Ogbuku, has said the interventionist agency is owed over N2 trillion naira.
Ogbuku said this when he appeared before the House of Representatives’ Committee on NDDC, chaired by Hon Ibori-Suenu Erhiatake.
This sum, he said, was the accumulation of 15 percent of the allocation to the nine states that make up the region, which is due to the Commission since yesr 2000, but has never been paid.
He also lamented that despite the passing of the 2021, 2022 and 2023 budgets of the Commission, they were yet to get the funds till date.
He said, “I want to raise an important issue.When we talk about funding. The NDDC Act says the monthly allocation from the Federal Government is 15 percent of the allocation of nine states of the Niger Delta. But I can assure you that since the inception of the NDDC, it has not gotten that. The Federal Government only budgets what it wants to give to NDDC for that year and they give it that year. If you look at the 15 percent, we are not getting the 15 percent. Even with the removal of fuel subsidy and with the increment of states allocation NDDC is still where it is. So, these are issues we want you to help us resolve and we have done our calculation that from 2000 till date we can say we are being owed over N2 trillion from what is supposed to be due NDDC.”
Ogbuku, who assumed office in acting capacity in January this year, rued that despite fast-tracking the three-year budget of the Commission, they were yet to the funds.
“We also came in at a point where NDDC never had a budget for 2021, 2022 and 2023. These budgets were before the National Assembly and we had to fast track the passage of those budgets and those budgets were eventually passed in April this year. However, since the budget was passed, it has not been handed over to us up till now. We would pray and plead with you to ensure that as fast as possible, you also facilitate the process for us to have the budget because the budget year is already coming to an end,” he said.
He also said due to the huge debt burden of the Commission, which was due to a malfunctioning of the system, they had to launch a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement in April this year, where private and public entities can also fund projects in the NDDC.
Chairman of the NDDC Board, Chiedu Ebie, assured that they would maintain the best of relationships with the committee and National Assembly.
He also promised that they would work as a team to ensure that the narrative of the commission is changed for the better.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon Ibori-Suenu Erhiatake, promised to look into the issues raised by the Commission, with a view to addressing them.
She said the committee wants to be able to work with the Board to achieve the goal of changing the narrative of the Niger Delta and the Commission to improve the lives and conditions of the people of the region.
She said every member of the committee is committed and ready to carry out their mandate effectively.
“It is very important we create a platform for synergy in implementation of these policies and programmes for the general benefit of Nigerians and especially the people of the Niger Delta. I assure you that this committee is willing and ready to partner with you to make sure that the dividends of democracy are brought to the region and the narratives that had been set by the previous board are changed for the better.
“On this note I would want to seek your cooperation as a board and to ensure that every information we get from you is what we can work with as a committee and that everything we do henceforth is in the discharge of our duties to our people.
“On the issue of the budget, we would look into and find out why it hasn’t been transmitted to the Commission. For the time frame I cannot really say, but now you have brought it to our attention, we would look into it.”
NDIC Recovers N400bn Debts From Liquidated Banks — NDIC
By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) said it is recovering over N400 billion from debtors of liquidated banks in the country.
Speaking at the 2023 NDIC Workshop for Finance Correspondents in Owerri, Imo State, on Wednesday, the managing director and chief executive of the Corporation, Mr Bello Hassan, said substantial payments have been made to over 40,000 depositors of the banks in liquidation.
Hassan also disclosed that more than N1.6 billion has so far been paid out, adding that the amount would have been more if depositors of the liquidated banks had come forward.
“Those debts or those loans that were granted were granted out of deposits of people that were collected by the banks.So, it is only when those debtors pay back that the NDIC would now be able to pay the depositors of those failed banks.
“With the revision of the 2023 NDIC Act, a lot of powers have been given to the Corporation in order to expedite this process. So, we are hoping to leverage that to ensure that we recover more, so that we can pay those depositors.
“The value of the debt that we are about to recover, if you take into account all the banks in liquidation that is the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), the microfinance banks, the primary mortgage institutions, is well beyond N400 billion, and that is what we are expecting to recover so that we can pay depositors of those banks in liquidation.
“One of the greatest challenges that NDIC is facing, is that of debt recovery; alot of customers of banks in liquidation that borrowed are not willing to repay those debts. And I want to put it on record that those debts, although those loans were granted out of deposits of people that were collected in the banks”.
“Lucky enough, in the revised 2023 NDIC act, a lot of powers have been given to the corporation in order to expedite these processes so we are hoping to leverage on that to ensure that we recover more so that we can pay those depositors.”
The Managing Director pleaded with the Federal government and other relevant stakeholders to assist in ensuring speedy recovery of the debts.
“No doubt there’s a regulation in place, the CBN is there, they have regulation and supervision to ensure that banks abide by the laws and regulations and it’s the basis of the licence they have so I believe as we strengthen that process, the risk of failure is going to be reduced to the barest minimum.
“Our request to the government is for the government to assist us in making sure that we expedite, if there’s a way we can bring in the stakeholders, the legislature, the Judiciary together so that anytime we take our decisions and cases before the court, cases are given expedited hearing so that justice can be dispensed.
“In all the cases we have taken before the court, what we are trying to prove is that Mr X has borrowed from the bank and left the court judge that the person is owing and let him pay .The loans that were granted by those banks were out of depositors money not their capital, so it is only when they pay that we will be able to pay those depositors”, he added.
Hassan noted that the desire to strengthen the banks through prudential thresholds and other regulatory instruments, necessitated the corporation’s collaboration with all relevant stakeholders in the Nigerian financial system, adding that that informed the choice of this year’s FICAN Workshop theme: “Stocktaking of Deposit Insurance Practice: Assessing the
Past, Evaluating the Present and Forecasting the Future.”
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