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NASS Leadership: APC Admits Mistake, to Revisit Zoning Arrangement

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By Jude Opara, Abuja

The All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday admitted that it may have erred in the manner in the handling of zoning of the principal positions in the forthcoming 10th National Assembly.

Consequently, the party assured that the burning issue which has forced most of the lawmakers-elect from both chambers of the National Assembly to openly threaten to go against the zoning arrangement of the ruling party would be revisited in no distant time.

National Chairman of the APC, Sen. Abdulahi Adamu gave the assurance when he received some of the aggrieved senators, who had indicated their interest to contest for leadership positions in the upper chambers.

Adamu told the trio of Senators Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara West), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North) and Sani Musa (Niger East), who presented a joint position paper to him that as leader of the party, he has taken responsibility for whatever misgivings that followed the zoning arrangement which zones the Senate President seat specifically to Sen. Godswill Akpabio (South South), the Deputy Senate President was to Sen. Jubril Barau (North West) while the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives was zones to Tajudeen Abass (North West) and Deputy Speaker went to Benjamin Kalu (South East).

“As Chairman of the APC and members of the National Working Committee (NWC), we take responsibility. As Chairman, I take responsibility for what has gone on air. I don’t have to share with you how it got to be shared. I take absolute responsibility for that.  Yesterday, we received members of the lower chamber who are also contesting for the speakership in the lower chamber and we had similar pronouncements – words of disagreement from them.

“Yes there was no sufficient or adequate consultations with you who are contesting and it is simple principle of democracy that you get views and opinions. But, the circumstances that we found ourselves in after the elections frustrated our desire.

“We must as democrats open up. So when NWC was very clear, yes we have received with respect, the outcome of the meeting with party leaders, comprising leadership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the party, the NWC. We will go back to the drawing board. We owe our party that duty to take a look whether what was done cannot be changed; what was done needs some changes or reviews. We will take a look at what necessary compelled us to do by the grace of God.

“Hold the fire until the last word is heard from us. We are the custodians of the party as NWC but we are not acting alone. The voice of the President-elect is an essential voice. We must accommodate him, the best we can. I will not compromise on that. So, he is right now outside the country and by the grace of God when he comes back we will go back to the drawing board and put ours heads together again and see what we will get. I cannot preempt that, I will wait until we hold that meeting with Mr President-elect, the same team that we had the same meeting with. If we need to enlarge the committee we will do so we will be better informed through contributions that will be made.

“We will go through your memo, line by line and ensure that we are able to capture the spirit of your presentation and see what will be the best way out of the situation we have. Whatever you heard is the art of human endeavour and we are not perfect as human beings. We can make mistakes. So, if we find in the course of further consultations the mistakes that need to be looked at, we will look at them”.

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On the issue of the North Central who was curiously left empty handed, Adamu who is also from the zone said; “I remain tongue tied talking about North Central. Your argument is extremely plausible. I assure you, we will take a look at along what has been given to the public”.

Earlier, Sen. Yari said since the North West have the APC the highest number of votes, the region should be given the opportunity to produce the next Senate President.

The former governor of Zamfara state further warned the party to remember that the party would like to win another election in 2027, warning that if they don’t get a fair deal from the ruling party, the North would be forced to “take a decision”.

So, Mr Chairman, we had been in this game and we understand it very well and it is about the dialogue. We are saying that party supremacy and we are looking at the election we won in 2023 and the next election is 2027 and it depends on how we play the part.

“The President-elect got 63.4 percent of the northern extraction. Where he came from the south he got 36.6 percent. Atiku Abubakar from Northern Nigeria got 68.8 percent of the total vote and he got from the Southern Nigeria 33.2 percent. So, now if there is anyone who can say we own APC; we own the President-elect in the Northern Nigeria. Without undermining any part of the country. They have given their best and we can understand their situation but justice need to be done. We should not be blinded that the power of anyone is not absolute but only God is absolute. We should not look at these four years as 20 years and then we are going into another election.

“So Mr. chairman we are not undermining what you are doing but we are doing this for the sake of this party to grow and we are doing for the best interest of the party because where we are talking today, if we from the North take another decision, it will not be good to all of us and it will become history which we don’t want that to happen. And only if we do justice that will protect that from happening but we should all pick our pen today and write it which is 11th May, anything from the contrary walahi the Northern Nigeria will take another decision”.

On his own part, the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu said that the party should do whatever it takes to make the country remain in peace. He added that what will being a lasting peace is equity and fairness.

Kalu also said that emphasis should not be laid mainly on the zones that produced the highest number of votes, stating that even in the South East, the APC is gradually making inroads which he stated will improve if the party encourages the zone.

“What I want to say is that the country need to live in peace. We need to live as people that have worked together for many years. And in doing this, vote should not count on what you get most times. Enmity should not also count in what one gets most times.

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“President Obasanjo became president with votes from other Nigerians other than his constituency. So, what I am saying is vote should not the right measurement because what you did not do today, you can do it tomorrow.

“We had a hurricane in our zone that nobody could have stopped it. President Buhari had 29.9 per cent in Abia in 2019. He had 68.7 per cent in Abia North Senatorial District. We are still very proud of what we did for him. I insist that vote must not count because we need one another. The Binding of one another is more important than vote cast. Yes, vote cast is important to help the party to win. But the party has won and we need peace and everybody on board. Those are the novels for the party today can vote for the party tomorrow, if we are properly aligned.

“It should not be an issue and we cannot only count our success by vote, after all in our zone, we use to be only two or three Senators but today we are about six or seven APC Senators from the zone.

“I want to appeal to the NWC that giving every part of the country a piece of the cake makes the country safe and for  people to feel that they are Nigerians and I have been at the vanguard of calling for Nigeria unity for over 40 years in my life and I have been in politics. I am not disputing that  Northern Nigeria did not give the vote, but there is a time in this country that the Eastern Nigeria were voting for other party.

“I appeal to you people to cede something reasonable and valuable to the South East . We are going to rebuild the party and the most important thing is starting earlier. Four years is like four days and it is like going back for election in the next few years. And give us opportunity to rebuild this great party”.

Kalu further said that micro-zoning positions to individuals is not acceptable to them.

“So, we are going to challenge it. We are going to say no to it.  I am a party man, I am a believer of the party and I have never disobeyed this party. This is first time we are going to say no to the directive of the party. We are going to says that we are not going to do this in the floor of the Senate.

“This is not acceptable to us. I will not want to do it and I will not want to disrespect the party. And it is still early enough about 18 to 19 days to resolve it. It will be better that the party returns to the drawing board, deliberate and call a consultative meeting.

You have to review the zoning arrangement and correct micro-zoning the positions to individuals. It must be done by zone not name because it contradicts all the relevant sections of the Constitution I have quoted.

“It will not be right for a big national party like ours to perpetrate what is unconstitutional. We want you people to do what will be in agreement with the Constitution. Mr. Chairman doesn’t forget that all the 109 senators are capable of being a Senate President. There is no one elected there that is not competent enough to be a Senate President.

“I urge you people to go for further consultations and know the direction this party will go so that we can have peace in the country built in tripods like Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. You should ignore the excuses about number of votes.

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“There is no need that we start disobeying the party on June 13 on the flour of the Senate. It will very good we agree. We must be in agreement and I am happy that the National Chairman, the Deputy National Chairman (North), the National Secretary are senators.

“They can promise you everything, but you know that we are going to do secret ballot in the senate. We will vote according to our conscience. You people have done it before and we will do what you have done in the past. We will do it again”.

In his own contribution, Sen. Sani Musa said the party must always insist in doing things right. He argued that since both the President-elect and the Vice president-elect are Muslims, that it was only equitable for the Senate President to be a Christian.

“Whenever we see anything that is not right, it is only fair if we are good followers to bring it to the table and when they said the national chairman is inviting us for this, I agreed.

“I am standing here in my own corner as a distinguished senator, who is also aspiring and also, I am here to speak in respect of my distinguished colleagues, Senators-elect from the north central geopolitical zone of this country.

“When I made my declaration, I said, looking at the secularity of this country and looking at the permutations when we took risk (same faith ticket) and we were successful. There are certain times we should not push our luck. I said, we have competent distinguished Senators-elect from anywhere. That is, because we have a Muslim President. We have a Muslim vice President and we thought that at least the third person should be a Christian.

“As we are going, I had expected that the party will look at those who are very few, I think four or five of us declared interest. And I taught in the wisdom of the party, they will invite just those five of us which they can manage. If you can manage us like this after a decision has been proposed, decision have been reached, it would have been easier if you sat us before that proposed decision was issued and said there can only be one leader and we are first among equals. But the party didn’t do that. The NWC had a meeting with Mr President-elect. I respect Mr President-elect, he is a tactical politician. He knows it. He knows every inch of it. He will be able to listen to whatever an organ like ABC will bring to him. Whatever anyone will tell him. He will want to aggregate his own views.

Musa also frowned at the decision to ignore the North Central while the North West was given  both the Speaker and the Deputy Senate President positions.

“Our geographical settings have become like institutions. You cannot give positions to individuals.

“I would have expected my brothers from the North West to stand against this template and say let us toe the line we have been towing since 1999. This injustice needs to be corrected. We have five of six governors. 11 out of 19 senators. We will however make sure that no party takes our chance inside that chamber. It is going to be an APC affair”.

The other member of the group, Sen. Osita Izunaso (Imo West) was unable to attend the meeting because he was said to have traveled to Owerri with Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

COVER

South-West Governors Task Tinubu on Federalism

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The South-west Governors’ Forum has urged President Bola Tinubu to institute a new constitutional order that would ensure true federalism in Nigeria.

Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is the chairperson of the regional group, stated this in a statement on Tuesday, on behalf of the governors .

He said this should be one of the first steps to be taken by the new Tinubu administration.

Akeredolu also admonished the president to hire men and women with the required expertise in governance to serve in his government

“The new Administration has its jobs well defined, the very first being the urgent need to assist in birthing a new constitutional order which takes into account, keenly, the principles of federalism,” a statement by its Chairman and governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, said.

“The success recorded at fixing the basic defects in the 1999 Constitution, As Amended, will determine, largely, the pattern and the depth of the deliberative governance designed to achieve development.

“All existential issues will be addressed realistically. We must encourage the new Government to tread this honorable path. The new thinking should anticipate active participation by the constituent units of the Federation as coordinate partners in revenue generation and the security of lives and property of the citizenry.

“I do not doubt that Mr President is ready to deliver on this mandate of rectitude. His record of service in Lagos State leaves no room for any doubt concerning his capacity to turn things around positively.”

According to the governor, only those with proven capacity to deliver should be brought on board.

“This is not the time to gloat on the electoral victories recorded in the last general elections. It is not a season for recriminations,” Mr Akeredolu said.

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He said the divisive rhetoric of “we against them” should cease with the declaration of the winners by the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“We admonish ourselves on the need to remain focused on the socio-economic programmes for the emancipation of our people,” he said.

The governors urged all the new leaders to cast aside all tendencies which promote and deepen cleavages of different hues, adding, “All hands must be deployed on deck.

“There must be conscious attempts to bring on board only those with proven capacity about expertise,” he said.

“The President must ensure that all those who are bent on setting Nigerians on one another are neutralized.

“As Nigeria takes yet another momentous step on her journey towards greatness, it behooves us to join all good people in the country and our friends and well-wishers from all over the world to celebrate this seamless transfer of power to a new set of elected leaders, at both the national and state levels.

“Most importantly, all decent people must pay glowing tributes to the commitment of the immediate past President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for this phenomenal leap towards political stability and economic prosperity.

“On this occasion, I felicitate the new President, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, GCFR, most heartily, for his resilience, equanimity, doggedness, and uncommon tenacity to achieve set objectives. I congratulate the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, GCON, for being a part of the team who will steer the affairs of the country for the next four years.

“I rejoice with the All Progressives Congress for working assiduously and sustaining the momentum until the final victory was won. I congratulate Nigerians for being witnesses to history.”

Mr Tinubu had severally advocated “true federalism” prior and during the electioneering campaigns of the last general elections.

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However, politicians in the geopolitical divide are not quite agreed on the extent of devolution of powers to states.

Group Asks President to Declare Assets Publicly

A group, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) has called on President Bola Tinubu to declare his assets in accordance with Paragraph 11 of Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution and make it public as a way of committing to the genuine fresh beginning he promised Nigerians.

AFRICMIL said it believes that declaring his assets and making it public would place Tinubu on a much higher moral pedestal than his predecessors who were not on record to have taken any significant action regarding this constitutional obligation.

It said besides the moral capital that accompanies such a rare gesture, the president would be seen to have reinforced belief in the “Renewed Hope” agenda on which his governance plan is anchored, and which was the mantra at every turn in his campaign trail.

The group stated this in a statement by its coordinator, Chido Onumah.

Tinubu was inaugurated on Monday as Nigeria’s 16th leader.

AFROCMIL said the anti-corruption agenda of the new administration remains vague even though in his inaugural speech Mr Tinubu said his administration would “take proactive steps such as championing a credit culture to discourage corruption while strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.”

The group said it looks forward to a more detailed and unambiguous anti-corruption programme and is ready to work with the Tinubu administration to tame the vicious monster of corruption currently ravaging the country.

“Before we get a full understanding of the new administration’s trajectory on fighting corruption, we would like to propose to President Tinubu that an important tool for enhancing transparency and accountability and reducing corruption is whistleblowing.

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“We are disappointed at the failure of the immediate past government to enact a whistleblowing and whistleblower protection law, even though it introduced the whistleblowing policy as one of its anti-corruption strategies in December 2016 and approved a draft whistleblower protection bill in December 2022.

“To address this disabling lapse, we are using this opportunity to call on this administration to take steps to sign the whistleblowing and whistleblower protection bill into law without further delay. A whistleblowing law would boost the confidence of citizens to report fraud, block leakages and increase the revenue which the new administration badly needs to sustain effective governance at this time,” the statement said.

AFRICMIL also called on former president, Muhammadu Buhari, to declare his assets and make it public as a token gesture of redemption for his severely diminished integrity.

“This is not the first time AFRICMIL would be requesting elected officers to publicize their assets records as a mark of upholding transparency and accountability in governance through personal example.

“In 2011, AFRICMIL dragged the Code of Conduct Bureau to court seeking an order compelling the CCB, within the ambit of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, to make available to the public the asset declaration form of President Goodluck Jonathan.

“In 2017, AFRICMIL again sued the CCB for refusal to make available the asset details of principal officers of the National Assembly since 2011. Following the unfavorable judgment of Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati of the Federal High Court, AFRICMIL took the matter to the Appeal Court. The case has yet to be heard,” the group stated.

AFRICMIL said it will not relent in its advocacy for good governance through activities that are targeted at holding public officers accountable.

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Subsidy Removal: PMS Price Jumps to N537 Per Litre

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Following Monday’s removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), yesterday jerked up pump prices of petrol, also known as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N195 per litre to 537 per litre at its fuel stations nationwdie.

According to a statement signed by the NNPC Ltd’s Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Garba Deen Muhammad, the increment is part of measures to provide the public with quality service.

The statement also said that the NNPC Limited is committed to ensuring a ceaseless supply of products.

“NNPC Limited wishes to inform our esteemed customers that we have adjusted our pump prices of PMS across our retail outlets, in line with current market realities.

“As we strive to provide you with the quality service for which we are known, it is pertinent to note that prices will continue to fluctuate to reflect market dynamics.

“We assure you that NNPC Limited is committed to ensuring a ceaseless supply of products.

“The company sincerely regrets any inconvenience this development may have caused.

“We greatly appreciate your continued patronage, support, and understanding during this time of change and growth,” the statement read.

According to a new price template disclosed by NNPLC yesterday, Lagos State has the least price of N488 per litre, while Maiduguri and Damaturu have the highest pump prices of N577 per litre.

Yesterday, most filling stations in the nation’s capital, Abuja, had adjusted to the new pump price.

Similarly, pump prices had been adjusted across the states.

For instance, in Benue State, the fuel price had been adjusted to N537 per litre.

The price adjustment represents an over 200 per cent increase.

The implication is that nearly all prices of goods and services would drastically increase.

The development is coming barely two days after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s inaugural speech, where he said fuel subsidy would be removed.

In the first half of 2023, Nigeria spent N3.6 trillion on fuel subsidy alone.

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The country will save close to N6.7 trillion if fuel subsidies payment is discontinued.

Nigeria has spent N13.7 trillion on fuel subsidy in the last 13 years, according to Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

NLC Kicks over Price Increase

The umbrella body of labour unions in the country, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday fumed over the adjustment of pump prices by the Nigerian National Petrol Company Limited (NNPCL).

Barely 48 hours after President Bola Tinubu announced an end to the subsidy era during his inaugural speech at Eagle Square, Abuja on Monday, the NNPCL confirmed the hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit also known as petrol.

Since the presidential pronouncement, fuel queues have resurfaced across the country as Nigerians forage for the premium product which was rose from around N185 per litre to between N400 and N600 per litre.

Worried by the situation, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, issued a statement expressing worry that the national oil company would announce an increment.

Describing the development as unfortunate, Ajaero said the NNPCL’s action was coming on the heels of an ongoing meeting with stakeholders in the oil and gas sector to manage the unilateral but unfortunate announcement by the President.

“It is therefore unacceptable and we seriously condemn it. Good faith negotiation is key to reaching agreement. What the government has done is like holding a gun to the head of Nigerian people and bringing undue pressure on the leaders thus undermine the dialogue,” the NLC President said.

“We call on the federal government to immediately instruct the NNPC to withdraw this vexatious Pricing template to allow free flow of discussions by the parties. Nigerians would not accept any manipulations of any kind from any of the parties especially from the representatives of the Government.

“Our commitment to this process is buoyed on the fact that all the parties would be committed to ensuring that it is carried out within the ambits of liberty without undue pressure. The release of that Template may not allow us to continue if nothing is done to withdraw it so that the dialogue can continue unhindered. It is clear that Government is actually trying to scuttle the process.”

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IPMAN Sanctions over 100 Petrol Stations for Price Violation

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), has said that over 100 petrol stations have been sanctioned for increasing pump prices.

National Spokesperson of the Association, Yakubu Suleiman, disclosed this yesterday.

Briefly after President Bola Tinubu’s speech on May 29 that the petrol subsidy has been cancelled, panic buying erupted in some parts of the country as some marketers closed shops, leading to large queues in filling stations across the country.

In Lagos, Abuja, and other parts of the country, it was observed that since May 29, some filling stations ceased operations; while those that dispensed petrol increased prices.

Speaking in an interview with Channels Television yesterday, Suleiman said there is a penalty for filling stations increasing pump prices, adding that over 100 sanctions have been placed on defaulters.

“We have a task force that goes around all the filling stations in the country and I want to assure you that they are there, working right from yesterday,” he said.

“Any filling station caught increasing the price just because of this announcement, there has to be a penalty against such stations. We sanction those who default. We close the stations. Our task force is there doing its job.

“As of yesterday, more than 100 filling stations have been sanctioned. Some of them, when we go through their reports, are not real petroleum marketers. Real ones cannot go against the rule of their administration.”

Mike Osatuyi, the national operations controller of IPMAN, had earlier told TheCable that the reflexive action of customers who wanted to stock up on cheap petrol before the price of the product increased, was to be blamed for the unprecedented level of queues.

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He advised that, although there is currently enough petroleum stock to supply the nation, there would be a price increase eventually.

Meanwhile, the representatives of the federal government are expected to meet with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) today, over the planned removal of the petrol subsidy – the root cause.

NMDPRA: We’re Ready to Issue New Petrol Import Licences

The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) said it is ready to issue licences to companies interested in petrol importation.

Speaking to newsmen on Tuesday, Farouk Ahmed, chief executive officer of NMDPRA, said the criteria for importing kerosene and diesel will be applicable for the importation of the product.

However, Ahmed said several conditions have to be met before the applicants are granted licences.

“There are a lot of conditions to be met before you are given a licence to import petrol,” he said.

“I cannot give you all the rundown now but I can tell you that just the way marketers import diesel or jet kero, there are conditions for all that and the same condition will apply to those who want to import premium motor spirit (PMS).”

Only companies that are lessees producing crude oil and/or condensates or who are holders of crude oil refining licences are eligible to supply wholesale petroleum liquids (including petrol importation), according to section 197 (2) of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021.

While the PIA empowers the NMDPRA to issue licences to refiners or producers of crude oil, the regulation, in sections 73 (3) and 111 (1), provides that the minister of petroleum must approve such licences.

Currently, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) is the last-resort supplier, tasked with importing refined petrol to ensure adequate supply and distribution in the country.

Through the direct sale, direct purchase (DSDP) scheme, the country exports crude oil and exchanges it for refined petroleum products.

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Senate Uncovers N3.8trn Service Wide Vote Abuse by MDAs

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Nigeria President of the Senate Ahmed Lawan
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By Eze Okechukwu, Abuja

The Senate has uncovered how about N3.8 trillion was abused by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between 2017- 2021. The revelation comes on the heels of the Senate investigation by its Standing Committee.

The report advised The Executive to use Supplementary Budget approach to meet emergencies or shortfall, rather than the current Service Wide Vote mechanism, which amounts to affront /erosion of the approval powers of the National Assembly.

The Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee chaired by Senator Matthew Uhroghide which conducted the investigation into disbursement of Service Wide Votes had invited 207 government agencies for the investigation, but only 119 agencies appeared before the committee while 85 agencies shunned the invitations of the Committee.

Among the agencies that shunned the Committee investigation were State House, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, , Nigeria Defence Academy, Federal Ministry of Health, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria.

In the report submitted by the Committee which was upheld by the Senate, some agencies did not make formal request for the money that was sent to them by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

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It was also discovered that hundreds of billions were claimed to have been used for the purpose of paying salaries shortfalls whereas such agencies had already collected appropriate for personnel emoluments and were IPPIS platform.

The Senate further discovered that MDAs have not been disclosing Service Wide Votes transaction documents such as payment vouchers, vote book.

Senate therefore urged the Executive should limit the release of Service Wide Vote to recurrent emergencies or shortfall genuinely desired with satisfactory proof.

They also recommended in-depth investigation into depth the operations of IPPIS to stern the rising cases of irregularities in the system.

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