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Niger Delta :  Senate Summons  Budget, Finance Minister 

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By David Torough and Eze Okechukwu, Abuja

National Assembly joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun and his counterpart in the Budget and Economic Planning Ministry, Abubakar Bagudu to appear before it in furtherance of the budget defence for the Ministry of Niger Delta Development.

The summon was a sequel to the appearance of the Minister for Niger Delta Development,  Abubakar Momoh, before the joint committee chaired by Senator Jide Ipinsagba on Thursday next week.

During the interface, a member of the committee, Senator Seriake Dickson, raised a motion to adjourn the sitting indefinitely until both Ministers of Finance and Budget and Economic Planning appear with the Minister of Niger Delta Development to shed more light on the poor budgetary envelope for the Ministry of Niger Delta Development, fund released for projects among others.

Earlier, the minister had shared with the joint committee the 2023 budget performance and answered questions about project execution, project abandonment, fund releases, and a commutative debt portfolio of the ministry totalling over N50bn.

Momoh said for the 2023 budgetary provision of N11bn only N4bn was released from the capital budget which represents about 37% which he described as inadequate to meet the challenges of the region.

He said, “this gross inadequate budget has led to project abandonment and unpaid projects and so, this paucity of funds can lead to the derailment of the mission and vision of the ministry.”

While answering questions on training and empowerment for women and youths in the region, the minister said there was nothing the ministry could do, if money is not released for training and empowerment and as such, the training and acquisition of knowledge is slowed down.

“We have signed a performance bond with the president but with a paucity of funds there’s nothing we can do.

The purse of the nation is in your hands as lawmakers; we need you to empower the ministry to deliver.

“We do hope that with your approval, you will give us support for more and better funds released in the 2024 budget,” he explained.

On whether Mr. President was aware of the situation in the Ministry of Niger Delta Development, the minister said, “I cannot say he’s aware – it would be pretty difficult for the president to know all the details of happenings in all the ministries.”

The minister agreed with the legislators on why the government cannot award contracts without payments amidst a litany of abandoned projects.

He said, “I share your view. The government cannot continue to award contracts to people and would not pay.

“The system of securing cash is cumbersome. Sometimes you award a contract without knowing how much you have in your purse.

“I am talking of a cash plan system which is giving a lot of headaches. If a contractor completes his job, it’s expected that within one or two weeks they should get payment but you have to apply for it and upload it to the Ministry of Finance, which delays the system. You need to intervene in this regard.”

The minister added, “When I was outside, I saw things the way you’re seeing it now but now that I am inside, I now understand. On a poor budget performance of 37%, I agree it’s poor. It’s a statement of fact. I also share the issues you raised on the procurement process.

“I agree with that in entirety. I want to say one thing – we are in a transition year, and you cannot expect performance to be higher than 40%.

“I came on board in August when they were still running the 2022 budget and not quite a while ago they started running the 2023 budget. Once the National Assembly passes this appropriation, we will start work in earnest. You can be sure of speedy completion of projects.”

On the 2023 budgetary provision of N10bn, the minister said, “This sum cannot construct 3km of road in the heart of the Niger Delta. We need to also ask if there were adequate resources for all of these. The answer is no. We have requested additional funding even through Sukuk but we are still waiting for a reply.”

He said, “The staff in the ministry know how I operate. If you give me money today to complete a project, give me 3 months and see action if I will not deliver. On the 2024 budget, I will monitor them to make sure they are executed and I will hold my directors responsible if anything fails.

“On signature projects – we need to ask ourselves what we mean. The Ministry of Niger Delta has a star project which is the East-West road which was my focus when I came on board. But I was told that since 2021 it has been reversed to the ministry of works which should be a star of signature projects for the ministry.

“This is an interventionist ministry such as maintaining peace in the region which doesn’t signify a signature project. Left to me, the sum of N18B being the envelope for the year 2024 can be put on three signature projects and I will ask the president to come and commission projects but we cannot do that because being an interventionist ministry handling 9 states, we have to spread the projects”.

Momoh concluded by saying, “What I can assure you is that with me in the Ministry of Niger Delta Development, things will be done differently, I can tell you authoritatively”, he assured.

Dickson in commendation said, “You’re a very experienced person and we know that with you, the ministry is in good hands. We are ready to encourage and support you.”

He moved the motion for the suspension of the budget defence and it was seconded by Senator Mudashiru Lukeman.

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MMIA Customs Command Posts N45.2b, Beats 2023 Q1 by 111.7%

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From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos

Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has announced a total revenue of N45,23 billion for the first quarter of 2024.Making this disclosure in his review of the command’s activities in the period under review, Compt.

Mohammed Yusuf said the figure exceeded the N21,36 billion collected in the corresponding period of 2023 by N23,86 billion, representing 111.
7 percent.He noted that though important sectors of the economy were adversely affected by the unstable exchange rate, among others, the command remains resolute at collecting the much-needed revenue for the government, and to ensure the safety and well-being of the citizenry by curbing smuggling and facilitating legitimate trade.
“Similarly, the command recorded an appreciable increase in its anti-smuggling drive, which led to the interception of 50 pieces of 9mm live ammunition discovered in a joint examination conducted by the service and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA),” he said.He listed the first quarter seizures to include 1,164kg sea cucumbers, 58kg of donkey genitals and 17 cartons of tramadol – all with a cumulative Duty Paid Value (DPV) of the N5.8 billion, adding that the items contravened some of the provisions of NCS Act 2023.He explained that the command has maintained an “open-door policy and resolved a lot of issues of common interest with concerned stakeholders,” while thanking the critical stakeholders, including sister-agencies and the media, for their collaboration and synergy in the discharge of the command’s statutory mandate in the state.Yusuf commended the Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashiru Adewale Adeniyi, and his management team for their continued support, just as he thanked the officers and men of the command, urging them to remain focused and steadfast in their assigned responsibilities.

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Bandits Kill 30 Vigilantes in Niger Village

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From Dan Amasingha, Minna

Dogon-Dawa Community in Mariga Local Government Area of Niger State was thrown into anguish over the weekend as no less than  30 members of its voluntary security outfit called Yan Sa Kai were killed by gunmen.

 DAILY ASSET  authoritatively gathered from a source in the hard-to-reach area that the incident occurred on Saturday morning.

The source disclosed that the bandits invaded the community in large numbers engaged the Yan Sa Kai in a clash.

Our correspondent gathered that the Yan Sa Kai had trailed the bandits to their hideout when they were  unexpectedly ambushed leading to casualties from both sides after a serious exchange of gunfire.

The source who pleaded anonymity said that there were casualties on the bandits side but could say the number.

The chairman of Mariga Local Government Area, Abbas Kasuwar Garba confirmed the incident.

He expressed concern that this has happened when residents are prepared for farming work.

Garba appealed for calm saying government would investigate the circumstances leading to the unfortunate incident.

Efforts to get the response of the Niger State government and the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Wasiu Abiodun at the time of filing in the report proved abortive.

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Omobayo Takes Oath as Dep Gov after Shaibu’s Removal

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Edo State House of Assembly yesterday removed Philip Shaibu as the Deputy Governor of state.Shaibu was impeached by a vote by 18 out of 24 members of state Assembly following the consideration of the report of the seven-man panel set up by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Daniel Okungbowa.Immediately after his removal, 38-year-old Marvellous Omobayo was sworn in on Monday as the new Edo Deputy Governor to replace his predecessor, Philip Shaibu, who was impeached from office.

The Chief Judge of Edo, Justice Daniel Okungbowa, administered the Oath of Office on Omobayo at the Government House in Benin.
This is the first impeachment in the history of the state.In attendance at the House sitting were 20 members, including the Speaker, Blessing Agbebaku, but 18 members voted for the impeachment while one member abstained.
The process commenced with the Clerk of the House reading out Order 10-presentation and consideration of the seven-man panel report of allegation of gross misconducts against the deputy governor listed in the Assembly’s items for consideration.The Majority Leader of the House, Charity Aiguobarueghan representing Ovia North East 1 moved that the report be considered. His motion was seconded by the Minority Leader, Eric Okaka, Owan East.The Speaker assumed chairman of the committee of the whole House to consider the report, after the Majority and Minority Leaders moved and seconded a motion to that effect.Donald Okogbe, Akoko-Edo II rose to object to part C of the report but his objection was overruled by the Speaker.The House resolved that the allegation of perjury against the Deputy Governor was not proved but held that the second allegation of disclosure of official secrets was proved.The Majority and Minority Leaders of the Assembly moved and seconded a motion, respectively that the Speaker revert to his position as Speaker of the House.The Majority Leader moved that with regard to section 188 subsection 9 of the Constitution, the report be put to vote.Eighteen members voted in support of the impeachment while one member abstained.The Speaker said more than two-thirds majority of the House voted and endorsed the impeachment.He then declared, “I hereby from my seat announce that the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu stands impeached.”

Omobayo appointed by Gov. Godwin Obaseki was immediately sworn-in.

He hails from Akoko-Edo Local Government Area in the same Edo North senatorial district with Shaibu.

Omobayo was born on July 19, 1986. He is an engineer with a professional experience in the oil and gas sector.

He had his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Public Administration, both from the University of Benin (UNIBEN).

He is a registered member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

After taking oath of office, Omobayo pledged allegiance to the governor and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He said, “In the few critical months left to tidy up the work of this administration, my job as the Deputy Governor is clear and well cut out. I understand it very clearly.

 “In line with the oath of office to which I have just subscribed, I make a solemn pledge to do all in my power, with God’s guidance, to live up to expectations.

 “I will give all it takes to meet the expectations of my principal, the party, and above all, the good people of Edo State.”

The ousted Deputy Governor lambasted members of the Edo State House of Assembly who impeached him.

Shaibu said the lawmakers gave themselves to an act of betrayal and subversion of justice.

The former Deputy Governor made this statement in a video he posted on his X account shortly after the impeachment.

He said, “To the members of the Edo House of Assembly, who have chosen to forsake their oath of office and participate in this charade, I say this: history will judge you hardly for your betrayal of the people who elected you to represent their interest.

“But know this, you do not have the power to silence the voice of power and truth.”

He described his removal as assault on democracy: “I call upon the judiciary and all relevant authorities to intervene and uphold the principles of justice and fairness.

“It is with heavy heart yet a resolute spirit that I come before you to address the recent events that have unfolded within our dear state.

“I denounce in strongest terms the illegal impeachment by the Edo State House of Assembly over trumped-up charges, this is not just an attack on me as an individual but on the very democratic principles that we hold dear.

“It’s a dangerous descent into dictatorship, a threat to the foundation of our democracy. Let it be clear that this impeachment was hatched because of my ambition to contest the Edo Governorship election 2024 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“My good people of Edo State, thank you all for standing by me under these troubling circumstances as the Deputy Governor of Edo State.”

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