By Jude Opara, Abuja
Nigerians and other nationalities from the West African sub-region, constitute 40% of the 70 million refugees in the world, the Secretary General of ECOWAS Parliament, John Azumah , has said.
Azumah who stated this yesterday in Abuja during the official inauguration of the West African Parliamentary Press Corps and Senate Press Corps Day, at the National Assembly, added that humanitarian situations in the region were products of bad and unimaginative governance .
Painting the gloomy picture of the region on humanitarian crises and poverty level in his key note address read by the Director of Parliamentary Affairs and Research of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Bertin Some, on his behalf, Azumah said in Nigeria alone, 2.1 million people are displaced by Boko Haram insurgency .
He said: It is regrettable that despite the efforts being madein West Africa, the region is plagued with multiple crises .
“For instance, Nigeria’s North -East , North – West and North – Central are ravaged by Boko Haram terrorism and farmer-herder clashes , which has resulted in the killing of over 20,000 people and with about 2.1 million people displaced .
“This carnage has caused huge humanitarian crisis , such thatthere appear to be a lethargy of addressing the crises with funds by the international agencies .
“In Mali, insurgency has run down the country and displaced many. These crises are replicated in many parts of the region.
“According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), West Africa is one of the regions of the world with the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons , estimated to constitute about 40% of the 70million refugees and displaced persons in the world “.
The Scribe of the ECOWAS Parliament, blamed the sorry state of the region on bad governance which according to him, had rendered many affected countries financially impotent to the point of depending on funds from donor agencies to implement their yearly budgets .
”The political crises that trigger these humanitarian situations in the region are products of bad and unimaginative governance, which has plunged a great number of our citizens into poverty and untold hardship.
”The poverty level is so high in the region such that many member states largely depend on donor agencies and international humanitarian agencies to fund their activities and programmes because their streams of revenues can no longer fund the national budgets “, he lamented .
As a way out of the bad situations, he tasked the media and civil society organizations across the sixteen countries in the region to hold their various governments.
The vibrancy of the media according to him, is evaluated based on the degree of consciousness of the citizens in challenging leaders to live up to their duties and obligations.
However in his own speech , the President of the Senate , Ahmed Lawan who was represented by his Deputy , Senator Ovie Omo- Agege assured the gathering that the 9th National Assembly has put on ground , feasible template for populist synergy with the executive arm of government towards addressing the problems of insecurity, unemployment and high poverty level among the populace .
“These we believed, can be effectively tackled with required synergy with the executive arm of government and effective oversight duties by the Parliament .
” The press as the fourth estimate of the realm and societal watchdog, is expected to focus more strongly on the imperative of legislative independence “, he said .
Reps Raise Team to Probe Buhari’s Oil Subsidy Regime
*Say over $7bn, 120mn Barrels Diverted
*Accuse NNPC of Manipulating Consumption Figures
“Company Cheats FG in Oil Revenue to Tune of $10bn“
By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday, raised an adhoc committee to probe petroleum products subsidy regime in the last five years, covering 2017 to 2021.
The committee was given eight weeks to carryout the probe and report back to the House for further legislative action.
The decision was sequel to a motion on the “Need to Investigate the Petroleum Products Subsidy Regime in Nigeria from 2017 to 2021”, brought before the House by Hon. Sergius Ose Ogun.
The lawmaker had said that the motion was informed by Section 88 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) , which empowered the National Assembly to conduct investigations into the activities of any authority, executing or administering laws made by the National Assembly.
He also noted that Section 32 of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 saddled the Petroleum Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority with the task of regulating and monitoring technical and commercial midstream and downstream petroleum operations in Nigeria.
Ogun informed the House that as of 2002, the NNPC’s purchase of crude oil at international market prices stood at 445,000 barrels per day in order to enable it to provide petroleum products for local consumption.
He was concerned that as at 2002, the installed capacity of Nigeria’s local refineries stood at 445,000 barrels per day, but that their capacity utilization began to nosedive and eventually fell completely to zero due to the ineffectiveness and alleged corruption by critical stakeholders in the value chain.
The lawmaker said he was aware that due to the decline in the production capacity of the refineries, NNPC found it more convenient to export domestic crude in exchange for petroleum products on trade by barter basis described as Direct Sales Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement.
He said he was further aware that component costs in the petroleum products subsidy value chain claimed by the NNPC was highly over-bloated while the transfer pump price per litre used by the NNPC in relation to PPMC was underquoted as N123-N128 instead of N162-N165 and this fraudulent under-reporting of N37-N39 per litre translates into over N70 billion a month or N840 billion a year.
The legislator expressed worry that the consumption rate of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) was 40million to 45million litres per day, however, the NNPC used 65 million to 100 million litres per day to determine subsidy as discoverable from NNPC’s monthly reports to the Federal Allocation Committee (FAAC).
He also noted that the subsidy regime has been unscrupulously used by the NNPC and other critical stakeholders to subvert the nation’s crude oil revenue to the tune of over $10 billion with records showing that as at 2021, over 7 billion US dollars in over 120 million barrels have been so diverted.
According to the lawmaker. “There exists evidence that subsidy amounts are being duplicated, thus subsidy is charged against petroleum products sales in the books of NNPC as well as against crude oil revenue in the books of NAPIMS to the tune of over N2 trillion.”
INEC Creates Additional 14 CVR Centres in FCT
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has created 14 additional Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) centres in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to address upsurge in registrants turnout.
INEC said this in a statement by the FCT INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Mr Yahaya Bello on Tuesday in Abuja.
Bello said that the commission has also deployed 50 additional INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) machines to the new registration centres in the territory.
He said that the creation of the centres was to accommodate the upsurge of intending registrants in the FCT.
“Due to the upsurge of Voter turnout in the ongoing CVR in FCT, the INEC Chairman , Prof. Mahmud Yakubu has graciously approved deployment to the following centers for ease of registration.
“The centres are:1 ,City Centre -Diplomatic Park, Area 1 , 2.Gwarinpa G.S.S Life Camp ,3 . Wuse G.S.S Zone 3 ,4. Kabusa Primary School and Lugbe Primary School.
“ Others are : 5. Giwa – Gwagwa Primary School ,6. GUI – Gosa Primary School ,7 Karshi- Karshi Development Center ,8. Orozo – Orozo Primary School .
“The rest are : 9. Nyanya – G.S.S Nyanya ,10. Kubwa- L.E.A Primary School Kubwa, 11. Dutse-Aljaji – L.E.A Primary School Dutse, L.E.A Primary School, Dawaki L.E.A and Primary School, Mpape,” he said
Bello said that the commission had deployed 50 IVED machines to the new centers.
He urged voters to take advantage of the new additional centers and encouraged prospective registrants to be civil as they participate in the registration. (NAN)
Senate to Probe Tanko Mohammad’s Tenure Despite Resignation
By Jude Opara and Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
Despite his voluntary resignation from his office as the Chief Justice of Nigerian (CJN) on Monday, the Senate on Tuesday said that it would still probe the Justice Tanko Muhammad.
This followed a motion on “Matter of Urgent Public Importance” moved by Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC-Ekiti).
The motion was tagged: “State of Affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Demand by Justices of the Court.”
It could be recalled that the Senate had on June 22, mandated the Committee to as a matter of urgency, wade into the crisis rocking the judiciary.
Following prayers from the motion, the Senate resolved to mandate the committee to go ahead with its assignment in the bid to finding a lasting solution to the matter by interacting with relevant stakeholders.
This was aimed at addressing the complaints raised in the petition by the justices of the Supreme Court recently against Justice Mohammad as CJN .
The Senate further mandated the Committee to interface with the relevant stakeholders in the three arms of government as well as at the Bar and the Bench.
Bamidele while moving the motion in line with the Rules 41 and 51 of the Senate Standing Orders, noted that poor welfare of judicial officers would affect outcomes from the judiciary.
“The sacred image of the judiciary, which is the epicentre of the temple of justice should be preserved by the Senate through appropriate legislative measures in order to safeguard this highly revered institution and prevent it from being ridiculed,” he said.
The lawmaker who expressed reservations over the former CJN’s resignation said the development will not prevent the committee from going ahead with its assignment in the quest to find a lasting solution to the issue concerning the judiciary.
“Even though Muhammad has stepped down as CJN, most of the issues raised by the justices of the Supreme Court and other stakeholders within the judiciary still remain and need to be addressed urgently to prevent an eventual shutdown of the Judiciary,” he said.
Supporting the motion, Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said that “this motion will show clearly that the Senate is not unaware of the role it is supposed to play.
“Of course, in playing that role, we also respect separation of powers. Our concern is that the judiciary as an arm of government deserves all the support it needs been the last hope as far as the rule of law is concerned.”
Similarly, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege said, “I am very embarrassed as a lawyer and also someone from the judicial family, seeing that petition on the social media and eventually on the mainstream media. I was taken aback because it has never happened, it is unprecedented. There is no reason why the judiciary should lack anything financially.”
In his remarks President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said, “I can see most of the emphasis is on funding. When we look into the issues, they go beyond funding. We should look at other areas whether there is need to improve on the structures or having issues that may not be about funding but funding is of course a major issue.” Lawan said.
Fourteen justices of the Supreme Court had leveled allegations of corruption against the former CJN, Muhammad.
NASS Moves to Amend Electoral Act, Hails Supreme Court Judgement
In reaction to what it believes are flaws of the Electoral Act 2022, the National Assembly is making arrangements to amend some sections of the legislation to strengthen its perceived areas of weaknesses.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan revealed this on Tuesday at plenary, following a “Matter of Urgent National Importance,” brought before it by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (PDP-Kebbi).
Lawan described the judgment by the Supreme Court on Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act as a landmark that has vindicated the National Assembly.
The Senate President added that further amendment of the Act would strengthen it ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“Let me say that this is one major landmark judgment by the Supreme Court, that the National Assembly had done its job and the court upheld it. The idea of what method of primaries should be adopted at the moment is entirely left for the political parties to decide.
“But as we implement the Electoral Act 2022, we are supposed to be very observant of the strengths and weaknesses of the law. This law is supposed to improve on the electoral processes and procedures in our country.
“So, it is for us to ensure that where there are weaknesses, we try to come up with measures, amendments to deal with the issues of weaknesses in the law. And, I’m sure it will come full circle when the 2023 elections are held.
“I have no doubt in my mind that all of us in the National Assembly, not only in the Senate, but in the House as well, feel that we must do everything and everything possible to make this Electoral Act serve the purpose for which it was passed and assented to. Therefore, I believe that we should work tirelessly to take note of those areas that we feel are not strong enough – that are weak points in the law – with a view to strengthening them before we finally take our exit in 2023,” Lawan said.
In his submission, Abdulahi who recently dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the PDP in relying on Order 42 of the Senate Standing Orders, lauded the 9th Assembly for resisting the pressure from the Executive to amend Section 84(12) of Electoral Act 2022.
He also praised the Supreme Court for being clear, decisive and unambiguous in upholding the principles of separations of powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
“In my view, the Supreme Court verdict should be celebrated for the following reasons. It restored and anchors the power of making laws to the National Assembly, and establishes a principle that once the President accents to a Bill he/she can’t approbate and reprobate, i.e. he/she cannot go to the courts to amend/reject the Bill in part or in whole”, he said.
Abdullahi emphasized the need to amend the Electoral Act to revert to the direct mode of primaries to be adopted by the political parties.
“One issue still remains outstanding, and that is amending the Act (after the 2023 elections) to revert to our earlier stance on direct primaries. Our recent nasty experience of the misuse of consensus and delegate system has vindicated our earlier position on the merit of direct primaries provided that a verifiable membership register of political parties kept simultaneously at the Ward level and with INEC with all the necessary safeguards against corruption and data manipulation, is put in place.
“As the political process towards 2023 unfolds, the National Assembly needs to be observant of the loopholes and weaknesses of the 2022 Electoral Act. So that a comprehensive assessment is undertaken to provide adequate grounds for making amendments to the Act before the end of the term of office of the ninth Assembly in May 2023”, he added.
Kalu Leads 22 Non-returning APC Senators in Protest to Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has forestalled the impending exodus of senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) following their inability to get the party’s ticket to return to the National Assembly in 2023.
Twenty-two of the aggrieved senators, who included Senator Smart Adeyemi were led by the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu to the Aso Rock office of the President
Buhari noted their concerns about the future of the ruling party but praised their effort to find a solution.
The President assured them that as the leader of the party, one of his roles was to create the environment for members to ventilate their grievances.
He assured them that he had noted their concerns over the outcomes of the party primaries, the threat to the party’s majority in the National Assembly and consequences losing the majority hold will have on the party.
While pointing out that there must be a winner and loser in every contest, Buhari revealed that he had been inaudated with complaints over the primaries, assuring that he would continue to address the challenges through the party machinery.
He urged party members to exercise restrain, promising that justice would be done.
“I thank you for the decision to approach me with your concerns over the future of the party and for pursuing solutions approach to the challenges thrown up by the recent election-related activities particularly the primaries.
“As the leader of the party one of my primary roles is to ensure that the our culture of internal democracy and dispute resolution is strengthened by creating the opportunity for members to ventilate their opinions, views and grievances at different levels.
“Notwithstanding the fact that we have accomplished 23 years of an uninterrupted democratic governance, our journey is still in a nascent stage and we continue to learn from our challenges and mistakes.
“Similarly our party is still evolving in it’s culture and practice and it is my expectations and hope that we should attain a mature level in our internal conduct.
“I have noted your grievances particularly as it concerns the just concluded processes. The cost to the nation, the threat to the majority of position held by our party in the legislative chambers and likely consequent causes to the electoral fortune’s of the party as we approach the General Elections. We must not allow these dire threat to come to pass.
“I must acknowledge that in every contest there must be a level playing ground, just as there would be grievances at the end. That is the test of our democratic credentials, systems and practices.
“I have since the conclusion of the process been inundated with various reports and complaints. In keeping with our ethos therefore, I shall continue to address the ensuing challenges and grievances through the party machinery while paying keen attention to the outcomes.
“I must also remind you of the primacy of justice in all our actions, if justice is denied its outcome is usually unpleasant, this is because you the members keep the party running. I should add that as part of the policy of using the party machinery for effective resolutions of conflict, the chairman and some members of the national working committee visited the National Assembly recently to dialogue with our legislators.
“The leadership of the party is currently addressing the outcomes as part of the way forward. I am encouraging all the party functionaries to adhere to the truth and to be fair to all parties in any dispute. This is important because our strength and victory in the election lie in the unity of the party, in our ability to prevent or heal any injustice perceived.
“I urge you and all party members to exercise restraint and continue to demonstrate commitment to the ideals while we continue to build and develop the party and the country.
“Finally, Let me assure you that justice shall prevail, aggrieved members shall be assuaged in the interest of the party and the nation shall be protected,” the President said.
In his remarks, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Kalu, said at least 22 senators and members of the party were unhappy with the outcome of the primaries in their states, noting that they felt disenfranchised by the process.
He said the legislators had made sacrifices for the growth of the party and democracy in the country and asked for the President’s kind intervention.
“Mr President, in the Senate we have worked hard and consistently sold your programmes beyond party lines. Be assured always of our support,’’ he added.
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