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Senate President Bukola Saraki

Saraki empowers APC 52 women leaders in Kwara

By News Desk

The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has disbursed N10.4 million to 52 women who were leaders from tAll Progressive Congress (APC), in Kwara on Sunday.

Saraki, who is the representative of four local governments of Asa, Ilorin South, Ilorin West and Ilorin East at the senate, empowered the 52 women leaders from the Kwara Central District, with each women given the sum of N200, 000.

The move by the Senate President, came few days after offsetting a 20 months’ salary arrears owed 220 traditional chiefs by three local government areas in his constituency.

Presenting the cheques to the beneficiaries at the Abubakar Bukola Saraki’s (ABS) Constituency Office, Ilorin, the ABS Director General, Musa Abdullahi said Saraki doled out the money to assist the women boost their businesses and trades.

He said the senate president held women in high esteem because of their positive contributions to the economy for which he said they deserved to be encouraged.

Abdullahi advised the beneficiaries to use the money for the intended purpose to enhance their standard of living.

In her remark, a chieftain of the party, Muslimat Ibrahim urged the women leaders to reciprocate the gesture by being loyal to the senate president and the party.

She advised the beneficiaries to be weary of the antics of some politicians who would only come around during election period to seek their votes.

Police arrests Omo-Agege over hoodlum attack, senate’s mace snatch

By NewsDesk, 

The Delta State Central Senatorial District Representative at National Assembly upper house,  Ovie Omo-Agege, who allegedly led hoodlums to snatched the senate’s mace during plenary, has been arrested on Wednesday.

The mace which the symbol of authority of the senate was reported to had been taken away by the hoodlum who invaded the upper house.

Earlier the Senator with hoodlums barged  into the Chamber of the Senate, during plenary, over powered the Sergeant-at-Arms positioned at the entrance and carted away the mace. It was unclear if the men have succeeded in leaving the National Assembly complex.

However, Omo-Agege was arrested at about noon outside the National Assembly building. A source in the National Assembly revealed that the suspended senator has been led away by the Police but at this time it is still unclear if the mace that was snatched had been recovered, but the lawmakers had resumed plenary with a spare mace.

Omo-Agege was suspended last week for taking the Senate to court. He had dragged the senate to court to stop the committee on Ethics from inviting him to answer questions over comments attributed to him.

The senator shortly after the first consideration of the bill to amend the electoral act and change the election sequence, told newsmen that the action of the Senate was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.

In a statement by the spokesperson of the Senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said the Senate resumed plenary  after coming out of an executive session where the earlier incident of forceful removal of the mace was deliberated upon.

“The session is holding with the mace, the official symbol of authority firmly in place, and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, presiding.

“The Senate also decided that it will get to the roots of this sad assault on democracy and an obvious act of treason which the seizure of the mace by some armed hoodlums represents. The hoodlums severely attacked some members of staff of the National Assembly, particularly the Sergeant-at-Arms on Chamber duties.

“The Senate has mandated the Inspector General of Police, Idris Kpotum Ibrahim and Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Malam Lawan Daura, to retrieve the mace stolen by the hoodlums within 24 hours.

“At the moment, some House of Representatives members led by Deputy Speaker. Yusuf Lasun, are in the Senate chambers in solidarity visits.

“We are determined to conclude all matters slated on the Order Paper for today, even if it means us sitting until 6pm”, said Ekweremadu.

Presidency, Senate to hold security summit Feb. 1

By Agency Report, 

The Presidency in collaboration with the Senate and other parts of the Executive arm will on Thursday, February 1 and Monday February 5 meet for a National Security Summit.

According to organisers, the summit will provide an all inclusive platform for heads of security and defence agencies, Governors, traditional rulers, socio-cultural groups, civil society organizations and others, with a view to finding solutions to acute and long term challenges posed by insecurity in view of the multi-dimensional security challenges facing the nation, .

In a statement issued by the Majority Leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, Tuesday, declared that the summit will also review the challenges being faced by security agencies in the performance of their duties and charting the way forward towards resolving the issues involved.

The Senate had on January 17, while deliberating on the interim report submitted by its adhoc committee on review of security infrastructure, resolved to convene a summit to interface with security agencies and other critical stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the issue and other related challenges.

The deliberation followed the crisis that erupted Benue, Taraba and Adamawa States and other states , especially between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria.

It read in part, “Though the summit was an initiative of the Senate as part of it’s contribution to the resolution of the rising security challenges, it is being convened in partnership with the Presidency to find a common solution to the issue. The summit is to be declared open by President Muhammadu Buhari and is to hold at the Banquet Hall of the State House on Thursday with all the 36 state governors in attendance.

“Other participants at the event will include all Senators and members of the House of Representatives, Ministers of Defence and Interior, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Service Chiefs and other heads of security agencies. Also expected at the two-day summit are selected traditional rulers from across the six geo-political zon es, representatives of regional socio political organizations, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Other stakeholders invited to the summit are the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs),” it stated.

Senate commences investigation of 215-megawatt Kaduna Power Plant contract mismanagement, others

By Abolaji Adebayo

The Senate Joint Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, and Gas, has disclosed that it would commence on-the-spot assessment of the 215-Megawatt Kaduna Power Plant on Monday, being part of the committee’s investigation into alleged inconsistencies in contract implementation of the facility and its failure to generate electricity.

Co-Chairman of the joint committee and Chairman, Senate on Gas, Bassey Akpan, stated that similar oversight would be conducted in other gas plants across the country to ascertain their functionality.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Sunday, Akpan noted that the assessment was necessary for the country to move forward, promising that the committee would see to the end of the investigation for them to do the right thing.

He said, “We are doing on-the-spot assessment of the plant on Monday and we will also be visiting every other gas-producing facility across the country, next week.

“The revelations we have are quite disheartening. By the time we are done and we do our final report, it will be an eye-opener on the rot in the power sector.

“The minister will definitely appear before us because he is not bigger than the Senate. We will give another date by the time we are done with the site visits,’’ he said.

The joint committee had, at its investigative hearing on November 27, ordered suspension of the planned commissioning of the 215-Megawatt Kaduna Power Plant over inconsistencies in contract implementation pending conclusion of its investigation.

The committee had expressed dissatisfaction with reasons given by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Louis Edozie, who defended change of parameters of the plant from gas-powered to diesel-powered plant.

It expressed reservation with the rationale behind converting the plant from gas-powered to diesel, which was more expensive.

The committee also expressed displeasure with the discrepancies in contract figures presented by the Ministry of Power and the consultant handling the project.

The Senate had on June 15, 2017, mandated the joint committee to investigate the Kaduna 215-Megawatt Power Plant’s failure to generate electricity.

The project was approved in 2009 with an expected completion date of 2012.

Amaechi meets Senate, clears air on $2.7bn rail concession

By Abolaji Adebayo

Sequel to the controversy over the proposed $2.7billion concession of the Narrow Gauge rail network across the country to General Electric, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has appeared before Senate and clarified that no agreement had been signed yet concerning the concession with General Electric.

He stated that what was imminent was the signing of an interim work schedule (Interim Phase) which involved General Electric investing the sum of $45million to carry out some rehabilitation and repair of the track infrastructure amongst other things before the signing of the main concession agreement.

Earlier, the Senate Committee Land Transport under the chairmanship of Senator Gbenga Ashafa had invited the minister to brief the committee on the effect of the planned concession on the activities of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), the future of the staff of the Nigerian Railways and most importantly the effect of the concession on the budgetary provisions for the narrow gauge rail lines when same is handed over to General Electric.

It was reported that the minister had stated that General Electric would be investing the sum of $2.7billion on infrastructure, Operation and Maintenance (O and M) of the entire narrow gauge lines concession.

He was also reported to have stated further that once the concession agreement with General Electric is concluded, the Nigeria Railway Corporation would hand over the affected rail lines to General Electric.

However, in his response, Amaechi said there had not been any such agreement on concession with the company.

As regards the future of NRC workers the minister stated that the NRC staff would remain employed by the NRC following the commencement of the concession.

However, the NRC staff have expressed a desire to be paid their full entitlements and disengaged prior to the commencement of the concession, saying the approach would put a significant upfront liability on the federal government.

Amaechi hinted that the stated preference of the ministry/NRC was to retain all the staff in NRC except for staff being transferred to the concessionaire.

The senate committee advised the ministry to tread carefully with respect to the issue of the workers to avoid a repeat of what happened with the PHCN staff which was eventually fraught with series of claims and counter claims from disengaged employees.

At the end of the meeting Ashafa cautioned that the meeting should not be viewed as a witch- hunt exercise, but rather as an avenue for both the committee and the Ministry of Transport to be on the same page as to the concession agreement in order to present a unified front in support of the President Buhari Administration.

The minister on his part promised that the final agreement would not be entered into without the Senate Committee on Land Transport being duly carried along.

Fashola faults Senate claims on $350m Eurobond fraud allegations

 

By Abolaji Adebayo

The Minster of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has absolved the ministry of the alleged fraud and mismanagement in the appropriation of $350 million Eurobond fund deposited in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to fund its 240 megawatts (MW) Afam Fast Power project in Rivers State.

He described the claims as unverified and false that could constitute imminent threat to the country’s investment climate.

The Senate had alleged that the power ministry diverted $35 million to the Afam fast power project without the approval of the national assembly.

It also claimed that a sum of $350 million raised from a $1 billion Eurobond was spent by the ministry in 2013.

In the statement entitled “Before Perception Becomes Reality” on Friday in Abuja, Fashola said that the ministry was ready to provide full, factual and detailed response when formally invited by the Senate.

The minister explained that the Afam Fast Power project was an investment by United States firm, General Electric (GE) in Nigeria to support the federal government’s plans for the power sector.

He noted in the statement that the investment by GE was contingent on Nigeria paying $27.99 million which was 15 per cent of the cost of eight units of 30MW turbines each totaling 240MW and valued at about $186.6 million.

According to him, GE made the offer to Nigeria provided it was able to provide a site to host the mobile power system, as well as a guaranteed gas supply and power transmission route which Afam checked, hence, its hosting of the project.

Fashola also said that he was not The Minster of Power, Works and Housing in 2013.

Fashola, said the Senators did not consult his ministry for clarification of the development, adding that if they had, there wouldn’t have been need for the claims he said they made against him, the ministry and its staff.

He said, “Before perception becomes reality, I feel compelled to make this statement in response to allegations bordering on financial impropriety raised on the floor of the Senate against the ministry of power, works and housing, my office as minister, the staff of the ministry and by extension my person.

“The sum and substance of the allegations to which the ministry will provide full, factual and detailed response when formally invited are that: An amount in the region of $350 million being part of a $1 billion Eurobond facility taken in 2013 has gone missing or has been diverted; 2. That the ministry, had procured a contract for Afam Fast Power and paid $26 million or thereabout for it.”

On the fast power project, Fashola explained that the sum and substance of was an investment by the General Electric, a globally reputed Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), to invest in Nigeria and support government’s effort to get good quick power under the roadmap of incremental, steady and uninterrupted power.

He noted that the company offered to provide Nigeria with mobile turbines of 600MW at a conducive location with gas and transmission evacuation infrastructure.

“The investment was contingent on paying $27,990,000 million which was 15% of 8 (eight) units of 30MW turbines each totaling 240MW valued at about $186,600,000:00. This payment of $27.9 million was made without breaching any law.”

According to him, the turbines have arrived Nigeria and currently at the Onne Port for all concerned bodies to verify, adding that the project would be soon ready for commissioning to add 240MW to the grid.

He further noted this would be one of the fastest power projects when delivered, compared to inherited power projects before the present administration.

The minister, clarifying his stand further, stated that investors did not need parliamentary approval to invest in the country.

He concluded that all of these facts could have been easily verified by a simple letter from the Senator to the ministry without the furore and suggestions of wrong doing and malfeasance.

CBN receives senate’s nod over move to check revenue leakages

By Jide Ajia

The Senate has lauded Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for acquiring Hi-Definition scanners and platform to check foreign exchange leakages and other infractions in import-export value chain.

It hinted that the technology would help in exposing leakages associated with revenue collection and other sharp practices in the Nigerian Customs Service, including circle of stakeholders in the import-export chain.

The Chairman of Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Hope Uzodinma, stated that CBN acquired the platform,  Enterprise Screening Platform, through which leakages experienced in allocation and management of foreign exchange and revenue collection by the Nigerian Customs Service will be blocked.

Briefing journalists on the development in Abuja on Tuesday,  Uzodinma explained the platform was designed to aid the CBN in stabilising the Naira by providing accurate cross referenced data on all trade facilitation documents, adding that those documents include form m, bill of lading, letters of credit and clean certificate of inspection.

The senator added that the platform would also help in tracking repatriation of foreign exchange proceeds records and online real time remote screening of in-bound and out-bound cargo or passengers.

Uzodinma stressed that the new technology would replace the manual process of examination of cargoes and other processes that had led to so much corruption in the system, while pointing out that the platform would further ensure judicious utilisation of scarce foreign exchange to ensure that genuine foreign exchange users gained unfettered and transparent access.

He added that the process would effectively eliminate various foreign exchange abuses while leading to the appreciation in value of the Naira.

According to him, the new system will check corrupt practices like abuse of Form M, violation of foreign exchange manual issued by CBN, incorrect classification, under-valuation and under-declaration.

Other challenges in the process, the committee chairman indicated, were incorrect declaration, incorrect origin, error in calculation, temporary importation, exemptions and waivers and foreign exchange manipulations.

He said that unit cost analysis and excise, smuggling and illegal removal of cargoes from terminals and lack of exit certificate by vessels would be completely eliminated.

”The measures which have already been introduced by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, came to the fore at the recent hearing of the Senate joint committee  on customs, excise and tariff and marine transport. At the hearing, CBN governor through the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS), informed the committee that Nigeria was losing trillions of Naira through the old system”, he also said.

The lawmaker added that the screening platform had Remote Screening Stations (RSS) that were configured as ”war room” which would be installed at the CBN, the Nigerian Customs headquarters, the Ministry of Finance and the Presidency.

According to him, the enterprise screening platform would be monitored from those locations in real time on a video graphic display with 36 panels given life views of activities across all Nigeria’s entry and exit points.

He urged the customs to adapt to the new platform to check leakages associated with revenue collection and other sharp practices in the service.

The committee had at its hearing, frowned at activities of a cabal at the ports which had defrauded the country of over N30 billion.

”The cabal from investigation connive with officials to carry out the infractions in daily transactions at the ports, commercial banks, shipping companies, terminal owners and operators.”

The chairman pledged the committee’s determination to work with relevant agencies to stop the fraudulent practices, adding that all those indicted would be prosecuted according to the law.

CBN sniffs high inflation, operating cost as factor aiding interest rate hike

By Jide Ajia

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that the high inflation rate and rising operating costs in banking sector were some of the major reasons for high interest rate in the country.

According to the Apex bank, the inflation rate was still hovering above 16 per cent and would be failing in one of its key mandates if it reduced interest rates considering the current challenges.

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who disclosed that Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) was at 14 per cent, stressed that the rate was higher than Kenya’s 10 per cent, South Africa’s seven per cent, Rwanda’s 6.25 per cent, Ghana’s 6.75 per cent, and Cameron’s 2.95 per cent.

Emefiele disclosed the statistics at the Department of Economics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka in a lecture designed as the dilemma of monetary policy and exchange rate management in a recession: potential options for Nigeria.

However, the statement quoted the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, as asking the apex bank in the cause of the lecture to reduce the interest rate since it was affecting the growth and survival of businesses.

In a swift response, Emefiele disagreed with those pushing for a rate cut as a path to growth, noting that the high inflation rate was inimical to economic growth.

He stated that interest rates reflected not just the cost of capital, but also the cost of doing business, and so, there was need to also look at interest rates from the perspective of the lender; given that most banks have to individually provide security, power and other infrastructure, it was not surprising that some of these costs were passed on to customers in the form of high interest rates.

He explained that apex bank would continue to rely on moral suasion to encourage Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in the country to be more considerate in interest charges on customers.

The CBN boss stressed the need for fiscal policy to target improved productivity of labour and increase disposal incomes for workers, adding that fiscal policy should consider ways of stimulating household consumption and business investments.

According to him, the CBN in collaboration with relevant government agencies would continue to stimulate the agricultural sector through its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and other agricultural interventions.

Specifically, he said the bank had committed about N29 billion to Anchored Borrowers programme (ABP) with the active participation of 24 states of the federation.

Emefiele challenged tertiary institutions in the country to focus on research that would boost economic development, just as he gave an assurance that the apex bank would work with relevant stakeholders in the educational sector to stimulate research for the overall good of Nigeria.

He frowned on the consumption preference of many Nigerians, cautioning that the nation could not continue to rely on other countries for products that could be produced locally.

Singing Senator Melaye, welcomes dancing Senator Adeleke to senate

By Ada Dike

Shortly after the swearing in of the Senator representing Osun West,  Ademola Adeleke, at the Upper Chamber in Abuja yesterday, he was seen in  a picture exchanging pleasantries with the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye.

While Adeleke’s scintillating dance steps endeared him to the hearts of many young Nigerians that watched his video where he was celebrating his victory last after last Saturday’s election, Melaye is known as a good dancer and singer, whose track, “Aje Kun iya” is still making waves in Lagos and online.

Senate refutes Amaechi’s claim over alleged project frustration

By Newsdesk

The Senate on Wednesday dismissed Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, claimed that the legislature refusal to approve $29.96bn loan requested by Federal Government is frustrating some critical infrastructural projects as false.

In a statement signed by the Senate’s Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi, the senate directed Amaechi to immediately withdraw his statement.

Amaechi had on Monday, during the North Central Town Hall meeting by the Federal Government held in Ilorin, Kwara State, said the refusal by the National Assembly to approve the request for foreign loan as counterpart fund was frustrating  the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan and Ibadan-Ilorin-Minna-Kano rail lines

The spokesperson who said that the statement was not only false, stressed that it was a misrepresentation of facts and that the statement portrayed the Minister as not in tune with position of the government in which he is serving.

‘‘As at today, the only request for approval from Executive for loan was the one dated January 27, 2017. It was signed by Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, seeking a resolution of the National Assembly for issuance of USD 1 Billion Euro-Bond in the International Capital Market, for Funding of 2016 Budget deficit and we immediately granted the approval.

“Also, in the letter quoted above, the Government mentioned two rail lines cited by the minister as part of projects for which the Euro-Bond will be utilized. So, we cannot understand what the grouse of Amaechi is.

“We view that statement based on false and misinformed premise strongly as a mere attempt to incite the people against the National Assembly, the spokesperson explained.

Sabi added that the Minister should withdraw that statement, noting that the National Assembly would take up the matter with Acting President.

“As a former Speaker of a state House of Assembly, we believe that a minister like Amaechi should always check his facts and refrain from making unguarded and inciting remarks against the legislature,” he said.

According to the senate spokesperson, what Nigeria needed was for all arms of government to work together to create synergy necessary to take Nigeria out of present economic crisis.

He added that such comment designed to infuriate one arm of government or incite the people against another arm of the government would do no one any good.

“We do not expect such statements from a Minister in the present government,’’ sabi said.