The Presidency was shocked by the judgment of the Supreme Court which sacked the Governor-elect, Mr. David Lyon that it abruptly cancelled a scheduled press conference on Thursday in Yenagoa as the news of the decision on Bayelsa State governorship poll shook the nation.
This came as The PUNCH gathered that the President Muhammadu Buhari had also put off his scheduled visit to Bayelsa on Friday (today).
He was billed to inaugurate some petroleum industry projects. The presidential media team had earlier in the day fixed 3pm to address the State House Press Corps.
Findings indicated that the agenda was to address sundry issues, including adequate reaction to the booing of the President by Maiduguri residents on Wednesday and the need to have regular engagements with reporters on the activities of the regime.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, were to conduct the exercise.
But word suddenly came from their offices that the press conference had been cancelled, just as the apex court delivered its judgment.
The spokespersons gave no official explanations, but The PUNCH learnt that the cancellation was an immediate reaction to the court’s decision to avoid being put under pressure to comment on the development.
The PUNCH’s effort to get Shehu to comment on whether Buhari would still travel to Bayelsa today got no response.
The President’s advance party had since left Abuja ahead of him before the latest political development in Bayelsa happened on Thursday.
Accountant General, Customs CG Disagree over N28bn Unremitted Fund
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), on Thursday disagreed with the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over the N28bn allegedly under-remitted into the Federation Account in 2015.
Ali and Idris appeared before the Senate Public Accounts Committee to address the panel over the audit query issued to the Accountant General Office by the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine.
Ayine had in his Financial Statement for 2015 asked the Accountant-General to explain the differentials in the amount remitted by the Customs Service and the figures contained in his own records.
The audited report showed that the NCS remitted N185bn as against N157bn in the Accountant-General’s document.
The Accountant-General who was represented by a director in his office, Feyintola Olusegun, had earlier referred the Auditor-General and the Senate Panel to the NCS for clarification.
The NCS boss while appearing before the Senator Matthew Uroghide-led SPAC on Thursday absolved his agency of any wrongdoing.
Ali said the query was strange to the service because the mode of Customs collections was purely automated.
The Accountant-General therefore said the N28bn was for ECOWAS Stabilisation Fund for 2015.
The members of the panel said the Accountant-General’s latest explanations did not reflect in his earlier written submission to the Senate Panel.
He was also unable to provide documentary evidence to back up his claim.
On the query of non-remittance of pension fund, Ali admitted that his command defaulted in 2015 because it did not have sufficient funds to meet up with the obligation.
But the Accountant-General was asked to explain the N37.8bn borrowed from the 10 per cent Rice Level Account for urgent expenditure in 2013.
The Senate Panel asked why the Accountant General had failed to include the loan in the budget since then.
The Customs Service benefitted N4.5bn from the said loan.
Other beneficiaries of the unpaid loan are the Independent National Electoral Commission, PHCN, and NIMCOMSAT.
The Senate panel, however, asked the Accountant General to come forward with details of the loan that could help it conclude its probe.
The Chairman of the Senate panel expressed disappointment with the MDAs over their inability to defend audit queries issued to them.
Urhogide lamented that for over five years, many MDAs hadn’t produced their audited accounts.
He said, “How can we say we are fighting corruption under this situation?
“The Customs Act says you must send in your audited accounts, six months into another financial year.
“We must clear the outstanding unaudited accounts. What the President does with this will tell us how we are fighting corruption.”
Prepare for Increase in Electricity Tariff, Nigerians Told
Nigerians should be prepared to pay cost-reflective electricity tariffs in order to enjoy the benefits of the liberalisation of the power sector, the government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria has said.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, TCN, Mr Usman Mohammed, who said this on Thursday, noted that the government had continued to pump money into the power sector despite privatising it more than six years ago.
Mohammed spoke in Lagos during the groundbreaking for the replacement of old wires on the Ikeja West-Alimosho-Ogba-Alausa-Ota transmission lines.
He said when completed, the project would allow Ikeja Electric to take the full capacity of all the transformers along the substations to be supplied by the lines.
He said, “We are working to transform the TCN to be one of the best transmission companies in the world. But I want to tell the Nigerian public that we cannot move forward if we don’t pay for electricity.
“I want to tell Nigerians that there is no relationship between poverty and payment for electricity.”
According to the TCN boss, Nigeria has the cheapest electricity tariff in West Africa.
He said the government had sunk N1.5tn into the power sector in terms of payment assurance guarantee for power generation.
Mohammed said, “We have to stop this government intervention and we can only stop it when contracts become effective. Contracts can only be effective when you have cost-reflective tariffs.”
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission in its December 2019 Minor Review of Multi Year Tariff Order 2015 and Minimum Remittance Order for the Year 2020 for the 11 Discos, had said on January 4 that consumers would start to pay more for electricity from April 1, 2020.
See Reasons Senate’s Establishing Agency for Repentant Boko Haram Members
The Senate on Thursday started work on a bill for a law seeking the establishment of a national agency for education and rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram insurgents.
When it eventually becomes a law, it will ensure de-radicalisation of repentant Boko Haram militants and other insurgents.
The bill, which was sponsored by the All Progressives Congress member representing Yobe East Senatorial District, and former governor of Yobe State, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam, passed the first reading on Thursday.
It was supported by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.
Reading the bill, Geidam, who is from the same state with the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the document titled, “National agency for the education, rehabilitation, de-radicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents in Nigeria,” would ensure that repentant insurgents were fully integrated into society.
The proposed agency, according to the legislation, would provide educational opportunities for the insurgents.
It will also rehabilitate, de-radicalise and integrate the repentant insurgents in the country. The proposed agency, according to the bill, will provide recreational sports and fine arts programmes for the repentant insurgents.
The bill also states that the agency will be able to gain a greater understanding of both the immediate needs for combating Boko Haram, as well as tool for counter-radicalisation in the future, by maintaining open lines of communication.
The proposed agency will also provide vocational rehabilitation facilities for the repentant terrorists to learn carpentry, clay shaping, pottery and the like.
The bill adds that repentant insurgents will make use of art through drawings, guided by professional art therapists in their art. rehabilitation.
The main aims of the bill are to “provide avenue for rehabilitating, de-radicalising, educating and reintegrating the defectors, repentant and detained members of the insurgent group Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society.
“Provide avenue for reconciliation and promote national security. Provide an-open-door and encouragement for other members of the group who are still engaged in the insurgency to abandon the group, especially in the face of the military pressure.
“Give the government an opportunity to derive insider-information about the insurgent group for greater understanding of the group and its inner workings.
“Gain greater understanding of the insurgents will enable government to address the immediate concerns of violence and study the needs of de-radicalization effort to improve the process of de-radicalization.
“Help disintegrate the violent and poisonous ideology that the group spreads as the programme will enable some convicted or suspected terrorists to express remorse over their actions.
“Make them repent and recant their violent ideology and re-enter mainstream politics, religion and society.”
Recall that the military established a rehabilitating centre in Gombe State for repentant Boko Haram terrorists.
The centre, it was reported, had trained and rehabilitated over 1,000 insurgents since its inception over three years ago.
The Borno State Government had also revealed that about 1,400 repentant Boko Haram suspects had been released by the military and rehabilitated into society.