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Senate Justifies N125bn NASS Budget, Says Its Reward for Hardwork

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The Senate has justified the N125 billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the National Assembly budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

“The National Assembly has a lot of staff to take care of in both chambers. The number of committees is large too because of the volume of work. So, there is no way we can operate with a small budget,” said spokesman of the Senate, Adedayo Adeyeye, in an interview with The Guardian.

His comment came as Italy’s parliament voted to cut down the number of legislators in both houses. While the Senate will now have 200 lawmakers from 315, the chamber of deputies will have 400 as against 630.

“The bulk of this money is spent on issues that promote legislative operations. Unfortunately, many people believe that legislators take the largest chunk of the money. Our salaries are open for public scrutiny,” Adeyeye said.

“The truth is: it is either we want to have a working and effective National Assembly that is properly funded or we do not. Running the system in the National Assembly is very expensive.”

The spokesman, however, failed to provide details on how the N125 billion would be spent, declaring that he was yet to get the specifics.

The National Assembly has in the past come under intense criticism over its failure to release the details of its budget.

Also, the Senate has reintroduced a bill seeking to establish the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO).

The Eighth Senate passed the bill on May 3, 2019. Buhari, however, did not assent to it. The proposed office, among other functions, will report yearly to the Senate and House of Representatives all items funded in the preceding financial year for which no appropriation was made by the National Assembly, and all items contained in the Appropriation Act in the preceding financial year but which were not funded by the Federal Government.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, continued debate on the 2020 budget yesterday with Senator Emmanuel Bwacha saying the document does not reflect Nigeria’s readiness to diversify its economy. He also accused his colleagues of being insincere in their handling of the budget.

“I’m saying this because, since 1999, budget implementation has not reached 70 per cent. This is very worrisome. We are discussing the 2020 budget estimates. Is it fair to say that we have a 2019 budget, which has not been implemented? As we speak now, nothing has been done. We have the 2019 Appropriation Act and we are discussing the 2020 budget proposal.

“Oversight functions have become a ritual. We have to take it seriously as a parliament. We refused to address this aspect of our shortcomings. We are only prepared to speak from both sides of our mouths. We need to walk the talk if we really want to achieve significant growth in our economy,” he said.

Senator Christopher Ekpeyong said the planned increase in VAT was incompatible with the budget. He explained: “If you increase the VAT to 7.5 per cent today for an investor or a contractor, he will pay educational tax of one per cent, he will pay ITF of one per cent, he will pay NITTF of one per cent, and some times, he goes behind to pay some percentage to the ruling party.

“These taxes are not mentioned. What is the result of the product the man will sell? For that reason, I am not in support of the VAT increase because already the VAT not mentioned is over 9 per cent and if you now add this to this, you will be having 10.5 per cent as VAT in the country.”

Similarly, the vice-chairman, Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund, Ojang Sandy Onor, described Buhari’s attribution of low receipts in VAT to the general election as a cover-up. According to him, the real reason is that the economy is not performing well.

He said: ‘If yesterday when VAT was five per cent we experienced lower levels of economic activities, today that VAT is 7.5 per cent, we risk not having economic activities at all, and the consequences are dangerous.”

But Senator Ajibola Basiru who seemed to support the proposal gave the reason for the lack of full implementation of the 2019 budget. “The budget was not fully implemented because it was passed and signed into law towards the end of the Eighth National Assembly. What struck me is that the revenue projections and infrastructure show a 70 per cent deficit in the 2019 budget, and in 2020, it has already been highlighted that N2.18 trillion will be the proposed deficit,’’ he stated.

“People are looking at the allocation to key sectors and the revenue to fund the projects. For instance, when you talk of the N256 billion being allocated to Works, I have it on good authority that what is even required to take care of the outstanding in the Ministry of Works and Housing is in excess of N500 billion. Yet, many people are hailing the N256 billion allocated for Works, describing it as huge. We should also be looking at the aspect of progressive taxation.”

The Guardian

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100 Days of Coronavirus in Nigeria: Cross River Maintains Clean Slate

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By Eric Elezuo

Today marks exactly 100 days since the incursion of the dreaded coronavirus disease into Nigeria. The advent of Coronavirus, nicknamed COVID-19, in Nigeria on February 27, 2020 took many by surprise, but to many others, it was just the consequence of weeks of official indecision. The disease finally entered through the airport via an index-Italian, whose name is still unknown.

COVID-19 was first discovered in the Wuhan Province of China, and made public on December 31, 2019. It has been reported that the origin story of coronavirus says that someone at the now world-famous Huanan seafood market in Wuhan was infected with a virus from an animal. All fingers have been pointed at pangolins; a scaly mammal that looks like an anteater, suggesting this animal was the staging post for the virus before it spread to humans.

The rest is still an undeveloped history, but the fact of the matter remains that the spreading from that first cluster in the capital of China’s Hubei province to a pandemic that has killed over 315,000 people so far, globally.

In Nigeria, after 100 days of the first infection, the spread of the novel Disease continues to rise as the latest statistics provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reveal there are about 12, 000 confirmed cases. Presently, with the 300 new confirmed cases and 8 deaths recorded on June 5, 2020, the country seems far from flattening the curve.

The NCDC said, “On the 5th of June 2020, 328 new confirmed cases and 10 deaths were recorded in Nigeria.

“No new state has reported a case in the last 24 hours.

“Till date, 11844 cases have been confirmed, 3696 cases have been discharged and 333 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

“The 328 new cases are reported from 14 states- Lagos (121), FCT (70), Bauchi (25), Rivers (18), Oyo (16), Kaduna (15), Gombe (14), Edo (13),Ogun (13), Jigawa (8), Enugu (6), Kano (5), Osun (2), Ondo (2).”

  • Total Number of Cases – 11,844
  • Total Number Discharged – 3,696
  • Total Deaths – 333
  • Total Tests Carried Out – 71,336±

The latest numbers bring Lagos state total confirmed cases to 5644, followed by Kano (975), Abuja at 862, Katsina (400), Edo (364), Borno (322), Kaduna (320), Oyo (334), Ogun (363), Rivers (308), Jigawa (282),  Bauchi (281),  Gombe (184), Kwara (127).

Delta State has recorded 116 cases, Sokoto (115), Plateau (113), Nasarawa (90), Ebonyi (80), Zamfara (76),  Yobe (52), Osun (49) Imo (47), Akwa Ibom (45), Adamawa (42), Niger (41), Ondo (38),  Kebbi  (33), Bayelsa (30), Ekiti (25), Enugu (30), Taraba (18), Abia (15), Benue (13), Anambra (12), while Kogi state has recorded only 3 cases.

Of the COVID-19 related deaths so far recorded, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, late Mallam Abba Kyari, remained the highest official to bow to the disease. The likes  Bauchi State government, Bala Mohammed, Kaduna State governor, Nasir, el-Rufai, Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, Chairman, Daar Communications, Raymond Dokpesi, and his family among others have remained some of the big shots that tested positive to the disease, but got ‘cured’.

While trying to contain disease in the last 100 days, President Muhammadu Buhari, among iterating the regular safety measures as authorised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) directed the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT and Ogun State for an initial period of 14 days, which took effect from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. The lockdown was renewed for another 14 days at the expiration on April 13, 2020.

On April 27, 2020, when the second 14 days expired, President Muhammadu Buhari took different measures. He declared an overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am across the country, as part of new measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19. This comes along with the phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos, and Ogun States, which took effect from Saturday, 2nd May 2020, at 9am. The movement restrictions was partially put on hold with some businesses commencing operations from May 4.

By June 1, 2020, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, Boss Mustapha, announced that business activities as well as places of worship would reopen, but at the instance of the state governments, who were expected to implement the guidelines following.

Consequently, Lagos, the epicentre of the disease, has declared Friday, June 19 for the reopening of religious centres with special emphasis to churches and mosques. The reopening is inundated with strict guidelines.

Analysts believe that Nigeria may have fared well in 100 days in comparison to most European countries whose blew out of proportion within weeks of their index case. Others have however, said the situation in Nigeria could be worse if adequate testing is being carried out.

So far, Cross Rivers State remains the only state in Nigeria yet to record a COVID-19 case 100 days after.

 

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Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Now 11,844 with 328 New Infections

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328 persons were tested for coronavirus in Nigeria in the past 24 hours.

This brings the total number of infections in the country to 11,844.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control made this known on Friday.

The 328 new fresh cases of #COVID19 are broken down as follows:

Lagos -121

FCT – 70

Bauchi – 25

Rivers – 18

Oyo – 16

Kaduna – 15

Gombe – 14

Edo – 13

Ogun – 13

Jigawa – 8

Enugu – 6

Kano – 5

Osun – 2

Ondo – 2

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Finally, AfDB Agrees for Independent Investigation of Adesina

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The Bureau of the Board of Governors, Africa Development Bank Group has approved an independent investigation of the allegations against the President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.

The decision, taken at the meeting of the Bureau Thursday regarding the whistle-blowers’ complaints against Mr Adesina, is in deference to the demand by the U.S. government that a fresh and in-depth investigation be conducted into the allegations against Mr Adesina using an independent investigator.

On May 5, the ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, said in its report that Mr Adesina was not guilty on all counts.

Mr Yano is a Japanese executive director charged with the responsibility of investigating allegations by some concerned employees against the Bank’s president.

The committee described the allegations that Mr Adesina violated the code of conduct of the institution as “spurious and unfounded”.

Regardless, the United States government expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process” and called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations.”

At the end of its meeting Thursday, the Bureau of Board of Governors issued a communique, agreeing with the U.S and authorizing an independent review of the ethic committee’s report.

The communique, signed by the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Boards of Governors, Niale Kaba, reads,

“The Bureau reiterates that it agrees that the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors performed its role on this matter in accordance with the applicable rule under Resolution B/BG/2008/11 of the Board of Governors.

“The Bureau also reiterates that the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors performed her role in accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee in accordance with the said Resolution.

“However, based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process.

“The Independent Review shall be conducted by a neutral high calibre individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity within a short time period of not more than two to four weeks maximum, taking the Bank Group’s electoral calendar into account.

“The Bureau agrees that, within a three to six month period and following the independent review of the Ethics Committee Report, an independent comprehensive review of the implementation of the Bank Group’s Whistle-Blowing and Complaints Handling Policy should be conducted with a view to ensuring that the Policy is properly implemented, and revising it where necessary, to avoid situations of this nature in the future.”

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