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Senate Queries CBN, Accountant-General over Failure to Account for ₦596bn Ecological Fund

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Accountant General of the Federation on Thursday when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts could not explain how ₦596 billion ecological fund was spent from 1999 to 2015.

While the accountant-general said the fund was domiciled in the apex bank, and that the money has been invested, the CBN pleaded for more time to submit records of the funds.

By asking for the records, the committee had acted upon the report by the Auditor-General of Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine, that between 1999 and 2015, a total of ₦596 billion was transferred from the treasury into the ecological fund account without proper accounting.

Mr Ayine had said, contrary to the provision of Section 5(4) of the Revenue Allocation Act which requires that an agency be established to manage the ecological fund, no agency had been established to manage it.

Rather, he added, the National Committee on Ecological Problems (NCEP) is the body responsible for handling ecological problems in the country.

NCEP is domiciled under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and has its Chairman as the Minister for Environment, Housing and Urban Development.

Thereafter, the Senate committee chairman, Matthew Urhoghide, summoned the Secretary General of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, while also asking the CBN to submit the statement of ecological fund account to the committee.

“The Central Bank should come and furnish us with the statement of account of the Ecological Fund. The SGF should come and brief us on the statement of account of the Ecological Fund,” Mr Urhoghide said.

Other queries

Meanwhile, the Custom Service and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) were also indicted for contravening Pension Reform Act, 2014, which requires them to remit 5 per cent of their contributory pension to the National Pension Commission (PenCom).

The report by the auditor-general had among other things called on the accountant-general to “provide his investment ledger meant for the funds,” explain the reason the two agencies failed to comply with the provisions of the act while also sanctioning them as due.

The accountant-general, Ahmed Idris, in response, said: “The noncompliance of the remittance of 5 per cent of the contributory pension (by the custom service, for instance) was as a result of insufficient funds. Also, I wish to state, as funding improves, the service will comply accordingly.”

“We always engage the agencies themselves on the basis of issues raised by the auditor-general of the federation. This is the response from the Custom service as documented. We don’t want to start changing their responses.

“It’s like we are answering their own questions. Nigeria Customs, with due respect, stands to explain their responses. We are here on their behalf and we are reading their responses. Their response is a very dishonest one. If you are capable of paying salaries, why should it be difficult for you to pay 5 per cent.”

Displeased about the response of the Customs Service, Chairman Urhoghide said the committee would not take noncompliance to an act of parliament by agencies. However, due to the absence of representatives from the Custom Service, the matter was stood down.

“It’s unfortunate that the Nigerian Customs would tell us this. This is a contributory pension for their own retirees and they say they don’t have the money to contribute,” a dissatisfied Mr Urhoghide said.

“In fact the two of them — Custom Service and FIRS — get 7 per cent and 4 per cent for their own operations and they say they don’t have the money.

“Pay 5 per cent so that you can secure the future of your entire workers and you say you don’t have the money? It’s totally untrue. When other little organizations are making their contributions, you are the ones saying you don’t have the money.”

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FG Announces Resumption of International Flights

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The Federal Government on Thursday said the airports would be reopened to international flights in weeks and not in months.

When international flights eventually resume, passengers are expected to arrive the airport three hours before their flights.

The government said the prolonged ban on international travels was not punitive but mainly to keep Nigerians across the country safe from the spread of COVID-19.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed this in Abuja while answering questions at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

He said, “On the question about the reopening of the airports, I will like to use this medium to reiterate and to be consistent with what we’ve been saying. I want people to understand that this is not purely an aviation function.

“It also has to do with our health and is so huge that it made Mr President in his wisdom to set up the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. This is in the interest of the nation.”

The minister said operators in the civil aviation sector had wanted to open the airports a long time ago in order to return to business and halt the loss of revenue.

Sirika said the ban on international flights had warranted the mass sacking of workers in the aviation sector and non-payment of salaries by airlines.

He said, “So we really want to open. But we can’t open alone, for within the space where we operate we’ve got all kinds of people there in the airports.

“We’ve got immigration, police, Customs, civil defense, port health, etc, and so the PTF has set up a technical committee to come up with a date when everybody will be happy to start.”

The minister added, “So we will open as soon as all of us are happy to open. And I want to adopt what the coordinator has said; it will be in weeks rather than in months.”

Sirika urged Nigerians not to blame any government official for the ban on international flights. Rather the blame should be on COVID-19, he said.

“We feel your pain. We know that this closure of airports has separated families and friends, denied people access to hospitals abroad, schools, businesses, etc. We feel this pain,” he said.

He insisted that the prolonged ban on international flights was not on purpose but was to ensure that Nigerians remained safe and healthy.

The PTF National Coordinator said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and other agencies, as well as airlines, should commence the process for the resumption of international flights.

According to Aliyu, passengers would arrive three hours before flights when the country’s airspace finally reopens for international operations.

“We have modified the protocol for passenger arrivals at the airports. Domestic passengers arriving at the airports are advised to arrive one hour before their flights and three hours before international flights – when this restarts.”

He said there may be additional infrastructure for some of the airports.

“Hopefully in weeks but not months,” he added.

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Army, Police Arrest Protesters in Abuja

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Several #RevolutionNow protesters were arrested by the police and the Nigerian Army in the Abuja metropolis on Wednesday.

The protesters carrying placards and banners had set out as early as 8 am to demand good governance.

Some of the banners read, ‘Nigerians are sick and tired of poverty, corruption, injustice and untimely death’; ‘Say no to injustice’, ‘Yes to living wage for unemployed youths’.

The protesters, many of whom wore orange berets, converged on the Unity Fountain, Shehu Shagari Way, Maitama, and were about to begin their procession when policemen stormed the venue and dispersed them.

Soldiers and other security operatives also cordoned off adjoining streets including Aguiyi Ironsi Street to prevent the protesters from marching.

Human rights lawyer, Tope Akinyode, said he witnessed security agents beating protesters for no just cause.

Akinyode said, “They arrested about 29 of our people. Security officials made them to lie down and beat them. Even as a lawyer I was harassed. They pushed me around. This is very undemocratic.”

It was learnt that the protests are ongoing in other states, including Lagos.

The leader of the group, Omoyele Sowore, who is a former Presidential candidate, was detained last year for about three months while court orders for his release were ignored.

He was eventually released following pressure from the international community and human rights organisations.  Several protesters who were arraigned in court won their cases.

Photos and story: The Punch

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WAEC Sets Mathematics, English for Aug 17, 26 Respectively (See Full Timetable)

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The West African Examinations Council has released the examination date, time and duration for subjects to be taken in the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

According to a copy of the timetable obtained by our correspondent from WAEC Nigeria, candidates would sit for Mathematics on August 17 and write English Language papers on August 26.

It said Mathematics (Essay) holds between 9:30 a.m and 12:00 noon while Mathematics (Objective) holds from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. both on August 17.

The examination body said English Language (Essay) holds August 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. while English Language  (Objective) holds between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Biology practicals hold on August 31 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold August 25 from 09:30 a.m.

Chemistry practicals hold August 7 and 18 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold September 2 from 02:00 p.m.

Physics practicals hold August 8 and 20 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold August 28 from 09:30 a.m.

Economics (Essay and Objective) hold August 19 from 09:30 a.m. while Agricultural Science (Essay and Objective) hold same day from 02:00 p.m.

History (Essay and Objective) hold August 20 from 02:00 p.m.

Literature-In-English (Prose, Objective, Drama and Poetry) hold August 21 from 09:30 a.m.

Principles of Cost Accounting 2 (Essay and Objective) hold August 26 from 02:00 p.m.

Geography 2 (Essay and Objective) hold August 27 from 09:30 a.m.

French (Essay and Objective) hold August 29 from 09:30 a.m.

Further Mathematics (Essay and Objective) hold September 1 from 09:30 a.m.

Christian Religious Studies (Essay and Objective) and Islamic Studies (Essay and Objective) hold September 2 from 09:30 a.m.

Government (Essay and Objective) hold September 3 from 09:30 a.m.

Foods and Nutrition 2 (Essay and Objective) hold September 4 from 09:30 a.m.

Yoruba/Hausa/Igbo/others (Essay and Objective) hold September 8 from 09:30 a.m.

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