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SERAP Pressures Lawan, Gbajabiamila to Probe Missing N4.4bn

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lawan gbajabiamila

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan; and the Speaker of House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, have been urged to urgently probe the alleged missing N4.4 billion budgeted for the National Assembly (NASS).

It was alleged that the public fund was missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen, according to three audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

In an open letter dated January 30, 2021, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) challenged the parliament to “show Nigerians that the legislative body is a proper and accountable watchdog that represents and protects the public interest.”

In the letter signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation further urged the leadership of NASS o prove to the citizens that it “is able to hold both itself and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to account in the management of public resources.”

The agency believes that if the matter is not satisfactorily addressed, the allegations would undermine public confidence in the ability of the legislative arm of government to exercise its constitutional and oversight responsibilities to prevent and combat corruption and to ensure the public interest, transparency and accountability in the management of public resources.

SERAP also expressed concerns that the allegations of corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds amount to fundamental breaches of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

However, the group warned that “any failure to promptly, thoroughly and independently investigate these serious allegations, prosecute suspected perpetrators, and recover missing public funds and assets would undermine public trust in the ability of the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure probity, transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.”

“The Auditor-General noted in his 2015 report that the National Assembly account was spent N8,800,000.00 as an unauthorised overdraft, contrary to Financial Regulations 710. The National Assembly also reportedly spent N115,947,016.00 without any documents. Another N158,193,066.00 spent as cash advances to 17 staff between January and June 2015 is yet to be retired.

“The Senate reportedly spent N186,866,183.42 to organise Senate Retreat and Pre-Valedictory Session for the 7th Senate, although the money was meant to pay vehicle loan. The Senate also reportedly spent N15,964,193.63 as bank charges between July and December 2015, contrary to Financial Regulations 734.

“The House of Representatives also reportedly spent N624,377,503.30 to buy 48 Utility Vehicles. However, 14 vehicles were not supplied. The House also failed to make the 34 vehicles supplied available for verification. Similarly, the House spent N499,666,666.00 as cash advances to staff to carry out various assignments but has failed to retire the money.

“The House of Representatives also reportedly paid N70,560,000.00 as overtime and ‘special’ allowances to officials who are not legislative aides between November and December 2015 without any authority.

“The National Assembly Service Commission reportedly failed to remit N30,130,794.10 deducted from the salaries of the Executive Chairman and the Commissioners as car loan.

“The National Assembly Budget and Research Office reportedly spent N66,303,411.70 as out-of-pocket expenses without any documents. The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies paid N246,256,060.51 by cheques, despite the prohibition of payments by cheque by the Federal Government, except in extreme cases, and contrary to Financial Regulation 631.

“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2017, the House of Representatives reportedly spent N95,212,250.00 without due process and without any documents.

“The National Assembly Management Account also reveals that N673,081,242.14 was spent between April and October 2017 without any documents. The Auditor-General reported that the funds may have been misappropriated.

“The Senate Account also reportedly shows that N1,364,816,397.95 was spent on store items without any documents to show for the spending. The Auditor-General stated that his office was denied access to the store and to the Senate’s records.

“The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies also reportedly failed to remit N2,181,696.50 from contract of goods and services. The Institute also paid N67,296,478.00 without any payment vouchers.

“We would be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

“If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the leadership of the National Assembly to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the National Assembly.

“The Auditor-General also noted in his 2018 report that the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies failed to remit N577,634,638,20 due from contracts and supplies, even though the deductions were made.

“However, the Institute claimed that it was the National Assembly that was required to remit the money, as it is the body that maintains the account on behalf of the Institute.

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Nigeria has ratified both treaties,” the letter read.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Heifer Gathers Stakeholders to Discuss Youth Empowerment

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Youth Empowerment Agric

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

Agribusiness firm, Heifer Nigeria, in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), will hold a youth empowerment programme on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

The event is mainly to gather stakeholders in the agriculture sector to discuss how youth could be given the necessary support to succeed in the industry.

The program, which is themed Youth and Technology: The Future of Africa’s Agriculture, will also serve as an avenue for key players to examine the various roles of youth and technology in the transformation and future of Nigeria’s agriculture.

It will be held for two days at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, and is in line with the 27th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#27) tagged Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now.

Speaking on the scheduled event, the Country Director, Heifer Nigeria, Mr Rufus Idris, noted that agriculture in Africa greatly relies on the shoulder of the youths which is in need of enhanced innovation to allow for a sustainable farming system among Africans.

“Heifer International is committed to supporting a business ecosystem that enables youths to drive innovation in the sector, growing their incomes through sustainable and scalable food, and farming practices.

“Leveraging technology and modern practices will create a pathway for Nigeria to increase productivity and competitiveness of the agricultural sector to curb food insecurity and poverty,” he averred.

According to the company, agriculture already accounts for about 35 per cent of employment in Nigeria, making the sector mature enough for innovation to become a major domestic employer.

Hence, the program will be an interactive session where youth innovators, incubators, farmers and agribusinesses, government agencies, and investors will converge to come up with innovative solutions with the potential of scaling Nigeria’s agricultural sector and strengthening food security across the nation.

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Fashola Tasks States to Prioritize Housing Challenges

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housing challenges

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has called on state governments to renew their commitment to housing development in order to increase access to affordable housing to the citizenry.

Mr Fashola made the call in his keynote address at the meeting of the States’ Commissioners responsible for housing matters during the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development held in Lagos State.

Speaking at the event themed Housing Development as a Catalyst for Job Creation, Social Inclusion and Economic Development, he explained that the inequality among the nations and people can be reduced drastically if the housing need of the poor is considerably addressed in the states.

“These are some of the reasons why I seek to persuade all of you to go back to your states to persuade your Governors to re-commit to housing development.

“I said re-commit because I am aware that many states are doing something, but you will agree that there is a scope to improve and scale-up.

“One reason why this will require an All of Government Action is the fact that land is a critical component of capital formation and it is controlled by the states.

“I am persuaded that appropriate, targeted and purposeful use of lands, such as for the development of housing by the states and private sector, will unleash prosperity in all states that aggregate to national prosperity,” Mr Fashola explained.

The Minister gave an example of Lagos State days of Lateef Jakande and added that the present Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu remained an example of what state governments could do to deepen housing supply and reap the benefits that come with it.

Mr Fashola stated that land and housing was a sub-national matter of jurisdictions, pointing out that what the states do to facilitate the processing of land titles, documentation, Certificate of Occupancy and other Geographic Information Services (GIS) details would go a long way in facilitating easy housing delivery.

He informed the meeting that the federal government was undertaking a National Housing Programme in 34 states aggregating to about 5,000 housing units, and trying to complete an inherited ministerial pilot housing scheme across the states which had a little over 6,000 units.

Mr Fashola said the decisions to recommit to housing development by state governments would facilitate the creation of a variety of jobs because the services of various professionals in the built industry such as town planners, architects would be required.

”Artisans like masons, plumbers, carpenters and food vendors will not be left out of the value chain of prosperity resulting from economic development.

“When construction actively starts, the economic explosion happens, supplies of sand, cement, reinforcements, roofing, plumbing, painting, and other components get to work.

“This drives a critical business in all our states, the micro small and medium enterprises who make or supply these building components,“ he said.

In the same vein, he explained that the Federal Housing Authority and Federal Mortgage Bank are also intervening as federal agencies in respective housing development directly through cooperative societies and the provision of development loans and mortgage loans.

In his remarks, Governor Sanwo-Olu, while assuring participants at the council of implementing the recommendations of the meeting, disclosed that the state had begun to implement the commendations agreed on at the 9th National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

On making land available for building by providing lands to build a mini-city at Imota in Ikorodu Division of Lagos State.

He said the state would develop about 3,500 housing units of 2 and 3 bedrooms in phases for civil servants and those in the informal sector, who fall within the category of low-income earners and to be acquired at a single-digit interest rate mortgage plan that could span a period of 15 years.

He added that his administration was determined to develop decent homes within the states as well as meet the housing needs of the citizens irrespective of their location.

Mr Sanwo-Olu, who said that homeownership was a vital tool for taking people out of poverty, assured the council that Lagos State would collaborate with the private sector to adopt the monthly rent payment as proposed by the Minister of Works and Housing.

In his vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary, FMWH, Mr Babangida Hussaini, commended the excellent leadership of the works and housing sectors.

He also noted the commitment of council members to the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development and urged them to go back and implement the council resolutions.

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Group Reports Lagos Government to Buhari

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Shangisha Magodo group

By Mohammed Kerimu

The Shangisha/Magodo Landlords Association of Nigeria has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the refusal of the Lagos State Government to execute the ruling of the Supreme Court on the return of 549 plots of land to its original owners by the state.

In a document submitted to the Presidency and sighted by this reporter, the association expressed optimism that Mr Buhari would do justice to the matter he has demonstrated that a strong judiciary is a sine qua non for the operation and sustenance of democracy which he had vowed to defend.

The group further noted that since their story is similar to that of Mr President, who faced several denials in his electoral victories before God intervened in his fourth outing, he will finally lay their matter to rest since he was the Head of States about 37 years ago when they were forcefully evicted from their land.

It will be recalled that after its first judgement, the Supreme Court on March 1, 2016, again voiced out its displeasure with Lagos State Government and the state Chief Judge over their refusal to execute its earlier judgement; warning of the dangers it portends for the state to deliberately refuse to carry out its order concerning the Shangisha/Magodo land.

However, analysts are of the view that the refusal by the Lagos State Government to execute the judgement of the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land, is sending wrong signals to foreign investors who needed assurance of a strong judicial system before committing their resources for investment in the country.

They warned that if nothing was done to compel the state to toe the line of law and order, the country may be up for doom as no serious investor will consider a country with a weak legal system in their investment decisions.

Following the refusal of Lagos State to execute the ruling of the Supreme Court on the return of Shangisha/Magodo land which it forcefully acquired from its owners without building any public interest institution on it, the question many are asking is when did Lagos State secede from Nigeria that the ruling of the country’s apex court could no longer be binding on it?

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