By Adedapo Adesanya
The leadership of the National Assembly has been tasked to probe the N4.1 billion budgeted for the parliament alleged to be missing.
This charge was given by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a letter addressed to the Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila.
In the letter dated May 15, 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the parliament was asked to “urgently probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies fresh allegations that N4.1 billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen, as documented in the 2016 audited report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.”
SERAP noted that: “These allegations are not part of the disclosure by the Auditor-General in other audited reports that N4.4 billion of National Assembly money is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen.”
“As part of its legislative and oversight functions, the National Assembly has a key role to play in the fight against corruption in the country.
“But little can be achieved by the legislative body in the anti-corruption fight if the leadership and members do not first confront the spectre of alleged corruption and mismanagement within their ranks,” the letter reminded Mr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila.
SERAP also urged both men “to identify the lawmakers and staff members suspected to be involved, and hand them over to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to face prosecution, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and to ensure full recovery of any missing public funds.”
In the letter, SERAP stressed that it was “concerned that allegations of corruption continue to undermine economic development, violate social justice, and destroy trust in economic, social, and political institutions. Nigerians bear the heavy economic and social costs of corruption. The National Assembly, therefore, has a responsibility to curb it.”
“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2016, N4,144,706,602.68 of National Assembly money is missing, diverted or stolen. The National Assembly paid some contractors N417,312,538.79 without any documents. The Auditor-General wants the Clerk to the National Assembly to ‘recover the amount in question from the contractors.
“The National Assembly reportedly spent N625,000,000.00 through its Constitution Review Committee between March and June 2016 but without any document. The Auditor-General wants the Clerk to the National Assembly to ‘recover the amount from the Committee and furnish evidence of recovery for verification.
“The National Assembly also reportedly spent N66,713,355.08 as ‘personnel cost’ but ‘the payees in the Cashbook did not correspond with those in the Bank Statement’. The Auditor-General wants ‘the irregular expenditure recovered from the officer who approved the payments.
“The National Assembly also reportedly paid N116,162,522.60 to some contractors between April and June 2016 without any document. The National Assembly deducted N56,985,568.55 from various contract payments in respect of Withholding Tax and Value Added Tax but without any evidence of remittance.
“The National Assembly also reportedly paid N126,264,320.00 as cash advances to 11 staff members between March and December 2016 to procure goods and services but failed to remit the money.
“The Senate reportedly paid N747,286,680.00 as personal advances to staff members between February and December 2016 for various procurements and services but failed to retire the money. The Senate also deducted N118,625,057.48 as Withholding and Value Added Taxes but failed to show any evidence of remittance to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
“The Senate also spent N109,007,179.73 from the Capital Expenditure vote but without any document.
“The House of Representatives reportedly deducted N821,564,296.48 from staff salaries but failed to remit the money to tax authorities. The House also paid N254,059,513.70 as advances to staff members to procure goods and services between January and December 2016 but failed to retire the money.
“The National Institute for Legislative Studies reportedly spent N375,867,000.00 to buy 11 motor vehicles in April 2016. But the Institute also paid the same contractor N36,610,000.00 in September 2016 under the same contract without approval.
“The Institute also reportedly paid N10,927,768.80 to 7 members of staff who were redeployed from the National Assembly to provide specialized services but without details about the staff paid, and without any justification.”
“The National Assembly Service Commission reportedly approved N109,995,400.00 to train some officers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates but spent N127,629,600.00 as Estacode Allowances to participants, and fees for two consultants engaged for the training. The Commission also spent N9,975,000.00 as course fees for 34 officers but it also paid a consultant N4,987,500.00 for the same course fees.
“The Legislative Aides Section earned N12,274,587.77 as interests on Bank accounts in a commercial bank between January and December 2016 but failed to remit the money to the Consolidated Revenue Fund,” it stated.
ECOWAS Court Restrains Nigeria From Imposing Sanctions On Twitter
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice in Abuja has restrained the federal government from imposing sanctions or harassing, intimidating, arresting or prosecuting Twitter.
It also restricted the government from carrying out such actions against any other social media service provider, as well as media houses, pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging the government’s suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria.
The court gave the restraining order following the suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians.
In the suit, the applicants argued that the suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government was illegal
The federal government on June 4 said it has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service in Nigeria as its operation threatened national security.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued by his office in Abuja.
The statement cited the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
According to the statement, the Minister said the federal government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.
The suspension came a few days after Twitter deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s official account.
The tweet had referenced the Nigerian civil war as the President threatened to treat Nigerians “misbehaving” in “the language they understand”.
It sparked reactions from many Nigerians who interpreted the statement as a threat to commit human rights violations.
On Tuesday, the federal government set up a team to engage with Twitter over the recent suspension of the operations of the microblogging and social networking service in Nigeria.
The approval was announced in a statement in Abuja today by Mr Mohammed, who will chair the team.
The committee comprises the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Works and Housing, Minister of State for Labour and Employment as well as other relevant government agencies.
Buhari Constitutes Team to Engage Twitter Over Ban
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A team has been put together by President Muhammadu Buhari to engage Twitter, popular social media platform, over the suspension of its operations in Nigeria.
Twitter was banned in Nigeria by the federal government in early June after it deleted a tweet of President Buhari for violating one of its rules.
The President had posted a series of tweets and in one of them, he threatened to treat those fomenting trouble in the South-East in a language they understand.
He had earlier said those agitating to leave the country were too young to know about the losses the region suffered in the Nigerian Civil War that last 30 months between. Millions of Igbos were said to have died during the war.
A few days before Mr Buhari’s tweet, the heroes of the war were honoured on May 30 across the region and there was a stay-at-home order given by the Indigenous People of Briafra (IPOB), which was strictly adhered to.
So, when the President posted about dealing with people from the region in a language they understand, it was taken to be a genocide threat, which Twitter frowns at.
The federal government, which was angered by the action of the microblogging website, retaliated by suspending operations of the company in Nigeria, making it impossible for residents of the country to have access to the platform.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, who announced the ban, has been going around to explain the reason for the action.
He had said the indefinite suspension was because the platform to undermine the “corporate existence” of Nigeria. He later said Twitter has approached the government for talks.
On Tuesday, his media aide, Mr Segun Adeyemi, disclosed in a statement that Mr Buhari has “approved the composition” of a team to have discussions with Twitter over the issue.
He said the team is to be led by Mr Mohammed with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami; the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama; the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo; as well as other relevant government agencies as members.
Second Niger Bridge to be Ready 2022—FG Assures
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has reaffirmed its determination to complete the construction of the Second Niger Bridge next year.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, gave this assurance at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday, June 20, to mark the sixth year anniversary of the present administration.
According to Mr Fashola, the bridge, which will serve as a major link between South-East and South-West Nigeria, will be delivered between the second and third quarter of 2022.
Records show that construction of the bridge commenced on September 1, 2018, with construction cost put at N336 billion when the contract deal was signed.
The minister, however, made no mention if the construction cost of the facility had changed since the commencement of work.
He said that the project would facilitate the influx of investments to the South East when completed, noting that the construction work had gone beyond the water level, explaining that most bridge works were done underwater.
“So, what you see currently is the final work. The sub-structure which entailed building cement structures underwater often costs a lot of money.
“We should finish the bridge next year between the second quarter and third quarter,” he affirmed, saying that construction time was lost because of COVID-19.
The bridge is 1.6 kilometres long and furnished with other ancillary infrastructure, including a 10.3 kilometres highway and an inter-change expected to be completed next year.
The bridge spans from Asaba in Delta State to Ozubulu, Ogbaru, and other communities in Anambra State.
The existing Niger Bridge linking Onitsha and Asaba was completed in December 1965. It was built by the French construction giant, Dumez.
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