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Senate Defends N125b Budget For NASS

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The Senate yesterday 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.”

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BREAKING: Senate Approves Buhari’s Request To Increase VAT

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The senate has approved the request by President Muhammadu Buhari to increase value added tax (VAT) from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

The senate approved the request after Solomon Olamilekan, chairman of the finance committee, presented a report on a bill entitled ‘Nigeria tax and fiscal law’.

In September, the federal executive council (FEC) approved an increase in VAT and sent a bill to the national assembly for consent.

Details soon….

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BREAKING: Court Sacks Kano New Emirs

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A Kano High Court sitting in Kano State has nullified the four Emirates created in the state by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje. Justice Usman Naába in his judgment on Thursday, held that the creation of the Emirates and appointment of four first Emirs was illegal.

Details later…

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Bayelsa Guber: Pressure Mounts On PDP Chairman, Secondus To Resign

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National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Prince Uche Secondus is under intense pressure to vacate office over alleged constitutional breaches, misappropriation of funds and failure to lead the party to victory in the 2015 and 2019 general elections.

Uche Secondus has also allegedly failed to call for major meetings of the various organs of the party including the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting which is the second highest decision-making organ of the party.

Daily Trust reports that the pressure is coming from PDP leaders and groups within the party. A former Special Adviser on Public Affairs, to President Goodluck Jonathan and member of the defunct Presidential Campaign Council for Atiku Abubakar, Malam Nasir Zahradeen, confirmed to our correspondent last night that majority of PDP stalwarts and power brokers were demanding for Secondus’ resignation.

“Secondus must go and he must be investigated by the EFCC, ICPC and the SSS because of the alleged impropriety, alleged putting of his hands on the funds of the party which is unacceptable. “You cannot say whether the other members of the NWC are doing well or they are not doing well. But if the head is rotten, definitely, you don’t expect any action from the rest

“Now we have lost the Kogi and Bayelsa elections. On Bayelsa, he (Secondus) connived with the governor. Apparently, the governor had his own idea of getting his kinsman to be the governor while he will get the senatorial seat,” he said. Similarly, a highly placed source from the North West, who sought not to be named, passed a vote of no confidence on Secondus, saying he cannot guarantee victory for the party any more.

“We all had confidence in Secondus when he emerged. But later we discovered there were issues that we did not envisage. The leadership of Prince Secondus has several lapses and breaches of the constitution of the PDP. “For instance, from the very time we lost the 2019 elections, I doubt if there has been any NEC or caucus meeting to discuss the issues and that is weighing us down.

“If they can’t deliver us today, how can we be sure they will deliver us tomorrow? Actually, I cannot ask the other members of the NWC to resign but sincerely, Secondus should resign because I doubt if he is willing to get us to the Promised Land. He should resign,” he said.

But the Special Adviser on Media to Secondus, Mr. Ike Abonyi, dismissed the allegations in a telephone chat with our correspondent, saying the party had more serious issues to discuss on the threat to democracy. “The allegations are baseless and unsubstantiated. Let them provide evidence that Secondus is a thief; that he dipped his hands into the party’s funds.

“The constitution says one NEC meeting to one quarter. And between February and now, he called NEC meetings three times. So he has not violated the PDP Constitution,” he said. Spokesperson of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan also dispelled claims that Secondus was under pressure to vacate office.

“The National Chairman is not under any pressure except the fact that we believe that democracy is gradually being killed by this government and we believe that as the main opposition party we have a responsibility to salvage democracy,” he said.

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