Forex Earnings: Accelerate Diversification Of The Economy, Senate Tells FG

The Senate on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to accelerate its policies on the diversification of the economy to improve the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

The call was made in resolutions reached by the Senate following consideration of a motion titled “Urgent need to revive the Palm Oil industry in Nigeria”.

The motion was sponsored by Senator Francis Onyewuchi (PDP, Imo East) and co-sponsored by 15 other senators.

The Senate, which resumed its plenary session on Tuesday, urged the Federal Government to support an improved palm oil production in order to meet the domestic needs of the market, as well as revive the moribund Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) in Benin, Edo State.

The motion to revive NIFOR seeks to improve investment in research and production of quality oil palm seeds.

The upper chamber said that the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity has resulted in the gradual neglect of agriculture by successive governments.

According to Senator Onyewuchi, “Nigeria spends $500 million on oil palm importation annually despite being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 50’s and 60’s.”

He added, “The country is now the net importer of palm oil, importing 400,000 – 600,000 metric tonnes of palm oil in order to meet local demand.”

In his contribution to the debate, the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, bemoaned the lack of discipline and implementation in the agricultural sector.

Abdullahi said, “Until this is done, there can be no meaningful development to be achieved economically from the sector.”

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, underscored the need and importance to finance the growth of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.

“In 2005, I was Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture. We funded the Institutes; 22 of them and they did very well. I agree completely that we have not been funding these institutes.

“So, if we need an economy that will work for everyone, then we must invest in the agricultural sector.

“Our committee should engage with the MDAs. So that at the end of the day, we can contribute meaningfully to take agriculture to the next level, the Senate President said.

Meanwhile, two bills passed their first reading in the Senate on Tuesday following the resumption of plenary session.

The two bills are: the Nigerian Transportation Accident Investigation Bureau (Est, etc) Bill, 2019 and Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The Nigerian Transportation Accident Investigation Bureau (East, etc) Bill, 2019 (SB.1) was sponsored by Senator Na’allah Bala Ibn (Kebbi South) while the Criminal Code Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB,2) was sponsored by Senator Tinubu Oluremi Shade (Lagos Central).

The Senate also received the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the investigation of the use of Avastin Injection for eye treatment by the National Eye Centre, Kaduna.

The report was presented by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (Edo south).

Signed:

Ezrel Tabiowo

Special Assistant (Press) to the President of the Senate.

Tuesday, 24th September, 2019

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Senate Seeks Rehabilitation Of Dams To Curb Flooding

The Senate has advised the Nigerian government to convene stakeholders meeting to x-ray flooding with a view to proffering a lasting solution to the disaster.

It also urged the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to rehabilitate the existing dams to be able to take in flood waters. The senate commended the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA and other relevant government agencies, organisations and individuals for their efforts in creating awareness that has led to the reduction in casualty level.

These resolutions were sequel to a motion, titled: “Recent flooding across the country,” sponsored by Senators Kabir Gaya, and Stella Oduah, with 106 other lawmakers as co-sponsors.

Leading debate on the motion, Senator Gaya noted that “torrential rains have unleashed floods in different parts of Nigeria over the past few months, claiming hundreds of lives and damaging thousands of homes.”

According to him, the floods have so far ravaged 34 states with Kano South the worst hit where 14 out of the 16 local government areas were ravaged by the floods.

“In the last three decades, the impacts of flooding have increasingly assumed from significant to threatening proportions, resulting in loss of lives and properties. Though detailed statistics are not available regarding the losses sustained by the urban dwellers and flood victims, it is obvious from the available records that irreparable loss has been sustained by the citizens of Nigeria due to what has become perennial natural disaster in our cities,” Senator Gaya stated.

He said; “apart from houses (built with mud brick, traditional building materials of the area and those not built modern flood resistant structure) that collapse by flooding, schools, buildings and bridges sometimes collapse as well. Market places farmlands are submerged for weeks and sometimes are washed away.”

The lawmaker noted that the recurring annual floods, especially arising from the released of flood waters from various dams have caused avoidable loss of lives in many communities across the country.

Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki commended his colleagues for their concerns over the recurring annual floods and stressed the need to save the lives and properties of Nigerians being lost every year.

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Senate Leader Urges National Assembly To Reconvene

Nigeria’s Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan has again appealed to the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly to reconvene, in order to pass the supplementary budget thus provide funds for the country’s electoral body to conduct the 2019 general election.

Lawan, who spoke to State House Correspondents on Monday, soon after a closed door meeting with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, said activities of government are almost coming to a standstill, due to the non passage of the supplementary budget.

“I have come to brief the Acting President on the situation in the Senate and the discussions also touched on the need for the National Assembly to reconvene immediately to pass the virement and supplementary budget request of the President.”

“You know that the budget for 2018 especially the capital will be largely funded by foreign loans. Now we need to approve that, we also need to approve other important and essential requests especially that of INEC and other security agencies so that our national security will be improved.”

“Therefore, it is very essential that we reconvene immediately because our government is almost stalled and I believe that if we are able to pass the supplementary request of the President, this will enable our administration to provide the various infrastructure that we have planned to provide for Nigerians,” he said.

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Senate To Investigate Alleged FG’s Lopsided Appointments

Senators from the southeastern part of the country, on Thursday, voiced their displeasure over alleged lopsided appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari in favour of the north.

This came after Senate President, Bukola Saraki read a letter from the President seeking confirmation of a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Tunde Lemo, as Chairman of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency [FERMA].

Immediately after the letter the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, expressed concern about the President’s choice of appointees to head Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.

Meanwhile the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan insisted that the appointments have represented the federal character.

Ruling on the matter, Senate President, Bukola Saraki who pointed out that the Senate would not be driven by sentiments thereafter referred the matter to the Committee on Federal Character.

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Senate Approves N348bn Outstanding Subsidy Claims For Oil Marketers

The Nigerian Senate has approved the payment of =N=348 billion as outstanding subsidy claims to 74 petroleum marketers.

This followed adoption of interim report of its Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) on the Promissory Note Programme and a Bond Issuance to Settle Inherited Local Debts and Contractual Obligations to Petroleum Marketers.

Out of this amount, 55 oil marketers are to receive =N=275, 750,415,108 while 19 others will get =N=73, 452,639,866. While the committee recommended that the 55 oil marketers be paid 100 percent of their claims, it called for the payment of 65 percent claims to other marketers due to contentions in their figures.

Senate also mandated the committee to continue its engagement with the Ministry of Finance, oil marketing companies, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and other stakeholders in order to update all the outstanding liabilities and clear all outstanding debts, interest accrued and forex differential once and for all.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Kabir Marafa who presented the report during Wednesday’s plenary, noted that although marketers made claims to the tune of =N=670, 497,543,15billion, as of June 30, 2017, the PPPRA verified and approved the sum of =N=429, 054,203,228billion to the Federal Ministry of Finance.

He explained that while the verified figure was approved by the Federal Executive Council, further verification by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, (PICA) reduced the amount to =N=407, 255,263,288billion.

The panel observed that continuous delay of the approval of the promissory note request will affect the liquidity of the Oil Marketing Companies and undermine their crucial role in the development of the economy.

The committee in the report signed by 17 out of 22 members explained that the determination of the terminal date of the subsidy programme amount paid to the OMCs and the interest accrued from 30th June, 2017 to date will be taken up and resolved in the final report.

Accordingly, the report indicated that “a submission that would be able to reconcile and bring to the conclusion all issues in respect of petroleum subsidy programme implementation and payments;

“Further verification needs to be made to ascertain the discrepancies between the OMCs and the recommendations for payment made by FMoF (PICA). In this respect, the Committee is of the opinion that interim payments should be effected to the OMCs pending full verification of PICA recommendaTions and updating on the full implication of interest accruals from 30th June 2017 to date.

“The Government’s inability to pay the OMCs as at 30th June, 2017 has further increased its liability since the interest continued running till date, hence, the need for further work by the Committee to compile and update the level of indebtedness and its interest accruals;

“However, in view of the fact that the service of the OMCs is very important to the economic development of the country and closely tied to National security, paying the marketers would stem the threat of fuel scarcity, increase economic activities and promote a more harmonious working relationship between the Government and OMCs”.

Notable among the oil marketers and the amount approved for them are: Aiteo =N=4,988,199,360; Conoil =N=5,588,285,132; Forte Oil =N=15,480,445,907; Bovas =N=5,953,684,258; Capital Oil =N=8,339,052,402; Mobil =N=8,282,363,478; MRS Oil and Gas =N=20,948,270,002; Oando =N=14,972,585,600; Total =N=21,569,996,843 among others.

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Senate Confirms Police Service Commission Board Members

The Nigerian Senate, on Tuesday, confirmed the appointment of the Chairman and members of the police service commission board.

President Muhammadu Buhari had forwarded their names to the senate for its approval.

A former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Musiliu Smith representing South-West, is the chairman of the commission. The members are; Justice Clara Ogunbiyi representing North-East and a retired Assistant Inspector of Police, Mr. Lawal Bawa from the North-West, as full time commissioners.

Others are Muhammad  Najatu representing North-West, Braimaoh  Austin from South-South, Barrister Rommy Mom from North-Central and Dr. Nkemka Oshimiri Jombo-Ofo from South-East as members of the commission, respectively.

The confirmation of their appointments followed the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, chaired by Senator Abu Ibrahim which screened the nominees.

Congratulating the new appointees, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki said the lawmakers fast-tracked the approval because of the competence of the nominees.

“Let us congratulate the new members of the Police Service Commission and at the same time commend the quality of the candidates that have been nominated and brought forward by Mr. President. It gives us all a lot of hope and encouragement that all our efforts to see that this crucial aspect of our security architecture reform will begin with this process…We wish all the members the best of luck. They have a lot of expectation from Nigerians and before this nomination that is why we fast-tracked the nomination.

“A lot of people are expecting, with their experience, the capacity of the people now in the service commission, to support the police in carrying out the necessary reform that is required; particularly in ensuring that we drive a merit orientated police force, performance driven that would motivate all the necessary members to do the right thing to provide us security.

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Senate Receives Bill On State Police

The Senate is set to receive for first reading, a Bill to alter the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and create state police.

According to the order paper of the upper legislative chambers for Thursday, the bill is listed as the first item for presentation.

Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ike Ekwerenmadu is listed as the Sponsor of the Bill.

Ekweremadu is supported in sponsoring the bill by 75 other senators, bringing the total number of sponsors to 76, that is over 82 per cent of the 109 members of the chamber.

 

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Senate Calls For Return Of SON To Ports

The Senate Committee on Industry has called for the return of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to the nation’s ports.

Senator Sam Egwu, Chairman of the Committee made the call on Monday, during an oversight function to SON’s offices and laboratories in Lagos.

He said that the absence of the agency was greatly felt at the ports and called on stakeholders in the sector to begin facilitating its return.

He stressed that it was necessary for the agency to have first-hand information on goods berthing on the shores of the country before being allowed into the markets.

He said that Nigeria as a large scale importing country must have its standard organisation at the nation’s point of entry, in order to ascertain the quality of goods coming in.

“We cannot overemphasis the issue of standardisation, because it is the core for every manufacturing output. We are not happy that SON has not been allowed to operate at its maximum capacity especially with their presence being felt at the port.

“Nigeria is import dependent, with porous borders and for them not to be at the port to inspect these goods first hand is not good enough. They should be allowed to be at the port to see these products before they enter into the market.

“We have observed some products come into the country from countries that do not have standards all cloned with SON logo. This is certainly not good for the Nigerian economy.

“The discovery by the SON deterred such goods from getting into the hands of unsuspecting consumers,” he said.
He commended operations of the agency in its fight to combat fake and substandard goods, and restated the committee’s support.

“From what I have seen so far, I want to say that they have impressed us as a committee with their efforts to ensure that products are being standardised.

“They have also judiciously put to use the appropriation funds given to them to deliver on their mandate,” he said.
The Director General, of SON, Osita Aboloma, told the committee that steady progress had been made over the years under the current leadership of the senate committee on industry.

“We have never had it so good under any committee in the history of SON.

“Not only did you bequeath a befitting SON Act, we have also been able to discharge most of our core mandate.
“I am also proud to tell the world that the issue of possession and co-ownership of the building where our operational office in Lekki is situated has been resolved in favour of SON due to your able leadership, ‘’he said.

The members of the committee were taken to SON’s one-stop office in Apapa and its multi-billion laboratory complex in Ogba with about 38 laboratories.

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Just In: Senate In Closed Door Meeting With NSA

The Senate on Thursday held over two hour meeting with the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno, over mounting insecurity in the country.

The closed door meeting was part of the security briefing the upper chamber held with security chiefs last week.

After the meeting, Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki said that Monguno answered questions bothering on security, insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping, coordination of the security agencies and the general killings in the country.

His words: “We (the Senate) directed that he submits a funding request similar to other heads of security agencies that had come before us and to submit consideration where relevant amendments to existing laws involving security agencies need consideration,”? Saraki said.

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Mace Theft: Senate May Again Suspend Ndume, Omo-Agege

Following the invasion of the Senate chamber on April 18 by hoodlums who made away with the Mace, the Ad hoc Committee set up to investigate the circumstances is set to submit its report this wee.

The Committee chaired by Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, had earlier forwarded its recommendation to Senate panel on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by senator Samuel Anyanwu.

Similarly, another expanded joint probe panel was set up with the House of Representatives with Senator Na’Allah heading the same committee.

There is however apprehension that the report of the Ethics panel, which may be submitted this week, will recommend the suspension of Ndume and Omo-Agege and some yet-to-be named co-conspirators in the upper legislative chamber.

Recall that the Divisional Police Officer in the National Assembly, Sulu-Gambari Abdul, had blamed the April 18 invasion of the Senate and removal of the mace by hoodlums on internal conspiracy.

Mr Abdul had told the probe panel that the invasion was an act of internal conspiracy among some security agencies and some lawmakers.

 

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2018 Budget: Senate Explains Rationale For New Figure

The Nigerian Senate has said that the 6% increase of the 2018 budget estimates from N8.612 trillion to N9.120 trillion was done in consultation with the Executive arm of government.

Chairman of the Senate committee on Approrpiations, Senator Danjuma Goje, stated this while presenting details of the Appropriation Bill for consideration at Wednesday’s plenary.

Senator Goje also listed the critical sectors where the increase was applied to include: “Reduction of deficit N50.88 billion; Security N46.72billion; Health N57.15billion; Power, Works and Housing N106.50billion; Education (particularly for the infrastructure for the 12 newly established Universities and meal subsidy in Unity schools) N15.70billion; Judiciary N10 billion and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) N44.20billion, which is a part payment of the NDDC liabilities on the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

This, he said, was attributed to the increase in oil price benchmark. To this end, the lawmaker said the proposal was jerked up from $45 per barrel to $51 per barrel. Highlights of the budget are “=N=530,421,368,624 for Statutory Transfer; =N=2,203,835,365,699 for Debt Service; =N=3,512,677,902,077 for Recurrent Expenditure, =N=2,873,400,351,825 for Capital Expenditure, Fiscal Deficit of =N=1,954,464,993,775 and 1.73% Deficit to GDP.”

 

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Senate Summoned IGP Over ‘Purported Maltreatment’ Of Dino And Not Killings – Police

The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has said contrary to reports, the intention of the Senate for inviting the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, was to brief them on the purported maltreatment of Senator Dino Melaye, and not on killings in part of the country.

In a series of tweets shared on social media, the police maintained that the invitation of the IGP to brief the Chamber on insecurity is an afterthought which can be seen from the headings of their invitation letters.

The police said the release of a ‘list of killings in Nigeria in 2018’ by the Office of the Senate President was shocking and capable of worsening the security situation in the country.

“It is mischievous and heinous to play politics with people’s lives; even if it is a soul,” they tweeted.

The Senate’s action to cover the appearance of the IGP on national television is against national Security, unconventional and it negates global security practice, the tweet read further.

There is nowhere in the world where security matters are discussed on national television, even the Senate deliberation and decision on the appearance of the IGP were done in close session, it said.

The NPF reiterated that it holds the Senate in high esteem and regards, but will not be cowed from ensuring the supremacy of the laws of the land.

The Force will also continue to resist any intimidation from any quarter either constituent or otherwise which run contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and other extant laws, it added.

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