…As Lawan gives Appropriation C’ttee one week to turn-in report
A bill seeking to amend the 2022 Appropriation Act has scaled second reading in the Senate.
The bill seeks to amend the 2022 budget by making provision in the sum of N106,161,499,052 for Capital Expenditures and N43,870,592,044 for recurrent without increasing budget deficit.
The bill was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North).
President Muhammadu Buhari, in a letter to the National Assembly dated 10th of February, 2022, underscored the need to remove all capital projects that were replicated in the 2022 Appropriation Act.
He disclosed that 139 out of the 254 projects in the budget totaling N13.24 billion had been identified for deletion.
The President also requested that an additional provision for N2.557 trillion naira be appropriated by the National Assembly to fund the petrol subsidy in the 2022 Budget Framework which was revised to provide fully for PMS subsidy.
Buhari requested the National Assembly to reinstate four capital projects totaling N1.4 billion in the Executive proposal for the Federal Ministry of Water Resources; and N22.0 billion cut from the provision for the Sinking Fund to retire mature loans needed to meet government’s obligations under already Issued Bonds.
Leading debate on the general principles of the 2022 Appropriations Act Amendment bill, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi gave key highlights of the amendment to include eleven areas such as Funding to cushion the impacts of the recent suspension of the Petroleum Motor Spirit subsidy removal; and Addressing the adverse implications that some changes made in the 2022 Appropriation Act could have for the successful implementation of the budget.
Others include Restoring the provisions made for various key projects in the 2022 budget proposal to ensure that critical projects that are cardinal to the administration are implemented and to ensure that those nearing completion do not suffer setback due to reduced funding; Re-instating the N25.18 billion cut from the provision for the Power Sector Reform Programme; Re-instating the four Capital Projects totaling N1.42 billion in the Executive Proposal for the Federal Ministry of Water Resources; restoring the N3 billion cut from the provision made for payment of mostly long outstanding Local Contractors’ Debts; and transferring the National Assembly’s expenditures totaling N16.59 billion in the Service Wide Vote to National Assembly Statutory Transfer provision.
The Senate Leader added that the amendment also seeks the reinstatement the N22.0 billion cut from the provision for Sinking Fund to retire Mature Loans; reinstatement of cuts made from provisions for the recurrent spendings of Nigeria’s Foreign Missions; restoration of reductions in provisions for allowances payable to personnel of the Nigerian Navy and Police Formations and Commands; and removal of all capital projects that were replicated in the 2022 Appropriation Act; following the identification of 139 out of 254 such projects totaling N3.24 billion for deletion from the budget.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Gabriel Suswam bemoaned the high tax expenditure in the 2922 budget.
“Tax expenditures are waivers that are given to individuals or companies.
“Mr. President, if you look at the tax expenditure in 2022, it is about N1 trillion and totally unnecessary.
“It is not just what the president has sent here, let us consider those areas that can help them save money, because we might decide to step down those tax expenditures.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, after the bill scaled second reading, referred the same to the Committee on Appropriation for further work.
The Committee was given one week to report back to the chamber in plenary.
Meanwhile, two bills seeking to establish the Federal College of Education Afon, Kwara State; and Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education have also passed second reading.
The bills were sponsored by Senators Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara Central) and Ezenwa Onyewuchi (Imo East).
The bills after consideration were both referred by the Senate President to the Committee on Tertiary Institution and TETFUND.
The Committee was given four weeks to report back to the Senate.
Senate adjourns for Sallah break, to resume July 19
The Senate, on Wednesday, adjourned plenary to enable it proceed on the Sallah break.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, accordingly, announced July 19, 2022, as resumption date.
The Senate, before embarking on the three weeks recess, forwarded President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for the confirmation of Mohammed Bello as Chairman of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to the Committee on National Planning.
It also passed the Federal Medical Centres (Establishment) Bill, 2022, after re-committal to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage.
The Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice (APC, Ondo North), who sponsored the motion for re-committal, recalled that the bill was passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to President Buhari for assent.
According to him, some fundamental issues which required fresh legislative action by both houses of the National Assembly emerged after critical analysis of the bill.
He added that a Technical Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives and Directorate of Legal Services met and worked on the bill.
The Senate, while relying on order 1(b) and order 52(6) of the Senate Standing Order, 2022 as amended, rescinded its decision on the bill as passed and re-committed same to the Committee of the Whole for re-consideration and passage.
Senate confirms Buhari’s seven nominees as minister-designates
The Senate, on Wednesday, screened and confirmed the seven ministerial nominees whose names were sent last week by President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation as Minister-designates.
The screening exercise which started at about 12 noon lasted till 4:37 p.m.
Those screened and confirmed as minister-designates include Henry Ikechukwu Ikoh (Abia), Umana Okon Umana (Akwa-Ibom), and Ekumankama Joseph Nkama (Ebonyi).
Others are Goodluck Nana Opiah (Imo), Umar Ibrahim El-Yakub (Kano), Ademola Adewole Adegoroye (Ondo), and Udi Odum (Rivers).
While fielding questions from lawmakers, the first nominee, Ikechukwu Ikoh, said in tackling the issue of job creation, efforts must be made to grant operational licenses to operators of modular refineries in the country.
Another nominee from Akwa-Ibom State, Umana Okon Umana, who is the Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, underscored the need for Nigeria to step-up its production capacity so as to boost foreign exchange earnings and reduce the country’s reliance on importation.
Ekumankama Joseph Nkama, on his part, admonished young Nigerians to tap into new areas of investment, so as to foster self-reliance and productivity, particularly in the country’s trade sector.
On the lingering strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Nkama called on the federal government and ASUU to reach a compromise.
He also asked the National Assembly to provide additional funding for the educational sector, so as to meet some of the needs of the union.
He said, “there will be the need for compromise. For a very long time ASUU has been sticking to their guns that all the agreements reached earlier must be implemented.
“And we know that from the same source – the same national purse – there are several contending interest seeking for attention.
“My advise will be that federal government and ASUU will have to come to a compromise, and through this, we would be able to solve the issue of ASUU strike once and for all.
“I know the importance of budgetary provision. I want to appeal to the Senate that when the budget is being made for the coming year, there will be adequate provision for the education sector, so that some of these needs that the ASUU members are asking for as a union will be met.”
Lending his voice on the need for an end to the ASUU strike, Ademola Adewole Adegoroye, said the action by the union is against interest of Nigerian students, adding that more effort must be made by government to find a lasting solution to same.
Goodluck Nana Opiah, a former member of the House of Representatives, was asked by the chamber to take a bow, in accordance with its tradition of extending such privilege to past members of the National Assembly.
Umar Ibrahim El-Yakub, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), said when sworn-in as a member of the Federal Executive Council, he would sustain and consolidate on the harmonious working relationship between the Executive and National Assembly.
Senate delegation to visit Ekweremadu, wife in London
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has disclosed that a delegation from its Committee on Foreign Affairs would depart Nigeria for London on July 1, 2022, to pay a visit to Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, who are both presently in detention over an allegation of organ harvesting.
Lawan made this known on Wednesday, while giving details into the outcome of a closed session held by the upper chamber before the start of plenary proceedings.
The closed door session which started about 10:57 a.m ended at 11:49 a.m.
According to Lawan, the decision to wade into Ekweremadu’s arrest and detention was against the backdrop of a briefing received by the Nigerian High Commissioner to London.
He further disclosed that the Senate would engage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nigerian High Commission in London on the recent arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu by the London Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom.
He said, “I had a personal engagement with our Nigerian High Commissioner to Britain, Alhaji Isola Sarafa, who has done so well to establish contact with our colleague, who has been able to get his team to be in the court at Uxbridge where Ekweremadu was taken to.
“The high Commission has also been able to provide some consular services that include the engagement of some lawyers who will defend our colleague.
“We commend them for giving attention to the issue at stake. Equally, the Nigeria Foreign Affairs Minister has been engaged here, so that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes steps to provide diplomatic support for our colleague.
“Because this issue is already in court, we have limited opportunity to discuss beyond what we have done so far.
“But I want to ensure the family of our colleague, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Nigerians, that the Senate will continue to engage with our ministry of foreign affairs as well as our high commission in London.
“The High Commission has done so much but we still expect that it will continue to provide any other further consular services.
“We have also mandated our committee on foreign affairs to engage with the British high commission here in Nigeria, to find more details on this case, as as far as the high commission is involved.
“There will be a delegation to London to see Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife. A delegation from the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate will leave in the next two days to London for that purpose.
“I want to urge all all federal government institutions that can do anything to ensure that Justice prevails in this case, that they do so.”