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Legislators-elect urged to guard against budget padding

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Mrs. Jovita Keleze, Deputy Director, Legislative Matters, Enugu State House of Assembly has urged legislators in both national and state houses of assembly to guard against budget padding.

Keleze made the call in Enugu on Monday while delivering a lecture on the `Overview of Appropriation Processes for Lawmakers’ at a workshop organised for members-elect, clerk, directors, HODs and committee clerks.

The deputy director defined budget padding as anything added to the budget after it had been passed.

She said that it was only the legislature that had the powers to increase or reduce budgetary allocation, pointing out that they could only carry out any alteration by seeking recourse to the legislature.

Keleze urged the legislators to check executive excesses that could lead to budget padding warning them to be wary of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that planned to deceive them.

“At times, one item is repeated in budget whereas it might have appeared in previous budgets,” she said

Explaining the aspects of budget padding, she said that if legislators were not careful, items such as office desks, air conditioners would repeatedly appear in a budget whereas they had been budgeted for in the past.

The deputy director, while explaining the duties of the legislators, said that on no account should the executive tamper with budgetary allocations.

She however, said that there could be virement which was not alteration but shifting money meant for a particular project from one department of a ministry to the other without changing the budget figure.

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Kogi gov poll: 16 candidates accept results, congratulate Bello

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Sixteen of the candidates that participated in the Nov. 16 governorship election in Kogi have accepted the results of the election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),

Addressing a news conference in Lokoja on Monday shortly after the announcement of the election results, the coalition of 16 candidates led by Dr Sani Teidi, the candidate of the Young Democratic Party urged losers to work with the winner for accelerated development of the state.

” We congratulate His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello for the overwhelming victory at the poll and all those who participated in the election.

” We appeal to the winner to be magnanimous in victory and prepare to mend fences for an all-inclusive governance.

“We are also appealing to all Kogi stakeholders to accept the winner for participatory governance,” Teidi said.

The candidates condemned the call for cancellation of the election by civil society groups, saying that they did not consider the enormity of waste and loss of lives that may occur in the course of re-running the election.

” All aggrieved political parties should play the game by the rule. Kogi is our state, and the only panacea for development is peace,” he said.

Some of the parties include: Green Party of Nigeria, Accord Party, Young Democratic Party, Justice Must Prevail Party, Peoples Party of Nigeria, Africa Action Alliance and National Conscience Party among others

Edited by Felix Ajide

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Politics

Finance bill will promote fiscal equity, ease of doing business – Minister

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Bill

Abuja, Nov. 18, 2019 The Finance Bill, 2019 is aimed at promoting fiscal equity, international tax reforms, raising tax revenues and ease of doing business reforms.

NAN reports that the Finance Bill was submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the joint session of the National Assembly on  Oct. 14.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, made this known at a meeting with Chairman and members of Senate Committee on Finance in Abuja, on Monday.

Ahmed said that coming up with such bills whenever budgets were passed had been the best practice.

“Every year when you do your annual budgeting process, you look at the fiscal laws and see what requires amendment.

“What we have here is a situation that for years we don’t amend our laws and we have made some but have left the ones that are difficult,” she said.

The minister said that the bill which was slated for a public hearing on Tuesday, 19, aimed at introducing tax reforms which would help government achieve its revenue projections for the 2020 Budget (N8.15 trillion).

She said that other proposals included an increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate, moderation of inefficient and ineffective tax incentives and closing loopholes in the existing tax laws that allowed tax avoidance resulting in tax revenue leakages.

“The bill also proposes essential palliatives to support Micro- Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and mitigate the impact of the VAT rate increase on the the most vulnerable businesses, communities and citizens in the country.”

She said that some of the measures included expanding the list of VAT-exempt items such as basic food items, educational materials and medical supplies.

“Introducing a VAT registration threshold of MSMEs with a turnover of less than N25 million per annum and reducing the Corporate Tax rate for these MSMEs from 30 per cent to 20 per cent.”

Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Solomon Adeola, assured the minister that the Senate would ensure that the public was educated to see reasons why the bill should “see the light of day.”

Sen.Kashim Shettima (APC- Borno Central) said that it was a very revolutionary bill that would reposition the economy.

He urged the ministry to come up with a very broad platform of addressing the issue of digital taxation.

On insurance companies, Shettima decried that the companies had become economic albatross adding that Nigeria at the moment had very few of such companies.

“Most of them are in a comatose condition. So giving them respite is not the solution.

“They need proper monitoring and evaluation,” he said.

He said that the country’s VAT was one of the lowest globally and that citizens were unaware of where the components of the VAT went to.

“The public is unaware of what percentage is going to the State, Local and the Federal Government.”

Also, Sen. Yusuf Yusuf (APC-Taraba Central) said that the VAT did not have negative impact on the income of the common man.

“It is the middle and upper class. VAT is tied to these group of people and therefore this group of people are the ones benefiting immensely on the economy of the country.

“So it should be good reason why they should pay higher VAT,” Yusuf said.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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Assembly refers Lagos 2020 budget proposal to committee level

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The Lagos State House of Assembly has referred the state’s 2020 proposed budget to the committee stage after it scaled through second reading during plenary on Monday.

The Nigeria News Agency reports the Appropriation Bill was read for the second time by the Clerk of the House, Mr Azeez Sanni.

Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had on Nov. 8 presented the 2020 proposed budget of N1.168 trillion to the State House of Assembly.

Sanwo-Olu noted that the capital expenditure amounted to N723.75 billion while the recurrent expenditure is N444.81 billion, giving a 62:38 capital to recurrent ratio.

Commenting, Mr Fatai Mojeed, representing Ibeju Lekki 1, said the proposed revenue was achieveable as the state was yet to tap revenue from several areas of informal sector.

Mojeed, who spoke on the content of the budget extensively, pointed out various sectors which the budget would touch for the betterment of the people.

He stated that it would be appropriate for the state to invest heavily on public transportation to be able to cater for the transport need of the people.

Also commenting, Mr Rotimi Olowo, representing Somolu 1, said that the budget estimate was overambitious, based on its revenue target which might not be achievable.

Olowo added that there was need to re-integrate the various sectors for better service delivery, saying that it would further enhance the economy.

He warned the state government not to overtax the people because it wanted to meet revenue target by various agencies and MDAs.

Olowo said that the current economic situation should be put into consideration while they go about ensuring achieving their revenue targets.

“The immediate past administration also presented an overambitious budget last year and it failed to achieve its purpose and was poorly implemented at the end of the day.

“I want this administration to avoid such mistake,” he said.

Also, Mr Jude Idimogwu, representing Oshodi/Isolo 2, in his comment, called on the MDAs to come and explain to the House on how they would achieve their revenue targets.

Idimogwu said the figures in the budget were projections but that they should be realistic figures.

“The MDAs have jacked up their revenue targets, they need to come to tell us how they would realise these projections,” said Idimogwu.

After extensive deliberation by members, the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, referred the budget to both the House Committee on Economic Planning and Finance and report back in six weeks time.

Edited by Wale Ojetimi

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General news

LASG evacuates lion from private residence to Lekki Zoo

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 The Lagos State Task Force says it has successfully moved a lion found at a private home around Victoria Island to a zoo in Omu Resorts, Lekki.

The Chairman of the agency, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, said in a statement on Monday, that the exercise was carried out in conjunction with officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and medical personnel from Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ibadan.

Egbeyemi said that Dr Ogunmo Bamidele, who led the medical team from the University of Ibadan, had to tranquilised the lion thrice before evacuation.

He said that the agency responded to a petition from residents on the use of the lion as maiguard.

According to him, investigations revealed that the lion was brought in from Cameroun by an Indian national two years ago.

”Immediately I got the petition, I deployed my officers to the house at No. 229, Muri-Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, where they kept a close watch for more than 72 hours before the lion was finally removed today,” he said.

He assured residents that the owner of the lion would face the full wrath of the law, while warning residents to abstain from harbouring wild animals that endanger the lives of others.

”In as much as we appreciate residents around Victoria Island for their quick action, we urge every member of the public to be observant in their immediate environment.

”Residents should report any strange or unusual activity to appropriate government authority for prompt action,” Egbeyemi said.

The Director, Veterinary Services, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Macaulay Rasheed, advised members of the public to stop rearing wild animals in private homes to avoid unnecessary attack and contagious animal diseases.

Edited by Jane-Frances Oraka/Wale Ojetimi

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NASS has no power to enact law on hate speech for states- Falana

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Law

Abuja, Nov. 18, 2019A Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana says that the National Assembly has no power to enact a law on hate speech for the entire country.

Falana said this while discussing as a panelist at Digital Voting Summit organised by RestoreNaija, an NGO, on Monday in Abuja.

He said that such law was not with the purview of the NASS but the state.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said that while the issue of hate speech fell under residual list, the National Assembly was empowered to legislate on exclusive and concurrent lists.

“Under Section 4 of the Constitution, NASS can only legislative on matters in the exclusive and concurrent lists.

“I have looked at those lists, I have not found anyway where the NASS has been empowered to make the law on hate speech. It is a state affair on residual list.

“Let everybody know his or her limitations of power so that we will not make mistake.

“If you want to proscribe death penalty, you can do so in your state. In Lagos State for instance, the execution of death penalty has been declared illegal by a court in Lagos.

“Whether you want to kill someone by hanging or firing squad, the court in Lagos has said that it is against Section 34 that has abolished any form of torture.

According to him, if any state wants to legislate on hate speech, it can do so it within its jurisdiction.

Falana said that the Cybercrime Act had taken care of the entire fiats regarding hate speech by making stringent conditions, including fine and prison terms for offenders.

Dada Ahmed

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Politics

Bayelsa election: Group urges NASS to prioritise electoral reforms in legislation

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Bayelsa election: Group urges NASS to prioritise electoral reforms in legislation

Reforms

Abuja, Nov.18, 2019 YIAGA AFRICA, a civil society organization, on Monday urged the National Assembly to prioritise electoral reforms in its legislation to curb electoral malpractices.

Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, Co-Chair, YIAGA AFRICA, Watching the Vote (WTV), Bayelsa Observation Mission, made the call at a news conference in Abuja, on the Nov. 16, Bayelsa Governorship Election.

Nwagwu said the group, under its WTV project, deployed more than 500 observers to monitor the elections using the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology for election day observation at polling units.

According to him, the PVT is a proven and advanced observation methodology that employs well-established statistical principles and utilises sophisticated information technologies.

He said that the observers noted a lot of irregularities ranging from ballot snatching, vote buying and violence, among others; and called for an urgent electoral reform to curb the menace.

“The Bayelsa Governorship Election, which was held on the same day as that of Kogi, and the Kogi West Senatorial election, provided an opportunity for all election stakeholders to change Nigeria’s electoral trajectory, especially after the experience of the 2019 General Elections.

“While this trajectory was not changed, there are still opportunities for improvement, especially with the next round of off-cycle elections.

“The National Assembly must as a matter of urgency, prioritise electoral reforms in its legislative agenda.

“This is a call to President Buhari to prove to Nigerians that he is committed to electoral reforms and leave a legacy that ends electoral impunity, strengthens democratic institutions and deepen the culture of democratic accountability.’’

Nwagwu said that apart from INEC, the attitudes, actions and dispositions of stakeholders, such as the security agencies and political parties, could make or mar the credibility of any election.

He said that the Bayelsa governorship election still experienced political parties deploying sufficient money to buy the electorate, acquiring arms and paying thugs who were willing to disrupt the process.

“This practice remains inimical to democratic development in Nigeria and regardless of what party benefits from the outcome of the election, the question on the development of our electoral democracy and the quality of participation remains a major challenge,’’ he said.

According to him, the political class has perfected its act of undermining the process; and is consistently making it difficult for INEC to conduct the elections across board.

He advised that those found culpable, weather INEC, political parties, security agencies, or any other body, for aiding electoral irregularities and malpractices, must be held accountable and brought to book.

He said that the culture of impunity in Nigeria must end and the country needed to revisit its legal framework to address jurisdiction of courts and timeline for the determination of pre-election cases.

Earlier, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, Chairperson of the group, explained that YIAGA AFRICA deployed the PVT method to empower citizens and improve the quality of elections; as well as to independently verify official election results.

Abdullahi said however, the PVT was not able to verify the outcome of the Bayelsa Gubernatorial Election because elections did not take place in 61 out of 250 polling units; approximately 24 per cent of sampled polling units.

“While the PVT cannot determine who won the governorship election in Bayelsa, regardless of the outcome, the PVT estimates suggest that official results were manipulated during the collation process.

“YIAGA AFRICA urgently calls on INEC to conduct an inclusive, transparent and accountable audit of the Bayelsa gubernatorial election results,’’ she said.

Edited by Nyisom Fiyigon Dore

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