Local Government autonomy will help ”clip governor’s wings” and curb corruption, particularly in states, Chairman Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration, Sen. Abdullahi Gumel, has said.
Gumel(APC-Jigawa), who made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, said the move would help to put state governors, particularly those who used local government funds as”slush money” in check.
He was reacting to the directive by Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), banning governors, banks, financial institutions, public officers and other stakeholders from tampering with statutory allocations of local governments.
The agency imposed a daily N500, 000 cash transaction limit on all the 774 local governments among other guidelines, to take effect from June 1, with sanctions.
Gumel said the directive, having been applauded by Nigerians, was a step in the right direction, particularly in view of allegations of state governors subverting local government funds.
“If the funds of the local government are given to them to carry out their activities there will be more development at the grassroots.
“State governors see local government funds as slush money and they do whatever they want without budgetary processes.
“If we can stop that, a lot of corruption will drastically reduce.
“If local governments have their own fund, the number and quality of staffing will drastically improve, because there are redundant staff at the state and federal level that can be engaged there.
“If the local government is properly funded, people will go back there to be employed. This move will make those at the grassroots to enjoy the dividends of democracy,” he said.
On concerns that the directive by the NFIU needed legal backing to be enforceable, the lawmaker said it was not an outright autonomy for local governments.
According to him, the directive is to the effect that state governors are abusing their privileges by using state and local government joint accounts as “slush accounts”.
He stressed that the directive was to ensure that local government funds were spent in a manner that there would be accountability.
He commended the NFIU for bringing up the conversation again, noting that” it has been crucial to Nigerians all these years.”
He, however said in order not to have lose ends in the move to free local governments from governors’ “pangs” the senate had moved to sit with relevant stakeholders for find a way of actualising the move without legal concerns.
The chairman further called on state houses of assembly to expedite action in signing the Constitution Amendment currently before them, particularly local government autonomy, before expiration of the 8th National Assembly.
He pointed that so far, only nine states had signed the bill.
He assured that President Muhammadu Buhari would sign the bill into law as as soon as it was translated to him.
He urged state assemblies that were yet to sign the bill, probably because of their state governors’ interference, to summon courage to do that now that they have financial autonomy.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has the will power to ensure full autonomy for local governments.
“I remember his statement during the 2015 inauguration when he promised that he would not allow local government funds to become slush funds for the state governments.
“I interfaced with the president on different occasions on the issue of local government autonomy and he showed readiness to append his signature to moving local governments out of the bondage.
“This is so that they can operate as third tiers of government and not appendage of state governments.
“I am very optimistic that this is going to be implemented.This is a decision that all Nigerians are happy about and we have to see it to the end,” he said.
The lawmaker further said, “Nigerians are excited about this development and I know it will encourage state assemblies now that they are autonomous and free from the bondage of state governments, to operate as independent legislatures on this matter.
“The former governors now in the senate especially the ones in my committee are in the forefront of wanting the bondage of local governments to be lifted.
“They are passionate about it and when this happens, they can stand their ground and insist that INEC conducts their elections instead of SIEC as presently constituted.”
On fears that local government autonomy would give room to corruption at the grassroots, Gumel said there would be measures to check such.
According to him, it is not enough reason to deny local governments their right of place.
He added that there were lots of attractions that would make the tier of government well structured to check any form of criminality.
“There are so many attractions to local governments being autonomous. For instance, federal permanent secretaries and directors that spent most of their time working for the country.
“At the twilight of their lives, they go back and head those local governments so that they can execute projects for their immediate communities.
“So, there will be quality leadership and there will be bureaucracy that will endure that they are accountable to the people.
“Someone who has once been a permanent secretary or director at the federal level should not allow anybody to soil his reputation.”
The National Assembly had in 2017, voted to guarantee local government autonomy by ensuring the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), conductd its elections instead of “State Independent Electoral Commissions(SIEC) as currently empowered by the Constitution.
The move also sought to alter Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, to abrogate State-Local Government Joint Account while empowering the local governments to operate their own accounts, where money would be paid directly from the Federation Account.
Also, the approval covered review of the constitution to make democratic composition of local councils statutory,meaning, any local government without elected officials would not get federal funding.
Since the approval of local government autonomy by the national assembly in 2017, and its transmission to state legislatures for approval, nothing has been heard in that regard.
This means that the proposed amendment was sent to the 36 state houses of assembly for consideration, before transmission to the president for assent.
Similar effort was made in the 7th National Assembly but it died within the live of that assembly because it was not approved by the state legislatures.
It is hopeful that it scales through within the lifespan of the 8th assembly.
edited by Sadiya Hamza
Lagos urges residents to guide against heatwave
The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) has advised Lagosians to guide against extreme heat by drinking lots of water.
The General Manager of LASEPA, Dr Adedolapo Fasawe, in a statement on Thursday urged residents to ensure adequate ventilation at homes and offices in order to mitigate the intensity of the prevailing heatwave in the state.
Fasawe also advised to adequately prepare for heat intensity associated with the dry season which had manifested globally as heatwaves with serious public health implications.
She said that Lagos, being a highly urbanised city, had a higher risk of increased warming due to the heat.
According to her, the effect is palpable where there is a high density of dark surfaces (concretes structures, paved roads and buildings) that absorb and emit more heat within a defined area.
”High rate of fire and flooding incidents are some of the effects of heatwaves, and this underscores the need to desist from burning refuse, being a contributory factor to a high rate of heatwaves.
”Other factors that contribute to heatwaves include the use of poorly-serviced generators and use of ozone-depleting materials, all of which add to greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
Fasawe urged Lagosians to engage in tree planting activities and greenery within their localities and environments, ensure that they were properly hydrated at all times and stay within well ventilated areas.
Edited by Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
Senate passes Finance Bill
The Senate has passed the Finance Bill made up of 56 amendments from 7 different Acts.
Sen. Solomon Adeola, Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, who made this known at a news conference after plenary in Abuja, said the amended Acts are: Companies Income Tax Act and Value Added Tax (VAT) Act.
Others are the Petroleum Profit Tax Act (PPTA), Personal Income Tax Act, Capital Gains Tax Act (CGTA), Customs and Excise Duty, and Stamp Duty.
According to him, 26 amendments were sought from Company Income Tax, 8 from Personal Income Tax, and 14 amendments from Stamp Duty.
“On Custom and Excise Duty, one amendment was sought, another one on Petroleum Profit Tax and four amendments on Value Added Tax“.
The Chairman reiterated that the Finance Bill passed was not just about VAT alone, but also aimed at creating an enabling business environment to alleviate tax burden for small and medium enterprises.
“Yes, VAT has become a major concern because of the increment sought for from 5 to 7.5 per cent, but also included in this Finance Bill, we now have a bill for some small companies whose revenues are less than N25 million to be exempted from VAT and tax payment.
“We went further that a medium scale company with revenue less than N100 million should have a reduction in its company’s income tax from 80 to 20 per cent.
“With this single action of passing this bill, the capital market has been reactivated and shares can be used to borrow money; dividends paid on the shares can be used as interest on the money borrowed,“ he said.
The chairman assured Nigerians that the increased VAT was not a random act but a well thought out process with comparison from other countries.
He pointed out that 85 per cent of the VAT goes to the Local and State Governments, with only 15 per cent for the Federal Government.
“We are not after putting any untold hardship on the common man; a lot of goods that VAT should be charged on have been exempted because of the less privileged.
“If you decide to eat in a hotel or restaurant rather than cook at home, then VAT is charged because that is luxury, “he said.
He also said the passage of the bill has put in place a mechanism to generate revenue for the government from e-business transactions that are in accordance to global best practices.
“It will be the duty of the minister to determine the substantial economic importance of this particular transaction“ he said.
Edited by Felix Ajide (NAN)
Chinese tech firms to boost Lagos Smart-City project
Chinese technology companies, Huawei and Ehang, have expressed willingness to partner with Lagos State toward achieving the smart city project.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement on Thursday, said that the state was ready to take its rightful place in the comity of megacities by providing key technology and infrastructure required.
At separate meetings with the management teams of Ehang and Huawei, Sanwo-Olu said that the state was at the stage of building critical infrastructure that would make its city more habitable.
”We want technology to drive economic innovation, public security, health management, waste management, traffic management, government processes and services to the public.
”We do not have the big cheques to sign for this total transformation now, but it is a journey we know will take us into the future we really should be as Africa’s most populous city and seventh largest economy.
”The vitality of our 22 million people and political stability are valid collateral that should provide comfort in the collaboration we are seeking.
“Our government is determined to efficiently manage traffic and drive compliance with traffic rules from a single point.
”Traffic officials need to get equipped with gadgets that interface with the command centre real-time.
”Anyone who needs medical attention should be able to book hospital appointment and get matched with a doctor digitally. Public services and security should be executable online, real-time,” he said.
The governor and his team toured the smart city facilities of Ehang in Guangzhou and Huawei in Shenzhen.
The Managing Director of Huawei, Eric Zhang, said that the company was pleased that Lagos State was planning digitisation of its assets, processes, operations and public service facilities.
Zhang said that Lagos State needed the transformation and was capable of embarking on it.
”I know that transforming Lagos into Smart-city is an exercise that will happen in phases, but the most important requirement is government commitment, which you have demonstrated”.
”Huawei will be happy to collaborate with you on the project and work with your government to gradually build a state of your vision.
”More importantly, the impact of this project on the economy, influence of Lagos State in the world and social security are convincing reasons that will make any organisation take interest in collaborating with Lagos State on a project of this significance,” he said.
Earlier, Sanwo-Olu called on the Ehang management, an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) technology company, for possible collaboration on providing facilities for emergency services and security agencies in the state.
He said that like other megacities in the world, Lagos State still faced some challenges that would require very innovative solution.
”For instance, emergency situations will require urgent and speedy response, just as when there are security challenges, because safety of lives and property are very important to our government,” he said.
The Director for Strategic Cooperation, Ehang, Ms. Shiny Biu, said that the firm remained open to partnering with the state and to discuss the appropriate models that would serve the goals of the two parties.
Ehang provides AAV products and commercial solution in urban air mobility, including passenger transportation and logistics, smart city management and aerial solutions.
Edited by Wale Ojetimi
Obasa tasks State Assemblies on Hansard report
Chairman, Conference of Speakers State Legislature of Nigeria, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, has urged state assemblies to identify and resolve the challenges facing the official report of legislative proceedings.
The theme of the conference was “The Challenges Facing The Production of Hansard and the Way Out”.
The Nigeria News Agency reports the Hansard Report is an official report of the record of the daily legislative proceedings.
It is the verbatim report, with repetitions and redundancies omitted and obvious mistakes corrected, leaving out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or elucidated the argument.
The conference was organised by the Official Report Department of Lagos State House of Assembly with departments from other 35 state assemblies present.
Obasa, represented by Mr Rotimi Abiru (Somolu Constituency II), said efforts should be made by state assemblies to ensure that the process of recording was actually related in line with the modern day realities.
The speaker said the leadership of the 36 state Assemblies should be well informed about these challenges in order to obtain their support.
Obasa said: “It is viewed as a very important document because all the things said by every member during proceeding is actually documented.
“It is important to know that it should be documented in such a way that the intention of the speaker or members is actually not distorted in any way.
“No doubt there might be some challenges that is attributed to the distortion because sometimes we speak very rapidly.
“So, it may be that some challenges for you to pick up each and every words spoken by us and we cannot over emphasise its importance.
“This document actually reminds us of things said by members and which is very good for history.”
The speaker said the issue of Hansard was not limited to the country’s democracy alone but it was a document that had been identified long ago even in developed countries.
According to him, the world is now a global village and the use of technology cannot be left out of the modern day preparation.
Earlier, Mrs Folasade Bejide, the association’s National President, said some of the challenges facing production of legislative document were lack of funds and lack of modern equipment for the production.
Bejide said others were lack of training and retraining of personnel, stockpiling of imprinted Hansard reports and many more.
She appealed to the leadership of the state assemblies to support the production of the document so as to meet up with the international standard.
Bejide noted that Hansard was the name given to the debate by the Mother Parliament in the United Kingdom which was the House of Lords and Common in London.
She noted that Mr T.C. Hansard started the printing of the daily proceedings of the House as a freelance publisher.
Bejide added that it was in recognition of his untiring effort that the daily House proceedings was named after him.
Edited by Abiemwense Moru/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
Constitutional constraints delaying autonomy of Legislature, says President Buhari
Abuja, Nov. 21, 2019President Muhammadu Buhari has urged lawmakers to always place interest of the people first in all deliberations and negotiations, while pointing out that the autonomy of state legislatures has been constrained by the constitution.
The president stated this when he received the Conference of Speakers at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
According to the President, the constitution upholds the standard for all public officers and institutional operations, adding that it must be adhered to, or altered to reflect some dynamics and realities of the country.
“I try as much as I can to always be loyal and obedient to the constitution so long as it is humanly possible,’’ he said.
The President said his administration will keep pursuing the prosperity of all Nigerians by creating more jobs for the people, and plugging the weaknesses exploited by many to make quick money.
”The 8th National Assembly sometimes kept the budget for seven months. And I had to call the Senate President and the Speaker then.
”I told them by delaying passage of the budget you are not hurting Buhari, but the people,’’ he added.
President Buhari said the delay persisted in spite of his efforts to seek more understanding.
The President said he would ensure equity and fairness that put the ordinary Nigerian on top priority, assuring that he would continue to focus on health, education, infrastructure and improving lives through social intervention programmes.
”We have in the last four years dedicated significant resources to key social services sectors especially in health, education as well as our massive social investment programmes.
”We have also started restoring our infrastructure to levels that this country expects.
”I also want to assure you that we remain committed to ensuring that equity and fairness prevail in governance.
”I will ensure that we consult your conference to further enhance the positive impact of our interventions across the country,’’ President Buhari said.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, who is also the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, commended the President for the fight against corruption and insurgency in the country.
He also lauded him for his efforts to ensure financial autonomy for the legislature and judiciary.
Obasa said the legislatures would be further pleased if the President issues an executive order directing the Accountant General of the Federation to separate funds for the state legislature and judiciary at source.
The Conference of Speakers chairman also urged the President to consider supporting the devolution of powers to states on some issues on the exclusive list like railway and the police for more effective governance.
Edited by Ekemini Ladejobi (NAN)
Lagos govt shuts Oyingbo Market over environmental infractions
The Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) has put business activities on hold at the popular Oyingbo Market over sundry environmental infractions.
The Managing Director of LAWMA, Dr Muyiwa Gbadegesin, said in a statement on Thursday that the infractions included indiscriminate refuse dumping and refusal to patronise Private Sector Participation (PSP) operators.
Others were roadside trading and poor hygienic practices resulting in serious environmental problems in the area.
Gbadegesin said that an abatement notice and several warnings issued to the traders yielded no result, thus necessitating the closure.
He said that the market would be reopened when traders began to comply with government’s rules and regulations by shunning indiscriminate refuse disposal and patronising assigned PSP operators.
The LAWMA boss appealed to other markets in the state to imbibe the culture of effective waste disposal as markets whose activities were found detrimental to the health and environmental well being of the populace would be shut down until further notice.
According to him, efforts of the state government to enthrone sustainable environment are being undermined by some individuals who will rather dump refuse on unauthorised locations, hence the need for total enforcement.
He warned that the grace period for environmental defaulters in the state had expired, as there would be total enforcement against all forms of illegal and reckless waste disposal capable of degrading the environment and posing health hazards to residents.
”The act of indiscriminate refuse disposal in the city poses grave danger to public health and economic growth.
”Before now, we adopted moral suasion as a tool to persuade residents to shun indiscriminate dumping.
”In spite of our efforts, some people have bluntly refused to turn a new leaf. Now we have commenced total enforcement to put defaulters in check,” Gbadegesin said.
The LAWMA boss noted that the Enforcement Unit of the agency had been mandated to work round the clock to clamp down on all environmental infractions capable of derailing efforts of the authority toward environmental sustainability in the state.
”Section 115 (4) and 116 part IV, Environmental Sanitation Nuisances and Litters, as well as Section 81, Part III, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) of Environmental Management and Protection Law 2017 prohibits dumping of waste at undesignated places, which attracts specified sanctions,” he said.
Gbadegesin said that the agency recently published a public notice in major national dailies, stating various environmental offences and appropriate sanctions to defaulters.
”The state’s laws are quite clear on the prohibition of illegal refuse disposal. It shows zero tolerance for environmental infractions and violators would be duly sanctioned to serve as deterrent to other residents,” he said.
Gbadegesin called on residents to support efforts of the state government to establish a cleaner and healthier environment in Lagos by ensuring they bagged and containerised their wastes appropriately, as well as patronising assigned PSP operators.
He said that LAWMA would continue the distribution of waste disposal bags under its Blue Box Initiative, for residents to sort their waste and dispose appropriately.
The LAWMA boss said that residents should promptly contact the authority using the toll-free line , for complaints and relevant information.
Edited by Tayo Ikujuni/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
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