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NASS: NGE rejects accreditation guidelines for journalists

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The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) on Tuesday rejected the new guidelines for accreditation of media organisations and journalists for coverage of the 9th National Assembly.

The Guild in a statement by its General Secretary, Mrs Mary Atolagbe, described the move as an infringement on press freedom, saying it was “primitive, undemocratic and blatantly anti-press and anti-people.”

The News Agency of Nigeria, reports that the guidelines issued by the authorities of the National Assembly (NASS) is due to become effective from June 11.

“It demands among other draconian provisions that a media organisation wishing to be accredited for coverage of NASS activities should submit a copy of its income tax return for the last two years.

“Presentation of evidence of Certificate of Incorporation of the media organisation, evidence of membership of professional bodies for the journalists, maintenance of a functional Bureau in Abuja (staff strength not less than five editorial staff) and daily circulation of 40,000 copies for print media with evidence to support the claimed circulation figure,” it said.

The Guild, however, finds this vexatious, disrespectful and draconian. It is a scurrilous attempt to gag the press in a democracy and it cannot stand.

“These guidelines run contrary to the grains of reason, democratic ideals and they are a clear affront on the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution which empowers journalists to freely practice their profession without any gag, muzzling and restriction.

“The NASS guidelines negate the constitutional principle of freedom of expression and run contrary to the African Charter on fundamental rights and the right of the people to know.

“The Guild strongly objects to these guidelines in their entirety as they serve no public good except the myopic interest of its chroniclers and purveyors.

“The Guild is disappointed that the same 8th National Assembly which benefited immensely from free press in its moments of trial has turned around to put the same press in shackles and chains.

“We reject this crude abrasion of our constitutional rights to freely disseminate information. It cannot stand,” the Guild said.

It therefore, urged all media houses to reject the infringement on the nation’s media who fought for restoration of democracy in the nation.

General news

Don’t obstruct implementation of new NASS workers condition of service- Activist

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A human right activist, Victor Egwim, says the moves in some quarters to obstruct the implementation of the revised National Assembly (NASS) condition of service for workers is not in the interest of national development.

Egwim, in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos said such moves was anti-democratic, adding that the move would hinder progress.

He called on the Senate President, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, to intervene on the issue toward restoring normalcy at the assembly.

“The new regulation has been in operation since the eighth Assembly and currently being adopted at the State Houses of Assembly.

“The revised condition of service was targeted at putting the Nigeria parliamentary workers at par with international standards,” he said.

Egwim pointed out that the call for suspension of the reviewed conditions of service was also a calculated attempt at overturning the achievement, adding the current leadership should be commended for its innovation.

According to him, the current Senate President and the Speaker were leaders of the House when the amendment of the new condition of service was made.

“During this period, when the report got to the Senate, they thought it wise to make it 40 years of service and 65 years retirement age.

“We all know that the legislature is the youngest arm of government, because it is just about 21 years old, as it took effect when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became the President, while the Executive and the Judiciary have been in existence since 1960.

“They discovered that the retirement age of 35 years in service and 60 years old do not allow the officers to give back to the commission after they had been trained.

“This is because when they are supposed to be at the peak of their service, they would be exiting the service as a result of their retirement age.

“However, the commission ends up calling them back as consultants and pay them 10 times more than their annual salaries, which is not healthy for the nation.

“Moreover, the union embraced it and agreed that it is better to extend service years instead of wasting money to hire them as consultants after retirement, so that they can render the services needed maximally before they can retire,” he said.

Egwim noted that the NASS leadership agreed and made the amendment, saying the amendment was for the benefit of the service, and not for any specific individual.

According to him, the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) initiated the amendment through the 5th National Assembly Service Commission, and presented it to the 8th National Assembly.

He said it was gazetted after it passed through the required due process, adding that the new regulation had been in operation since May 2019, and currently being domesticated at the State Houses of Assembly.

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Edited By: Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Politics

Group tasks NASS leadership on full implementation of `revised condition of service’

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A group under the auspices of Concern Staff of National and State Houses of Assembly has called on the leadership of the National Assembly (NASS) to ensure that the new condition of service for legislative workers is fully implemented.

The call is contained in an open letter signed by the National Chairman of the group, Mr Salisu Funtua, and addressed to the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly in Abuja.

Funtua recalled that in 2018, the staff of the National Assembly under the aegis of the Parliamentary Association of Nigeria (PASAN) agitated for a new condition of service.

According him, this is against the backdrop of unsatisfactory remunerations as obtained in other developed and developing legislatures across the globe

He recalled that protests led to the shutdown of the National Assembly complex for one week and prevented the free flow of legislative activities in the complex.

According to him, to break the deadlock, the Management of the National Assembly, the leadership of National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), the presiding officers of the National Assembly and PASAN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which gave birth to the revised condition of service.

Funtua said that the `Next Level Due Process’, an NGO, had urged the leadership of NASS and NASC to stop the implementation of the amended National Assembly Conditions of Service, challenging the process.

“The process which led to the adoption and consequent gazette of the new revised conditions of service for the Staff of the National Assembly by the 8th National Assembly of which you were one of the leaders and influential voices that consummated the Condition of Service.

“As you may be aware, many State Houses of Assembly have adopted and are domesticating it,’’ he said.

Funtua said nine months into implementation, the newly constituted NASC, after assumption of office, set up a six-member committee headed by former Sen. Abubakar Tutari to revisit the conditions of service in response to petitions.

He said that there was a vast conspiracy and coordinated campaign to impugn the integrity of the process and that there was need to save the assembly from power brokers.

“The higher national interest should be uppermost in the minds of leaders at all times; the present maneuvers while it may serve the interest of the few power brokers, will wreak incalculable damage on the National Assembly by representing it in a bad light.

“The present debacle demands selfless leadership, we pray that you will seize the moment and rise up to this historic challenge by intervening on behalf of moral rectitude, due process and in the overall interest of the Legislature as an institution.

“For immediate action, we demand that the National Assembly leadership should prevail on the Chairman of the Commission to disband the Sen. Abubakar Tutari Committee and set aside its recommendations and Position Paper as the Committee cannot serve both as Investigator, judge and the executor of the said recommendations.

“We urge you to ensure that the peace that NASS Management has been enjoying since inception is allowed to reign and fostered while we look forward to your timely intervention,’’ he said.

He called for the discharge of the Tutare’s committee as it will unleash confusion, trigger industrial disharmony within the National Assembly and the state legislatures.

Funtua also said that the committee would set a dangerous precedence, if allowed to stand.

Edited By: Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Judiciary

Court fixes June 1 to hear suit against NASS over infectious bill

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday fixes June to hear a suit filed by Sen. Dino Melaye against the National Assembly over the consideration of the infectious diseases bill 2020.

NAN reports that the bill was sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu fixes the matter date to enable the applicant serve court processes on all counsel in the matter.

Earlier, Mr Kayode Ajulo,  counsel to the Speaker of the House of Representatives said that he was  yet to receive the processes of the applicant and was therefore not ready for the matter.

 He, however, accepted service following the directive of the judge.

Former senator representing Kogi West,  Dino Melaye, had dragged the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to court over the controversial “Control of Infectious Disease Bill 2020”. 

 

Melaye also joined the clerks of the senate and house of representatives as respondents.

 

The bill which was sponsored by Gbajabiamila and other lawmakers, Pascal Obi and Tanko Sununu, seeks to empower the Federal Government to, upon mere suspicion that a person is infected with an infectious disease, arrest and detain the person for as long as necessary.

Section 37 of the  Bill also seeks to empower the Federal Government to direct compulsory vaccination in an outbreak or a suspected outbreak of an infectious disease.

Melaye approached the court under the fundamental rights enforcement to the dignity of his person, personal liberty, right to private and family life, right to freedom of movement and right to own immovable property in Nigeria.”

Mr Nkemakolam Okoro, counsel to Melaye told newsmen that several sections of the bill were likely to infringe on the rights of both his client and other Nigerians.

” A situation whereby Nigerians are made to be forcefully vaccinated, where they cannot travel out or come into the country without being subjected to forceful vaccination, the situation whereby the director – general of the centre for disease control can just see you on the road and arrest you without any test and subject you to detention for as long as he wants on mere suspicion that you may be having an infectious disease.

“A situation whereby the director – general can invade any premises or acquire your property without payment of compensation, are issues we have with the bill and we think those provisions, if passed into law are likely to infringe upon the fundamental rights of Nigerians, ” Okoro said.

He is therefore praying  the court for an order declaring some sections of the bill invalid and unconstitutional, as same constituted a gross abuse of the fundamental rights of his client and or will likely be infringing upon the fundamental rights of his client and Nigerians if eventually passed into law.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Politics

NGF urges NASS to stepdown proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill

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The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has urged the National Assembly to stepdown the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, pending wider consultations.

The News Agency  of Nigeria reports that the Bill was introduced by the House of Representatives.

Reacting to the development, the NGF advised the lawmakers to stay action until an appropriate consultative process was held.

The 36 states governors made the call in a communiqué issued at the end of the forum’s 8th teleconference meeting held on Wednesday on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The communiqué, which was made available to newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, was signed by the Forum Chairman and Governor of Ekiti , Dr Kayode Fayemi.

“Following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and NGF Vice Chairman, Aminu Tambuwal, on the proposed bill, the governors raised concern over the lack of consultation with state governments who were at the forefront of the pandemic.

“The forum resolved that the bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.

“In the light of this, the forum established a Committee, comprising the governors of Katsina, Sokoto and Plateau to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed bill.

“The NGF Secretariat was also mandated to comprehensively review the bill and its implication on states,” it stated.

The forum also expressed concerns over the rising number of Coronavirus cases in the country which reached 4,787 as at May 12, based on an update from the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19.

The governors noted that the worrying trend urgently called for additional measures by state governors to ramp up capacity for testing and increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per state.

They added that the trend also called for measures by governors to accelerate the procurement of additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training for health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of interstate restriction of movement.

The NGF noted that in line with the commitment made by the forum to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, they were making warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives.

The forum noted that the governors had appointed state coordinators who would be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.

It stated that the governors were briefed  by the Forum Chairman on existing coordination activities with the PTF on COVID-19, multilateral and bilateral partners, and the private sector through the Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

It disclosed that the forum was coordinating an additional response with the support of the Dangote Foundation to set up a volunteer workforce of health personnel who would be trained and deployed to strengthen the availability of health workers for states in critical need.

The volunteer work force, according to the forum, is in addition to ongoing activities aimed at strengthening the public health response and the delivery of palliatives to vulnerable persons.

It disclosed that the governors set up two committees to interface with the Federal Government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan, as well to steer the activities of the NGFNESG Economic Roundtable (NNER), respectively.

The forum said that it had followed with interest, the development of the 12-month Economic Sustainability Plan by the federal government, which was designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

“In the spirit of developing a truly coordinated national response to the crisis, governors expressed the importance of greater consultation and collaboration between the federal and state governments on development planning.

“A Committee was consequently set up to interface with the federal government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan.

“The committee is made up of the Governors of Bauchi, Plateau, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Ekiti.

“A second committee comprising the governors of Gombe, Nasarawa, Delta, Ebonyi, Oyo and Kaduna states was established to steer the activities of the NGFNESG Economic Roundtable (NNER).”

NNER is a sub-national platform of the NGF and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, created to promote sub-national competitiveness through public-private collaboration.

“The Forum received a briefing from the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, on the Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19.

“The initiative is set up by oil and gas operators to provide medical consumables to states, deploy logistics and in-patient support systems, and deliver permanent medical infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.

“Governors commended NNPC for leading the industry to take the initiative and advised the group to prioritise interventions that will boost the country’s testing capacity and the capacity of health workers who are at the frontline of the epidemic,” it further stated.

The state governors agreed to take additional measures to strengthen their public financial management systems, including a revision of their 2020 budgets and the amendment of state procurement guidelines to support e-procurement and the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises.

This, according the the them, followed an update from the Governor of Edo, Godwin Obaseki, on the operation of the World Bank States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) project which was supporting a strong pro-poor fiscal response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It added that to fast-track the deployment of e-procurement across states, the forum would be adopting a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with the Kaduna state government providing the framework agreement that other states could leverage on.

The governors noted the rising trend of deductions from revenues accruals to the federation account, available for distribution to the three tiers of government, and the threat it posed on the fiscal capacity of states to respond to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Members also raised concern about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account.

“The forum agreed to engage with the federal government to ensure that the governance arrangement of all federation-funded investments, recognise state governments as shareholders in the distribution of proceeds and decision making,” it stated.

The forum congratulated the newly appointed Chief of Staff  (CoS) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and looked  forward to a fruitful partnership that would support the development of the country.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Politics

N40bn NDDC Probe: Ex-militants back NASS

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A group of ex-militants known as ‘Conscience of the Niger Delta’ has thrown its weight behind the National Assembly’s probe of an alleged N40billion irregular expenditure by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

In a statement by the Coordinator on Monday in Abuja, Mr Odudoh Okpokiri, the group called on the National Assembly and all anti corruption agencies to “ignore the ranting of fake militants.’’

The coordinator alleged that shadowy groups were being sponsored to gag the National Assembly from carrying out the probe through threats and mindless blackmail.

He urged the lawmakers to proceed with any lawfully assigned responsibilities regarding the investigation of the alleged corruption in the NDDC to make it function better.

“We know ourselves; the statement of threat against those who want to probe is not from any of our members.

“Is it the members that are being owed by the commission for many years that will threaten anybody?

“That statement is not from us, Nigerians should ignore it, our members want the NDDC to be repositioned to work for Niger Deltans and we will not stand against anything that will make the place better for everybody is tired of the corruption.

“We call on the leadership and members of the National Assembly to ensure the probe is carried through and findings made public else, members from the region should consider themselves personal non granta in the region,” he said.

Okpokiri said that the group wants the Federal Government to pay more attention to the plights of people in the region, pledging support for the government for everything that would reposition the NDDC.

He said that ex-militants would not allow politician to use them to settle personal and political scores when the people were being shortchanged in the region.

The group, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure a thorough forensic audit of the commission’s account.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to personally appoint a neutral Forensic Auditor to audit the account of NDDC since the politicians involved now are accusing themselves of corruption.

“Let the anti corruption agencies and the National Assembly be allowed to carry their investigations to a logical conclusion and compare notes with the outcome of NASS probe,” he said.

Okpokiri said every stakeholder from the region, except those profiting from the sleaze, are in support of the federal government’s move to clean NDDC.

The group also reiterated its support for President Muhammadu Buhari in his determined efforts to rid the commission of monumental corruption, which had been ravaging the agency since its creation over 19 years ago.

Edited By: Abiemwense Moru/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

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Politics

CSO urges NASS to pass Cannabis Control Bill

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Civil Society Organisation Stakeholders on Farming for Medical use Initiative (CSOF) has urged the National Assembly to give a serious consideration to the Cannabis Control Bill before it and pass it into law.

 

The group made the call in a statement issued by its Programme Manager, Johnson Omede, on Thursday in Abuja.

Omede commended the House of Representatives for taking the initiative of commencing the process to amend the Cannabis Farming Prohibition Law, with the introduction of the ‘Cannabis Control Bill’.

He described the bill, sponsored by member representing Isiala Mbano/Onuimo/Okigwe Federal Constituency of Imo, Princess Miriam Onuoha, as very strategic to unlocking the benefits of cannabis for medical purposes and only under stringent control processes and monitoring.

He urged the lawmakers to give the cannabis for medical purposes bill accelerated hearing.

Omede said there was no better time for the important draft legislation to be passed than now when Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil, a chemical in the Cannabis sativa plant, is being used for the treatment of COVID-19.

“There are over 80 chemicals, known as cannabinoids, that have been identified in the Cannabis sativa plant.

“In Israel, the Tel Aviv Hospital, Ichilov, has already gone ahead and started using CBD or the non-psychotropic parts of the cannabis plant against the novel coronavirus in a new study.

“A cannabis control law would have helped Nigeria to join in the clinical trial of Cannabidiol for COVID-19 treatment, as the country desperately searches for cure and the health sector is beginning to get overwhelmed and stressed.

“The farming of cannabis for health, and its uses as CBD oil for chemotherapy in cancer patients and for other health benefits in Nigeria, is capable of creating thousands of jobs in the country, and also earn us a significant foreign exchange from exportation,” he said.

Omede said that the bill had also addressed concerns and highlighted sanctions against abusers and make the regulatory agencies more responsible.

“We call on patriotic Nigerians to support this bill presented by a courageous woman so that Nigeria will not be left behind.

“Other countries, including Ghana, are moving in droves to regulate cannabis farming and restrict its use for controlled and monitored health treatments only,” he said.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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General news

Palliative: FG donates 5,400 of 50kg bags of rice, other items to Enugu, Anambra, Sokoto, Nassarawa

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The Federal Government on Friday handed over 5,400 of 50kg bags of rice and other items to Enugu, Anambra, Sokoto and Nassarawa States, as palliatives to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the relief items were collected in different Customs formations in Lagos.

The formations include Seme border Command, Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, Jealith Bonded Terminal in Amuwo Odofin, Western Marine Command, Apapa and Ikorodu Lighter Terminal.

The relief items include 5,400 bags of 50 kg rice, 7,200 cartons of tomato paste, gallons of vegetable oil and cartons of spaghetti.

Mrs Kemi Adedeji, Lagos State Coordinator of the operations presented the items to officials of the four states, on behalf of Hajiyah Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

Adedeji said the gesture was in fulfillment of Federal Government’s promise to cushion the effects of the global health crisis.

She urged representatives of the four state to ensure that the relief items got to the poor and vulnerable in the states.

“These palliative are given to cushion the negative effect the Coronavirus pandemic might have on the people of the various state, especially the vulnerable.

“These relief items are a gesture from the Federal Government.

“These are your own shares and I implore the states to distribute the food items to vulnerables and downtrodden in your states.

“The items have been certified fit for human consumption by National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC),” she said.

Receiving the items on behalf of the Anambra Government, the State Liaison Officer in Lagos, Mrs Uloma Wise, commended  the Federal Government for the assistance.

Wise assured that the relief materials would be distributed among the needy in the state.

Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu/Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)

 

 

 

 

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General news

FG gives 5,400 bags of rice as palliatives to Anambra, Sokoto, Nassarawa states

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The Federal Government on Wednesday handed over 5,400 bags of 50kg rice and other relief items to Anambra, Sokoto and Nasarawa states to cushion the effect of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the relief items were loaded into nine trucks from the Seme border Customs warehouse for onward delivery to the people of the three states.

Mrs Kemi Adedeji, Lagos State Coordinator, National Social Safety Net Project, who presented the items to officials of the three states on behalf of Hajiyah Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, said the gesture was in fulfillment of Federal Government’s promise to cushion effects of COVID-19.

She said that the palliatives, which included 98 jerrycans of vegetable oil, should be distributed to indigent people in the states.

 

Relief items in Seme.

Adedeji urged the officials of the three state governments to ensure that the relief materials get to those it was intended for.

Handing over the relief items, Acting Customs Area Comptroller in Seme, Dalha Wada, said the Comptroller General of Customs, retired Col. Hammed Ali, had directed release of the relief items as palliatives to the states in compliance with Federal Government directive.

The customs boss said that the items had been checked and certified as good for human consumption by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Receiving the items on behalf of Anambra Government, the State Liaison Officer in Lagos, Mrs Uloma Wise, thanked the Federal Government for the assistance.

Wise promised that the relief materials would be distributed among the needy in the state.

Edited By: Bayo Sekoni/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

 

 

 

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Politics

N850bn loan approval: PDP wants NASS to ensure prudent use, prompt repayment

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the National Assembly to ensure the prudent use of the N850 billion loan it approved for the Federal Government on Tuesday.

 

The party, in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja also advised the presiding officers of the Senate to ensure prompt repayment of the loan.

 

Ologbondiyan expressed concerns over what he described as hasty approval of the N850 billion loan as requested by  President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said that the party was concerned that in spite of the huge natural and human resources at the disposal of the country, government was still accumulating loans, without repayment plans.

Ologbondiyan also expressed worry over the transparency and management of the country’s loans.

“The PDP, therefore, charges the Senate Presiding officers to note that in approving this loan, the nation holds them responsible to ensure strict oversight monitoring of the handling of the money.

“This is especially as it is being sourced from the capital market, which hosts investments by private individuals and firms.

“The Senate must ensure judicious use of the funds as well as prompt repayment.

“This is because our nation cannot afford any default, as such is capable of crippling the capital market and worsening the economic hardship already being faced by Nigerians,” he said.

Ologbondiyan advised the Federal Government to articulate innovative ways to create wealth and plug wastes, instead of resorting to borrowing.

He said what was expected of the government at a time such as this was to immediately cut on luxury.

The PDP spokesperson also advised the government to slash the number of presidential appointees, cut down huge allowances  and maintain a lean budget that would centre on health, research and growth of the economy among other critical needs.

“The PDP, therefore, urges all stakeholders, particularly fiscal transparency groups, the Nigeria Corporate World and management of the capital market to protect Nigerians by closely monitoring the performance of the loan.

“This is to guarantee effective management and prompt repayment,” Ologbondiya said.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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