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Warning strike: Reps invite ASUU, Labour, Education Ministers

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The House of Representatives has invited the Minister of Education, Labour and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to find a lasting solution to ongoing warning strike by the union.

Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila This was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion of Urgent Matters of Public Importance by Rep. Dachung Bagos (PDP-Plateau) at the plenary on Tuesday.

Moving the motion earlier, Bagos said that ASUU had on March 9, after its National Executive Council meeting (NEC) held in Enugu embarked on a two-week warning strike.

Bagos said that schools had just resumed and that the strike if allowed to take full effect would cost a lot of students extra academic year.

“Also concerned, that the continued yearly strike by ASUU is becoming a national embarrassment to the country.

“It is worrisome that the continued strike has encouraged education tourism of Nigerians to other countries,” he said.

Rep. Kwewum Shawulu (PDP-Taraba) said that Nigerians spent over 300 million pounds to study in the United Kingdom and over N5 billion as school fees in Ghana.

He said that parents were sending their children to study in countries where Nigeria did not have comparative advantage.

The Rep said that more than one million children applied for admission to universities in the country annually.

Shawulu said that the universities in the country admitted about 250,000 of the 800,000 applicants in the country.

The lawmaker recommended that the procedure of owning private universities be made easier of individuals and groups to admit the rest 800,000.

Shawulu called on the house to broaden its interaction with ASUU and the government to boost investment in the sector.

He said that Nigerian universities are challenged with poor facilities like e-library, urging the leadership of the house to also factor in everything affecting the smooth operation of the schools.

In his ruling, the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila mandated the Clerk to issue letters to the relevant stakeholders for a meeting with him on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Maureen Atuonwu
(NAN)

 

General news

COVID-19: Plateau Reps,NNPC, donate money, ambulance to Plateau Govt.

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The Plateau Caucus at the National Assembly has donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Plateau Government as its contribution to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

The Deputy Speaker of the House of  Representatives, Ahmed Wase ,led the delegation that made the presentation on Monday at Government House, Jos.

Wase commended Gov. Simon Lalong for being the first to install  CCTVs at the state’s borders.

He also commended the efforts of Gov. Lalong toward curbing the scourge of the Coronavirus pandemic in the  state.

He prayed for more wisdom and guidance for the governor to steer the affairs of Plateau toward fast tracking its development.

The deputy speaker said that even though they were giving individual and constitutional responsibilities in interventions to stem the disease, it was still imperative for them to contribute as a group representing the different interests of the state at the National Assembly.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that while  on the visit, the members also presented a Toyota Hiace ambulance bus to the governor under the initiative of the the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Intervention on COVID-19 donated by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Independent Petroleum Producers group.

NAN reports that the donation by the initiative also included two ventilators, 10,000 surgical face masks, 5,000 face masks and 2,000 hand gloves.

Lalong thanked all the members representing Plateau at the National Assembly for the gesture, describing it as laudable and worthy emulation.

He also acknowledged their contributions at their constitutional levels and their efforts to sensitise and enlighten their constituents on preventive measures against the disease.

He assured that their contribution to the Plateau government  COVID-19 trust fund would be put into good use, while appreciating their cooperation to ensure the well-being of Plateau people.

“We will also give you the necessary cooperation to discharge your duties at the National Assembly.

“We have inaugurated a research committee comprising of specialists in the field on alternative ways of addressing COVID-19 and other possible emergence of infectious diseases,” he said.

He said the state had  also established a palliative committee which was already distributing foodstuff  and other essentials to the indigents and vulnerable in the state.

The governor also said it had evacuated Quaranic Education Students (Almajiri),from Plateau to their home states as agreed by Northern Governors in order to protect them from the pandemic, saying they are being tested for the disease before taking to their homes.

He thanked the Members for ensuring Plateau benefited from the intervention of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Intervention, saying he was optimistic that the state through their influence would benefit from more Federal Government interventions.

He said business Mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote through his foundation was establishing a 100 bed capacity isolation center in Shendam Local Government Area.

NAN reports that other members of the delegation were Sen. Hezekiah Dimka representing Plateau Central, Sen Istifanus Gyang representing Plateau North, while the representatives in attendance were Mr Haruna Maitala representing Jos North and Komsol Longgap representing Mikang/Qu’anpan/Shendam constituency among others.

Edited By: Emmanuel Nwoye and Abdullahi Yusuf (NAN)

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Metro

Don’t use foreign airline to evacuate stranded Nigerians- Reps Committee

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Rep. Nnolim Nnaji, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, has advised the Federal Government against using foreign airline to evacuate stranded Nigerians from Canada.

Nnaji, representing Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency of Enugu State, said in a statement in Lagos on Sunday that the House would not condone it.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that there was persistent refusal by the Canadian authorities to grant Air Peace airline landing rights for the evacuation of stranded Nigerians in Canada.

NAN reports that the Canadian Government was alleged to have given preference to Ethiopian Airline for evacuation of stranded Nigerians desiring to come home as against the Air Peace which the task force has already engaged for the evacuation.

Air Peace is charging 1,134 dollars per passenger as against the sum of 2,500 dollars charged by the Ethiopian Airline.

Nnaji, however, said that the position of the House of Representatives was very clear on the issue of evacuation flights.

The lawmaker explained that the House had on May 12 adopted the motion against the use of foreign airlines for evacuation of stranded Nigerians in other countries.

Nnaji said the House had urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Aviation, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and relevant Ministerial Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the motion.

He said the House had urged them to ensure that Nigerian Airlines enjoy the right of first refusal in all circumstances where Nigerians need to be evacuated from other countries.

“The House of Representatives had insisted that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation and indeed the COVID-19 Task Force must explore all available diplomatic channels to ensure that a Nigerian airline operate the evacuation flight out of Canada.

“The aviation committee has also observed that Canadian authorities has no reason to deny Air Peace landing right.

“This is because available records had shown that the airline has the require certification and approvals to operate internationally.

“Our findings have shown that Air Peace is International Air Transport Association’s Safety Oversight Audit (IOSA) certified.

“This means that the airline has a major international parameter for measuring airlines’ safety standards,” he said.

Nnaji said that there was need for the Canadian Government to treat the flight as a special emergency occasioned by Coronavirus pandemic and immediately grant the necessary approvals to the Air Peace.

Similarly, the lawmaker said the committee had summoned the COVID-19 Task Force and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aviation and agencies to appear before it on Thursday.

Nnaji explained that the committee summoned those directly or indirectly involved in the earlier evacuation flights handled by the British Airways, Emirates and Ethopian Airlines from the UK, United Arab Emirates and America.

Edited By: Tayo Ikujuni/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Politics

Eid-el Fitr: Reps minority caucus felicitates muslims, urges national rebirth.

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The Minority Leader of the House of representatives, Rep. Ndudi Elumelu, (PDP-Delta) has urged Muslim faithfuls to use the Eid-el Fitr celebration to activate the much desired national rebirth.

In a congratulatory message on behalf of the minority caucus on Saturday in Abuja, Elumelu said that Eid-el Fitr presents a fresh opportunity for a national regeneration in all aspects of life.

The minority leader said that the national rebirth was particularly important as the citizens collectively fight to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a nation, we must use this period for deep introspection and rekindle the virtues of forgiveness, tolerance, love for one another and commitment to the stability and progress of our dear nation and humanity at large.

“Indeed, the successful completion of the Ramadan fast as well as our commitment to prayers and supplications during the period, strongly confirm our individual and collective trust in God in the determination to excel as a united people,” he said.

He called on Nigerians to spread the joy of the Eid-el Fitr by reaching out to one another at this critical time.

Elumelu added that with unity and trust in God, Nigeria will definitely overcome all her challenges and once again stand tall among the comity of nations.

He urged Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to all safety protocols on COVID-19 as they observe the Eid-el Fitr.

Edited By: Modupe Adeloye/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

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Politics

COVID-19: Reps C’ttee cautions MDAs against tampering with 2020 budget

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The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation  has cautioned  Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) against tampering with the 2020 Appropriation Act.

The Chairman of the committee,Rep. Muktar Betara (APC-Borno) ,issued the warning in a statement in Abuja on Friday.

According to him, no MDA has powers to tinker with the budget as only the National Assembly is statutorily empowered to review, adjust, consider and pass budget.

“There are  reports that  following the downward review of the budget from N10.59 trillion to N10.52 trillion due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“As a result of the dwindling oil prices, some MDAs were already adjusting the budget proposal to suit their needs.

“Such acts will not be condoned by the National Assembly as any MDA or official found to be engaged in such illegal practice will be made to face the music.

“I want to warn that no other arm or department of government has any power over budget except the legislature, which is the National Assembly,” he said.

The lawmaker stressed that the process to review the budget was ongoing in line with the powers of the National Assembly.

He said that the Constitution confers appropriation powers on the parliament as well as its responsibilities over the national purse.

According to him, both the 1999 Constitution and Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 provide for no limitations on the National Assembly’s power to amend the Appropriations bill. 

“Section 80 (4) specifically provided that ‘no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation,  except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.

“Therefore, we shall not shirk in our responsibilities and we will also not hesitate to wield the big stick on whoever goes beyond his brief to tamper with the budget,” he said.

Betara said that because of the importance the National Assembly attach  to the budget, members of the relevant committees would continue work on it during the two-week Sallah break.

He assured that the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation is committed to working with other relevant committees, the Senate and Executive to have workable and implementable budget to help the country overcome the negative economic effects of COVID-19. 

Edited By: Buhari Bolaji/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Judiciary

$10m bribe allegation: Court restrains Reps from inviting CUPP Spokesman, Ugochinyere

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The Federal High Court Abuja, on Wednesday, restrained the House of Representatives from inviting Mr Ikenga Ugochinyere, Spokesperson, Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), over allegation of 10 million dollars bribery scandal.

NAN reports that the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc committee investigating the 10 million dollars bribery allegation against the speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had summoned  Ugochinyere to appear before it unfailingly on Thursday.

 

Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who delivered the ruling in a suit filed by Ugochinyere,  reminded the defendants of the position of the law once a matter was before the court.

According to Justice Taiwo, once a matter is in court, parties must not do any act to foist upon the court a situation of fait accompli.

The Speaker, House of Representative, Femi Gbajabiamila, Clerk of the National  Assembly and the Inspector-General of Police, are defendants in the case. 

 

NAN reports that the House had set up an Ad Hoc Committee led by Rep. Henry Nwawuba to probe the bribery allegation offered to the lawmakers by Bill Gates to accelerate the quick passage of Control Infections Disease Bill, 2020. 

The committee had given the CUPP spokesman seven days to appear before it.

Besides restraining the lawmakers from going ahead with the probe, the judge also ordered accelerated hearing of the case.

In a motion ex-parte dated and  filed on May, 7, the court held that ”The defendants are enjoined not to do anything on the subject matter of this suit and the reason for the exparte application until the court considers the affidavit to show cause why the court should not grant prayers 2 and 4.”

Prayer two sought the court order, directing Gbajabiamila and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, to produce and tender an oath before the court on the original version of the Control of Infections Disease Bill, 2020; within seven days thereof.

The plaintiff also asked for “an order of interlocutory injunction, restraining the defendants whether by Itself, members, Committees, agents, staff, privies or howsoever described, from proceedings with the committee hearing or sitting of any committee or Inviting, indicting and/or otherwise proceeding against the plaintiffs In connection with the opposition, condemnation or fair opinion expressed about the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants  over the alleged inducement to pass the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 which is the subject matter of present suit, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”

Justice Taiwo, then, adjourned the matter until May 27.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Politics

Reps want e-learning system instituted in education sector

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The House of Representatives has urged the Federal Ministry of Education to urgently develop a national policy and framework for online education for schools at various levels.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the resolution was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Aniekan Umanah (PDP-Cross River) at the plenary on Tuesday.
Moving the motion, Umanah said that the outbreak of coronavirus has altered the educational calendar globally.
Quoting UNESCO, he said that most governments around the world had temporarily closed schools in order to contain the spread of the virus.
The lawmaker said that the closures were impacting over 72 percent of the world student population.
“This has brought significant setback to academic endeavours, with far-reaching impacts on the more vulnerable and disadvantaged countries, such as Nigeria.
“The closure of schools, occasioned by COVID-19, has kept over 1.2 billion children out of the classroom and as a result, education has changed drastically, with the increase in the use of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.
“This sudden event has caused a shift from the classrooms in our nation’s schools.
“Teachers and students have been forced to adjust and adapt to this unplanned rapid move to online teaching and learning, with no structure, training and equipment tools, and are faced with inadequate preparations,” he said.
According to the lawmaker, e-learning approach takes time and it is a gradual system of learning, adding that schools and colleges will have to develop modular structure for it.
He also said that a database and e-learning pattern, supported with efficient communication and internet, must be in place.
Umanah recalled that the Federal Ministry of Education had announced a free e-learning portal, intended to create access to online education across the nation as well as radio and television classrooms.
He said that this had remained mere intentions, as reports had indicated that it was not working and, therefore, not serving the desired need of closing the educational gaps.
Umanah attributed this to lack of instructional design and implementation, including lack of cognitive psychology tools to support e-learning.
He said that with the present situation, Nigeria’s educational system was lagging behind by not being functionally awake to the present reality of online education.
The lawmaker said that research had shown that the level of online learning and preparedness in Nigeria was about 10 percent.
He stressed the need for urgent steps to salvage the already battered educational system, which he said, had further been humbled and bruised by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The house urged other educational regulatory bodies across the country to incorporate online education and modular system into school curricular across the country.
In his ruling, the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, mandated the House Committees on Basic and Tertiary Education to ensure compliance.

Edited By: Remi Koleoso and (NAN)‘Wale Sadeeq

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Politics

Reps make case for local production of vaccines

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The House of Representatives has resolved to meet with all relevant stakeholders with a view to providing legislative framework for local production of vaccine.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that this was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Chike Okafor (APC-Imo) at the plenary on Tuesday.

Okafor recalled that the Yaba Vaccine Production Laboratory in Lagos State was active in vaccine production for about six decades, between 1940 and 1991.

He said that the lab produced large quantities of vaccines against smallpox, rabies and yellow fever for not only Nigeria, but also for neighbouring countries like Cameroon and other African countries.

The rep said that the lab was closed down by the Federal Government in 1991 in order to upgrade the facility for optimal production but that the facility had remained locked until date.

He said that there was an urgent need to produce vaccine locally to address the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic and other diseases.

Okafor recalled that in 2017, the federal government signed a partnership agreement with May and Baker Nigeria Plc., to float a company named Biovaccine Ltd.

He said that the company was to commence local vaccine production in Nigeria but was yet to start production of those life saving vaccines.

“Presently African Countries like South Africa, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Senegal have functional laboratories for production and export of vaccines for use and export.

“Cognisant of the need for Nigeria to speed up the commencement of local vaccine production for domestic use and export, especially now the world is faced with the ravaging COVID-19 and other terminal diseases.

“Nigeria spends over N4 billion annually on importation of vaccines, an amount which, if vaccines are locally produced will reduce the volume of monies spent on importation, local delivery, insurance and handling charges,” he said.

The lawmaker said that the partnership agreement between the federal government and May and Baker Nigeria Plc., if implemented, would improve the technical capacities of Nigerian scientists and engineers and the value chain.

He said it would improve Nigeria’s pharmaceutical sector and also expose experts to the technological advancements involved in vaccine production.

Okafor said that a successful production of local vaccines would help the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Federal Ministry of Health to effectively tackle outbreaks such as COVID-19.

He said that local vaccine production would not only save Nigeria billions of naira from vaccine importation but would go a long way in guaranteeing availability of vaccines during routine immunisation and for export.

In his ruling, the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila mandated all the relevant Committees of the house to ensure compliance.

The committees include Healthcare Services, Health Institutions and Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

They are to invite the Minister, Federal Ministry of Health, the Executive Director/CEO, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Director General, NCDC and the Executive Director, May and Baker Nigeria Plc.

The committees and the stakeholders are to deliberate on possible ways of getting the needed legislative support to fast track the production of vaccines in Nigeria.

The speaker mandated the committee to report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
aureen Atuonwu

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)

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General news

Oyo APC Reps want late commissioner immortalised

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The APC caucus in the House of Representatives from Oyo State has urged the state government to immortalise the late Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Kehinde Ayoola, who died on Thursday.
The caucus, in a statement issued by its leader, Hon. Segun Odebunmi (APC-Surulere/Ogo-Oluwa) on Sunday in Ibadan, described the late commissioner was a quintessential leader with brilliant qualities.
The group said that Ayoola, also a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, would be remembered for his timeless contributions to various political leanings and the development of the state in the last 21 years.
The lawmakers said that Oyo PDP made a huge progress under his support and guidance.
“It is unfortunate that he had to leave at a time when his experience and knowledge were needed to help the state achieve a pace-setting excellence in its democratic journey.
“At this hour of difficulty, we request you (state government) to please accept our sincere condolence and extend the same to his family and friends.
“He was a gem and a great loss to the state. We are all going to miss him,” the lawmakers said.

Edited By: Joe Idika and (NAN)‘Wale Sadeeq

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Economy

SERAP, electricity consumer group support Reps power sector probe

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Energy Consumer Rights and Responsibilities Initiative (ECRRI) on Thursday,  backed ongoing probe of the power sector by the House of Representatives.

The groups in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos, said there was an urgent need to review the power sector privatisation process because it had failed to yield the desired results.

NAN reports that the House of Representatives on May 12, mandated its Committees on Power and Privatisation, to review the extant laws, regulations, policies and contractual arrangement guiding the Power Sector Reform.

It also directed the committees to review and investigate activities of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) and submit the report within four weeks.

Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director, SERAP, a human rights group, said that Nigerians had not enjoyed quality supply of electricity in spite of the huge funds deployed to the sector by the government.

Mumuni said: “When our power sector is epileptic, the road to industrialisation for us is still far away.

“It is when we get things properly settled in the power sector that Nigerians can start talking about genuine industrial and economic progress.’’

He noted that it was not sufficient to probe the power sector but the outcome of such investigations and recommendations must be implemented in the interest of the country.

“The lawmakers must embark on the probe sincerely to get to the root of what is holding the power sector down for us to find a lasting solution to the problem,” Mumuni added.

Mr Sural Fadairo, National President, ECCRI, an electricity consumers group, said the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) should be strengthened to carry out its responsibilities.

Fadairo said: “The review by the lawmakers is a welcome development because we need to get our electricity sector right.

NERC needs to be strengthened to do its job because the electricity distribution companies have been flouting its directives without being sanctioned appropriately.

“For instance, NERC gave a clear directive that customer complaints should be addressed by the electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) within 15 days but they hardly adhere to the directive.”

According to him, there is need to look at the operational capacities of the 11 existing DisCos and how other investors can come into the sector to help boost power supply in the country.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

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