… As Falana Calls Lawmakers ‘Callous, Insensitive’
In response to public outcry and widespread criticism, the Nigerian Senate has denied allegations of padding the amended 2022 Supplementary Appropriations Act by N70 billion.
The controversy arose after the National Assembly came under heavy scrutiny over the allocation of N70 billion it got from the N500 billion requested by President Bola Tinubu for the provision of palliatives to mitigate the impact of petroleum subsidy removal on citizens.
The House of Representatives last week made amendments to the 2022 Supplementary Appropriations Act in order to accommodate President Tinubu’s request. Following this development, a similar request was sent to the Senate by President Tinubu.
However, concerns were raised over the allocation of the N70 billion to lawmakers whereas the Agric sector mere N19 billion, leading to accusations that the legislative arm padded the budget for selfish gains.
Responding to these allegations, the Nigerian Senate on Sunday vehemently denied any wrongdoing, asserting that the accusations of padding were baseless and unfounded.
Senate spokesperson, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, said the N70 appropriated to the National Assembly was mischievously described as a “gift” from the executive arm of government.
He clarified that the allocation was a legitimate and necessary provision needed for rehabilitation of offices of lawmakers, amongst other things.
Quoting him, “after the passage of the Supplementary Budget to accommodate funding for Federal Government’ Palliative for the Nigerian public, among other urgent national demands, the socio-political space has been inundated with spurious, inaccurate and irreverent misinterpretations.
“Suffice to say that the passage is part of the absolute constitutional duty of the Senate. We would therefore, not wish to join issues with the mischief and misrepresentation that a portion of the just passed Amendment Act that appropriated 70b Naira was a ‘gift’ to the Legislators,” the statement noted.
Adaramodu added, “a visit to the Suites, offices and the general structures of the National Assembly complex would reveal a yawning and the need for exigent attention. Many Senators had to bring their chairs, tables and electronics and in many cases, do sundry repairs.
“The so much debated allocation will not be paid to any Legislator. This will be managed by the National Assembly Bureaucracy. It’s pertinent to also note that the National Assembly complex does not house only the Legislators. There are thousands of workers and service providers, whose working environment need a face-lift, and/with necessary tools.
“Since the Assembly Complex is not owned by Legislators who are merely political birds of passage, such allocation cannot be termed by anyone as a palliative to the Legislators.
“The alleged padding of the palliatve Budget by the National Assembly only exists in the minds of those who are all out to discredit the 10th Assembly. There is nothing like padding as being alleged in some misinformed media outfits.
“We wish to urge fellow compatriots to see the National Assembly as partners in the progress of Nigeria.The National Assembly is the soul of democracy and the 10th Senate shall join hands with other arms of government and our forward looking Nigerians to sing new songs of progress, development, safety and all round economic recovery and growth.”
Earlier, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, described the N70 billion allocation to NASS as callous and insensitive, noting that the legislative arm had earmarked N40 billion for purchase 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members.
“As if that is not enough, the members of the national assembly have earmarked N40 billion to purchase 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members. However, the legislators approved the sum of N500 billion for 12 million indigent people in a country where the National Bureau of Statistics has said that 62.9 per cent of people (133 million) are multidimensionally poor.
“The callous and insensitive decisions of the members of the national assembly constitute a flagrant contravention of section 70 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“It is crystal clear that by approving allowances in the form of palliatives for themselves without the approval of the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, the members of the national assembly deliberately acted illegally and contemptuously.
“As such actions can not be justified in a democratic society which claims to operate under the rule of law. We are compelled to call on the leaders and members of the national assembly to reverse the scandalous palliatives and purchase of exotic vehicles.
“However, if the illegal decisions are not reversed, we call on the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission to take urgent steps to prevent the national assembly from further usurping its constitutional functions.
“Otherwise, we are going to commence contempt proceedings against the chairman of the RAMFC and the leaders of both chambers of the national assembly.”
BREAKING NEWS: PDP’s Diri Wins Bayelsa Gov Election
The incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Douye Diri, has been declared the winner of the State governorship election held last Saturday.
The Returning Officer, Prof Faruq Kuta, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Of Technology, Minna, announced Diri winner of the poll at the collation centre of the election on Monday.
Diri polled 175,196 to defeat his closest rival, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress, who garnered 110,108 votes while the Labour Party polled 905 votes.
Plateau: Protesters Storm S’ Court Over Sack Of Four PDP Members From NASS
Over 1000 protesters, on Monday, besieged the Supreme Court to register their displeasure over the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which sacked four members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Plateau State, from the National Assembly, based on a pre-election dispute.
The placard and banner-wielding groups, under the aegis of Coalition for Justice in Africa, CJA, submitted a protest letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
According to the protesters, the appellate court, by its judgement, thwarted the wish of electorates in Plateau state, when it declared candidates that lost the National Assembly elections that held on February 25, as winners of the legislative seats.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after the protest letter was submitted to the CJN, the National President of the CJA, Dr. Daniel Okwa, maintained that the judgement of the appellate court was capable of causing a breakdown of law and order in the state.
He said the group was at the apex court to seek the intervention of the CJN, alleging that the verdicts that removed all the PDP federal lawmakers were influenced by some chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The protest letter, which was obtained by Vanguard, read in part: “The Coalition for Truth and Justice believes that the judgment of the Appeal Court in Abuja is a case of injustice, else, how could one explain a situation where lawmakers of the All Progressive Congress (APC) would boast and predict the outcome of the Court of Appeal judgment even before the pronouncement.
“This is unacceptable and indicates that the justice regime in Nigeria has been thrown to the dogs. What happened in Plateau State is an aberration of immeasurable proportion. There is a distinction between a pre-election matter and a post-election matter.
“The Supreme Court has established this fact on several occasions. It is now a wonder why the Appeal Court would act otherwise and in a despicable manner that tends to truncate our nascent democracy.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice entirely condemns the actions of the justices of the Appeal Court that sat in Abuja. They displayed insensitivity to the electoral choices of the people. This is a worrisome trend that the Chief Justice of Nigeria must address.
“This is on the heels that the Judiciary, the world over, is regarded as the last hope of the commoner. This presupposes that it is the only place the commoner can get justice. The function of the Judiciary is not to twist the truth or fabricate facts but to interpret the law. The consequence of the interpretation of the law is justice.
“However, what played out in Plateau state negates the Judiciary’s position as the common’s last hope. The Judiciary is for sale to the highest bidder in Nigeria, if such positions could be taken without recourse to the implication of such on the psychological state of the people.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice is using this protest to drive the point that justice in Nigeria should not be reserved for a section of the country or any political party. What happened in Plateau should not be allowed to stand or repeat itself. The implication of such is that the reputation of the judicial arm of government would be eroded.”
It will be recalled that the appellate court had on November 7, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, okayed the nullification of the election of a Senator and three members of the House of Representatives in the state that emerged on the platform of the PDP.
The panel based its decision on failure of the PDP to fully comply with a court that was made in 2022, which it said directed the party to conduct congress in the 17 Local Government Areas in the state.
It, therefore, held that though the lawmakers won their respective seats during the National Assembly election that held on February 25, all the scores that were credited them, amounted to wasted votes.
It ordered that candidates that got the second majority lawful votes at the election, should be sworn in as winners of the legislative seats.
Canada’s Abuja, Lagos Visa Centres Open – High Commission
The Canadian High Commission in Nigeria has said its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open for the processing of immigration, refugee and citizenship applications.
The Canadian High Commission had on Tuesday announced the suspension of operations in its Abuja office following a fire incident at its generator house, which claimed two lives on Monday.
Nigerians had expressed fear that the operations suspension would hamper visa application processes.
But in a statement posted on its X handle on Thursday, the Canadian High Commission clarified that its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open and operational.
In the statement by its public affairs staff, Demilade Kosemani, the commission said, “As we continue to mourn the passing of our dear colleague from the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, please note the following information below:
“Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada clients: processing of applications continues. Regardless of the suspension of operations at the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, the Visa Application Centres in Abuja and Lagos remain open.”
Meanwhile, a travel agency, , TMT Travels and Tours Limited, has sympathised with the Canadian High Commission over the Monday tragic fire incident.
In a statement on Thursday the agency’s Chief Executive Officer, Collins Onukwubiri, said, “We at TMT Travels and Tours Limited shares in the grief and sense of loss of the Canadian embassy in Abuja. The partial burning of the Canadian embassy in Abuja and the death of two workers there was most unfortunate.
“Canada, as a major player in the Nigeria’s travel and tours business, is an integral player in Nigeria’s economy. We know how devastating this unfortunate incident is to them but we want to say that we stand with them in this time and always. We specially condole with the families of the two persons who died in the process.”