SENATE THIS WEEK: As MDAs defend their 2018 budget proposals…

OrderPaperToday – The passage of the 2018- 2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) on the 28th of November paved way for the commencement of the defence of the appropriation bill as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari. However, just two Senate Committees allowed the coverage of the defence while others were done in closed doors. Other highlights of the activities at Senate this week include: a public hearing on job creation and the investigative hearing of the “street fight” between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Department States Service (DSS).

Lai Mohammed and starvation blues…

The Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation, Lai Mohammed, took turn to defend the proposals of his ministry. But the news of the event was his post-defence press interview wherein he appealed to Nigerians to bear with the Muhammadu Buhari administration; that the government is not deliberately starving the country by poor budgetary releases in 2017 appropriation act. According to Mohammed, the hardship in the land should be blamed on the shortfall in revenue. In his presentation before the Senate Committee on Culture however, Mr. Mohammed said the culture sector only generated the sum of N500,000. The break-down of the ministry’s 2018 budget is as follows: the sum of N3,180,947,378 is allocated for personnel costs while overhead cost is expected to gulp N880,507,008. For capital expenditure, a total sum of N810,510,582 was proposed for the culture sector while the sum of N496,678,615 was proposed for both information and culture out of the total budgeted sum of N2,606,551,260.

Nuclear regulation and unapproved spending….

The 2018 budget defence of the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA) was cut short due to several inadequacies in presentation. The Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) uncovered how NNRA blew N367million of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) without appropriation by the National Assembly. The committee then resolved that the agency make adequate submissions in their presentation and reappear before it.

Expensive travels by DPR…

The Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) also met with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for the agency’s budget defence. The sum of N355 million allocated for foreign trips and another N60.2million were queried by the lawmakers. The Committee also urged the Department to fast-track the National Production Monitoring System which would help against swindling of Nigerians by petroleum marketers. The Committee also learned of expenditures as N50million for advertisement; N9million for courier services; N102million for consulting services; and N2.5million for recruitment.

The fire-fight between EFCC, DSS and NIA… 

During the course of the week, the acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, appeared before the Senate Committee probing the clash between sister security agencies. Operatives of the EFCC had on November 21, engaged in a public row with officials of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Department of States Services (DSS) in an attempt to arrest former Directors General of the NIA and DSS, Ayodele Oke and Ita Ekpeyong, respectively. Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi) on November 23 had urged the Senate to probe the incidents which caused “environmental brouhaha.” This led to the setting up of a 5 man ad hoc committee by the red chamber. Appearing before the committee led by Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC, Edo), Magu denied that his men engaged in a “street fight” with the sister agencies.

Saraki’s public hearing on job creation…

In a bid to alleviate the alarming level of unemployment in the country, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, convened a public hearing for government agencies and departments to give account of their job creation programmes. It was at the hearing that the Federal Government said it deploys Global Positioning System (GPS) to monitor beneficiaries of the youth-focused empowerment program, N-Power. The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment and Protection Plan, Mariam Uwais made this disclosure.

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