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$418m Paris Club Refund: Govs Tackle Malami, Say Action Fraudulent, Self-Serving

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Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Wednesday described the positions of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on the controversial $418 million Paris Club contractors’ fee as “fraudulent and self-serving.”

The NGF Chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, disclosed the position of the forum in a communique issued at the end of its meeting, held at the Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Fayemi, while reading the communique to journalists, said the governors had resolved to pursue the issue, which is before the law court, to a logical conclusion so as to know the next steps to take on the matter.

The governors, who insisted that the deductions for the payment of said consultancy were illegal, especially as the matter is before the courts, said Malami was not acting in public interest.

“The forum extensively reviewed the purported attempt by the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance to circumvent the law and a recent judgment of the Supreme Court, to secure the approval of the Federal Executive Council, to effect illegal payment of the sum of $418 million to contractors who allegedly executed consultancies in respect to the Paris Club Refunds to state and local governments.

“The forum set up a committee comprising the Chairman, the governor of Ekiti State, the Vice Chairman, the governor of Ondo State, the governor of Plateau State, the governor of Nasarawa State and the governor of Ebonyi State, to interface with the committee set up by Mr. President to review the matter.

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“But the position of the Governors’ Forum is clear and unequivocal. Although this matter is sub-judice and we are very reluctant to get in the way of a matter that is still being pursued in the courts, we are constrained by the manner in which the Honorable Attorney-General has been going around various media houses and purporting to create the impression that this is a liability to which governors have committed themselves to and agreed to, even though he is very much aware that that’s not the case.

“We reject all of the claims that he has made on these issues and we also insist that states will not give up on insisting that these purported claims are fraudulent and will not stand, as far as governors are concerned, and we will take every constitutional and legal means to ensure that these purported consultancies are fully litigated upon by the highest courts in the land.

“If the courts now find governors and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and states liable, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. As far as we are concerned, this is a matter that governors feel very strongly about and we do not believe that the Attorney-General of the Federation is acting in the public interest. We believe he’s acting in personal, selfish interest, that would ultimately become clear when this matter is fully addressed in the law courts,” he said.

The governors, who also deliberated on the prevailing economic and security situation in the country, agreed to intervene by engaging with the federal government and other stakeholders to deliberate, suggest immediate action plans on ameliorate the current situations.

“The Forum extensively discussed the state of the Nigerian economy and security, following a presentation by Mr. Bismarck Rewani, member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council, the Forum resolved to immediately engage with the federal government and other critical stakeholders; Labour, the presidential candidates of political parties, and corporate actors on finding resolutions and suggestions to implement a set of immediate actions to ameliorate the worsening economic conditions in the country”, he said.

On the industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the communique said “on the prolonged strike by Nigerian universities, the forum encourages the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities to find meaningful resolutions to the lingering impasse and as proposed to engage with both parties, just as we have done in the past, in a bid to ending the strike”.

The communique further revealed that the Forum discussed several other issues, ranging from resolve to increase funding for the health care sector to encouraging fiscal transparency in states.

Daily Trust

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Buhari to present 2023 budget proposal to NASS Friday

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President Muhammadu Buhari will present the 2023 Appropriations bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on Friday.

The appropriations bill will contain budget proposals for the 2023 fiscal year.

He made this known in a letter to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, which was read out at the start of plenary on Tuesday.

The formal budget presentation is scheduled for 10am

and it will be the last main budget Buhari will be presenting as he will leave office on 29 May 2023 when his second four year term will end.

The Federal Government is already proposing an aggregate expenditure of N19.76 trillion for the 2023 fiscal year with a budget deficit of about N12.41 trillion.

Some key assumptions in the proposal include an estimated oil benchmark of $70, crude oil production put at 1.69mbpd, exchange rate of N435.57/$ and inflation rate at 17.16 per cent.

The Federal Government pegged growth rate at 3.75 per cent because it believes that “Growth is expected to be moderated to 3.30% in 2024 before picking up to 3.46% in 2025.”

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had disclosed that the federal government will borrow over N11 trillion and sell national assets to finance the budget deficit in 2023.

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ASUU also corrupt, undermining govt investment – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said a number of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are involved in corrupt practices.

He said the corruption in the universities and other institutions was undermining government’s funding and investment in education.

ASUU has been on strike since February 14 over increase in lecturers’ allowances and salaries as well as improved funding for the universities.

Buhari has appealed to the union to call off the strike but the lecturers have stood their ground.

The President on Tuesday while declaring open the Fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), said ASUU was no less complicit in the corruption in tertiary education.

He said corruption in the education sector had continued to undermine investments, while critics downplayed funding by focusing only on budgetary allocations, urging a more comprehensive re-evaluation of expenditure.

The President said, “This year’s summit will mirror how corruption undermines educational policies, investments and create an unfriendly learning environment for our youths.

“Incessant strikes especially by unions in the tertiary education often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.

“The 1999 Constitution places a premium on education by placing it on the Concurrent List, thereby laying the responsibilities of budgeting and underwriting qualitative education on both the Federal and State Governments.

“The total education budget for each year is therefore a reflection of both federal and state budgets and should be viewed as other financial commitments in their totality.

“The allocation to education in the federal budget should not be considered via allocation to the Federal Ministry of Education and also academic institutions alone, but should include allocation to the Universal Basic Education, transfers to TETFUND and refund from the Education Tax Pool Account to TETFUND.

“Corruption in the expenditure of internally generated revenue of tertiary institutions is a matter that has strangely not received the attention of stakeholders in tertiary education, including unions.

“I call on stakeholders to demand accountability in the administration of academic institutions and for unions to interrogate the bloated personnel and recurrent expenditure of their institutions. Let me also implore the Unions to work with the government to put faces and identities to names on the payroll.

“Due to declining resources, the government cannot bear the cost of funding education alone. I task our academics to attract endowments, research and other grants to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education similar to what obtains in other countries.”

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Seven police officers dismissed, 10 others demoted

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The Police Service Commission (PSC), on Tuesday, dismissed seven senior police officers over gross misconduct.

The commission also announced the demotion of 10 other officers through reduction in rank.

These decisions were taken during the continuation of the 15th plenary meeting of the commission.

The meeting is expected to end on Thursday, October 6, 2022, according to a report by The Trust.

Presided over by its acting chairman, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, the meeting considered all the Pending Disciplinary Matters (PDM) before the commission.

The PDMs, which totalled 47, also treated some appeals from dismissed police officers.

Addressing newsmen shortly after the meeting in Abuja, the spokesman for the commission, Ikechukwu Ani, said, the dismissed officers include one CSP, one SP and five ASPs.

He said that one SP was retired in public interest, adding that the commission reduced the ranks of one CSP to SP, three SPs to DSP, and two DSPs to ASPs.

The commission further reduced the ranks of four ASPs to Inspectors.

10 senior police officers, including an ACP, a CSP, a SP and two DSPs were given the punishment of severe reprimand.

Five ASPs were also awarded the punishment of severe reprimand.

Thirteen officers received the punishment of reprimand; two are to receive letters of warning while four officers were exonerated.

Ani quoted Justice Ogunbiyi as saying the commission would henceforth give the desired attention to Pending Disciplinary Matters so that those found guilty are punished immediately while those found not guilty are cleared to continue with their career progression.

Justice Ogunbiyi called on police officers to ensure they operate within established rules and avoid taking laws into their hands.

The commission, she said, would continue to work to sustain a professional police force.

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