Senate or ministerial position: I’m confused, says Simon Lalong

Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, says he is confused on whether he should move to the senate or retain his position in the cabinet of President Bola Tinubu.

Lalong, a two-term governor of Plateau State, had contested but lost the February 25, 2023 election.

The Independent of National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Napoleon Bali of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the election.

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the elections, Lalong had headed for the tribunal, which ruled in his favour.

In a judgement delivered by Justice Elfaida Williams-Dawodu, the appeal court upheld the tribunal’s verdict, saying the votes cast for the PDP candidate were unlawful.

Justice Williams-Dawodu ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Bali and give a fresh one to Lalong.

Last month, Lalong stormed the INEC headquarters in Abuja, alongside some of his associates, to pick up the certificate, which was presented to him by Mohammed Haruna, a National Commissioner.

In a video, which an online TV, SYMFONI, posted online, Lalong was seeing addressing a crowd.

“Each time I am with him (a comrade), he will remind me that, please don’t go to Senate, please remain with us at the Ministry of Labour. Maybe that is not what my constituency will also say because as I am now, I am a very confused man, because whether to go to left or go to right but pray for me to take the best decision.

“If I remain with you, I will remain as a comrade but if I go there. I told comrade Oshiomhole, I said they mentioned you to go and speak on behalf of the Labour. I said no, Comrade Aremu should speak. They said ‘why?’, I said as a senator, I think you have partly committed class suicide. You may be shifting a little bit, until we see you after for four years, we will not confirm that you are intact. So it is only that time that we will know whether you have committed class suicide or you are still within as a comrade,” he said.

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Senate passes MTEF, sets to probe tax waivers under Buhari

The Senate has resolved to probe all tax waivers by the Federal Government from 2015 to date, just as it sought cancellation of those not directly linked to non-governmental or non-profit organisations.

The Senate also ordered the deregistration of all subsidiaries to the  Nigeria Postal Service, being irregular and illegal identities and called for an investigation of the N10bn released by the Ministry of Finance for the proposed NIPOST restructuring and recapitalisation.

The Upper legislative Chamber also sought stiff punishments, including jail terms for violators, of finance laws.

The Senate resolved on Wednesday during the passage of the 2024-2026 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.

The passage of the executive communication followed its consideration and adoption of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee set up for the purpose.

The passage of the MTEF/FSP followed the consideration and adoption of the Senate Joint Committees on Finance, Appropriations, National Planning and Economic Affairs and Local and Foreign Debts on the 2024-2026 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.

The report was presented by the Chairman Senate Committee on Finance and Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Sani Musa.

It approved the new borrowings of N7.8tn, pegged the benchmark oil price for 2024 at $73.96 and oil production volume per day at 1.78 million barrels.

Other parameters approved were a GDP growth rate of 3.76 per cent,  an inflation rate of 21.40 per cent, a suggested benchmark exchange rate of N700 to $1 and a projected budget deficit of N9.04tn.

The report added, “FGN recommended spending N26tn with N16.9tn as retained revenue.

“N9tn budget deficit (including GOEs), N7.8tn in new borrowings (including borrowing from foreign and domestic sources).

“N1.3tn worth of statutory transfers, an estimated N8.2tn in debt service, N234.6bn in the sinking fund, N1.27tn in pension, gratuity and retiree benefits.

“Total recurrent (non-debt) of N10.2tn and N4.49tn as capital expenditure .”

That the Federal Government’s target-setting approach and its determination to enhance the major revenue-generating agencies’ collection efficiency will support the fiscal deficit estimate of N9tn (including GOEs) is noted and hereby approved.

“That the Federal Government should continue to enforce the implementation of the Performance Management Framework for GOEs by ensuring that they operate in a more fiscally responsible manner while reviewing their operational efficiencies and declared costs-to-income ratios;

“That the N7.8tn in new borrowings (both domestic and foreign) be supported as well, given the country’s current effective debt management strategy, which has moderated borrowing costs and decreased the amount of short-term debt in the portfolio and refinancing risk.

“That the National Assembly begin the process of amending the Fiscal

Responsibility Act (FRA, 2007) to enhance the agencies’ ability to enforce fiscal responsibility and impose sanctions on erring Corporations.

“Specifically, with regard to Sections 21 (1) and 22 (1)(2);

The National Assembly Standing Committees take prompt action to review the laws governing the activities of all revenue-generating agencies under their purview in order to identify specific sections or clauses that need to be amended in order to plug waste and increase the government’s capacity to generate revenue.

“That the Federal Government Agencies ensure deployment of ICT in the collection of all revenues by MDAs including stamp duty collection activities in order to block leakages.

“That the Budget Office of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance Budget, and National Planning re-evaluate the underlying assumptions for all Federal Government agencies’ income targets in order to confirm the veracity of those assumptions and the effects;

“The Federal Government should continuously assess the qualifications and performance of agency heads to guarantee that the government’s total income target as stated in the MTEF/FSP and the yearly budgets are consistently met with adequate sanction where necessary.

“That all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies pay for services provided by other government agencies on time and in full unless it is determined that the beneficiary agencies are statutorily exempt from such payments.

“That Ministry of Finance Incorporated examines the activities of all Government Agencies currently operating under the partial and full commercialization arrangement allowing them to compete with their

peers in the private sector, thereby making a more meaningful contribution to the Federal Government’s revenue generation drive.

“That the Bureau of Public Enterprises Act be amended to remove the clause(s) that create conflict between BPE and MOFI where MOFI should be the authorized custodian of all Federal government assets, both liquid and physical.

“That the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Limited should work towards reducing its cost of production and operational costs with the view of increasing available government revenue.”

(Punch)

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Extractive companies underpaid $10bn in taxes, royalties – NEITI

The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, on Monday, told members of the House of Representatives that part of its findings in the extractive industries showed that some companies operating the sectors underpaid over $10bn in taxes and royalties to the Federal Government.

NEITI disclosed this in a presentation to the lawmakers that detailed some of the impacts of the agency in the oil, gas and solid minerals sectors in Nigeria. The presentation was delivered by the Deputy Director/Head Communications and Stakeholders Management, NEITI, Obiageli Onuorah, at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja.

This came as the House of Representatives vowed to push for the privatisation of Nigeria’s refineries in order to make them more efficient and beneficial to Nigerians.

Although the slide that captured the amount that was underpaid by extractive firms in Nigeria did not state the duration, it pointed out that the $10bn was for under payment and under assessment of taxes and royalty.

Stating the impacts of NEITI during the presentation to the lawmakers, Onuorah said the agency ensured that there was “a specific law on EITI (NEITI Act 2007); ongoing reforms in the extractive sector – NNPCL, mining sector; disclosure of under payment and under assessment of taxes and royalty to the tune of over $10bn; amendment of PSC (Production Sharing Contract) Inland Basin Act;” among others.

NEITI also told the lawmakers, who were at the agency on a courtesy visit, that its policy advisory had identified some priority areas to be tackled by the new administration of President Bola Tinubu.

It said some of them include the “introduction of welfare programmes for the poor and the vulnerable. With the subsidy now gone, NEITI recommends that the government immediately launch a comprehensive welfare programme from the savings from subsidy.”

It added that there should be deliberate policy incentives to encourage private investment in refineries.

“A deliberate policy initiative should be implemented with full presidential backing to encourage Nigerians and foreign investors already awarded licenses to establish private refineries in Nigeria,” the agency stated.

In his response, the leader of the delegation of lawmakers and Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Ikenga Ugochinyere, said the National Assembly would work towards the amendment of the NEITI Act.

This, he said, would empower “NEITI to take disciplinary actions against offenders and also empower NEITI to investigate offences and recommend the prosecution of offenders by relevant investigative and prosecutorial agencies of the Federal Government.”

Ugochinyere also stated that his committee would push for the privatisation of Nigeria’s refineries in coming days.

“Let me also disclose to you one of the things that our committee is going to be championing in days ahead, which is for the privatisation of some of our nation’s refineries.

“You will agree with me that for decades we have been on this refinery issue and we have spent money that if they use it to build new refineries, we would have built like two or three refineries. So it is better that these refineries are privatised to make them more efficient,” he stated.

(Punch)

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Tinubu’s electoral victory won’t be upturned – Ebonyi Senator

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Kenneth Eze, has insisted that nobody will overturn the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Eze urged the leadership and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State and Nigerians at large to dispel fears that the victory of President Bola Tinubu could be overturned, as rumoured by the opposition.

He made this known while addressing Ebonyi Central APC executives and other leaders of the party, who paid him a courtesy visit to mark the Ezza Ezekuna Ukaku New Yam festival at his country home at Onueke, Ezza South LGA of Ebonyi State.

According to him: “There is a lot of distraction. The enemies are doing everything to distract us, but we won’t allow them to succeed. APC came on board at a time when things were very difficult.

“People think that the fuel subsidy removal will crash the economy, but to their shock, the economy of the country is boosted, and God willing, in two weeks’ time, the Port-Harcourt refinery will be on stream and the effect of the subsidy removal will be cushioned.”

He said further: “I can assure you our party, the APC, is doing well, and nobody will overturn the election of the present administration. Some people have been boasting that either Atiku or Obi will take over the government, but I urge you to be strong and don’t be afraid; God is with us.”

(Daily Post)

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