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Reps fume as FG borrows N5.62trn to fund 2022 budget deficit

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The House of Representatives has expressed displeasure over the way some government agencies conceal their revenues, thereby denying the federal government the fund for budgeting.

The House criticised the way the country resorts to borrowing N5.62 trillion to finance deficit in the 2022 budget, while these agencies starve the government of fund.

The Chairman, of the House Committee on Finance, James Faleke, made this known at the ongoing public hearing on 2022 to 2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) on Thursday in Abuja.

“We are not you happy the way Nigeria is borrowing N5.62 trillion and we have some fund somewhere staying fallow without being used.

“For God sake, let us build this country together for the sake of all of us,’’ he said.

Mr Faleke said the major problem facing the country was revenue generation, adding that the House of Representatives would be more interested in how much government agencies could save.

He said if the House discovered that any of the government agencies’ capital projects were unnecessary, they would be removed in a bid to get revenue for the country.

The committee also directed the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) to provide the turnover of amount realised from all network operators from 2018 to 2020.

Mr Faleke said this would enable the committee to look at their records and be able to determine if the revenue proposal for 2022 to 2024 would be good for the country.

Some of the agencies invited for the 2022 to 2024 MTEF and FSP public hearing are Nigeria Port Authority, Nigeria Communication Commission, Nigeria Copy Right Commission and Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission.

Others are Nigeria Metrology Agency, Nigeria Postal Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Nigeria Communication Satellite Ltd. among others.

Mr Emeka Iseogwu, the general manager, Finance, who represented the Director-General of NPA, said the agency was on course in terms of revenue generation.

He said that NPA was targeting N338 billion for revenue in 2022.

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Lagos Assembly moves to end open grazing, considers VAT bill

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The Lagos State House of Assembly says the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill, when passed will ensure harmonious relationships between herders and farmers in the state.

The assembly made this known after the bill was read on the floor of the house for the second time, by the Acting Clerk, Olalekan Onafeko, at plenary on Monday.

It said the bill would also protect the environment of the state and the South-west zone.

The House also read for the first and second time, the state’s Value Added Tax (VAT) bill, and asked the Committee on Finance, which was handling it to report back on Thursday.

The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, who described the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill’ as timely, thereafter, committed the bill to the committee on agriculture for public hearing.

The speaker also suggested that the bill should make provision for the registration of herders, and prepare them for ranching.

“Allocating parcel of land is not enough, but there should also be training for those who will go into ranching, as ranching is expensive and requires adequate preparation,” he added.

VAT

Concerning the VAT bill, the speaker said it would further lead to an increase in revenue and infrastructural development.

”This is in line with fiscal federalism that we have been talking about,” he said.

Mr Obasa said the VAT law, when passed, would help the state meet challenges in its various sectors.

He also urged the Lagos State government to do everything legally possible, to ensure the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, was sustained even up to the Supreme Court.

The speaker lamented a situation where about N500 billion would be generated from the state, while N300 billion was generated from other South-west states, but paltry amounts would be disbursed to Lagos State in return.

Mr Obasa said it was an opportunity for the state to emphasise again, the need for the consideration of true federalism.

Speaking earlier on the bill on open grazing, Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) lamented that farmers had continuously become afraid to visit their farms, thus causing shortage of food.

Mr Yusuff also said many farmers had become indebted, as they now found it difficult to pay back loans they secured.

His position was supported by Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2) who noted that the bill would ensure peaceful coexistence, reduce crime and help to guide the activities of herders.

Olumoh Lukeman (Ajeromi-Ifelodun 1) suggested that the high court should be made to handle cases from enforcement of the bill when passed, or that the state should establish special courts for such purpose.

Also, Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti-Osa 1) expressed support for the bill, noting that it would give a level of security to the state and help reduce economic losses.

He added that Lagos had 250 hectares of land in Ikorodu and another 750 hectares in Epe for ranching.

David Setonji (Badagry II), said: “There was a time we went on oversight function in a school here in Lagos. We were embarrassed by cattle. We had to wait for the herder to move the cattle before we embarked on our oversight function.”

Mr Setonji suggested a collaboration between the Neighbourhood Safety Corps and the police, in the implementation of the law when passed and assented to.

Other lawmakers who contributed during the plenary were Adedamola Kasunmu (Ikeja II), Rasheed Makinde Ifako Ijaiye II), and Sanni Okanlawon (Kosofe I).

(NAN)

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Ngige: FG to recover millions wrongly paid to 588 doctors

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The federal government says it is planning to recover “millions of naira wrongly paid to 588 medical doctors” across the country.

While fielding questions from state house correspondents, Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, said the affected doctors wrongly benefitted from the medical residency training fund meant for a particular category of doctors.

The minister said the names of the doctors were uncovered after a scrutinisation of the 8000 names submitted by chief medical directors of federal government health institutions for the training programme.

Ngige said a substantial amount of the money has been refunded by some of the affected doctors while efforts are being intensified to recover the remaining balance.

He said the delay in making the refund by the affected doctors is holding back the residency fund payment by the government.

“Ministry of health has gotten the list of doctors who supposedly are to benefit from the medical residency training fund,” he said.

“Total submission of about 8000 names were gotten and the ministry of health is scrutinising them.

“We have done the first round of scrutinisation and they will now compare what they have with the Post-Graduate Medical College and the chief medical directors who submitted the names.

“The Association of Resident Doctors, in each of the tertiary centres, worked with the CMDs to produce those names, but now that the names are being verified.

“We discovered that about 2000 names shouldn’t be there because they don’t have what is called Postgraduate Reference Numbers of National Postgraduate Medical College and (or) that of the West African Postgraduate Medical College.

“So, this is it and that is the only thing holding back the residency fund payment because it is there already for incurred expenditure has been done by the finance minister and it’s in the accountant-general’s office.”

“So, once they verify the authenticity of those they are submitting, the Accountant-General will pay.

“We are doing that verification because we do not want what happened last time in 2020 to reoccur.

“In 2020, the submitted names didn’t come through the appropriate source, which is the Postgraduate Medical College and payment was affected and it was discovered that about 588 persons, who were not resident doctors benefited from such money.

“They are now finding it difficult to make the full refund. But they have to refund that money. Some are refunding, but there is no full consideration of the account.

“That account has to be reconciled to enable the accountants pay the next round of funding for 2021.”

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on strike for a month over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.

Efforts by stakeholders, including the national assembly, to mediate between the federal government and the resident doctors have not yielded results.

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Insecurity: Kaduna suspends weekly market, bans livestock transportation

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The Kaduna State government has suspended trading at the popular weekly Kawo market.

The order on Thursday came days after the government suspended similar markets in five other local government areas of the state.

Kawo market is one of the largest weekly markets in Kaduna North.

It is located in the same area as the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the Hassan Usman Katsina House popularly know as State House and the Legislative Quarters.

According to a statement by the state commissioner of Internal Security and Homeland Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, on Thursday, “the Kawo weekly market which usually holds every Tuesday in Kaduna North LGA has been suspended with immediate effect”.

“The Government of Kaduna State wishes to highlight that the previous directives suspending weekly markets, and selling of petrol in jerrycans in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kajuru LGAs, as well as banning the felling of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal and other commercial purposes in Birnin Gwari, Kachia, Kajuru, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru LGAs, are still in force.

“Citizens are hereby informed that all these directives will be vigorously enforced by security agencies.”

Also, the statement said the state government banned the transportation of livestock.

“The ban also prohibits the transportation of livestock into Kaduna state from other states. Both bans take effect immediately, from today 2nd September 2021.

“The government also wishes to reiterate that the transportation of donkeys into the state is a criminal offence and anyone found engaging in this will be prosecuted accordingly.”

Kawo Market ban

Many traders who spoke with news men in Kaduna welcomed the suspension of the weekly Kawo market.

Apart from the larger weekly trading, trading also takes place daily among residents of the neighbourhood.

Danladi Bala, a grain transporter, said the state government’s decision to suspend weekly trading in the market is right.

“Yes, we are traders here, but the recent suspension of weekly markets in other local government areas will make the Kawo market the target for criminal activities. They will all come here. It is a wise decision from the government,” he said.

Hajiya Mama, a trader, also said she was not suprised by the announcement.

“I trade in the market, but in the last two weeks we have been witnessing the influx of traders with large commodities.

“With the closure of weekly markets in Zamfara and other part of the state, this market will be an option for good or bad traders,” she said.

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