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Senate revisits bill to establish NASS budget office

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Senate has reintroduced a bill seeking to establish the National Assembly Budget and Research Office, NABRO.

The bill, which was passed by the 8th Senate on May 3, 2019, however, failed to receive assent by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The move seeking to establish the National Assembly Budget office was first conceived in 2005 under the Senate Presidency of Senator Ken Nnamani, but failed to make it to the floor of the upper chamber.

Again, the idea to introduce the bill in the 6th Senate under the leadership of Senator David Mark was aborted as it failed to receive the required support for its introduction.

The Bill was first introduced on the floor of the 7th Senate under Senate President David Mark, and sponsored by the Senate Leader at the time, Victor Ndoma-Egba. The bill however never made it to becoming law.

Following its reintroduction on Thursday, the bill which scaled first reading on the floor during plenary was sponsored by Senator Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North).

The proposed National Assembly budget office will report annually to the Senate and House of Representatives all items funded in the preceding financial year for which no appropriation was made by the National Assembly and all items contained in the Appropriation Act in the preceding financial year but which were not funded by the Federal Government.

The office is to be headed by a Director-General, who shall also report to a governing board made up of a chairman and six members and shall “provide independent and continuous review of the federal government budgets including monitoring of existing and proposed programmes.

“Provide independent unbiased analysis of the budget of the National Assembly and assist all the committees of the National Assembly in developing their annual budgets.”

Essentially, the NABRO bill will provide assistance to all committees in both chambers of the National Assembly including but not limited to information with respect to budget and all bills relating to new budget heads; information with respect to estimated future revenue and changing revenue conditions.

Besides, the Director-General shall obtain information, data, estimates and statistics directly from ministries, departments and agencies. More than that, the new law provides that “the Director General may, upon agreement with the head of any MDA utilise its services, facilities and personnel as needed by the (National Assembly Budget and Research) Office.”

Besides the NABRO bill, nine others scaled first reading during Thursday’s plenary. They are: National Industrial Court Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central); Court of Appeal Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, by Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege; Nigerian Maritime Zones Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2019, by Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East); City University of Technology Yaba Bill, 2019, by Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos West).

Others are: Federal College of Agriculture Ofoni, Bayelsa State (Est.) Bill, 2019, by Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpor (APC, Bayelsa West); Police Act CAP P19 LFN 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2019, by Senator Gershom Bassey (Cross Rover South); Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2019, by Senator Abdullahi Adams (APC, Nasarawa West); and Federal Medical Centres Bill, 2019, sponsored by Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rovers West).

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Nigerian governor promises to pay workers above N30,000 minimum wage

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Sanwo-Olu

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of  Lagos State has assured workers in the state that his government will pay above the mandatory N30,000 national minimum wage signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 24, 2019.

He gave the assurance when he received the leadership of the Lagos councils of Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Tuesday.

The Federal Government and organised labour are still embroiled in negotiation of the consequential adjustment of salaries of workers from grade level 07 to 17. The implementation of the minimum wage has, however, began in some states for workers on grade level 01 to 06.

Sanwo-Olu addressing the labour leaders said the implementation of the new wage would begin in Lagos when the Federal Government and labour unions conclude their ongoing negotiations. The state, he said, was drawing up its finances and creating additional revenue sources that would enable it sustain the new minimum wage payment.

Sanwo-Olu said his government understood the day-by-day challenges being faced by workers in the State to do their tasks, which informed the decision by his administration to pay more than the N30,000 minimum wage benchmark.

“As a government, we take the issue of minimum wage seriously. We know how important and germane it is to the wellbeing of our people. We are technically ready to implement the new minimum wage. I made commitment during my previous interactions with the labour unions before my assumption of office and I am still keeping to the promise made. However little it is, we will certainly pay more than N30,000 minimum wage.

Sanwo-Olu also said that the government would works with the the labour unions to float a post-retirement housing scheme that would enable workers of all cadres to apply and acquire permanent homes after leaving the service.

Meanwhile, the unions have demanded the payment of arrears of medical allowance, introduction of premium insurance for the workforce, timely pension payment for retired workers, mortgage scheme for housing, befitting labour secretariat and representation of workers’ unions in MDA boards’ appointments.

Gbenga Ekundayo, chairman, TUC Lagos council said that the labour unions had been meeting to develop a framework that would make the government capture traders in informal sector in the tax net. He assured that the labour unions’ recommendations would be submitted to the office of Head of Service in the weeks ahead.

 

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Tenure: Court Strikes Out Suit Seeking Fowler’s Sack as FIRS Boss

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Babatunde Fowler

A Federal High Court sitting in Kano has struck out a suit seeking the  sack of Dr. Babatunde Fowler as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

The suit instituted by a legal practitioner Mr Stanley Okwara was thrown out by the court on the ground that the lawyer has no locus standi to institute it.

Okwara had dragged Fowler before the court praying among others, an order of court restraining him from further functioning as FIRS Chief Executive Officer.

He predicted his action on the claim that the tenure of office  of the defendant had expired since August 20 and has not been renewed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The plaintiff also prayed the court to declare that the tenure of Fowler expired since August and that he should be made to refund all monies and allowances to the national treasury.

Okwara further demanded that the defendant be ordered to swear to an affidavit to confirm refund of public funds unlawfully collected from August till date.

However Fowler through his counsel Paul Erokoro SAN raised preliminary objection to the suit on the ground that the plaintiff has no locus standi to file the case.

Among others., Fowler contended that the suit did not disclose any cause of action and that the plaintiff did not also disclose any injury or damages he personally lost.

Justice Lewis-Allagoa in his ruling on the objection upheld the submission of of the defendant counsel.

The judge agreed that the plaintiff did not show how the disputed issue affected him more than any other Nigerians.

Justice Allagoa faulted the plaintiff suit due to the failure to show prre-action notice as required by law.

The Judge therefore held that the suit is incompetent,  frivolous, lacking in merit and substance and struck it out.

The arguments of counsel to the plaintiff Mr Johnmary Jideobi was rejected and thrown out.

The Court had last week ordered Fowler to appear before it to show cause why he should not be sacked for overstaying his tenure which expired on August 18, 2019.

In the originating summon  obtained by PRNigeria with Suit No FHC/KN/CS/141/2019, the FIRS Boss was dragged to Court over his continued stay in office after the expiration of tenure.

The plaintiff in the suit filed on September 18, 2019  also joined the Attorney General of the Federation as the second defendant.

The two defendants were given 30 days to explain why Fowler who was appointed on the 20th August, 2015, has not ceased to hold office as the Chairman of FIRS after the 20th August, 2019 in accordance with the “decision of the Supreme Court…and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections 3(2) (a), Section 4(a) and Section 11 (a)” of the agency.

The plaintiffs also sought to know whether the continuous stay of Fowler in the office “is not illegal in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ogbuinyinya & Ors. vs. Obi Okudo & Ors. (1979) All N.L.R. 105 and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections of the FIRS [Establishment] Act, 2007.

In the same vein, Okwara sought other reliefs including: “A declaration that the 1st Defendant has ceased to hold office as the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service after the 20th of August, 2019”; and that his continuous stay in the office is illegal.

He further sought “an order barring the 1st Defendant from further holding himself out as, laying claim to or exercising the powers and functions of, the Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service unless he is re-appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“An order directing the 1st Defendant to return forthwith to the Treasury Single Account of the Federation all the salaries, emoluments and such other kindred monetary benefits he has been drawing on the purse of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and file an affidavit of compliance within 14 days after the delivery of judgment in this suit.”

The Plaintiff also asked that Fowler be caused to obey any other decision that the Court may deem fit to make in the entire circumstances of the case.

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Family Planning: Group targets 120m Nigerian women in 2020

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Pathfinder International, a sexual and reproductive agency operating in Nigeria with focus  on Advance Family Planning, AFP advocacy has revealed her projection to capture 120 million women and girls of reproductive age on affordable and accessible family planning, FP services by the year 2020.
The agency’s Country Director, Dr. Farouq Jega disclosed this in Abuja during a three-day annual review and work planning meeting with the State Advocacy Working Groups and FP Coordinators from 12 AFP states.
According to Jega, the agency was saddled with main responsibility of advocating for better funding, policies and better enabling environment for FP in Nigeria.
He said the essence of the meeting was to assess the outcome and impact of activities of the 2019 as well as plan for  the next year which is going to be 8th year of the agency on the project.
“FP 2020 is part of global initiative and the goal is to increase access to an addition of  120 million women and girls in need of FP services but hindered by logistics.
“We are working with advocacy working  groups in 12 states of the Federation and they are here. What we are doing is to design a strategy for our advocacy engagement in the next year,” he stressed.
Jega also disclosed that the Pathfinder International was also working at national level to raise awareness about the importance of funding for FP,  adding that  the awareness is not limited  to 12 states, but beyond.
According to him, advocacy strategy is to engage with government, private sectors and other partner stakeholders to ensure  collective  provision for family planning services in the country.
Jega said the three tier of  Governments  are doing a lot on budgetary allocation but requires prompt release of  FP budgeted fund and bridge  funding gap for  high quality services.
“If we are able to successfully advocate and the government at all levels put in the required funds, obviously, better services will be provided and the FP commodities will be available sufficiently.
“FP is a very veritable development tool, it helps  health of the woman in the family and  also helps in economic development  and well being. These are what the country stands to gain if they make strategic investment in FP,” he further stressed.
Jega added  that the agency is committed  to the success of the  advocacy working group .
While saying that Nigeria has enough laws that backed FP, the Pathfinder country Director said what is important is to back those law with adequate budget line and create awareness in the minds of the Nigerians that FP is good  thing that improves  the well being of individuals and country at large.
He stressed the need to embark on aggressive enlightenment about the value of FP, and advise mother to embrace child spacing for improving Contraceptive prevalence rate.
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