The House of Representatives on Wednesday begun probe of over N494 billion budgeted from inception and the identity of the 9 million pupils who benefitted from the School feeding programme initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2016.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Rep. Wole Oke who criticised at the breach of the Public Procurement Act, demanded relevant authorizations from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the budgetary approvals for the scheme from inception, as well as the lists of schools, locations and month by month, year by year details of allocations and expenditure.
The Committee resolved to summon the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele and the Director-General of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Mr. Yemi Kale to appear before it and tender records of payment to the agency and details of the children benefiting from the programme as well as the names of the school children allegedly handed over to the National Coordinator of the School Feeding Programme.
Rep. Oke also directed the Special Assistant to the President on Home School Feeding Programme, Mr. Dotun Adebayo to furnish the House with details of the cooks, state, location of the benefiting schools as well as the over 9 million children in 84,000 schools across the country that have benefited from the programme.
While responding to questions raised by the lawmakers, Adebayo who earlier argued that the State Governments are in possession of the details of the list of pupils who benefitted from the School feeding programme, later explained that the NBS handed over the list of the students.
Adebayo who disclosed that the agency has only printed out the names of the beneficiaries in 3 States however affirmed that the agency has not done the total enumeration of all of them.
He said: “We have details of the schools, but particulars of the benefiting children are with the States. We don’t have the details because it is part of the MoU we signed with the States,” adding that 34 States and FCT are participating while Kwara and Bayelsa are yet to be enrolled.
He said the two states have not met the criteria set for participating in the programme, which includes a commitment from the State government, adding that only states that have committed to the success of the programme are currently benefiting from it.
“We can’t pay money outside the framework of the programme. Any state that did not meet the requirement will be left out of the programme. Presently, we budget N70 per child. It is not our intention to exempt any state from the programme. As I said, communication has been made to State governments over the years on the programme and no State is left out,” Mr. Dotun explained.
While speaking on the mode of payments to the 102,000 cooks and other suppliers engaged, Mr. Adebayo explained that all of them are paid directly by the agency and not through any agency or third party.
While frowning at the poor implementation of the scheme, Hon. Oke who noted that section 88 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) empowers the House to investigate and expose corruption, vowed that the officers must account for every kobo spent from the taxpayer’s money.
He also frowned at the unilateral decision of the implementing agency over the adoption of the State procurement policy for the scheme which National Assembly appropriated fund for, adding that the entire exercise was done without procurement plan as provided in the Public Procurement Act.
Afenifere Wants Coroner Inquest Into Arotile’s Death
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, on Thursday, expressed shock over the death of Nigerian Airforce pilot, Tolulope Arotile but called for a coroner inquest into her death.
Arotile died on Wednesday, 14 July 2020, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna.’
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said it was not satisfied with the explanation given for the cause of her death.
The statement reads: “Nigeria the demented chicken sucked one of its finest eggs yet again with the killing of flying officer Tolulope Arotile on the road in Kaduna on Tuesday.
“A statement by the Nigerian Air Force told some truth that she died but spewed some untruth in saying that:
‘it is with great sorrow that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) regretfully announces the unfortunate demise of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile who died today, 14 July 2020, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna.’
“It was only eyewitness accounts that unofficially released that it was a colleague of hers who reversed his car to knock her down on the road.
The statement added that’ ‘Until her death, Flying Officer Arotile, who was commissioned into the NAF in September 2017 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 64, was the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Service.
During her short but impactful stay in the Service, late Arotile, who hails from Iffe in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, contributed significantly to the efforts to rid the North Central States of armed bandits and other criminal elements by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State.’
“Unofficial accounts say she just returned from a combat operation before she was knocked down to death.
“We, therefore, do not accept that her death was an accident until the report of a coroner says how she died and how a supposed attempt to stop and greet could come with a deadly impact.
“We say this against what is known of the infiltration of the forces by sympathizers and agents of Boko Haram.
“We recall the report years back of such agents revealing the routes and timing of movements of our troops to Boko Haram who ambushed them.
“The inquiry should look into all the links of the colleague who killed her and we must know the identity.
“Meanwhile, we sympathize with the grieving family of Tolulope who has been thrown into deep mourning following the killing of their ft daughter not in combat but within the barrack.
May her soul rest in peace.”
Senate Asks FG To Scrap Age Limit For Job Seekers
The Senate has asked the President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity to set up a Committee to review the age limit for job seekers in the country to allow competent applicants to be employed by the ministries, departments, and agencies of government.
The resolution, passed on Wednesday, followed the consideration of a motion by Senator Ibrahim Gobir.
Gobir cited order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules, and noted that recruitment requirements of MDAs and other private bodies which set age barriers, “inadvertently excludes and marginalises skillful and competent prospective applicants from participating in such exercises”.
He said, “Due to the high unemployment rate in the country, many graduates spend up to 10 years seeking employment and this puts them in a disadvantaged position by no fault of their own.
“Many individuals resort to falsifying their age all in a bid to fall within the required age limit for them to be gainfully employed.
“This development, where a person believes he is unemployable, can lead them to embracing criminal activities and further increase the growing crime rate and insecurity in the country.”
In his contribution, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah drew the attention of the upper chamber to the Federal Government’s embargo on employment over 13 years ago.
He said the embargo period must be factored into the review of age limit by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity for prospective job seekers in the country.
He said, “I think the motion is apt and timely. The major basis for the Senate to proceed on that request lies in the fact that, as an institution, we must take notice that the federal government on its own placed embargo on employment for over thirteen years now.
“The period that there have been embargo by the federal government in itself should be considered in the review of age limit.
“For example, if the age limit is 23, we must now add the 13 or 14 years of embargo on employment to the age already earmarked for employment, so that the age will be plus thirteen because it is the government on its own that placed the embargo on employment.
“There cannot be justification for you to place embargo on employment, then at the same time expect graduates to remain at the age they were during the period of the embargo.
“I think in the review, that has to be taken into account, and therefore, the age limit can now be raised in addition to the established age. That should be the legal verdict for the review,” Na’Allah said.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, condemned the discrimination against job seekers as a result of the barrier imposed by the prescribed age limit.
“It is not through a fault of theirs that people are discriminated against. They’ll tell you only 30 years limit, meanwhile, someone graduated ten years ago. This is a very good motion,” he said urging the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to swing into action immediately.
CBN Wants To Freeze Criminals’ Accounts
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has requested statutory powers to freeze accounts linked to criminals in the country.
The apex bank has also called for the creation of a Credit Tribunal to strengthen credit recovery processes and enforcement of collateral rights.
These positions were advanced, in Abuja, yesterday, at the Senate Committee Public Hearing on its Bill for an Act to Repeal the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2004 and re-enact the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 2020.
Mr Kofo Salam-Alada, CBN’s Director Legal Services, in his presentation told the lawmakers said that the 2004 BOFIA provided for the CBN Governor “to apply to the court for orders to freeze accounts which are deemed to be linked with criminal and other civil infractions.”
He noted, however, that in the new Bill, which has passed through the First and Second Readings, that provision was omitted, entirely.
“This omission he told the Senate “erodes the powers of the CBNand creates a huge gap in the regulatory and resolution framework. Therefore, we propose that the extant provisions should be reinstated,” Mr Salam-Alada pointed out.
On the Creation of Credit Tribunal, the director defended the position of the CBN, as according to him, such a tribunal would greatly enhance loan recovery in the nation’s banking industry.
“As part of measures to address the role of non-performing loans, we propose the creation of a Credit Tribunal. The overarching objective is to create an efficient regime for the recovery of eligible loans of banks and Other Financial Institutions (OFls) and enforcement of rights over collateral securities,” the director said.
On Dormant Accounts in banks, the CBN called for the inclusion of provisions to improve the administration of such accounts, adding, “such provisions should address such requirements as the criteria for determining dormancy, the processes for managing the funds in dormant accounts and procedure for reclaiming funds by beneficiaries.”
The apex bank called the inclusion in the Bill, statutory powers of the CBN to intervene in the process of managing a failing bank and bringing it back to sound financial health were possible.
The CBN urged a review of the framework for managing failing institutions in line with international standards to properly delineate roles for the agency tasked with managing failing banks and other financial institutions and those with responsibility for resolving banks and other financial institutions whose license has been revoked.
“In other words, the Central Bank of Nigeria does the former as provided in the BOFIA while NDIC is saddled with the latter under the NDIC Act. The global best practice is to have the banking legislation empower the Financial services industry regulator to regulate banks, promote their soundness and stability superintend issuance and revocation of operating licence without recourse to any other institution; while the Deposit insurer is in charge of bank resolution activities after the revocation of the operating licence,” the director said.
Mr Salam-Alada added: “There is a need to expand the options available to the CBN to resolve failing banks and manage the systemic crisis without recourse to the public treasury. In line with international best practices, we recommend the establishment of a resolution fund to pool resources for managing banking sector distress.
“We also recommend the adoption of additional resolution tools such as bail-in (ensuring that losses are absorbed by shareholders and creditors), sale of the business (allowing the resolution authority to sell all or part of the failing bank to a private acquirer) and asset separation (isolating the “bad” assets of the bank in an asset management vehicle for an orderly wind-down, if immediate liquidation is not justified in current market conditions).
“Several new types of licensed institutions have entered the Nigerian Financial Services sector since the enactment of the 1991 Act. These include the non-interest banks, credit bureaux, payment system service providers, among others. There is a compelling need to introduce new provisions in the Bill to address the unique peculiarities of these institutions.”
The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) agreed with the position of the CBN on the need to delineate the responsibilities of the two organizations in banking failure resolution.