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Reps Probe 494b Alleged School-feeding Funds Fraud

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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.

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‘It’s Suicidal ’, Labour Rejects FG’s Plans To Slash Salaries

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Agency Report

The Organised Labour has condemned and rejected the plan by the Federal Government to slash the salaries of workers in the country.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, who said this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, noted that the plan was tantamount to a “mass suicide” wish, for Nigerian workers.

Waba said that NLC was shocked at a statement credited to the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on the plan to reduce the high cost of governance by cutting down on the workers’ salaries.

”The minister also allegedly directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), to immediately review the salaries of civil servants as well as the number of federal agencies in the country.

”It is almost unthinkable that the government would be contemplating to unilaterally slash the salaries of Nigerian workers at this time,” he said.

Wabba added that, “the question to ask is which salary is the government planning to slash? It certainly cannot be the meager national minimum wage of N30, 000, which right now cannot even buy a bag of rice”.

He expressed the belief that the proposed slash in salaries was certainly not targeted at the minimum wage and consequential adjustment in salaries that some state governors were still dragging their feet to pay.

According to him, it is in public knowledge that the multiple devaluations of the Naira in a short time, and the prevailing high inflation rate in Nigeria, have knocked out the salaries earned by Nigerian workers across the board.

”Nigerian workers are only surviving by hair’s breadth. Indeed, Nigerian workers are miracles strutting on two legs.

”It is, therefore, extremely horrendous for a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pronounce salary slash for Nigerian workers currently.

”This call for salary slash by Mrs Zainab Ahmed is tantamount to a “mass suicide” wish, for Nigerian workers,” he said.

While opposing the move, he demanded an immediate retraction and apology by the Minister of  Finance.

The NLC president, however, said that if there was any salary that needed serious slashing, “it is the humongous remuneration and allowances pocketed by political office holders in Nigeria, who do extraordinarily little but collect so much.

”Workers generate surplus value and revenue for the government.

”We do not constitute any unnecessary cost or burden to governance. It is also important to make the point that salaries are products of contracts governed by laws. They cannot be unilaterally adjusted.”

He said that many countries of the world were increasing the salaries of their workforce and extending social security coverage for their citizens.

According to him, many are providing all forms of palliatives to help their people through the terrible socio-economic dislocations occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Waba said that it would be completely strange for the Nigerian government to be thinking of a salary slash.

“This move is not only at great odds with global best responses to the COVID-19 pandemic but also in violation of relevant ILO Conventions and Declarations on Wages and Decent Work.

“We urge the government as a social partner to quickly respond to the demands by Labour for an upward review of salaries of all Nigerian workers.

“Nigerian workers have shown sufficient understanding with the government through the tough patches of the pandemic.

“Now, Nigerian workers demand reciprocity of our understanding. Nigerian workers demand an increase in their remunerations and allowances,” he said.

NAN

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Paying ransomt To Kidnappers Is Foolishness —Obasanjo

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Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday, has cautioned against the payment of ransom to kidnappers.

He, however, submitted that the government must develop means to deal with kidnappers and bandits heavily in place of ransom payment.

He noted that the governments of both President Goodluck Jonathan and Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) paid ransom to kidnappers but they denied it.

Obasanjo said he does not believe in payment of ransom to kidnappers and bandits, saying it encouraged criminals indulging in the act.

The former president berated any government that pays ransom, describing them as follies.

Obasanjo spoke on Wednesday at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, while playing host to members of Tiv professionals Group led by Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu.

Obasanjo insisted that it requires a “carrot and stick” approach to fight insecurity challenges to a standstill.

He said “Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation whereby anybody thinks paying ransom is the way out, that person is folly. He is a folly. This is because when you pay ransom, you encourage. But if you are not going to pay ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it.

“Government has always paid ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan (administration). They paid ransom, but they denied it.”

Obasanjo expressed fears that those beating drums of division in Nigeria don’t think about the interest of the minority ethnic groups.

He added, “Where do we want those minor groups to stand? Wherever they stand, now they are by virtue of Nigeria’s present situation a little bit protected. But if Nigeria breaks up and they are in a smaller country, they will be oppressed. They will always be exterminated. Are we thinking of that?

“I believe that if we will get it right in Nigeria, any leader must look at Nigeria with the prism of the diversity of Nigeria. For as long as you look at Nigeria with the prism of your ethnic group, then you aren’t going anywhere, either your ethnic group or religious group.

“But is there hope? There is hope.”

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Gumi Warns Against Sacking Pantami, Says Nigeria Will Regret If…

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Popular Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi Monday warned that Nigerians will regret if the embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami is sacked from office.
Gumi who gave the warning during an interview with Roots TV said allegations against the embattled Minister were not true and should be discarded.
You would recall that different groups, politicians have since called for the resignation of the Minister over his past support for terror groups insisting that Pantami’s renunciation was not enough.
But in the interview, Gumi said Nigeria should get more people like Pantami and put them in power instead of calling for his removal.
“You cannot Islamise the whole world. Jesus Christ came; he could not Christianise the whole world. Nobody can Islamise or Christianise Nigeria,” Gumi began.
“All his actions, one hundred percent, shows he is not a terrorist. Those who are terrorists are after his life. The Minister should continue. His presence there is fighting the terrorist ideology.
“Show me, one person, he has killed. He has not killed anybody. He has not ordered the killing of anybody. Discard the fake news.
“The man is stabilizing a government among a section of youths, which we want them to come and join in nation-building. They should not throw him away. Leave him. He is not a terrorist sympathizer.
“And you people are fighting them. No. You should get more people like Pantami and put them in power. It will stabilize. Don’t remove him. You’ll regret,” he stated.

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