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Buhari Presents Budget to National Assembly Next Week

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The Presidency on Tuesday gave reasons President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t keep to his administration’s promise to present the 2020 budget to the National Assembly in the third week of September.

It also said Buhari, who would visit South Africa this week, would present the budget next week.

This came as findings by The PUNCH indicated that the non-presentation of the estimates had increased pressure on the administration to achieve a return of the country to the January-December budget cycle.

Nigeria currently runs a May-June budget cycle, a development caused by executive-legislature delays since the 8th National Assembly. The delays have caused “distortions” in implementation and the inability to meet budget targets.

On why Buhari was unable to keep to his promise of September presentation, the Presidency blamed it on the fact that the National Assembly had yet to consider and pass the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategic Paper, which should ordinarily precede the estimates.

It also noted that throughout last week, Buhari was away to the United States, where he participated in the activities of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

It added that the UNGA session would still have delayed the presentation had the National Assembly passed the MTEF.

Incidentally, The letter conveying the MTEF to the National Assembly was only read to lawmakers on September 25, the same last week.

The MTEF sets out the Federal Government’s spending plans for the next three years, detailing both revenue profiles and spending projections.

But, in his response the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Reps), Mr Umar El-Yakub, argued that much as the presentation was delayed, it was for some reasons.

He gave his defence, “Remember that the MTEF was presented to both chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) last week.

“You also know the President just returned from New York at the weekend where he attended the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Coincidentally, today is Independence Day (Tuesday), meaning that only yesterday (Monday) was there to present the budget if he was to present it.

“But, it will be the best bet if he (Buhari) presents the budget after the MTEF has been considered and passed by the National Assembly. So, yes, the budget is a bit late by a week or two, but for good reasons.

“Perhaps, we didn’t anticipate UNGA and the fact that MTEF had to be finalised and approved by the Federal Executive Council before it was transmitted to the National Assembly.”

El-Yakub insisted that the delay had not caused any serious setback to the budgeting process, adding that the January-December target could still be met if the presentation was done this month.

“However, we still maintain and still looking forward to this month. We are still going to meet up with the January-December budget cycle that Mr President and the National Assembly talked about”, he added.

Asked when the estimates would be presented, the presidential aide replied, “Mr President will be travelling to South Africa on Wednesday (today).

“By the time he comes back, the budget presentation will be done next week (2nd week of October), though I can’t confirm a specific date to you right now.”

Meanwhile, strong indications emerged on Tuesday that the deliberations on the 2020-2022 MTEF Strategy Paper would suffer a slight delay in the Senate.

This is because the Senate Committee on Finance will not meet the Wednesday, (today’s) deadline given to it to submit its report.

The Senate had on Thursday last week, 24 hours after receiving the MTEF/FSP documents from the President, forwarded it to its committee on finance for “expeditious consideration.”

Specifically, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, instructed the committee to make the required legislative input into the documents and submit report to Senate for final consideration on Wednesday (today).

But the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Solomon Adeola, said on Tuesday that the report would not be ready for submission on Wednesday as expected by the Senate .

Adeola who made the declaration on his Twitter handle stated that the presentation by invited Federal Government agencies would be made to the committee on Wednesday .

He said, “Shortly after the President Muhammadu Buhari broadcast, I headed for the office in Senate to continue work on(MTEF/FSP)2020-2023 as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.

“I was joined by a member, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, to prepare for invited the FG agencies’ presentation tomorrow ( Wednesday , October 2, 2019) . All hands/ sacrifices on deck “.

On September 11, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had announced that Buhari would lay the estimates before the National Assembly in the third week of September.

Earlier on August 20, during the induction programme held for ministers, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had also directed the ministers to hasten work on the budget in order for the administration to lay the estimates before the legislature in the last week of September.

In the MTEF Buhari forwarded to the National Assembly on September 25, the administration proposed an expenditure size of N9.12tr for 2020.

The projected revenue size was put at N7.17tn, meaning that the 2020 budget would come with a deficit of about N2.28trn.

But, the revenue size is N170.41bn higher than that of 2019, which was N6.99tn.

The budget is also higher than that of 2019 estimates that tallied at N8.92tn.

The MTEF document added, “The provisions for personnel cost and pension costs are estimated at N2. 67tn and N586.72bn respectively.

“In addition, N40.17bn representing 1 per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, has been earmarked for the Basic Health Care Provision, N22.73bn for GAV/Routine Immunisation in the Service Wide Votes and N89.44bn for the power reform programme.”

The MTEF captures N1.01tn as the projection for capital expenditure in 2020.

The document noted further, “Given the projected revenue and planned expenditure, the fiscal deficit is estimated at N1.95tn, about N33.61bn (1.8 per cent) more than the estimate of N1.92tn in 2019.

“This level of deficit is 1.37 per cent of the GDP well below the threshold (3 per cent of the GDP) stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007.

“Accordingly, the aggregate fiscal deficit for 2020 will be N228tn. which is 1.59 per cent of the GDP, still within the 3 per cent threshold.

The MTEF/FSP also contained the benchmark upon which the 2020 budget will be predicated.

The 2020-2022 MTEF/FSP documents pegged the projected budget profile for the year at $55 oil price benchmark as against $60 used for the N8.9tn 2019 budget .

It also included 2.1m barrel oil production per day as against 2.3 m barrels per day approved for the 2019 budget.

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BREAKING: Trouble Looms for Ordinary Ahmed Isah as Stakeholders Condemn Unguided Utterances Against Nigerian Army, Draw NBC’s Attention

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Stakeholders made up of Civil Society Organisations, Journalists and Security experts have expressed their displeasure over what they termed inciting utterances by radio broadcaster and Chairman of Human Right Radio, Ahmed Isah, popularly called Ordinary Ahmed Isah against the Nigerian Army’s discipline on Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini who was allegedly detained by the Nigerian Army for making a viral video criticising the Nigerian Army and President Muhammadu Buhari in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria. They said the “Ordinary President” as he is fondly called should have known better, that as a broadcaster who is billed to explore the “freedom of information act” should have have been professional and avoid setting the tone for loss of confidence on the Nigerian Army, who on their part are sacrificing all to ensure peace, stability and security in the country.

The Executive Director, Coalition of Civil Society Group for Good Governance (CSGG), Comrade Dominic Ogakwu made this known in a telephone interview with journalists in Abuja on Saturday.

In trying to make case for Lance Corporal Martins, the Ordinary Ahmed alleged that some persons in the Nigerian Army are making a fortune out of the the current insecurity situation of Nigeria.

“….Ahmed Isah is well respected by Nigerians and I will expect that given the fact that he knows a lot on the value of security, and what the Nigerian Army represent, he should rather make an attempt to reach necessary authorities to gain more knowledge to avoid making unguided statement that can trigger issues of insecurity the more…yes we agree that there are issues but the Army are doing very well to solve them and I think that the Onus is on Ahmed Isah as a lover of Nigeria and as a populist, to ensure that his utterances did not instigate some miscreants against the most revered and respected and sustaining institution like the Nigerian Army….” Ogakwu said.

“….So I will advice that he should as a matter of urgency readdress that matter by getting the necessary clarifications and verifying all the necessary facts to avoid making statements in error…yes a lot of rumours are being peddled against the Nigerian army, but it behoves on the media especially the one that is very close to the people to ensure that it did not rise on the waves of the moment on emotions, they should not “emotionalise” reportage….” He added.

He said “…reports must be balanced in perspectives and they must see to all sides, before actually drawing to conclusions, so as a matter of urgency I think the most respected Ahmed Isah should have known better that Nigerians are listening to him and as a man who is patriotic, who loves this country he should not be too emotional when it come to issues of security because he understands that in his programs, he explores all sort of emotions and that to me even though the people love it but then issues of national security, sensitive issues, issues that can set this country ablaze should be very guided….”

Undisclosed sources from the Nigerian Army who also frowned at the inciting utterances by Ahmed Isah threatened that the country’s Army will be forced to take legal action against the broadcaster if he continues in that unpatriotic line.

“….the drive by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to obliterate hate speech should be exercised on this issue, this is outright incitement, Ahmed Isah must put himself together and desist from sabotaging the Army’s efforts…” the source said.

For investigative journalist and “Accountapreneur”, Emmanuel Bagudu, “…the Nigerian Army is a family and any attempt to come in between a family amounts to incursion….” “….The “Ordinary President” is duty bound to be diplomatic. He must know that as a relevant stakeholder in this country that patriotism is key in his business. He must join in the quest for boosting the morale of the troops as well as advocating for trust and support for the Nigerian Military as a whole….” Bagudu said.

Youth Ambassador for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Austin Peacemaker shares the same thought “…. Ahmed Isah should not forget that the Nigerian Army is playing a very significant role in sustaining our beautiful democracy and strengthening our national security, even at the ECOWAS regional level, as such deserves our honour, respect and fairness, especially when reporting issues around National security. They deserve balanced reportage from Journalists including Ordinary Ahmed Isah, who is well respected by many of his listeners….” Peacemaker said.

“…He shouldn’t lose that respect by misleading or misinforming his listeners and Nigerians, in a bid to make his programme entertaining and exciting. Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini broke the very code and ethics of a regimented institution he swore and took oath to abide by, and also defend. There are measures to channel your grievances in any organisation, and not by doing a video and uploading on social media. That is the highest form of indiscipline for any soldier. No father, CEO, Boss or Employer will condone that in any revered establishment.”

“…Let’s be fair in our judgment. No matter what he has to say for me he has discredited himself first by insulting all his superiors, even down to the President. My investigation reveals that Lance Corporal Martins is a ceremonious soldier in the music band of the Army who has never been to any battlefront, so doing a video to discourage and dampening the morale of his brave colleagues in the battlefront equals treachery, sabotage, and lack of patriotism for his country. We should not forget that Nigerian Security Forces are respected across Africa and the world at large, if we downplay their efforts, successes and sacrifice to our motherland then we are unknowingly running down ourselves and Nigeria as a country….” Amb. Austin Peacemaker said.

Recall that Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini was reportedly arrested in June 2020 shortly after he made a viral video where he allegedly said that the Nigerian Army and other security services are not doing enough to end the Boko Haram war. He also insulted the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

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Edo Poll: We Must Be Neutral At All Times, INEC Tells Electoral Officials

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Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has rallied officials of the commission to remain steadfast to its ideals in conducting the Edo governorship election.

“Nigerians and the international community expect so much from us. They are watching. It is important that we all remain above board in the performance of our respective duties,” Professor Yakubu said in a message to the staff of the commission on the eve of the election.

“We must ensure that no political party or candidate is accorded any advantage over the other. We must be neutral at all times and stick strictly to our Code of Conduct and Oath of Neutrality to which we have all subscribed.”

By playing their parts and delivering a free, fair, and credible election, the INEC boss believes the commission would have helped to better the country.

“For, at the end of the day, we would have all contributed to the sustenance of democracy and a strong electoral process that all Nigerians can trust,” he said.

Professor Yakubu, who said all is set for the much-anticipated poll, promised his colleagues and other officials of the commission that their welfare and condition of service will be given priority during the election.

He is also confident that they will rise to the occasion.

“I have no doubt that our staff members will rise to the occasion. We have done it several times before and we can do it again,” he said.

“The Commission deeply appreciates the never-ending sacrifices made by our staff at all times, often beyond the call of duty, to ensure that we carry out our mandate. The management will continue to improve the welfare and conditions of service of staff within the available resources.”

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The INEC National Commissioner for Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Festus Okoye, has said that as long as a registered voter comes to the Polling Unit before 2:30 pm they will be allowed to vote regardless of how long the process takes.

Okoye said this statement on Friday while explaining what steps the umpire has put in place to ensure a smooth run for the Edo governorship election which is set to hold Saturday.

“No registered voter who comes to the Polling Unit Tomorrow will be disenfranchised,” the INEC boss said.

This is the first major election organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission in the COVID-19 era and it is also the first time that a peace accord is being signed ahead of a governorship election.

“We are looking forward to tomorrow with cautious optimism,” Okoye said, adding: “we are confident that our message relating to voting in safety has permeated the nooks and crannies of Edo State.

According to him, the umpire has created sufficient awareness for the COVID-19 guidelines in the weeks leading up the election and anyone who does otherwise, will not be allowed to participate.

“We are confident that so many of the voters are already aware of the fact that if they come to the Polling Unit without a face mask or covering, they will not be allowed to vote.

“We have emphasized this over and over. “The first thing our voters are going to do is to apply the infrared thermometers that have been supplied to every Polling Unit on election day. Every voter will undergo that particular procedure of the use of infrared thermometers to check people’s temperature,” he said.

The exercise is expected to start for 8:30 am and according to Okoye, enough time will be given to allow everyone who arrives at the Polling Unit before 2:30 pm to vote.
“Polling will start at 8:30 in the morning. Why we have said this, is to enable our officials prepare well.

“Prior to this particular period, we didn’t have to pack hand sanitizers, methylated spirits and we didn’t have to pack facemasks for our officials but now we are going to be doing this and giving them some level of refresher course.

“Any voter who is on the outer queue by 2:30 pm will be allowed to vote even if the voting takes up to 5:00 pm but any voter who comes to the polling unit after 2:30 pm will not be allowed into the queue but those who are already there will be allowed to vote even if the voting takes up to 6:00 pm,”.

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