Saraki Receives the Report on Doing Business in Nigeria

Today, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki received a report from Adam Smith International on the institutional, regulatory, legislative and associated instruments affecting businesses in Nigeria.

The 10-page report, which can be accessed on the Senate President’s website highlights at least 25 high-priority legislative interventions and 5 medium-priority legislative interventions that the National Assembly can take to improve the business environment in Nigeria.

Additionally, the report highlights 23 high-priority bills, 10 medium-priority bills, and over 15 low-priority bills that can also aid in this process.

Some of the critical areas discussed in the report include the challenges that present themselves when Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (MSME) try to access finance and property, engage in dispute resolution, and make their tax payments.

 

LINK: DOING BUSINESS REPORT

Bamikole Omishore

Special Assistant on New Media

Saraki Assures On Sustainable Economic Policies

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has said that the 8th Senate will collaborate with the Executive to ensure that the policies and programmes of the present administration aimed at reviving the economy are sustained on a  long term basis.
Saraki according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, in Abuja, stated this  when he received the national executive of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS) led by its President, Professor Olugbenga Okunola.
He said the Senate is on a mission to ensure that the country harnesses her non-oil resources and achieve full diversification of the economy.
Saraki said: “For us in the 8th Senate we have said it that our focus is to continue to give support to those sectors of our economy that will provide employment, increase the earnings of government and the growth of the economy in general.
“And if you are talking about the growth of the economy, you have to give  particular consideration to the mining sector. And what do we need to do to get that done? I want to assure you that the message I will like you to take away is that the 8th Senate is ready to give all the support in ensuring that we truly begin to harness the hitherto the unexplored and neglected potentials that we have.
“We have been talking about these potentials for a long time. It is time to talk about realising the potentials and translating them to economic power. how to bring. That is our own vision and mission.
“We have all seen the downside of being a mono-product economy. We are all suffering from it now. When you see what is happening to our revenues, our foreign exchange inflows and particularly what is happening to even the foreign exchange rate due to our over dependence on crude oil.
“The projections that it is going to be down for a couple of years means that any serious minded country needs to look at the options available. And some of the things we are seeing now is because there is a lot of speculation out there.
“A lot of the speculators believe that we don’t have the political will to see through some of the policies and programmes aimed at diversifying the economy and that is why you see a lot of them are betting against the Naira. That is why you see all of a sudden, the Naira is rebounding because they are beginning to see that it appears that this government is committed on its policy.
“I want to assure you that we are committed. The political will is there. We are very determined to see that we diversify. All these things you are talking about are well known to a lot of us. The frustration has een that we have not been able to see it through. I want to assure you that this Senate is committed to ensure that we support the executive in sustaining these long term polices. This is important and that is where we must start from,” he said.
Earlier, Professor Gbenga Okunola, said the Society visited the Senate President to among others appreciate what the 8th Senate has been doing.
He said: “We have been talking about diversification of the nation’s economy over the years….I think as a society, as professionals, this is what we have been clamouring for over the years that we are sitting on buried riches and that the government is now saying that they want to take this serious gladdens us.
“That is why we are here to appreciate this government for what they are doing and we are ready to offer our professional help – we are not talking in terms of financial reward – but this is one thing we want to offer our country,” he said.
END
Signed
Sanni Onogu
Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President

Saraki To Receive Report On Business Environment In Nigeria

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki will on today formally receive the Business Environment Legislative Review Report developed by a team of Legal Advisers to the ENABLE-DFID programme, led by Prof Paul Idornigie (SAN).

A statement from the Office of the Senate President in Abuja stated the report initiated by the Senate President was in fulfilment of the Legislative Agenda of the 8th National Assembly geared towards creating a business friendly environment in the country.

The statement added that: “Following the legislative agenda of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the 8th National Assembly, and in consultation with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the Nigerian Bar Association – Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) and other key private sector stakeholders; the Office of the Senate President initiated a review of the institutional, regulatory and legal instruments currently constraining and impeding business activity in Nigeria.

“With the technical aid and support of ENABLE-DFID and GEMS 3 programmes, a team of experts conducted a business environment legislative review covering the entire raft of legal structures affecting businesses today. The underlying objective of the review is to provide a framework for the assessment and improvement of legislation and policy affecting businesses in Nigeria”‎, the statement added.

Prof. Paul Idornigie led the team of Legal Advisers that conducted the research of business environment acts and bills and developed the Business Environment Legislative Review Report.

The report is expected to propose priority legislative areas that will provide a solid foundation of evidence to set priorities for new and revised business environment legislation by the National Assembly.

“With the reform of key sectors of the economy, there is a critical need to facilitate an enabling environment for private sector participation. There are Bills pending before the National Assembly that are of priority importance to doing business and overall private sector development in Nigeria, especially in infrastructure delivery”‎, it stated.

Expected at the presentation which will take place at the National Assembly today are the the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara; World Bank representatives; the Chairman of the NESG, Mr. Kyari Bukar, the Nigerian Bar Association – Section on Business Law  (NBA-SBL) representatives led by Asue Ighodalo; and private sector and media stakeholders.

END

LET THE LAWMAKERS MOVE ON AND WORK FOR NIGERIA.

LET THE LAWMAKERS MOVE ON AND WORK FOR NIGERIA.

By Yusuph Olaniyonu

Tuesday resumption of the two chambers of the federal legislature resumed after five weeks suspension of plenary. The recess scheduled for July 21 had been postponed by one week, obviously to allow more time for the reconciliatory process going on then among the legislators in both chambers of the National Assembly.

As a result of the media hype and sensationalism surrounding the crisis, obviously fuelled from outside the parliament, many had believed that the resumption day was going to be the real day of trouble in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. They expected the lawmakers to freely break the law by resorting to fighting. Some others talked about the possible collapse of the leadership in both chambers. The ground for this latter belief was laid by a Senator, Kabiru Marafa who kept on making incendiary statements. One would have thought that based on the Senator’s statements, the Senate Chambers would collapse on the resumption date.

All these negative expectations were against the background of the efforts by the Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to mend fences between the groups in the National Assembly. The Governors met with the various groups but no solution seem to have been found, at least as presented by those using the division in the legislature to underscore their own importance and relevance.

However, what happened in the chambers of the National Assembly last Tuesday was a positive anti-climax. First, in the Senate where members sat before their colleagues in the House of Representatives, the plenary was devoid of any problem. Members came in and exchange banters and greetings in a manner which suggested the holiday had cooled tempers. Then, the legislative debates began.

The icing on the cake was a motion sponsored by 81 Senators expressing a vote of confidence on the leadership of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki. With 81 Senators which when added to the duo of the Senate President and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, both of whom could not vote, the motion enjoyed the support of clearly more than two-third of the legislative house. It therefore, should require no need for voting. Yet, the Senate President still gave the nay sayers the opportunity to express themselves. Surprisingly, no single voice said no. This then made the vote of confidence on Saraki and the rest of the Senate leadership, a unanimous decision of the 108 members presently in the Senate.

With that symbolic signal that peace has finally returned, the Senate was able to return to normal legislative transactions in which two main motions that could solve the problem of bad roads and environmental degradation across the country were rigorously debated.

Also, in the House of Representatives, Speaker Yakubu Dogara successfully announced names of principal officers and the choice seemed to have finally settled all the hitherto prevailing differences. The Representatives also went on to discuss motions of relevance to their constituents. In settling the issues in the House of Representatives, the meeting President Muhammadu Buhari had with all the legislators the previous day is widely believed to have played a key role. the President’s intervention made possible the shift of positions which led to the return of peace.

Now, where do we go from here? With the return of peace, the legislators have no option than to get cracking. They need to start working for Nigeria. They need to start coming out with legislations, embark on oversight functions, debate policies and programmes which can form the basis for advocacy work. They must start making creative, out of the ordinary and ingenuous suggestions which can help the executive to change the landscape of the entire country for the better. Our people have suffered from want in the midst of plenty for too long.

This time around, the people voted for change, positive and progressive one for that matter. That is why the legislators represent not only the diversity of Nigeria, but also the rich nature of her human capital. They represented the different professions, men and women with varied experiences and world views. Fortunately, they have the fortune of working with an executive led by a determined, courageous and popular retired army General, Buhari as the chief executive of our state.

What is now required is for the legislators to support President Buhari in finding solutions to all the problems keeping Nigeria down. This is where Buhari has a role to play in consolidating and utilising the newly achieved peace in the National Assembly. The President should maintain his earlier position not to get involved in legislative politics. He should immediately send out the right signals and body language that he is ready to encourage the new initiative by the legislators to resolve their internal differences on their own. The President should make it known to those who use the legislative chambers as a front for shadow boxing to steer clear and allow the lawmakers to do their work.

A way to send the right signal that he is ready to help the National Assembly build on the new found unity is for the President to now openly meet and relate with the leadership of both chambers. He should be ready to gainfully engage with them on how to prosecute his war against insecurity, unemployment, corruption and economic recession. The President should immediately create a platform for exchange of ideas on the role he expects the legislative houses to play in backing up his multifarious programmes, policies and projects aimed at addressing the four-point agenda he has set up for himself.

We need to put behind us the past experience in which the President travelled to the United States for crucial bi-lateral discussions on several issues without any member of the legislature. That was on opportunity missed to give legislative backing to executive engagements. Buhari was obviously trying to avoid getting involved in the problems in the National Assembly. However, the gaffe will not be lost on the host President Barrack Obama who on his last trip to Kenya and Ethiopia went with over 20 Congressmen.

My advice therefore is for all Nigerians to let the legislature work. If we give them all the co-operation they need, it becomes easy to access them as an institution and as individuals on how far they have gone in fulfilling the aspiration of their electors.

Olaniyonu is Special Adviser to Senate President.

Senate Begins Move To Reduce It’s Allowance ‪#‎OPENNASS

In response to the recent outcry from Nigerians against perceived huge allowances being paid to federal legislators, the Senate yesterday began moves to reduce its earnings by constituting a committee to draw a roadmap for the review.

The move, which is geared towards ensuring accountability in the Senate, is the first of its kind since 1999.

It was also in fulfillment of the promise made by Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, last week after a meeting with the leadership of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

The nine-man committee is expected to determine if the deduction earlier done is adequate or not; determine whether the mode of disbursement of office running cost is appropriate; determine whether National Assembly detailed budget should be made public; liaise with secretary of finance and accounts to determine appropriate salary and allowances for members as well as consider the standard running cost and any other related issue.

The committee is chaired by Senate Leader, Ali Ndume. Other members of the committee are: Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central), Shaba Lafiagi (Kwara North), Sunny Ogbuoji (Ebonyi South), James Manager (Delta South), Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East), Dino Melaye (Kogi West and Ben Murray-Bruce (Bayelsa East).

While inaugurating the committee on Thursday, Saraki said agitation for the reduction of cost of governance particularly the earnings of lawmakers in Nigeria has remained a sensitive matter which according to him, calls for accountability and transparency in all spheres of legislation.

He tasked the committee to carry out thorough fiscal examination on Senate’s finances with a view to evolving a cost effective regime.

He said: “The subject of reduction in cost of governance has been a sensitive matter on the front burner of national issues in the polity especially with regards to the legislature. While much of this could be due to an underlining ambiguity in the monthly salaries of legislators and their allowances, there still persists the need to project clarity, accountability and transparency in all legislative matters and legislators’ welfare.

“The eighth Senate under our watch recognises the concerns raised by Nigerians about the cost of running office most especially with the economic challenges facing our nation.

“The Senate will be more transparent regarding all public funds spent for the purpose of paying salaries and allowances of legislators and ensure that distinction is sufficiently made between what a legislator actually earns and what is spent to run and implement legislative business and committee activities.

“The watchword in our financial issues will be fiscal conservatism.

“It is therefore on this arm that the committee is mandated to carry out thorough fiscal examination on the Senate finances with the aim of coming up with the best cost-effective regime in the eighth Senate.”

In the same vein, Saraki inaugurated an 18-man committee saddled with the responsibility of drawing up a legislative agenda for the Senate.

The committee is chaired by James Manager. Members of the committee include Babajide Omoworare (Osun East); Duro Faseyi (Ekiti North), Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central), Sonni Ogbuoji (Ebonyi South); Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central); Hope Uzodimma (Imo West) and Ben Murray-Bruce (Bayelsa East), George Sekibo, John Enoh.

Others are Mohammed Hassan, Ali Ndume (Borno South); Binta Garba (Adamawa North), Kabiru Gaya (Kano South); Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central); Bala Na’Allah (Kebbi South), Mohammed Yari; David Umaru (Niger East) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau Central).

The Senate had opted to draw an agenda for itself with a view to setting up a standard with which its performance can be measured by the public.

While inaugurating the committee, Saraki said the agenda to be drawn is expected to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Senate; build a legislative autonomy and strengthening the committee system.

He added that the agenda would also enhance oversight functions; ensure extensive representation; reach out to stakeholders and encourage civil society involvement.

The Senate president also said the agenda would put machinery in place to guarantee implementation, monitoring and evaluation, reduction of running cost as well as effective legislative support system.

MISSING #CHIBOK GIRLS, 365 DAYS LATER

Today we pause to remember the kidnapping of the Chibok School girls. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends, and communities.
A year may have passed since they were taken, but our sympathy and solidarity with their families, remains as strong as ever; and so does our revulsion at the acts of terror committed. I have been emboldened by the character and courage that the families of the girls have shown over the last year.
I would like to take this opportunity to support the comments made by President-elect Muhammadu Buhari earlier today. He is right to throw the full weight of the administration behind our efforts to find the missing girls. But he is right too, not to make naive claims about the ability of any government to commit to find the girls.
We must remain hopeful of their return, and steadfast in our determination to find them, but not make the same mistakes of the previous administration in promising what we cannot guarantee to do.
Today, we must remember the acts of terror that took place one year ago, and the innocent girls that still suffer as result of those acts. We must remember those acts first and foremost as a human tragedy. But secondly, we must remember and understand the underlying reasons why those acts took place, and embed a new determination and resolve into our strategy to defeat Boko Haram.

STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR BUKOLA SARAKI (CON), ON THE MARCH 28 2015 ELECTIONS IN KWARA CENTRAL SENATORIAL DISTRICT, KWARA STATE

Today marks the beginning of a new dawn in Kwara and Nigeria. Having been reelected as Senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, I commend all those who turned out to cast their votes. It is indeed the highest civic responsibility a citizen is called upon to do for his or her country. Whilst all gratitude belongs to God, I thank all those who have stood by me and voted for me overwhelmingly.
I must commend INEC for conducting a transparent, free, fair and credible elections process in Kwara in spite of some observed hitches. I must also commend the security agnecies for ensuring that the elections in Kwara was conducted in a peaceful and orderly atmosphere.
It is clear that the people of Kwara have spoken loud and clear with their votes through the ballot box. They have demonstrated their unflinching commitment to democracy and the progress of Kwara State in particular and Nigeria as a whole. I urge all politicians and key stakeholders to listen to the voice of the people..
On our part, we in the APC will continue to stand on the side of the people. We will continue to put in our best in order to ensure further social, economic and infrastructural development to all parts of Kwara State. We will continue to fight for what is in the best interest of Kwara and Nigeria.
We have consistently shown that we feel the pain of the masses. We have stayed true and committed to their cause. We share their dreams and aspirations. We will therefore remain steadfast in our quest of building the Kwara they deserve.
The people have clearly opted for focused, dependable and reliable leadership and a rejection of dying minute politicians.
I will give effect to my renewed mandate in the Senate by ensuring that I continue to address those issues that will bring about progress and development to my primary constituents and Nigeria at large. I promise to put in more efforts to address key issues such as youth employment, poverty, education, health and the environment. I will also continue to advocate for legislations that will strengthen our institutions so as to eradicate corruption, misuse and abuse of office.
We must chart a new course for Nigeria. All hands must be on deck to return our great country to the former place of pride in the comity of nations.
The wind of change that is blowing across the country is strong enough to keep the hope of a new and better Nigeria alive. Once again, I thank you all for giving me the opportunity to serve you. Let us join hands to build a better and more secure Nigeria together.
Signed,
Bamikole Omishore
SA Media & Advocacy to Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki

THOSE OPPOSING THE USE OF CARD READER ARE AFRAID IT WOULD HINDER THEIR ABILITY TO RIG – SEN. BUKOLA SARAKI

SENATOR BUKOLA SARAKI, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, is senator for Kwara Central senatorial district and chairman, Senate committee on Environment and Ecology. He speaks on some of the burning issues of the day, in this interview with journalists in Ilorin. Hammed Shittu brings the excerpts

On the walkout staged by APC senators in protest at the confirmation of Musiliu Obanikoro’s ministerial nomination.
I think what happened was unfortunate. I believe that in the Senate, the National Assembly, there are many courts – the court of the law and the court of public opinion – and we all represent constituencies. I believe in a scenario where the three senators – it has always been the practice – have an objection to the candidate, we must be concerned with that. At the same time, I agree that somebody is innocent until proven guilty. But I believe the right thing the senate president should have done was to have tarried a bit. I remember a week ago, after coming out of the executive session, we agreed then that we would only take the first four ministers and that we would give one week for further consultation and then we would come back and review. The only person we are reviewing is Obanikoro. But when we came in that day, if you notice, I was trying to make him (senate president) know that this was not what we agreed. We agreed the last time that we would come back and review the situation. So instead of reviewing the situation, we are now going straight to start the screening processes, which is reneging on what we agreed on. Point number two is that it was clear that the House was divided and the senate should not be partisan. We should look at the interest of the country in the decisions we take, not the political party that we belong. It is clear that there was controversy on this nominee and I think the right thing to do is, we should have stepped it down while further consultations were done to satisfy those who say Obanikoro has done certain things. The new development that we saw was the court case that was initiated, where somebody has taken Obanikoro and Mark to court. Again, one of our rules, 53 (5), says once there is litigation, it is not for discussion. I even remember at a time most of us wanted to cross over (to APC), it was this same section that the senate president came up with and said he could not discuss it. The excuse he gave us was that he had not been served. I think a senator had told all of us that there was a court case. I think that should be good enough, in the interest of, again, uniting the senate and ensuring that we take collective decisions. We are not supposed to take partisan decisions, the best position would have been to defer it.

On the haste to reappoint Obanikoro minister.
One of the issues for our party, also, especially, those from Lagos State, is the urgency to have him back as minister. Maybe the fear was that what they did in Ekiti, they want them to do in Lagos on election day. I think if they had deferred it till after the election, brought the issue back again, had further consultations; there might be a way that would have shown the statesmanship of the senate. I think it was not a correct decision, the kind people expect of senate. For us in the APC, we have spoken, we are minority in the senate but our walking out was to say that, you can take the decision, let history judge us that we are not part of that decision, that’s the issue. It is not that we cannot recognise him, once he’s been confirmed by the senate, we are bound by that but the record shows your position on the matter.

On PDP’s opposition to the use of card readers for the general election?
I cannot speak for PDP. But I am surprised that any political party that means well for Nigeria in our progressing democracy would not support anything that would make the electoral process more credible. Everybody who has seen the card reader sees that this is in the direction of better election, more sophisticated approach, has integrated technology support, improved the system. It has been done in Ghana and other parts of Africa. If you look at India and all those places. This is all towards best practices. The observers, European Union and the international community, have praised INEC for coming out with an electoral process that is more modern, more efficient, more credible, more transparent. So, how can a political party, even a party in government, now say that they are against the card reader? The card reader works, it brings value to the process, it makes Nigeria look better in the international community. But because of their own myopic interest, because they are afraid of election, because they are afraid that with the card reader, you would be limited on the issue of rigging, they are trying to do damage control now. I think there are still people that are trying to do the right thing in the party. I think it was a wrong political calculation for them to come out and say that. If you go round, the feeling of Nigerians all over is that, let us have a credible election. Does the card reader make the election credible? Of course, it makes it credible. Does the card reader make our election move towards international standard? Yes it does. So how will anybody reject it? What many of us think is that it is just because they are afraid of going into election.

On the lingering scepticism as to whether or not the election would hold.
I think we have to take the president by his words. He has told us many times that the election would hold and that there would not be another postponement. We have to take him by his words and I think he should ensure that he keeps to that not take Nigerians for granted. I believe the calmness of the country is part of the maturity and commitment of Nigerians to take him by his words. He needs to do the right thing. I do not believe that the country and the people would take lightly if we decide again to postpone the election. I hope that he would look at the big picture, look at the country, not to plunge the country in any crisis and ensure that, that election holds. INEC is prepared. The military and co have said they too are not in support of further postponement. So I think we must take him for his words and only caution that he should not do anything that would plunge the country into crisis. Nigerians want election to hold. The international community wants the election to hold and I think for the stability of this country and our democracy, elections must hold according to the guidelines as stipulated in our constitution.

On the allegation that the presidency has set aside an amount of money to woo voters in Kwara State.
He is making a mistake by believing that money is going to be a factor that will help in changing their fortune. We are hearing about the story of money being sent to the South-west, money being sent to the North to go and buy cards. I think it is because the party (PDP) does not recognise the fact that Nigerians want change. Anywhere they send that money to, people will take that money and at the end of the day, they would not go with the PDP. So if they like they can send that money to PDP here in Kwara, let’s first hope that it gets to Kwara if they don’t divert it on the way. Even if it comes down to the grassroots here, it would not make a difference. We’ve told our people, it is their money; the money that they did not give them for six years, they would now bring the money. Meanwhile, workers are not getting salaries, local governments don’t have money, states don’t have money and this money is being shared. I think it is misplaced priority and I don’t think it would in any way help them. We have told our people in Kwara State, “let them bring the money, it is your money, take the money and still do the right thing that would make a better Nigeria.” That is their own business, but it is very unfortunate.

On the domination of television advertisements by PDP.
I think it is a good observation. A lot of people have been saying how come APC is very quiet. I think we must definitely hold the Advertising Practitioners Council Of Nigeria (APCON) and the people in charge of advertising responsible because they are becoming too partisan. We have cases of APC adverts being delayed for approval. You don’t get approval. Meanwhile, there are some irresponsible adverts by PDP; you see some of them being aired on these TV stations. I think some of these organisations that are meant to be neutral, that are meant to be regulatory bodies, must be held accountable for any behaviour that is against the regulations that guide them. I think that a strong warning must go out to these organisations, particularly, those that have to do with some of these TV adverts. They have to be seen to be neutral and doing the right thing. But when they allow one party to be able to bring adverts, including some that have issues that are libellous, and at the same time if APC brings the same adverts, you find those TV companies not accepting them, I think this is not good for our democracy. In a democracy, there must be a level playing field that allows all political parties the same access and they must be responsible, they must be called and told to do the right thing. And after the election this matter must be investigated and those responsible must be sanctioned. These agencies have a role to play in ensuring that we nurture our democracy, that’s why they must play the same role for one party and for the other party. That’s why I am sure a lot of people are not seeing some of the adverts on TV that have been paid for by APC. I was told in one of the agencies that out of 40-something adverts awaiting approval, one or two is for PDP while 40-something are for APC. You can see this kind of irresponsibility. This must change and we must be seen to be doing the right thing.

On the federal government’s recent compensation for families of last year’s Immigration tragedy victims.
For the families, I think it is something that is good. But every time the president does things to further make us wonder what he has been doing for the last six years, that makes us question the sincerity of purpose and his commitment to the Nigeria people. You would remember when this thing happened, the opposition party raised it and said this issue should be properly investigated and the minister in charge should be asked to step aside while we do investigation, and the families should be compensated. But nothing was done. Now that election is less than 14 days, not only to APC but anybody, it looks more of a political gesture than a matter of sincerity. And I think that it shows they did not care really and this is an afterthought. It speaks volumes when you begin to see those kinds of things. So for us, I don’t see sincerity in the approach and I believe that it is part of the game that the government and the PDP are playing that is making Nigerians to say that they want change. And every time we talk about this issue of change, it is unfortunate that PDP and the government don’t seem to understand. Instead, they keep on attacking General Muhammadu Buhari, our presidential candidate, attacking our vice presidential candidate. Despite all these attacks and the billions being spent on advertisement, how come Nigerians are still rejecting them? It is because Nigerians want change. Nigerians want a government that is committed, they want a government that is sincere, a government that is thinking of the people; a government that has some decency and decorum. I think as of now, it is clear from what we are saying that, that is what Nigerians are yearning for and the party and the government, even by this kind of actions, continue to show that they were not trained to provide that leadership at this moment.

On PDP’s allegation that APC paid for the Chatham House lecture by Buhari.
Actually, I did not attend the Chatham House event but the person saying that, it is either the person is naïve or doesn’t know how Chatham House works. I have gone to give a lecture at Chatham House before. I’m sure Buhari too has given lectures in the past in that House and many governors, former governors, leaders around the world. They invite you; it is a place where they invite you to discuss topics and members of that society turn up to come and listen to guest speakers. It is not a place you apply or you pay to give a lecture. So it is either these people are being mischievous or they just lack the exposure, the knowledge to know how this is done. It is not an environment where people go to buy the event. The organisation there chooses people all over the world that they believe can speak on the topic at the time and then at that moment in time, they invite their members to attend. I think again those who are saying the event was bought are being mischievous and want to mislead Nigerians.

On the recent endorsement of APC in Kwara State by the artisans congress in state.
It is a very good development. One is not surprised because Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has been working closely in improving on programmes for the empowerment of artisans and those that require support as regards loan that would help them in improving their businesses. I think it is a reflection of the commitment of the government and of the APC that they have come out to endorse. With this kind of endorsement and the work that we have been doing, we believe that the coast is clear, In Sha Allah, for victory for APC here in Kwara State. We’ve held so many elections and the kind of endorsement that we are getting this time around is even more than we got in 2011 and the rate of people decamping to join our party is unprecedented. I’ve been doing elections here now for a while and what we are seeing at the level of people decamping to join the party shows that, hopefully, we would have a landslide victory here, In Sha Allah, come March 28 and April 11.

On the recent diplomatic row between Nigeria and Morocco over phone call?
Honestly, I don’t have facts, but as a Nigerian, it is sad and embarrassing. How did we even get ourselves in this kind of mess? I am sure something must have happened for the King of Morocco to have come out with a statement and I am sure at the end of the day, nobody would be held accountable. Somebody must have done something wrong somewhere, either to have told the public that the president spoke, and the King of Morocco now said he didn’t speak. Now the president has confirmed that he didn’t speak. So if the president is saying that he didn’t speak, who is the person that came out to say that he spoke. I am sure at the end of the day, nobody would be held accountable. Somebody that has brought this kind of embarrassment to the country should be held accountable. And these are some of the issues we have been talking about, that there are people who the president should have dropped a long time ago because they are not helping the government, instead they are still part of the government. At the end of the day, we keep on blaming advisers, blaming this, blaming that, and somebody is responsible. Unfortunately, this is the comedy of how the government has been run, where nobody is held accountable. It is very unfortunate.

BANK LOAN: ATTORNEY GENERAL OF FEDERATION CLEARS @BUKOLASARAKI.

The office of the director of public prosecution of the federation has cleared All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and former Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, of any wrondgoing in the alleged N21billion loan scam.

The former governor had approached a Federal High Court to stop the Nigerian Police from harassing and blackmailing him over the alleged loan scam.

In a letter written to the Inspector-General of Police by the director of public prosecution, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Fatunde, on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation, dated October 9, 2012, the AGF said it would be improper and unjust to hold Dr. Saraki or the companies criminally liable for internal action and decisions of the bank and its officials bordering on exercise of descretion.

Dr. Saraki and Mr. Pinheiro were alleged to have been connected with the grant of the loans as promoter and director respectively of the companies.

But Mrs. Fatunde in her letter to the IGP said, “By viture of Section 18 of the Act, a director or any other officer or partner of a company can only be held responsible in that capacity for the actions of the company if the company is guilty of an offence under the Act. Since the companies in this case cannot also be held to have committed any offence under Section 15(1)(a), it follows that Dr. Saraki and Mr. Pinheiro cannot also be held criminally responsible only on an account of having acted as promoter and director of the companies in connection with the said loan.”

SARAKI TACKLES NIGERIAN GOVT, INSIST NIGERIA IS BROKE.

Senator, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday insisted Nigeria is broke.

Mr. Saraki’s submission contrasts the position of the Federal Government which, via the Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, said the nation is not broke “in spite of the challenges on revenue stream coming from source – the oil sector”.
Mr. Yuguda, after the Federation Account and Allocation Committee meeting, said it was mischief makers who were peddling claims that Nigeria is broke.

He challenged critics to come up with evidence of “what they mean for a country to be broke”, as “nobody has depleted our foreign reserves”.
“I have spoken to various people on this issue. We have never skipped holding Federation Account Allocation meeting for a month. We have not failed to pay salaries of workers, or missed our payment terms on the bond we raised in Nigeria. I do not know the issue about the country being broke.
“If not for the devaluation of the Naira, nobody has taken out all the money the country has in excess crude account. Nobody has said we have wiped out what we were able to save through the sovereign wealth fund. Nigeria is working. States are getting their money. There are challenges on the revenue stream coming in from one source – the oil sector. And we are trying to improve the revenue stream from the non-oil sector,” Mr. Yuguda said.

But Mr. Saraki disagrees.
“The country is broke. If you are having problem and are unable to meet your fiscal commitment and obligations, you are broke. Even the FAAC meeting has failed to hold twice because the Government could not see sufficient money in the account. So it’s just waiting for when the revenue would go up a bit.
“We have to tighten our belt. Hard time is ahead. There is no point pretending there is no problem. This Government of President Jonathan lost a golden opportunity to prevent this problem before oil price slide in the international market. It did not prepare,” the lawmaker told PREMIUM TIMES.
Asked why the country is facing economic problem now, Mr. Saraki, representing Kwara Central Senatorial District in National Assembly, blamed “leakages” and “mismanagement” that he said has characterise the management of the Excess Crude Account by the Federal Government, thereby eliminating safety net that could have cushioned the effect of oil price slump.

“Because we did not do the right thing when oil price had not declined,” the ex-Kwara governor said. “Other countries in Asia also face this problem but they are not feeling the effects like we do because they prepared. They were not wasteful. But unfortunately we didn’t prepare.”
“Mismanagement, corruption, wastage and leakages characterise oil subsidy management. Oil subsidy amounting to $8 billion annually accounts for about 80 per cent draw down from the ECA. But with proper management and without corruption we could have been spending 20 per cent of that,” Mr. Saraki said.

He said Nigeria pays about $4 billion for kerosene subsidy but Nigerians are not benefitting.
“You are just throwing the money to some persons,” he lamented.
Mr. Saraki also countered the claim of the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the pressure by state governments to share the ECA led to the depletion of the funds.

“No. Subsidy payment accounts for 80 per cent of the draw down from the ECA. It was not because states are demanding their share every time. If it is true that it is the states that caused the depletion, and not Federal Government and its waste, they (FG) should not have spent their share.
“By now, that problem arises, they could have shown example by telling Nigerians to see their own part saved in an account; that it’s only states that needed the money, hence the pressure to share the money every time as said by the Minister of Finance.”

Currently, Nigeria’s ECA stands at about $2.45 billion while foreign reserve is down to $34.38 billion when comparedwith $43.2 billion a year ago