COMMUNIQUE FROM KANO ROUNDTABLE ON DRUGS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE #SenateTacklesDrugAbuse (Monday, December 18th to Tuesday, December 19th 2017)

COMMUNIQUE FROM KANO ROUNDTABLE ON DRUGS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE #SenateTacklesDrugAbuse (Monday, December 18th to Tuesday, December 19th 2017)

 

Following expert presentations, analysis and deliberations leading up to, during and following the roundtable, the following key observations regarding the expected outcomes were made:

 

1. There was a critical paucity of data on drug use, prevalence, trends and patterns in Nigeria, and there is an associated near absence of institutional structures to collect, analyze and report such data. There are however consensus positions bolstered by non-structured observations that suggest the following:

 

a. Particularly in Kano, and the North-Western Geo-Political region of Nigeria, there is a high prevalence of use of licit, controlled medications particularly opioids such as Codeine containing cough syrup, and tramadol. There also appears to be an increase in diversity of methods of drug use, with “Shisha” which was traditionally reserved for the inhalation of tobacco, now increasingly used for other psychoactive substances.

 

b. Commonly abused psychoactive substances are generally easily accessible, regardless of their legal classification. All drugs legal and illegal are available and affordable to any interested member of society, regardless of age and health, risk (e.g. driving under the influence of alcohol) etc. The same can be said of most psychoactive substances.

 

c. In the course of implementation of its Project NGAV16 — “Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria”, the UNODC carried out an assessment of attitudes on drug prevention, treatment and care among law enforcement agency operatives, the general public’s attitudes on drug prevention, treatment and care (DPTC) and the effectiveness of current outreach and advocacy programs. The result of these assessments revealed a low general awareness of drugs and their effects, difference between drug use and dependence and understanding of drug prevention, treatment and care. The majority of people generally have a negative attitude towards drug users and as a result this often leads to discrimination and stigma towards those using drugs.

 

d. It is generally understood that there is a critical need and shortage of specialized professional evidence-based facilities for the treatment and or rehabilitation of people with substance use disorders, and very little in place to address underlying psychosocial predisposing factors that place individuals at risk of drug use and dependence. These issues are even more pronounced with regards to Female drug users, a population which is generally agreed to be on the rise.

 

2. The Nigerian Government through a number of MDAs have the capacity to; limit access to psychoactive substances, thereby decreasing the use of and dependence on these substances. For psychoactive substances which have medical uses, particularly opiates, control systems are outlined in policies to allow access for medical and research purposes and limit recreational use. However, indicators point to the failure of such control systems. The Government and Civil Society also have the capacity to develop and implement interventions that prevent the initiation of psychoactive substance use, treat drug use disorders, address psychosocial issues related to drug use and provide rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals who are dependent on drugs. Through these initiatives, Government and Civil Society can decrease the demand for psychoactive substances. However, the outcomes of such initiatives are hardly encouraging. There are also sadly very limited deliberate efforts on the part of Government and Civil Society in the absence of treatment and rehabilitation services, to provide public health, harm reduction services to drug users, often times favouring a criminal justice approach which criminalizes the drug user rather than providing the needed help.

 

3. A key observation at the roundtable was the confusion of mandates of the various MDAs working on different aspects of drug control. Law Enforcement and regulatory agencies were effectively always able to site some law or policy that excused their actions (or inactions), and effectively shifted the blame for the consequences of such to another agency. While simultaneously requesting more resources to carry out what they understood to be their statutory mandate. Civil Society Organizations were largely found to be frustrated by what they viewed generally as deliberate actions by the government and its agencies to promote the prevalence of drug use in their communities. Yet there seemed to be an absence of laws and policies that regulate the activities of Civil Society Organizations, ensuring that services offered are done to ethical and professional standards, based on evidence of efficacy, and do no harm to the individuals they claim to help, and the communities they function in.

 

On the Basis of these Key Observations, the following Actionable Outcomes are Proposed:

 

Outcome 1: Develop a Coherent Legislative and Policy Context to address both the Control of Drugs (Psychoactive Drugs), and Interventions for People Who Use Drugs.

 

Output 1: National Drug Control Bill

 

INFOGRAPHIC SHOWING BENEFITS OF THE PROPOSED NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL BILL

· Sections of various different legislations and policies that deal with Drug Control Should be pulled together and harmonized into ONE drug Control Bill, with clear mandates for the various law enforcement and regulatory agencies like NDLEA, NAFDAC, Nigerian Police Force and framework for interagency cooperation towards Drug Control.

 

· As the name implies, the Drug Control Bill will NOT address issues of Prevention, Treatment and Care of Drug Users, particularly as the policy context shifts towards decriminalization of drug users.

 

Output 2: Nigerian Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill

 

INFOGRAPHIC SHOWING BENEFITS OF THE PROPOSED NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH BILL

· “Mental Health” refers to a state of psychosocial well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, copes adequately with the normal stresses of life, displays resilience in the face of extreme life events, works productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a positive contribution to the community. When one considers this definition, it is clear that issues related to Mental health, are the primary reasons why individuals initiate and continue drug use, resulting in drug use disorders.

 

· Through the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill, the Nigerian Government will commit itself to promoting the well-being of its people, ensuring that mental health is valued, promoted, and protected and that mental health conditions which often predispose vulnerable individuals to Substance abuse and dependence, are treated and prevented and that timely, affordable, high quality and culturally appropriate mental health care is made available to the public. This Bill would:

 

I. Strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health and Substance Abuse by, among others, formulating, developing, and implementing national policies, strategies, programs, and regulations relating to mental health and substance abuse;

 

II. Develop and establish a comprehensive, integrated, effective, and efficient national mental health care system responsive to the psychiatric, neurologic, and psychosocial needs of the Nigerian people;

 

III. Protect the rights and freedoms of persons with psychiatric, neurologic, and psychosocial health needs;

 

IV. Strengthen information systems, evidence and research for mental health and Substance abuse; and

 

V. Integrate strategies promoting mental health (and minimize the impact of Substance abuse) in educational institutions, the workplace, and in communities.

8th Senate Passes Another Anti-Graft Bill —This is a Promise Kept, says Saraki

8th Senate Passes Another Anti-Graft Bill

—This is a Promise Kept, says Saraki

 

The 8th Senate today, passed the Whistleblower Protection Bill.

 

The Bill, which seeks to encourage and facilitate the disclosures of improper conduct by public officers and public bodies was presented by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, chaired by Senator David Umaru, the member representing Niger East in the 8th National Assembly.

 

Otherwise known as “An Act to Protect Persons Making Disclosures for the Public Interest and Others from Reprisals, to Provide for the Matters Disclosed to be Properly Investigated and Dealt with and for other Purposes Related Therewith”, the Bill also seeks to ensure that persons who make disclosures and persons who may suffer reprisals in relation to such disclosures are protected under the law.

 

The Bill also specifies who is qualified to make disclosure of improper conduct; the procedure for making disclosures; and the protection due to ‘whistleblowers.’

 

Under the newly passed Bill, a person who makes a disclosure shall no

​t​ be subject to victimization by his or her employers or by fellow employees. Additionally, a person who makes a disclosure has the right to take legal action if he or she is victimized, dismissed, suspended, declared redundant, transferred against his or her will, harassed or intimidated in any manner.

 

Speaking on the passage of the Bill, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki stated that:

 

“This is a promise kept. Today, we have passed a landmark piece of legislation to fight corruption and protect patriotic Nigerians who are fighting corruption,” he said, “This Bill will protect the lives of those who risk themselves to expose corrupt practices in Nigeria.”

 

With the passage of this Bill, the Senate has concluded work on three anti-corruption Bills. In May 2017, it passed the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, while in June 2017, it passed the Witness Protection Bill.

 

The Bill to establish Special Anti-Corruption Courts has been sent to the Constitution Amendment Committee. The Proceeds of Crime Bill has been sent to the Senate Joint Committee on Anti-Corruption and Judiciary

 

END

 

​Signed:

Media Office of the Senate President

Nigerians In US Commend Senate For Passing Diaspora Commission Bill

Nigerians In US Commend Senate For Passing Diaspora Commission Bill

Nigerians in the United States have commended the 8th National Assembly for keeping to its promise by passing the Diaspora Commission Bill.

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had vowed during a courtesy visit by the group to the National Assembly last year for the Diaspora day, that his leadership would ensure the bill is passed without further delay.

Persistently, Nigerians in the Diaspora have been contributing money in billions and other resources home to assist the Federal Government boosting the nation’s economy with available statistics showing over 35 Billion dollars was remitted last year

While lauding the Senate for the quick passage of the bill, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) Attorney, Samuel Adewusi, said the bill would provide for legitimate budget item to address Diaspora issues with seriousness and engagement of Nigerians in diaspora in the policies, projects and participation in the development of Nigeria.

Mr. Adewusi, in a statement made available to reporters on Friday, specifically added that the bill would also go a long way in boosting the economic growth of Nigeria, considering the huge amount remitted by Nigerians every year.

“Congratulations to the 8th Senate under the leadership of Distinguished Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Senator Rose Oko – Chairman Senate Committee on Diaspora & Civil Society –  for passing the Diaspora Commission Bill as promised.

“The efforts by the NIDO Worldwide Leadership should also be appreciated. During its visit to the Joint Plenary Session in February 2016, this is one of the major requests that were tabled to the Senate and the House.

“Much appreciation to all those involved in the past and present, such as Hon. Rita Orji, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, prior NIDO leadership, and our friends in the 8th National Assembly such as  Bamikole Omishore and many more,” said Attorney Adewusi.

He, however, assured that NIDO would continue to contribute its quota to the development of the country and calls on lawmakers to also immediately start working on the Bill to allow Nigerians in Diaspora to Vote in the next general election.

The bill is expected to be forwarded to Mr President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.

END

Signed

Media Office of the Senate President

Two-year Observance of The Abduction of Chibok School Girls.

#BringBackOurGirls

Two-year Observance of The Abduction of Chibok School Girls.

Today, the Senate passed a motion on the two year observance of the abduction of the 276 Chibok School Girls that were taken at gunpoint from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2012.

This abominable event, unforgettable in its own right – as one of the greatest mass abductions of young people in the history of the world – marked a crucial turning point in Nigeria’s war against the terrorist group Boko Haram. This is because since this episode came to light, the world began to pay attention to our collective struggle as a nation against radical insurgency.

Since then, many of us have rallied and campaigned in every way that we know how, and demanded as one nation that our young daughters and sisters be returned back to us safe and unscathed.

To aid in these efforts, we in the National Assembly have worked to empower our men and women in uniform by appropriating funds to ensure that they are properly equipped in their battles on the front lines. Because of this, since this administration took office nearly a year ago, we have recorded significant successes in our efforts to reclaim once-lost territory. To put it simply, our formidable armed forces have taken back large swarths of Nigerian territory that were once under Boko Haram control.

Nonetheless, more needs to be done to ensure that the communities affected by Boko Haram are resuscitated and rebuilt. Yet still, even more needs to be done to guarantee that never again in this history of our nation will we experience a tragedy like this.

Moving forward, to address the plight of the North East, the Senate will work expeditiously on the passage of the North East Development Commission (NEDC), that is aimed at restoring the livelihoods of our millions of internally displaced people (IDPs), and putting back our more than 10.5 million school-age children that are out of the classroom back in schools.

To aid the capabilities of our security agencies to combat terrorism in all its forms, laws like the Biometric Identification bill – which have passed second reading, will be fast-tracked to ensure that the Nigerian police and other relevant agencies have a robust crime and criminal tracking system that will enhance our national security and counter-terrorism efforts through the automation of criminal records with biometric identification data.

As we work to put the legislative frameworks in place to ensure that occurrences like the abduction of our Chibok Girls remains a thing of the past, the executive must treat the return of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls and all other Nigerians that have been kidnapped by Boko Haram as an outright priority. We owe it to ourselves as a nation, and to their families to bring all our abducted countrymen and women home.

It is clear that with the pace that this government is going, this insurgency will be tackled once and for all. However, governments across all levels in the federation must work together to secure our young population. In this regard, solid security structures must also be put in place to guarantee that when our children leave their homes to get an education, they are safe and secure.

On our part, the Senate will continue to dig-up and work on the review of our existing laws that address counter-terrorism and security. As I have stated at different times, the work of nation building requires our collective effort. In a similar vein, the task of bringing back our girls requires our unconquerable resolve to do so.

Therefore, as we remember our abducted girls and our mission to ensure their safe return, we must not equivocate and we must not relent. Nigeria must not forget her daughters.

By Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki
President of The Senate

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

81 SENATORS PASS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE ON SARAKI

81 SENATORS PASS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE ON SARAKI

The Senate on Tuesday passed a Vote of Confidence on Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki’s presidency, putting to bed insinuations in some quarters that it is divided.

The motion, which was moved by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Imo east), had a wide range of support base and acceptance of majority of the Senate, as 81 Senators supported the motion.

The passage of the Vote of Confidence on Saraki’s leadership as President of the Senate has effectively laid to rest insinuations of rancour among the Senators, who are said to be displeased with the Senate President.

It would be recalled that Saraki emerged President of the 8th Senate entirely on the goodwill of majority of the Senators who voted for him as their preferred choice against the wish of some party leader.

However, with the latest development, those rumours and insinuations of a divided Senate can be said to be over, as an overwhelming majority voted to pass the motion of a Vote of Confidence on his leadership.

Senate President, Dr Saraki in a welcome speech charged Senators to jettison any act of politicking that is capable of distracting them from the core business of governance and delivering change to their constituents.

Saraki was quoted as saying “Nigerians did not give us our mandate to come and pursue leadership, their mandate was for us to pursue governance and bring solutions to their burning issues.” also went ahead to say leadership is secondary to our primary responsibility of good governance.

Best Regards,

Banks

SAHARA REPORTERS AND ITS SMEAR CAMPAIGN AGAINST SARAKI

SAHARA REPORTERS AND ITS SMEAR CAMPAIGN AGAINST SARAKI

Attention of the Senate President’s media office has been drawn to a malicious fabrication by an on-line publication (Sahara Reporters) aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

First, as a Senator in the 7th National Assembly, the Senate President Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki never signed the report of the Ahmed Makarfi led Finance Committee investigation into the alleged non-Remittance by NNPC of $20 into the federation account. In his letter dated 3rd of June 2014 to the Committee withholding his signature he said and I quote  “It is my opinion that this report as laid has not fully addressed the matter referred to us adequately and conclusively. The report has not been definitive on its findings and has failed to address some of the critical issues I had raised during our meetings. For this reason; I am withholding my support and signature.”

The records of the committee are still accessible in the National Assembly and a copy is here attached.

Secondly, It is still on record that Senator Saraki is the only Senator in the committee that refused to sign the report even in the face of severe duress and personal inconvenience. Sen. Saraki during the investigation was known to have been very probing with his questions, meticulously reviewing the data offered by NNPC to get to the bottom of the issue. It would be recalled that though he did not make the last meeting of the committee, when the news broke that the Committee has cleared the NNPC, he was the first and the only senator to rebut the report saying “the recent media reports claiming that the Senate Committee on Finance has cleared NNPC of any unaccounted revenue fund are not true… I have been very active in the investigation, nothing significant has changed to suggest clearing of anyone”. See Thisday Newspapers of the 29th of May 2014 and also a web link http://leadership.ng/news/380803/unremitted-49-8bn-oil-revenue-saraki-denies-signing-report

The newspapers publications relating to this is all over the print and electronic media for all who want to find the truth. How is it then likely that he could have cut a deal with government on this matter and maintained such resolute stands? Only in the world of the fabricators of this report is this possible.

Thirdly, it is evident that Senator Saraki’ commitment to see that the missing funds are found and paid back into the Federation Account was never in doubt from day one. It would be recalled that Senator Saraki during this investigation had gone out of his way to collaborate with the IHS Information Analytics Expertise and MJHC Limited London two renowned international organisations with specialty on oil financials to do further forensic review on this matter also underscore the length at which he left no stone unturned to help the committee unravel the mystery surrounding the missing funds.

Also, Sen. Saraki never met with Jonathan on this report (committee met last on the 16th of February 2014). So the thought of Senator Saraki working to bring down the number or amount unremitted with Goodluck Jonathan  is completely false. For the avoidance of doubt, there has been no meeting of any type between  Senator Saraki and former President Jonathan since the Senator left PDP. So any suggestion that Ex-president Jonathan sent Chagoury to Senator Saraki with gifts /money to seek support from him on the report is totally false. Both the Sarakis and Chagourys have been family friends for over 26years.

We hereby request the general public to disregard the antics of Sahara Reporters. We further call on Sahara Reports to immediately retract this offending publication and offer an unequivocal apology to His Excellency Senator Saraki, the National Assembly and the citizenry of Nigeria for this unprovoked, reckless and mindless publication.

The Media Office of the Senate President hereby uses this opportunity to put it on record that the posts by Sahara Reporters are completely false with no iota of truth whatsoever. We also challenge Sahara Reporters to either post facts or any documentation with proof or desist from misleading the reading public with dirty works of fiction apparently commissioned by some politicians in an attempt to destabilize the legislative arm of government and the country as a whole.

It is obvious that Sahara Reporters in the last one month has no interest in other stories other than to fabricate fallacies and falsehood against the person of the Senate President and members of his family. While we are aware that the online publication is only doing the bidding of its sponsors and simply joining forces with political detractors who after failing to achieve their partisan aims believe that all is fair in war, we believe that journalism is a public trust and those who hold the trust should, even under extreme circumstance, refrain from abusing the trust. We therefore call on fellow citizens and all members of the international community to treat the Sahara Reporters’ publication as what they are: mere falsehood not to be accorded any measure of importance.

Signed

Bamikole Omishore

Special Assistant (New Media to Senate President)

CLICK BELOW TO VIEW THE REPORT

NNPC REPORT

SENATE: MOVING ON TO ECONOMIC ISSUES

SENATE: MOVING ON TO ECONOMIC ISSUES
Source: The Sun
By Yusuf Olaniyonu
Sunday July 12, 2015
Though the institution is on recess due to the formal suspension of its plenary on June 25 for about a month, but the Sen­ate had lived up to the promise made by its President, DR ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI that the members will continue to carry out differ­ent assignments and that plenary will resume anytime there is an urgent issue of national im­portance.

In the last one week or so, the Senate has fo­cused on gathering necessary facts and figures aimed at preparing members to deal with issues bordering on how to revive the nation’s ailing economy. In groups of 15 to 20 members, SENATOR SARAKI had gathered his colleagues to sit down with managers of the economy and the leadership of one of the anti-corruption agency to review the situation of the national economy, present efforts being made to save the country from the exter­nal and internal forces which struggle to keep the economy prostrate and discussing areas of pos­sible legislative intervention to further solidify the plans.

First to brief the Senators last week on July 2 is the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), an agency assigned the responsibility of collecting taxes, duties and levies on behalf of the Federal Government. Led by its chairman, Mr. Samuel Odugbesan, the agency congratulated SARAKI on his success at the general election and his sub­sequent emergence as Primus inter pares in the Senate. Odugbesan further said that the price of oil which is the nation’s main income earner has been on the downward slide.

He said: “Oil and gas which is key to the econ­omy has not been doing too well and this is as a result of many factors which are completely out of our control. The price of oil in the international market we all know has continued on the down­ward slide. Although in the last three months, it started gathering some momentum. As at today, I think it is average $59 and $62 but the average we have computed is about $59 and that is what is obtainable today.”

According to him, what is within the purview of the agency is to intervene to shore up the re­ceipts from the non-oil sector. “As at the end of June, we have not actually got the total figures for June yet. It just ended yesterday and JP Morgan that is assisting the Federal Government to collect foreign components of our collection will still be giving us a report even a week after the closure of the month. But so far, we will say that Pe­troleum Profit Tax has given us N697.07bn for the first six months, that could go up a little bit. For the non-oil component, you have conflict­ing contracts which has brought in N778bn be­tween January and June and Valued Added Tax N376billion”, Odugbesan said.

The essence of the briefing by the FIRS chief is to provide the Senate a detail explanation on why the revenue receipts into the federation ac­count is falling. Again, the Senate had the op­portunity to cross-fertilise ideas with the agency and decide on what the legislature need to do in support of efforts to block the loophole and shore up the revenue.

SARAKI in his address advocated for greater focus on tax collection to boost the nation’s revenue in view of the dwindling receipt from oil. He added that an efficient tax collection sys­tem in the country is sine qua non to the much needed economic revival at this time. The Sen­ate President said an effective tax regime will not only help revive the economy but will help the government to fund its various development programmes and redistribute wealth among the various strata of the society.

The Senate President said the FIRS should come up with proposed laws and recommenda­tions that can help to boost their operation in the area of adequate and efficient tax collection.

“The FIRS is one of the agencies that have requested to interact with the Senate and to show the importance that the 8th Senate places on per­formance. We decided to meet you as quickly as possible because we know that our country’s dependence on oil as a large source of revenue is very fragile and it cannot be a way forward for a country like us. You have seen it even by your own presentation. The way forward for our country is really to look at the area of our taxes, because it is more stable, reliable and not depen­dent on other issues outside the country.

“As you know today, tax is only about six per cent of our Gross Domestic Product, GDP, which is scored low compared to other coun­tries that are doing about 20 per cent. So, there is a lot of work for us to do. I think the success of our revenue going forward will depend on you as the Chairman and your team and that is the blunt truth. If we are going to be depending on the fluctuating fortune from oil, then, we are not planning for the future but we need to plan first on the non-oil revenue sector. I am happy you (FIRS boss) are a new person coming in, you have an opportunity to think out of the box, be creative and turn around things in the FIRS.

“I hope that we will be able to partner to­gether. We must ensure that everybody begins to pay the right taxes. When we talk about fight­ing corruption, it should start by ensuring that everybody pay the taxes that are due, everyone of us must be ready to do that. I know it is not going to be very easy but you can count on our support to make it happen”, SARAKI said.

The Senate President said the National As­sembly would henceforth carry out stringent oversight on the tax agency aside from partner­ing with the FIRS to deliver on increased rev­enue. He said: “For us in the 8th Senate, this is an agency we want to work very closely with and we want to be very stringent on our over­sights because honestly if we do not get it right in the area of taxation, I don’t believe we are going to get it right going forward. If you look at all the challenges before us, if the price of oil is good, we can execute our development policies and programmes but the fluctuation in the prices does not allow us to plan. Our non-oil revenue has to be stable enough to be able to address those issues and I think that is the area we need to work”, he said.

The Senate President added that it was time for the agency to address the concerns being raised by some states about lack of incentives in collecting the Value Added Tax (VAT). He added that some new taxes that were introduced to shore up revenue towards the tail end of the last administration have not yielded required dividends.

“The issue we have today is how can we expand the net, how can we ensure that every­body is paying taxes and not saying that you are imposing charges that will just make headlines. That is not going to take us anywhere. Let us ad­dress how do you for example improve on com­pany income taxes. You see a lot of companies today, when you look at their foreign exchange demand, some of them are bidding for $200 to $300 billion, yet they say they are mak­ing zero profit”, he said.

SARAKI directed the FIRS manage­ment to send a proposal to the Senate on areas where they need legislative sup­port to strengthen their operations and make them more effective and efficient in revenue collection and enforcement of relevant laws.

The next agency to be received by the Senate leadership is the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). The sequence of the visits suggested that after being briefed by a revenue collec­tion agency, the Senate in its determina­tion to also block leakages that seem to drain the revenue and prevent it from be­ing channelled into projects, policies and programmes that will improve the stan­dard of living of the general populace shifted attention to the anti-graft agency.

ICPC boss, Mr. Ekpo Nta in his sub­mission to the Senate President and the other Senators said tackling corruption requires that the substructures that sup­port corruption in the system be ad­dressed before going after the “symp­toms of corruption.”

“Public officers have been put through a lot of destabilization during the changes. They have not had pen­sions paid and all these had accumulated to the point where they have to resort to self help. We discovered that if the civil service is working optimally and the shortcomings are addressed, the issue of corruption would be made unattractive”, he said.

The Senate President however prom­ised that the Senate will support the anti-graft body in combating the menace which has kept the nation down for so long. He said the Eight Senate which he is leading is totally committed to the zero tolerance for corruption position of the Buhari administration and that he and his colleagues would do everything to make the job of the anti-graft agencies easy and successful.

The Senate President also said most of the present problems confronting the country were a direct fall-out of the monumental corrup­tion in the system. He added that corruption in the land has almost reached a crisis point hence the need for bet­ter collaboration by all na­tional institutions to reduce it to the barest minimum, if not totally eradicate it.

“It is important for us to meet with you, to let you ap­preciate where we stand on the issue of corruption and to also listen to you for us to know some of the issues that are challenging to you because the ICPC, EFCC and Code of Conduct Bureau remain the most vital institu­tions in the fight that we are waging against corruption today.

We want to make the anti-graft war a priority for the Senate because we be­lieve that it has got to a stage where it is truly endangering the entire system and some of the symptoms that we are seeing in the areas where it is affecting our national devel­opment is becoming more and more clearer to all of us.

“The message we want you to take away today is that the 8th Senate is ready to work with you. The 8th Sen­ate is not going to provide any safe haven for anybody. The 8th Senate wants to work very closely with Mr. Presi­dent on this very issue and I am sure with the political will, both on the part of the executive and the legislative and the agencies, we might not be able to eradicate it completely, but we can bring corruption to a level that as a country, we can be proud of. I am very committed on this and so are a lot of my colleagues here. The party is over. Everybody needs to know that we need to sing a new song because without it, we have all seen that we are getting into a crisis and we need to admit it,” SARAKI said.

He noted that the cost of corruption in our national life goes beyond financial cost and that corruption has mani­fested in the inability of state governments to pay monthly salaries. “We are seeing it in the state of our schools, the impact on our education. We are seeing it in the state of our health institutions and the impact on maternal and child mortality. We are see­ing it in the ever increasing cost of governance, failure of public institutions and in­frastructures. When we all went round to campaign, one of the promises we made to Nigerians was that we have to fight corruption and as people elected by Nigerians, we must fulfill that promise and we have taken it upon ourselves that one of the de­liverables of the new dispen­sation is to bring an end to corruption”, he said.

“For the 8th Senate, mak­ing corruption a priority is a must and we are committed to that and our goal is to work with you, the EFCC and the Code of Conduct Tribunal to reduce significantly the level of corruption in our system. When a government gets to a stage that it cannot meet its obligations, then we know we are getting into a crisis and that crisis also requires dras­tic actions. If we are pussy-footing before, it is now time for us to be serious.”

Then the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) took its turn with the Upper Chamber of the legislative house. Its Governor, Mr. Godwin Eme­fiele told the Senate that the CBN has continued to initi­ate measures to strengthen the economy and reposition the country for the next phase of growth and development. While outlining the measures taken so far, he said notwith­standing the shocks the global economy has witnessed, the nation’s economic fundamen­tals remain strong.

“Let me reiterate that with inflation at single digit, ex­change rate relatively stable and our reserves gradually rising from blocked leakages, our economic fundamentals remain strong. Going for­ward, the CBN will continue to be vigilant in the market to ensure that there is zero toler­ance for speculators and rent seekers.

“Nigeria’s foreign reserves remain our common wealth and we must all strive to work together to protect it and prevent speculators and rent seekers from plunging it. We will continue to find ways to rebuild our reserves and where possible accelerate ef­forts aimed at improving ag­gregate supply potentials of the economy. In this effort, I strongly crave the support of the leadership of the Senate as we march towards achiev­ing a more prosperous and self-sufficient Nigeria”, he said

SARAKI in his response directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to en­sure the urgent recovery of the N30billion which was the cost of waivers illegally granted to some category of importers, particularly those who trade in rice, chicken, palm oil, palm ker­nel, vegetable oil, poultry products, fish, tomatoes and textiles The Senate President said the measures were nec­essary to block all avenue through which the nation is losing revenue while the government’s banker also needs to champion the diver­sification of the economy in line with the agenda of Presi­dent Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. “I believe the recent policies you initi­ated on some selected items are good steps that will help our economy. But one of the observations you also made was that CBN alone cannot make the policies to work. We, in the Senate, are ready to give the right signals that will help the success of these policies. For example, you brought to our notice some of the waivers and taxes, waivers on import duties especially on rice close to N30billion that was given to some companies which must be repaid to the Federal Gov­ernment.

SARAKI said the policies of the CBN towards resus­citating the economy which Emefiele presented to the Senate can only succeed if smuggling is eradicated.

The signal therefore from the Senate and Its leader, SARAKI, is that there will be no quiet moment. No time to relax. There is so much to be done and the earlier the senior legislators settle down to the onerous task for which they are elected, the better for our country

“LIES SPONSORED AGAINST ME WON’T CHANGE MY FOCtUS TO DELIVER” ~ SEN. @BUKOLASARKIr

“LIES SPONSORED AGAINST ME WON’T CHANGE MY FOCtUS TO DELIVER” ~ SEN. @BUKOLASARKI

Senate President, Saraki on Friday reassured Nigerians to deliver on his mandate in making sound legislations that will impact their lives for good, while stressing that the many lies sponsored against his person will not change his focus.

He made the remark on his Twitter handle in reaction to activities of some undisclosed online platforms which he accused of being sponsored by mischief makers.

The tweets reads: I’m aware of activities of certain online platforms being sponsored by mischief makers to post all sorts of negative lies against me.
 
“The lies will not change my focus to deliver on my mandate, which is to ensure legislation that will directly impact the lives of Nigerians.
 
“No matter the pressure, no special interest group can blackmail #8thSenate to do their bidding. I am accountable only to Nigerians.”

Source:- kwara247