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Constitution Review: Speaker Abbas Says Implementing Comprehensive Electoral Reforms Will Be Considered

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By Gloria Ikibah
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Tajudeen Abbas has said that in the review ofthe 1999 Constitution (As Amended), critical areas to be considered include implementing comprehensive electoral reforms to address the gaps identified in the aftermath of the 2023 general elections, strengthening the enforceability of legislative instruments; and institutional strengthening for greater accountability, among others.
Speaker Abbas who stated this at the inauguration of the House Committee on Constitution Review and Citizen Engagement organised by the House Committee on the Review of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) on Monday in Abuja, noted that these areas are crucial for reinforcing the democracy and ensuring that the governance structure meets the needs and aspirations of all Nigerians.
He explained that several Bills have already been introduced in both the Senate and House, on some of these important issues.
He said: “We expect the Sixth Alteration under this Tenth National Assembly to be the most comprehensive yet. As such, the task before the Constitution Review Committee is profound. The House Agenda is ambitious in its scope and encompasses wide-ranging issues pivotal to our national growth.
“Among these are: devolution of powers, including state policing; enhancement of fiscal federalism through local government autonomy; further decongesting the Exclusive Legislative List; recognising and assigning constitutional roles for traditional institutions; and promoting inclusivity, particularly greater gender equity and women representation into appointive and elective positions.
“Regarding the latter, I implore this Committee to align its work with the Legislative Agenda. I urge you to revisit the issue of additional or reserved seats for women across legislative bodies, twinning in joint tickets and conferring citizenship on foreigners married to Nigerian women.
He highlighted that “since the inception of the Fourth Republic, the Constitution has been subjected to five alterations with landmark changes that have strengthened the democratic institutions, federalism and governance generally.
“Under the 9th Assembly, the Fifth Alteration made some of the most far-reaching amendments. It clarified and reinforced financial autonomy for State Houses of Assembly and Judiciary, decongested the Executive List, defined guidelines for the First Session and Inauguration of Members-Elect of the National and State Houses of Assembly, and deleted reference to the provisions of the Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Act, Criminal Procedure Code or Evidence Act, among others. All these made the Fifth Alteration the most extensive since 1999.
“We expect the Sixth Alteration under this Tenth National Assembly to be the most comprehensive yet. As such, the task before the Constitution Review Committee is profound. The House Agenda is ambitious in its scope and encompasses wide-ranging issues pivotal to our national growth.
“However, in making recommendations and proposals that potentially have far-reaching impacts (such as state police), I strongly recommend that we adopt a scientific approach grounded in empirical evidence rather than ideology, personal beliefs, or political expediency. I also challenge us to go beyond traditional and generic prescriptions and explore gradualism in law making with the understanding that social change can be achieved in small, discrete increments rather than in abrupt strokes or grand solutions. This gradual process will allow us to pilot innovative solutions, engage in meaningful experimentation, and gather concrete data and facts to inform our decisions.
“Also, this approach ensures that reforms are not only effective but also adapted to the unique needs and challenges of our great nation. Through this careful and considered process, we can achieve sustainable and impactful changes for the good of our country and all Nigerians”, he noted.
Speaker Abbas revealed that the methodology to be employed by the Committee will emphasise inclusivity, transparency, and collaboration even as he assured that the House will work closely with the Executive arm (both at the Federal and sub-national levels).
“This partnership stems from recognising their pivotal role in governance, ensuring that our review process is comprehensive and considers the practical aspects of implementation. Equally, the process will involve State Houses of Assembly to foster consensus and expedite adoption by States. But more importantly, the process will be deeply rooted in engaging with the Nigerian people at all levels, including traditional and religious institutions, pressure groups and trade unions, ethno-religious organisations, the diaspora community and much more.
 “As we embark on the essential task of Constitutional review, the House has adopted a strategy of timely commencement. This proactive approach is designed to ensure thorough engagement and deliberation. By starting early, we aim to facilitate a comprehensive review process, allowing ample time for robust public engagement, detailed analysis, and thoughtful consideration of proposals for amendments. This approach also ensures that the review is concluded in good time and avoids some of the setbacks experienced in the past occasioned by late commencement”, Abass added.
The Speaker urged all members and Nigerians to approach the process with an open mind and spirit of patriotism, adding that the constitutional amendment process is both costly and laden with contentious issues, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges.
“It is an opportunity to address the pressing issues that have emerged in our polity, to close gaps in our legal system, and to strengthen the foundations of our democracy. As such, I urge all members of the Committee on Constitution Review, and indeed all Nigerians, to approach this exercise with an open mind, a spirit of patriotism, and a commitment to the greater good. Our goal should not be to win arguments but to build consensus, to not just amend laws but to forge a more unified, just, and prosperous Nigeria”.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Deputy Speaker of the House and Chairman of the CRC, Rep. Benjamin Kalu, called on Nigerians to advocate tirelessly for change, holding elected representatives accountable and demand accountability at every turn.
He assured that the committee will work diligently to deliver on its assignment within the next 24 months, and will wholeheartedly seek the cooperation and support of all Nigerians.
According to Kalu, the Constitution Review Committee of the 10th National Assembly stands ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
He added that leveraging the power of technology, social media, and inclusive
engagement, will ensure that every voice is heard, every perspective is considered, and every citizen is empowered to participate in shaping the nation’s future
He said: “Today marks an important moment in the history of our great nation as we convene for the Inauguration and Citizen’s Engagement of the House of
Representatives Committee on the Review of the Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“Our constitution, the foundation of our democracy, stands as a testament to
our collective aspirations for a just, equitable, and prosperous society. Yet,
as we confront the realities of the 21st century, it is incumbent upon us to
recognize the imperative for constitutional reform, to ensure that our laws reflect our people’s evolving needs and aspirations.
“As James Madison, the “Father of the American Constitution,” once
eloquently stated, “The Constitution of a Republic … ought to contain within
itself provisions for its own improvement as time and circumstance may
require.” Heeding this wisdom, we must embark on this reform journey with
open minds and hearts, acknowledging the dynamic nature of our society
and the need for our governing document to adapt accordingly.
“As we gather here today, it is important to highlight the areas that are
currently at the forefront based on the bill proposals we have received so
far – some of them include the establishment of state police; state access to mines; increased participation of women in politics; clear specification of the taxes/levies to be collected by each tier of government and the provision for the office of the Mayor of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja.
He disclosed that several bill proposals that were passed during the Fifth Constitution alterations but did not make the President’s assent have been brought back.
These bills include “Powers to the National Assembly and State Assemblies to Summon the President and State governors, and Requirements of the Government to Direct Policies Towards Ensuring the Rights to Food and Food Security.
“This highlights the dynamic nature of the constitution review process and
its salientness to the democratic strengthening of the country.
“It is important to reiterate that we are willing to accommodate more proposals to enhance our Constitution and strengthen our democracy. In addition, we await executive-sponsored bill proposals that reflect issues on the renewed hope agenda of Mr President.
“It is also important to note the amendments to the constitution carried out by previous assemblies, which include but are not limited to the financial independence of State Houses of Assembly and State Judiciary; redesignating “Prisons” as “Correctional Services” and then transferring them from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list to enable the state’s participation.
“Others include  transferring “railways” from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list; enabling states to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity in areas covered by the national grid; and requiring the President and Governors to submit the names of persons nominated as Ministers or Commissioners within sixty days of taking the oath of office for confirmation by the Senate or State House of Assembly
“We particularly saw this come into action when President Bola Ahmed
Tinubu submitted his ministerial list two days before the deadline on
Thursday, the 27th of July in 2023.
As we move forward, states should commence domestication of these
amendments to generate the required results and propel Nigeria towards a
brighter future.
“Thus, the call to action is clear, and the pathway forward is illuminated by
the principles of dialogue, advocacy, participation, unity, and inclusivity.
“Let us heed the voices of our fellow citizens, from all walks of life, and engage in open, inclusive, and transparent dialogue on constitutional reform. Let us bridge divides, build consensus, and forge a common vision for the future
of Nigeria.
“Participation is not merely a right; it is a sacred duty bestowed upon us as
citizens of this great nation. I call upon every one of you to actively participate in the constitutional reform process, to lend your voices, ideas, and expertise to craft a constitution that reflects the values and aspirations of all Nigerians”.
Naijablitznews.com reports that the 45-member committee is comprising one member from each of the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.
The committee is chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu, while the House Leader, Hon. (Prof) Julius Ihonvbere, is the Committee’s Deputy Chairman. To ensure greater inclusion, the Committee will also have six (6) additional women, one from each of the six geo-political zones. Furthermore, the House Zonal Caucus Leaders have been co-opted in an advisory capacity to advise the Committee on issues relating to their respective zones. Lastly, the Committee’s secretariat will also include a representative of people living with disabilities to ensure that their concerns are properly accommodated.
The mandate of the Committee is to receive and consider proposals for alteration of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), create a forum for stakeholders and the public to make inputs into the review process and collaborate with the Senate and the State Houses of Assembly as required by law.
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You have given a lease of life to FCT,” Tinubu hails Wike for sterling infrastructure deployment

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

President Bola Tinubu hailed the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, for restoring life to the nation’s Federal Capital Territory.

President Tinubu, who spoke on Tuesday when he inaugurated the Southern Parkway from Christian Centre to Ring Road One, a project that started 13 years ago, also said completion of the project was a mark of his commitment to inclusive and sustainable development.

The President, who headed to the inauguration site on arrival from Lagos, identified that the newly inaugurated road, which the FCT administration named after him, would not only ease traffic congestion, but also enhance mobility and creativity for the residents and visitors to city.

“But transformative projects you are seeing, I heard from his remark that this project could have been an abandoned project for 13 years, scratching the surface. Once again, our dear landlord, Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, thank you for bringing life back to our Federal Capital Territory.

I understand the Southern Parkway not only represents a physical artery that connects vital areas within FCT, but also symbolises our collective aspirations for connectivity, ease of livelihood, accessibility and progress.

“By providing a seamless and efficient transportation corridor, this road will not only ease traffic congestion, but also enhanced mobility and creativity for the residents and visitors to FCT.

“The completion of the Southern Parkway underscores our, as we strive to build a world-class capital city. We recognise the fact that infrastructure is an enabler of jobs, economic development and prosperity. We believe we are going to achieve all of that.

“The needs of our citizens is paramount in our minds, so for making our citizens the central focus of our development, we believe Nigeria will succeed. As we formally inaugurate this road, I am greatly honoured, I heard him mentioning my name as the beneficiary. Thank you very much; thank you for being a very good team leader, we all collectively will not let you down,” the President said.

He lauded the FCT Minister, Wike, for his vision and hard work, which he said had effected changes, both structurally and administratively, to the capital and has inspired many citizens.

“I must recognise your vision that is revolutionary and very inspiring to many of our people. The changes you made to the FCT – structural and administrative – is yielding results and elevating the heart of many Nigerians, thank you very much.

“Today, we are here to mark a significant milestone in the journey of our nation towards progress and development. As we commemorate our first year in office when I was inaugurated as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is a great joy and challenge that we have a huge job on our…, “ he said.

Wike said the projects had dragged on for several years.

However, he said the coming of the current administration and President’s unflinching support had led to the completion of the project amongst others, that are ready for inauguration.

He said the FCTA and the FCT Residents appreciated Tinubu’s support and laudable achievements.

He said: “It is in this regard and for many other patriotic persuasions that the FCT Administration hereby humbly resolved that this very important road be named the “BOLA AHMED TINUBU WAY”.

The Minister said the Southern Parkway was one of the principal arteries conceived and planned as a freeway to provide access and connectivity to the Southern development flank of the city as provided in the Abuja Master Plan.

He said other principal artery was the Northern Parkway which had been substantially developed over the years to service the Northern districts.

According to Wike: “Southern Parkway at par with the Northern Parkway, this project which was awarded in December, 2010 to Messrs Setraco Nig. Ltd. at the contract sum of N16,234,553,335.64 (Sixteen billion, Two Hundred and Thirty-Four Million, Five Hundred and Fifty-Three Thousand, Three Hundred and Thirty-Five Naira, Sixty Four Kobo).

“Later it was revised to N35,757,763,310.18 (Thirty-Five Billion, Seven Hundred and Fifty-Seven Million, Seven Hundred and Six-Three Thousand, Three Hundred and Ten Naira, Eighteen Kobo) in March, 2021 due to changes in scope and other economic indices.

“The scope of work comprised the construction of 5.4km length of the road – made up of 2 main carriageways of 4 lanes each and 2 service carriageways of 2 lanes each, making a total of 12 lanes.

“It also includes the construction of 4 number Interchanges (a total of 8 bridges) in addition to the provision of associated underground engineering infrastructure facilities.

“I am happy to further inform your Excellency that the project is now completed in line with the “Renewed Hope Agenda” of Mr. President. The completion of the project will indeed enhance traffic circulation around the City Centre thereby reducing delays in travel time; complementing the developed portion of the Northern Parkway by easing the traffic congestion experienced in the Southern Districts of Garki, Gudu, and Durumi as well as accelerating the development of the Southern axis of the city in general, thereby bringing improved socio-economic benefits to residents and visitors to the city.

“Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on assumption of office in August 2023 we were confronted with many uncompleted projects that have dragged on for several years.” [with report by The Nation]

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ASUU Urges FG To Stop Tax Waivers, as Reps Summon First Bank, Others over Non Remittances of Education Tax

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By Gloria Ikibah 
 
 
 
This President Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Victor Osodeke has called on the federal government to immediately stop tax waivers meant to fund tertiary institutions in the country.
 
 
Prof. Osodeke who said this during a public hearing on Monitoring of Collection, utilization and other associated services relating to Education Tax from 2011 – 2022, organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), on Tuesday, blamed the poor funding of tertiary institutions and incessant industrial actions to waivers granted to banks and other private institutions.
 
 
Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Miriam Odinaka Onuoha also directed First Bank of Nigeria and other Banks to appear before it alongside its Tax Consultant to reconcile the Education Tax Computation not remitted to TETFund by the banks between 2011 and 2022.

 

 
 
Rep. Onuoha who gave the directive when some commercial banks appeared before the committee to defend their non-remittance of Education Taxes over the years, said there were disparities between the figures that was in the Bank’s Financial Statements as Provisions for that purpose and what the Bank actually remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
 
 
Upon their admittances of such discrepancies, without any substantial explanation, the Committee therefore summoned the Banks to come along with details of their Tax computations, External Auditors and Tax Consultant along with proofs of remittances by 20th June, 2024. 
 
 
‘The Banks disregarded their own Financial Statement liabilities on Education Tax and made  under remittances’.
 
This followed a motion by Rep. Oluwole Oke who prayed that the banks appeared before the committee with the tax consultants with details of that tax computation on a yearly basis.
 
 
The Chairman said out of the 15 banks invited, about seven were supposed to appear before the committee on Tuesday, while only three of them showed up with three other writing to seek a new date to appear.
 
 
Full list of Banks summoned to appear on the 20th June with the aforementioned documents and persons include, Zenith Bank, Access Bank,  First Bank, United Bank for Africa ( UBA), Sterling Bank, Keystone Bank, FBN Quest Merchant Bank, First Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank, Stanbic Bank , Wema Bank, Eco Bank, Fidelity Bank, Jaiz Bank and Unity Bank. 
 
 
Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Bappa Aliyu Misau had observed that First Bank under remitted its education tax deductions to TETFund, an action which he said was punishable under the law.
 
 
Misau said: “unfortunately, you do not have the year-by-year breakdown but  the available records you submitted in 2011 was N603,801. Then, in 2012, you are owing N301,263,135, in 2013, you have a credit balance of N102,713,615. 
 
 
“Again, in 2014, you had a credit of N2.933, 659, then if you go to 2015, you have N25 million as outstanding, in 2017, N169, 852,600 outstanding, in 2018 you have N98 million outstanding, in 2012, you paid N7.877,451 then in 2020 N148 million credit, in 2021, N269,618,626.6 debit. 
 
 
“Therefore, in 2022, you had N3.748,984, 654.64. Then you add it up, you sum the credit and the debit, you ended up with N3.749,353,260 outstanding. You know there is penalty for Non-Remittance”.
 
 
An Executive Director with First Bank, Bashir Yusuf who represented the bank at the meeting told the lawmakers that between 2011 and 2022, the Bank posted a Profit Before Tax (PBT) of N795,123 billion. 
 
 
When asked to take the figure year by year, the FBN Executive Director said, it was a summary of the presentation, he said, “unfortunately Madam Chair what I have is the summary of the presentation. 
 
 
 
“I crave the indulgence of the committee to take what we shared with the Committee. I prepared the summary for the presentation, so that if there are issues, we can take those issues, especially if there are matters that we need to settle outside the Committee room, our consultants.
 
 
“So, I am very sorry, I don’t have the breakdown by year, but I have the summary over the period. We had the net accessible profits of N28 billion, which is the difference between the allowable and the disallowable expenses on the PBT we posted over the period.
 
 
“In terms of tax liability over the period, we have a tax liability of N5.498 billion. Then, over the periods of the audit by the Committee, that is 2011 to 2022, we had additional assessments. It was on the basis of those assessments conducted between 2014 and 2021 that we had an additional liability of N852 million.
 
 
“So, in terms of total TETFUND Tertiary Education Tax Fund liability and payment, we made a payment of N5.493 billion. 
 
 
 
“And in terms of outstanding liability over the period, we have Nil liability over the period and other subsequent items associated with outstanding liability are also ready”.
 
 
He further stated that there were issues that cannot be resolved at the committee hearing, adding that “what you have are items that are classified as taxable. 
 
 
“We have some differences based on the provision of exemption order that was issued by the President in 2011. That’s why I said some of these issues we will not be able to resolve at this sitting.
 
 
“When the Committee asked the Bank to provide the Exemption Order on Education Tax as it relates to the matter under review, he could not provide any , Furthermore , the Bank already made  provisions in their Financial Statements for same Education Taxes without remittances in those respective years”.
 
 
 
Representatives of ASUU criticizrd the Banks for providing different figures to the Committee after making submissions earlier in January 2024 under Oath. 
 
 
The Union further requested the FIRS to stand-up to their duties on the efficient and honest  tax collection and stop the games playing with the Banks. 
 
 
The Union further commended the Committee for taking up the challenge to expose the fraud and corruption while enforcing compliance in our tax systems by some Corporate gurus despite their huge profits, yet unwilling to pay necessary taxes in support of Education to help the sector grow and the development of the Country human capital.
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JUST IN: Court Stops Police, SSS, Military From Evicting Emir Sanusi

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

The Kano High Court sitting on Miller Road has stopped the police, the State Security Service (SSS) and Nigerian military from evicting the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, who was recently reinstated.

Granting the order, Justice Amina Adamu Aliyu of the Kano High Court also restrained the security agencies from arresting or harassing the emir and his kingmakers.

The judge held “that an order of interim injunction is hereby granted restraining the Respondents either by themselves, their agents, privies, representative, and assigns from further harassing, intimidatin, inviting, arresting and or invading the personal or official residence of the Applicants (Gidan Rumfa); his servants and or any of the Kano Emirate kingmakers of doing such acts that would be capable of interfering with the Applicants’ rights generally in relation to this suit pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

“That an order of interim injunction is hereby granted restraining the Respondents from attempting to hijack, pick, commandeer, confiscate any of twin spear of authority, the Royal Hat of Dabo, the Ostrich-feathered shoes, the knife and sword of the Emir of Kano as well as symbols of authority pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice

“That an order of interim injunction is hereby made restraining the Respondents from taking further steps in connection with the matter or maintaining status quo of staying all action pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

“That it is further ordered that the Respondents are restraining from interfering with the functions, duties of the 1″ Applicant as the Emir of Kano pending the hearing and determination of the mation on notice dated 28 May, 2024.”

The case was filed by the emir alongside the four kingmakers of Kano: Madakin Kano Yusuf Nabahani; Makaman Kano Ibrahim Sarki Abdullahi; Sarkin Bai Mansur Adnan and Sarkin Dawaki Maituta Bello Tuta.

The motion on notice is adjourned to June 13, 2024 for hearing.

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