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Civil society groups petition Senate over alleged plan to scrap govt agencies



CIVIL Society Organisations (CSOs) have petitioned the Senate, as well as draw its attention to alleged usurpation of powers by the executive arm of government in matters relating to the scrapping of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC).

  The 25 civil society groups include Centre for Social Justice; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre; Action Aid Nigeria; African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development; West African Civil Society Forum; BudgIT; National Association of Nigerian Traders; Centre for Peace Project and Development; and Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution.

  The petition addressed to the President of the Senate, David Mark and circulated to all the members, alleged that the executive arm is in the process of usurping legislative powers without a word of protest or action to stop the clear trespass on legislative powers of the National Assemble (NASS).

  Titled: “Scrapping of Federal Agencies and Commissions Established by Law Without the Approval of the National Assembly,” the CSOs maintained that the executive and legislature are supposed to work together for the good governance of Nigeria and no arm is supposed to usurp the powers and functions of the other according to Sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution.

    Specifically, they pointed out that a letter dated November 13, 2014, from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), addressed to the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, instructed her to ensure that agencies, parastatals and commissions in an attached list cease to receive government funding with effect from the 2015 appropriation. 

  “The list includes the FRC and 12 other agencies. The SGF stated that this was in accordance with the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government parastatals, agencies and commissions. 

  “By a further letter addressed to the minister from the SGF, he clarified that necessary steps are being taken to redeploy the staff to other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.

  “The kernel of our petition is that the FRC and the other agencies are established by extant Acts of NASS, which have not been repealed; neither has there been bills sent to NASS proposing the repeal of the enabling laws. 

  “Even the report of the original Restructuring and Rationalisation Committee headed by Stephen Oronsaye and the ensuing White Paper acknowledged the need for the executive to engage the legislature to effect the restructuring through repeals and amendments of existing laws. Restructuring ought to be done within the confines of the due process of law,” the CSOs noted in the petition.

   “At this time of declining national revenue from oil resources, the FRC needs to be strengthened and tasked to perform its statutory duties rather than being abolished. It is a fact that in its relatively short period of existence, the FRC has recovered (under Section 22 and 23 of the FRA Act) over N336.6 billion as operating surplus from scheduled corporations as at the end of 2013.

“It is our request that NASS intervene and reverse the steps so far taken by the executive to abolish the FRC and other agencies established by law, as these steps of the executive are clearly unconstitutional, illegal and a manifestation of recklessness, which the doctrine of checks and balances empowers NASS to checkmate,” the group said.

  The Guardian had recently reported how the plot to quickly scrap the FRC resulted in fund paucity for the commission’s operations since the last quarter of 2014.

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