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Civil groups protest planned scrapping of Fiscal Commission, MDAs


Want N’Assembly to intervene 

CITING recklessness, some civil society organizations  in Nigeria have called on the National Assembly to call the Executive arm of government to order in its planned scrapping of some government agencies and commissions without first repealing their enabling laws.

Working under the platform of Citizens Wealth Platform (CWP), 24 civil society organizations were particularly concerned that government had ceased to fund such agencies without the required due process.

In a petition to the National Assembly, the Citizens Wealth Platform raised particular queries on government’s decision to scrap the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), which was established to oversee the implementation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to ensure the prudent management of the nation’s resources.

The letter read: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 expressly provides for separation of powers when in S.4, it vests the legislative powers of the federation on  the National Assembly (NASS) while S.5 vests executive powers on the President. 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.

“However, recent events indicate 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 by NASS. The Executive has started taking concrete and far reaching steps to scrap some agencies established by law without first seeking to repeal or amend the laws establishing the Agencies.”

The letter, obtained by The Guardian reads: “By 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 (CME), the CME was instructed 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 Fiscal Responsibility Commission (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 Rationalization of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions.

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

 The letter, signed by Convener, Citizens Wealth Platform, Eze Onyekpere and heads of the other 23 organizations, noted:  “The gravamen of our petition is that the FRC and the other agencies are established by extant acts of the NASS which have not been repealed; neither has there been bills sent to the NASS proposing the repeal of the enabling laws. 

Even the report of the original restructuring 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, amendments of existing laws, etc. Restructuring ought to be done within the confines of the due process of law.”

Wondering the rationale behind the planned scrapping of the FRC , the group recalled that FRC was established to ensure long term macro-economic stability of the national economy, secure greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within a medium term fiscal policy framework and to ensure the promotion and enforcement of the nation’s economic objectives.

The NASS protest letter noted: “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 S.22 and 23 of the FRA) over N336.6billion as operating surplus from scheduled corporations as at the end of 2013.

“It is our request that NASS intervenes and reverses the steps so far taken by the executive to abolish the FRC and other agencies established by law. 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 letter was  also endorsed by Auwwal Musa, Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre; Esther Agbon, Programme Officer, ActionAid Nigeria;Otive Igbuzor, Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development; Lukman Adekunle, Coordinator, Zero Corruption Coalition; Ezenwa Nwagu, Convener, Say No Campaign; Salahudeen Hashum, Programme Coordinator, West African Civil Society Forum; Y.Z Ya’u, ED, Centre for Information Technology and Development; George Hill-Anthony, ED, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group;  Yemi Adamolekun ED, Enough is Enough; Olusegun Onigbinide, 

Others include; Edet Raymond Trustee, Commonwealth of Niger Delta Youths;  Gloria John, Country Director, Centre for International Volunteers for Youth Development; Jaye Gaskia, Director,  Protest to Power Movement; Marcel Obioma, Director, Nigeria Nigeria Youths Organizations, among others. 

The Guardian hadreported mid-February  that based on a Memo from the SGF to the Ministry of Finance to cease funding for the affected agencies in the 2015 budget, the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), a platform that handles the payment of government workers centrally, had suspended the salaries of workers of such agencies.

Following the report,  Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim,  directed the Coordinating Minister for the Economy/ Minister of Finance to immediately restore the salaries of federal government workers affected by the implementation of the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions.

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