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Senate moves to create alternative budget office



• Rights group tasks N’Assembly on wasteful expenditures

THE Bill for an act to establish an independent National Assembly Budget Research Office (NABRO) scaled second reading at the Senate yesterday.

  Sponsored by the Senate Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, the bill seeks to provide the National Assembly with objective, timely and non-partisan analysis of economic information needed for budget decisions. 

  Meanwhile, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has called on the National Assembly to review and reorganize the 2015 federal budget to rid it of wasteful expenditures. 

   This is coming on the heels of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) condemnation of what it called “the exploitation and extortion of Nigerians by the Power Distribution Companies across the country, especially Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC), despite the poor, erratic and epileptic power supply supplied to consumers.”

  Also, senators under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday cautioned the Federal Government against alleged plan to sack chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the rescheduled elections of March 28 and April 11.

  In his lead debate, Ndoma-Egba said the bill was very important given that the budget office would prepare and present to the National Assembly periodic forecasts of economic trends and alternative fiscal policies.

 “It will also update the National Assembly on the extra-budgetary expenditure incurred as well as appropriated items which were not funded by the government within a financial year”.

He added: “I believe that most of the difficulties we encounter and the disagreements experienced among legislators in the course of Medium Term Expenditure Frame Work/ Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) debate would be minimized if we pass this bill and it becomes law”.

Also speaking, both Senators Sanni Saleh and Danjuma Goje agreed that though President Goodluck Jonathan has the right to suspend Jega, the Constitution is clear on the issue. According to him, Senate has to approve the removal after due process is followed. “Any other means of removing Jega is unconstitutional and would be rejected.

  “Section 157(1) clearly states that the President can only remove Jega with the vote of 2/3 majority of all Senators under whatever guise,” he said.

  Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, who made this known at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, said “We are living in very hard and difficult times; the economic and social fabric of Nigeria is under pressure declining crude oil prices, reduced demand for our major export commodity, continued export of crude petroleum and import of refined products.

  He urged the NASS to use the ‘tooth pick and comb approach’ to review the budget.

CDHR demanded immediate reversal and removal of fixed charges, correct billings of consumer’s consumption, and commencement of equitable distribution of prepaid meters, which many Nigerians have paid for.

  Lagos State Chairman of CDHR, Comrade Buna Isiak staged a protest match from Ikeja bridge to the IKEDC office, Alausa, to register its grievances on the impunity, corrupt practices and what they termed “act of wickedness to the Nigerian masses, aided by the bad and highly corrupt leadership that constituted the position of authority in the country.”

  “Today, CDHR Lagos State branch, having seen the pains of the masses generated by these companies’ inefficiency and ineffectiveness, which has remained the major setback to our economy and decided thereof to mobilise the mass of the people as a test to condemn their act of dishonesty and deception. 

  “In totality we condemn the continuous exploitation and extortion of Nigerians, epileptic powers supply, crazy and high estimated billings, outrageous fixed charges and metre maintenance fees, among others. It is important to note that a legitimate government derive its sovereignty from the strength of the masses,” he said.

  Isiak noted that the CDHR has patiently collated the log of complaints from members of the public and Nigerians as a whole, coupled with its direct experience from various homes from the deliberate exploitation and extortion of Nigerians via poor, erratic and epileptic power supply throughout the nation by IKEDC, Generation Company (GEMCO), Distribution Company (DISCO), and others.   

  He added that this has crumbled the economy of the country and elevated the level of poverty. 

     Said he, “The defunct Nigeria Electric Power Authority (NEPA), saddled with the responsibilities of providing prompt and efficient power supply to the nation, which intended to effect the economy of the country positively and improve the masses welfare transferred its authority to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in the name of more efficient and constant power supply (privatization) and later to their subsidiaries such as IKEDC, GEMCO and DISCO.”

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