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Senate rebukes panel for poor oversight of Customs, probes NHRC composition

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Ahmad Lawan: Photo Twitter

The Senate, yesterday, chided its Committee on Customs for poor oversight of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Angered by an attempt by the vice-chairman, Senator Francis Fadaunsi, to commend the panel, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, swiftly ordered him to take his seat.

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The upper legislative chamber stressed that proper checks on revenue-generating agencies like the NCS were key.

The scolding followed the committee chair’s report on the N257 billion 2021 budget for the service.

Conveying the legislature’s displeasure, Lawan stated: “Well, Chairman, I think you need to upscale your oversight of the Customs because this narrative that they could not faithfully implement budget is as a result of insufficient oversight.

“So we need to know this kind of things in good time and you also have to advise them on what is appropriate and legal as far the implementation of the budget is concerned. We are not supposed to be hearing this now. So, increase your oversight.”

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During the consideration of the document, lawmakers pointed out what they regarded as bogus and illegal votes.

Specifically, Senator Sam Egwu (PDP: Ebonyi) objected to the N2 billion allocation for the welfare of retiring officers in addition to their lawful retirement benefits.

Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC: Kebbi), on his part, deplored the N200 million voted for a non-functional aircraft, adding: “It is even more strange that another N100 million was voted for fuelling the same aircraft.”

He also queried the N180 million allocated to fumigation.

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Responding to the queries, Alimikhena explained that the N2 billion was not restricted to officers but all ranks.

The chamber said it approved the budget based on the belief that that the committee would improve on its oversight.

The agency’s income was increased from N1,465,345,719,428 to N1,678,715,061,014.

The appropriation bill included a personnel cost of N99,719,722,681.71, an overhead of N19,530,769,000, and a capital expenditure of N137,933,180,013.

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Other items, which attracted criticisms, consisted of N15.9 billion for vehicles, N3.278 billion for hazard allowance, N1.45 billion for maintenance services, N5.8 billion for boats, N2 billion for the uniform store, N500 million for legal services, N465 million for other services, N200 million for teaching, investigation and book allowance, N200 million for maintenance of aircraft and N100 million for sporting activities.

The rest were N90 million for refreshment, N30 million for honorarium and sitting allowance, N30 million for research, N27million for NYSC members’ allowance, and N5 million for newspapers.

BESIDES, the Red Chamber has launched an investigation into the alleged exclusion of the North East from the composition of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Governing Council.

Curiously, three of the four persons from the northwest geopolitical zone are from Kebbi State.

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Lawan, thereafter, referred the complaint to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions for response in two weeks

Senate Minority Leader Eyinaya Abaribe, who presented the petition on behalf of Femi Falana, had noted: “This petition has to do with the appointment of members of the Governing Council of the NHRC. The summation of the petition is that in constituting the body, no member was from the North East zone.

Three of the four members representing the North West zone are from Kebbi State.”

He said the petitioner wanted the chamber to address the anomaly in the interest “of our national unity and laws as established by this Senate.”

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