N1.6tr Not Paid Into Govt Account In 10 Years

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August 26, 2008

N1.6tr Not Paid Into Govt Account In 10 Years – Bankole

Gowon Emakpe

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, has revealed that over N1.6 trillion is missing  from the federation account as the nation’s revenue generating agencies failed to remit the said amount into the account for the last 10 years.

Specifically, he fingered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as one of the culprits even as he stated that only about 10 percent investigation was done before such huge unaccounted public fund was discovered, an indication that more rot might be uncovered in due course.

Despite criticisms against the report of the power probe in some quarters, he said the House would stop at nothing in presenting the said report, stressing that “nothing will stop me from presenting the report of the power probe.”

He regretted that between N16 to N18 billion was spent on power, “yet there is no power,” a scenario he noted would hamper all aspects on development in the country adding, “We must change’ the ways and manners we do things in Nigeria.”

The number one lawmaker in the Lower House, who gave this indication at the opening ceremony of the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), in Abuja yesterday, said that the House has been able to uncover the misdemeanour in the nation’s revenue generating agencies even without the enhancement it would have enjoyed had the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) passed into law.

The legislator used the opportunity to highlight on the importance of the bill as it relates to accountability, transparency and due process.

He, however, did not hide his displeasure regarding the media dishing out “false information” to the public.

Still on the FOI Bill, the Speaker said that the passage of the bill will be much enhanced when the media stops publishing incorrect information, although he used the occasion to assure Nigerians that the bill will definitely scale through.

On the issue of Niger Delta, Bankole wondered why the state Houses of Assembly members in the region are not asking questions concerning how their leaders spend allocations to the area including the 13 percent derivation.

Against this development, the Speaker recalled that the Vice President, the NDDC chairman, the Chief of Defence Staff, IGP among others, are all from the oil-rich zone, yet there is a cry over infrastructural decay.

Also speaking, former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore, expressed displeasure over indiscriminate removal of state Chief Judges and incessant election petitions, saying that such a development cannot help democratic growth.

Belgore, who also condemned the impeachment of state governors by state legislators with less than the constitutionally required number to do so, equally frowned at the appointment of electoral officers by government in power.

In addition, he advocated that INEC should be allowed to make rules that would make it easier for them to conduct elections in the country.

In his opening speech, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua promised to keep faith with his avowed principles of rule of law and due process in his governance.

“My administration shall continue to give the judiciary the necessary supports it needs to continue to function in an independent, impartial and courageous manner,” he said.

The President also said the adoption of a Federal System of government for the country by the founding fathers could not be faulted.

Yar’Adua, represented by the Minister of Justice Chief Michael Aondoakaa, stated this in Abuja at the “Annual Conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA)”.

He said the theme of the conference, “How Federalism Accommodates Diversity and Strengthens the Constitution”, was both topical and relevant for Nigeria at this stage of its “evolution” as a nation.

“Our history as a nation bears out the fact that given the socio-cultural, religious and ethnic diversities of our people, federalism was considered the most effective option.

“It accommodates these differences in a manner that would promote the unity and prosperity of our dear country,” he said.

Yar’Adua commended the NBA for choosing a topic that would address issues that have implications for the future viability and sustainability of the country.

He said the NBA had demonstrated very clearly its patriotism and resolve to be agent of positive social and political transformation in the country.

“The challenge before the present generation of political leaders and the citizenry is to imbibe the appropriate lessons from our constitutional and political history, and use them as instruments to forge a federal structure that is unique to Nigeria,’’ he added.

According to the President, the leaders are determined to translate the ideals of the constitution into practical benefits for Nigerians through positive actions founded on sustainable policies.

He said the task could not be undertaken by the Federal Government alone.

“The states and local governments must equally begin to articulate and implement programmes which add value to the economy.

“Nigeria today has one of the most credible legal systems in the world, characterised by a judiciary which has routinely demonstrated its capacity for independence, as envisaged by the constitution.

“My administration shall continue to give the judiciary the necessary support it needs to continue to function in an independent, impartial and courageous manner.”

The opening ceremony was witnessed by the governors of Lagos, Benue, Katsina, the deputy governor of Delta State and members of the National Assembly.

In her goodwill message, the EFCC Chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri, said the new leadership of the commission would build structure around institutions rather than individual even as she promised not to detain any suspect beyond 48 hours as required by the law.

She assured that the new leadership would be proactive in its investigations not necessarily waiting for petitions and that she would lead grass root based crusade aimed at restoring moral values that frown at criminalities especially economic crimes.

Also speaking, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, said that the nation requires some constitutional amendments, especially in the areas of clear cut powers between federal and state governments. For instance, he noted that federal governments were encroaching into the jurisdictional powers of the state citing instances with tourism, where he noted the federal government has entered into hotel registration.

Meanwhile, members of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) have tasked the incoming executives to tackle the issue of professional misconduct and respect for the rule of law.

The lawyers gave the charge when they met in Abuja for their national convention and election of new officers.

The delegates who spoke to the newsmen urged the incoming leaders to also confront the issue of law reforms in the country head-long.

The week-long convention, which drew about 8,000 lawyers, is expected to elect new officers to pilot the affairs of the Association for the next two years.

The incumbent NBA President, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), is not standing for re-election and the Association might have settled for a consensus presidential candidate.

Chairman of the NBA, Abuja Branch, Mr Olumuyiwa Akinboro implored delegates “to vote wisely for credible candidates” who would take the association “to greater heights.”

A Port-Harcourt based lawyer, Mr Uzor Azuogu urged the incoming officials to ensure that lawyers adhered to the ethics of the profession.

“Aside from focusing on the rule of law, I have discovered that many lawyers still behave lawlessly and the new team should urgently confront that,” he said.

Azuogu also called for action on cases of unemployment or underpayment of young lawyers, saying ” we must ensure that senior lawyers cater for the interests of upcoming lawyers.

Officially recognised by law in 1933, the NBA is the umbrella body of all lawyers admitted to practice law in Nigeria.

With a membership base of about 55,000, it is made up of 88 branches and its secretariat consists of 14 National Officers who are appointed every 2 years.

On his own, President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) enjoined lawyers in the country to be up and doing in their duties, just as he called on the various election petition tribunals to quickly dispose the election petition before them.

Agbakoba said the speedy determination of the election cases becomes necessary so that the public would not “cast aspersions on the judges constituting the panels of the tribunals.”

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