N’Assembly Queries $462m Spent by Military on Helicopters Without Appropriation

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Senate summons Adeosun, Dan- Ali, Emefiele Dogara: It’s stealing to spend money without appropriation
Damilola Oyedele and James Emejo in Abuja

The National Assembly yesterday queried the $462 million spent by the military on helicopters without its appropriation.
It therefore summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and her defence counterpart, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali (rtd), over the issue.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, was also summoned to appear before both chambers of the parliament alongside the ministers.
In the Senate, the summons followed a motion raised by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Imo PDP) who noted that there was no legislative approval for the money, which he said was withdrawn from the Federation Account in March 2018.

Anyanwu said the money was paid to an American firm named Helicopter Techno Flight Helicopters.
Citing section 80 (2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution, Anyanwu said no money can be withdrawn from any public funds, and spent, without recourse to the National Assembly.
“And I know there was no time, there was any request from this Senate, for such withdrawal from the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federation,” Anyanwu said.

Presiding, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, directed the committee to investigate the matter, and report back in one week.
In the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechkwu (PDP, Enugu) in a matter of privilege raised on the floor of the House. said:”I learnt that federal government has breached the privilege of this House by making parliament non-functional.”

According to him, the executive appeared to have taken out the power of the National Assembly to appropriate on expenditure by spending monies without approval.
Okekwuwu said the legislature must assume its responsibility, stressing that “You can’t ensure value for money if you don’t bring it to parliament for approval.

“We have to investigate the veracity and we should be given the explanation.”
In his intervention however, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said it could be seen as stealing, when money is taken from treasury and exported to the United States without approval of parliament.

He consequently referred to the matter to the Committees on Finance and Ethics and Privileges to look into the issue and properly advise the House on whether to investigate the allegations.
Meanwhile, a bill for an Act to amend the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2004 to prohibit and criminalise estimated billing by Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) and provide for compulsory installation of pre-paid meters to all power consumers in Nigeria and for related matters yesterday scaled second reading in the House of Representatives.

The sponsor, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) said the bill has consequential orders criminalising such billings method which many Nigerians considered as extortion – giving the electricity distribution companies (Discos) discretion to unilaterally determine the estimation of electricity bill to be paid by consumers in the event that such consumer does not have pre-paid meter.
He argued that the estimated billing system represented the biggest economic rip off and scam on Nigerians.

He said: “We must protect those we represent,” adding that “consumers have been held to ransome and exploited and this sharp practise must be confronted with sharp legislation.”
He said the so-called estimated billing had gone beyond the concept of margin of error to mean estimated stealing which is currently been practiced by discos.

The lawmaker, who is the Leader of the House therefore, appealed to members to pass the bill as a landmark legislation that’ll sanitise the questionable electricity billing system in the country.
Contributing to the debate, Dogara gave a instance of outrageous estimated billing on his house in Bauchi State which he rarely lives.

Acording to him, his house was billed N80,000 in monthly estimated bill.
“I asked them to disconnect electricity completely,” he said.
Hon. Pally Iriase (APC, Edo) said: “Everyone is under the oppression of PHCN. They don’t want to give meters and when you pay they don’t provide them.”

He said people are daily fleeced by the arbitrary increase in electricity charges.
Hon. Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno) wondered how a small country like Sudan would have prepaid meters installed for all households while it’s still a problem in Nigeria.
“It’s not a rocket science to have prepaid here,” he noted. Dogara, however, said there was need to brainstorm on ways to produce meters in the country.

But, Gbajabiamila, in his intervention clarified that there are currently meters been produced locally but that discos do not allow consumers to buy the meters themselves- adding that metering should be liberalised. However, Gbajabiamila added that the bill would permanently address complaints by constituents across the country who have argued that the unfavorable technical manipulation of the reading pattern of existing pre-paid meters led to incommensurate calculation of purchased electricity credit and electricity consumed by customers. The bill has now been committed to public hearing.

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday also confirmed the nominations of Mr. Tony Ojukwu as the Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and Professor James Momoh, as the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

The confirmations followed the adoption of the recommendations of its Committees on Human Rights, and Power, respectively.
Ekweremadu, in his remarks, charged the appointees to justify the confidence reposed in them by the president.