Halt Allocation of States Running LGs with Caretaker Committees, Senate Tells FG

*Akpabio advocates separate electoral body for council polls

*Defence takes lion share as Senate releases sectoral allocation in 2024 proposed budget
*NASS passes N27.5tn appropriation bill for second reading

Adedayo Akinwale and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The Senate has urged the federal government to withhold statutory allocation to Local Government (LG) councils whose chief executives and councilors were not democratically elected.
This was just as the abridged version of the fiscal document released by the Senate yesterday, revealed that the Ministry of Defence got the lion share of N1.27 trillion from the 2024 appropriation bill. A copy of the fiscal document was made available to THISDAY in Abuja by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator, Solomon Adeola.

Equally, earlier yesterday, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed for second reading, the 2024 Appropriation Bill laid before the two chambers of the National Assembly by President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday.
The resolution of the red chamber to withhold statutory allocation to LGs whose CEOs were not democratically elected, was sequel to a motion by the Senate Minority Leader, who is representing Benue South Senatorial District, Senator Abba Moro.
Moro’s motion was titled, “Urgent need to halt the erosion of democracy: The dissolution of elected Councils in Benue State.”
The lawmakers in their various contributions, adjusted the scope of the motion by extending the sanctions to other states in the country that had put in place, unelected council executives.

They condemned the arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected local government councils in Benue and other states in Nigeria. The lawmakers urged the governor of Benue State to adhere to his oath of office by obeying the rule of law and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
They also sought to review the governors’ dissolution of the elected councils and constitution of caretaker committees. They specifically advised Governor Hyacinth Alia, a suspended Catholic priest, to reinstate the elected council executive forthwith.
Moro, had in his motion noted that placing caretaker committees to replace elected councilors was an aberration and alien to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
He said Section (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees a system of local government by democratically elected councils.

He argued that the constitutional responsibility of every state was to ensure the existence of local government councils by law.
Moro, however said he was aware that there were subsisting court rulings that had prevented the Governor, the House of Assembly, their agents and privies from tampering with the tenure of the elected councils.
He said, “The Senate is aware that neither the Governor nor the Government of Benue State has appealed the judgments and it is against the grain of the rule of law.”

In his contribution, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, APC, Edo North, said the Supreme Court had pronounced that state governors  do not have power to dissolve elected local government officials.
He said he resisted pressure to dissolve elected officials of the local government when he was a governor. He, however said no fewer than 16 state governors in Nigeria are currently running their respective councils with caretaker committees.
In his contribution, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, (APC, Borno South) described as misnomer, a situation whereby 16 states in the country run their local governments through the caretaker system.

He emphasised that the best the Senate could do was to prevail on the Ministry of Finance, using its oversight powers to stop the release of funds to local government areas operating caretaker committee
He urged the Senate to prevail on the Minister of Finance not to release funds to any unelected local government officials.
Senator Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo North) said the Electoral Act should be amended to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct local government elections.

Buhari’s suggestion was however amended by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who presided over the plenary. Akpabio, frowned at the establishment of multiple federal agencies but advocated the creation of the National Electoral Commission for Local Governments so that governors would no longer have overlapping influence on council polls.

Defence Takes Lion Share as Senate Releases Sectoral Allocation

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence got the lion share of N1.27 trillion from the appropriation bill.
A copy of the fiscal document made available to THISDAY in Abuja, by Adeola, showed that the Ministry of Police Affairs got N869 billion while the Office of the National Security Adviser received N199.7 billion.

The allocation of the country’s security architecture was closely followed by that of
the education sector which got a total sum of N857.3 billion; Health and Social Affairs – N672.3 billion; Ministry of Interior – N362.5 billion; Ministry of Youths – N199.2 billion; and Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation got N100.7 billion.

Others included: the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security which got a whopping N110 billion; the Presidency, N85.4 billion; Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology –  N55.9 billion; and the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation that was allocated N47.3 billion.
Furthermore, the fiscal document showed that while the Ministry of Justice got N48.4 billion; Ministry of Works – N39.3 billion; Ministry of Petroleum Resources – N38.3 billion and the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy was allocated N20.9 billion.

The list also included, Federal Ministry of Art, Culture and Creative Economy – N16.1 billion; Federal Ministry of Finance – N25.5 billion; Industry, Trade and Investment –  N22.3 billion; Labour and Employment – N19.1 billion and the Federal Ministry of Transportation – N18.8 billion.
It also included, Ministry of Steel Development which was allocated – N10.5 billion; Water Resources and Sanitation – N14.8bn; Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission – N13.7 billion and Ministry of the Environment – N32.5 billion.

The appropriation bill also allocated N11.6 billion to the National Population Commission; Sports Development got N11.2 billion; Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation – N10.3 billion and Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning got N13 billion.
The Ministries of Works, Finance, Defence and others got lion shares of the N8.7 trillion capital component of the budget
In the proposed allocations, the Ministry of Works got N521.3 billion, the Federal Ministry of Finance with N519.9 billion, while N308 2 billion was earmarked for Ministry of Defence.

Similarly, the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare got N304.4 billion while Ministry of Education was allocated N265.4 billion in the appropriation bill.
Others were the Ministry of Power that got N264.2 billion, Government owned Entetprises – N820.9 billion, TETFund – N665 billion, Housing and Urban Development – N96.9 billion, Water Resources – N87.7 billion and Police Affairs – N69 billion.
The National Assembly under statutory transfers was allocated N198 billion; Niger Delta Development Commission – N324.8 billion; Universal Basic Education – N251.4 billion; National Judicial Council – N165 billion; North East Development Commission – N126 billion and Basic Health Care Provision Fund got N125.7 billion .

Under Capital Supplementation, Zonal Intervention otherwise called constituency projects for federal lawmakers, N100 billion  was allocated; Special Projects – N108 billion; Contingency ( capital) N200 billion, Aid and Grants funded projects – N685.6 billion; and National Social Investment Programme Agency  was allocated N100 billion.

National Assembly Passes 2024 Appropriation Bill for Second Reading

The Senate yesterday, passed for second reading, the 2024 Appropriation Bill laid before the two chambers of the National Assembly by President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday.

The Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, who presided over the plenary, said the lawmakers would reconvene on December 12.

He said the Committee on Appropriation, chaired by Senator Solomon Adeola, would begin work immediately by drawing a timetable for other panels to interact with agencies under their supervision.

Barau, said the Senate would receive the report of the appropriation panel on December 19.

By the arrangement, the consideration of the appropriation panel report may be considered and passed same day and the Senate likely to adjourned for the Christmas and New Year break immediately.

In their various contributions during the debate on the general principles of the budget, the lawmakers stressed the need to ensure adequate provision for the security, health, education and infrastructure were duly provided for in the N27.5 trillion budget size.

The former President of the Senate in the 9th National Assembly, Senator Ahmad Lawan, and other lawmakers, said attention should be focused on insecurity and power.

Lawan, said the power sector should be properly handled in the budget by providing data support for power.

He said, “The last National Assembly passed the Power Sector Reform Bill at its twilight and it was assented to by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The power sector reform would give us the necessary energy we need through a public-private participation to make power available for our economy to provide growth and development.”

Ruling on the submissions of the lawmakers during the debate, Barau said all the aspects spoken on by his colleagues had been adequately taken care of by the 2024 appropriation bill.

Barau emphasised the importance of the power sector, saying without power, other sectors would not perform optimally.

He urged all the chairmen of committees to factor in all issues raised by the senators in their various reports to the committee on Appropriation.

Meanwhile before it adjourned plenary, the Senate passed the N61, 553, 778, 259.93 billion FCT 2023 supplementary budget after endorsing the joint report of the Senate committee on FCT and the House of Representatives Committee.

Also yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the N27.5 trillion appropriation bill 2024 for second reading.

The House at a special sitting presided over by the Speaker, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, also assured that the budget would be passed before the year runs out.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Appropriation by the Speaker for further legislative action.

The House would on December 4, organise a citizens’ budget townhall on the budget presentation and appropriation process to harness public inputs and opinion.

The House has also resolved to suspend plenary for two weeks to make way for budget defence by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) before relevant House committee.

Also, a joint sitting of relevant Committees of Senate and the House to examine the economic feasibility, allocation and utilisation of funds and sustainability of proposed fiscal policies is scheduled to hold on December 5, 2023.

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