The Senate Wednesday adopted a motion asking relevant stakeholders including state Houses of Assembly and the presidency to expedite action on financial autonomy for all the 774 Local Government Councils in the country, frowning on alleged mismanagement of state/local government joint accounts by state governors.
This was a sequel to the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North), over the new financial guidelines issued by Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) on Monday.
Abdullahi in the motion tagged: “Guidelines to reduce vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawals from LG funds throughout Nigeria effective 1st June,” said issuance of the new guidelines was prompted by threats by international financial watchdogs to sanction Nigeria because of financial abuse.
According to him, the NFIU guidelines would reinforce the existence of local government as an independent government established by the Constitution at the grassroots level with sovereign and elected officials.
Supporting the moves by NFIU, the Senate said the guidelines limit cash transactions in the accounts of local governments to a daily maximum of N500,000 and subsequent withdrawal must be approved by approved cheques or electronic payment channels to promote registered transactions by all the local governments.
It called on the 36 state governments and the FCT, to fully support the implementation of the new NFIU guidelines to promote good governance at the local government areas and restore governance at the grassroots levels.
Contributing to the debate on the motion, Deputy Senate President and Chairman of Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, urged the Senate to liaise with the NFIU to ensure that the guidelines do not contradict with any part of the Constitution.
He appealed to state assemblies to fast-track their work on pending constitutional amendments which would give legal backing to local government autonomy.
Ekweremadu, however, cautioned that the position of the Senate that financial institutions should support the implementation of the new guidelines, contravenes Section 162(6&7) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
US suspends visa interview waivers in Nigeria
The United States embassy in Nigeria has suspended drop box service or interview waiver for those renewing visas in the country.
In a statement, the world power said the interview waiver suspension will take effect from Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
“The Embassy and Consulate of the United States in Nigeria has suspended the interview waiver ‘Drop Box’ application process effective May 14, 2019,” the statement read.
This means those attempting to renew their visas must now attend visa interviews like first timers.
Senate president, deputy pay tributes to David Mark
Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, Governor Samuel Ortom, on Sunday paid glowing tribute to the former Senate President, Senator David Mark for his meritorious service to his constituents and the country, as the latter exits from the Senate after 20 years.
In their separate goodwill messages to Senator Mark at a thanksgiving mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Otukpo, Benue State, Saraki, Ekweremadu, Ortom and others described Mark as an icon and patriotic leader in the contemporary Nigeria.
A statement by the media assistant to David Mark, Paul Mumeh, said that the thanksgiving was to mark former Senate President’s exit from the Senate after 20 years.
It said that specifically, Saraki noted that his predecessor has set a record as the longest serving Senator since 1999, the longest serving President of the Senate and referred to him as an officer and a gentleman.
He said: “Senator Mark was our own equivalent of the US Senators Robert C. Byrd (51 years, five months, 26 days), Daniel K. Inouye (49 years, 11 months and 15 days) Strom Thurmond (47 years, five months, eight days), Ted Kennedy (46years, nine months, 19 days and Patrick J. Leahy (44years) in terms of institutional memory that he embodies”.
Saraki acknowledged that Senator Mark remains a stabilizing force in or out of the chamber pointing out that he remains relevant even when he left the position of the primus inter pares in the Senate.
According to Saraki, “while Senator Mark’s record in the Senate remains unbeaten, it is necessary to mention that he is a bridge builder and consummate politician. My colleagues and I in the Eight Senate, appreciate his humility, brilliance and patriotism”.
In his tribute, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ekweremadu underscored the leadership qualities of Senator Mark and added “your place of honour as a fine, perceptive, detribalized, patriotic, astute leader and a true democrat is unarguable and unshakable.
Besides leading the National Assembly to break the jinx of constitutional amendments and the successful electoral reforms, Ekweremadu added “your capacity as a wise, experienced, patriotic and true statesman manifested at a very trying time in the Nation’s history when you guided the National Assembly to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to steer the country away from palpable constitutional crisis“.
Governor Samuel Ortom, in his remarks, noted: “your quality representation and indefatigable leadership in the Senate brought stability to the system and added enormous value to democracy.
“I am proud to identify with you for your selfless services to the State and the nation as well as providing mentorship to upcoming leaders”.
An elated Senator Mark expressed appreciation to his people for the opportunity to serve, promising to continue to work for peace and unity of Nigeria.
It said that in his homily, the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo, Most Reverend Kenneth Odeh described Senator Mark as an icon of inestimable value saying that his contributions to the development of Nigeria cannot be wished away.
Reverend Odeh urged Nigerian politicians to emulate Senator Mark’s selfless service to the country.
Buhari set to reappoint Emefiele as CBN Governor
President Muhammadu Buhari is said to have forwarded Godwin Emefiele’s name to the National Assembly for reappointment as Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor.
News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday wrote that sources confirmed that President Buhari forwarded the name in a letter, expected to be read on the floor of the Senate.
Godwin Emefiele who is the 11th CBN Governor began his five-year tenure on June 3, 2014, which will come to an end in less than a month.
Emefiele became the governor at a time when there was visible pressure on the Naira as well as a decline in the country’s foreign reserves.
At his maiden news conference as governor, he harped on the vision of building a people-focused central bank that would deliver effective price and financial system stability as well as promote sustainable economic development.
Over the course of five years, Emefiele introduced policies which many economic experts have criticised, while many others hailed the policies.
Some of the major policies undertaken by the apex bank in the last five years include the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) which aims at increasing the country’s local food production and conserving the foreign reserves.
The CBN took the decision to also ban 41 items from accessing foreign exchange through official routes to encourage local production of the items and simultaneously conserve the nation’s depleting foreign reserves.
Since then, the CBN has raised the number of items affected on the list to 43, with the inclusion of fertiliser and textile products.
Some of the items not valid for foreign exchange at the Nigerian window include rice, cement, margarine, palm produce, beef, vegetables, poultry and eggs, private aeroplanes, wooden doors and Iron rods, among others.
The CBN also introduced the multiple foreign exchange system, which led to the creation of the Inter-bank/Wholesale, Invisible, Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the Investors/Exporters’ windows.
Also, in 2018, the CBN signed a bilateral currency swap agreement with the People’s Republic of China worth about 2.5 billion dollars.
The Currency Swap Agreement is designed to aid trade transactions between China and Nigeria and remove the need to first source for U.S. Dollars before payments for transactions involving the two countries.
The CBN through the Banker’ Committee and in collaboration with all banks in Nigeria also inaugurated a centralised biometric identification system for the banking industry tagged: “Bank Verification Number (BVN)”.
Emir Sanusi gets United Nations appointment
The United Nations (UN) on Thursday, May 9, appointed the emir of Kano, Malam Muhammad Sanusi II, as a member of the new class of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocates.
The UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres made the announcement through his spokesperson, Farhan Haq, at a news conference in New York.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the SDG advocates are 17 influential public figures committed to “raising awareness, inspiring greater ambition, and pushing for faster action on the SDGs.”
The report said Sanusi is one of the six new members of the group, which is co-chaired by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and the prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg.
The other five new members, according to the report, are Hindou Ibrahim of Chad, Dia Mirza of India, Edward Ndopu of South Africa, Nadia Murad of Iraq and Marta Vieira da Silva of Brazil.
Haq said the six new members would take over from the previous six who had been made SDG advocate alumni.
“The secretary-general looks forward to working with the group over the coming years to advance the SDGs,” he said.