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Lawan advocates deployment of drones, high tech equipments to tackle smuggling of fuel

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***As he pallies with paramilitary chiefs over border security

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday advocated for the use of drones and other technology for surveillance against smuggling of petroleum products across the Nigerian borders to neighboring countries.
This was just as he decried the daily consumption figures of 100m litres per day most part of which end up in the neighboring countries because of the activities of smugglers.
He said it is more worrisome as the smuggled products adds to the burden of the subsidy payments that the federal government has been bearing

“The figures of what we consume in the country continue to fluctuate. At one point it was almost 100 million litres per day and surely this is difficult to believe that we consume almost 100 million litres per day within our borders. Certainly, a good percentage of it goes out.

“I believe there is a need for deployment of drones and other technologies that are available these days and probably the office of the National Security Adviser should be able to be in charge of that and make the information and data available to all the agencies that need them.
“I believe at one point, we will need the participation of the NCC being the major Institution in our country in charge of the enhancement of technology, the ICT particularly.
met with heads of security and paramilitary agencies and tasked them to do more to checkmate smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria.

Lawan made the observations when he pallied with some of the security chiefs concerned with border surveillance.
In attendance at the meeting were the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali(rtd), Commandant General, Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Abubakar Audi, representative of the Director General of the State Security Service, San Gesto and representative of the Comptroller General of Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Ishaka Abdulmumini

Lawan said in his opening remarks that the meeting was a follow up to the Monday meeting with Finance and Petroleum Ministers which was to find a way forward on the administration and Management of fuel subsidy in Nigeria

The Senate President told his guests: “We are all aware that some of the products particularly the PMS is smuggled out and yet we paid subsidy on what is smuggled out.

“So this meeting is to look into the ways and means of controlling the smuggling of the petroleum products with a view to minimising the cost of fuel subsidy to our country.

“I know individually, these organisations have been carrying out their responsibilities on this but I think that we are coming into a special moment. Our situation is such that we cannot afford anymore to allow this smuggling business to continue because the cost is very huge and debilitating to our people.

“At a point I will hold a meeting with the National Security Adviser who is supposed to coordinate the entire security apparatus for protecting our borders.

“I will also hold some engagement with the military especially the Navy because a lot of our products are shipped out to other countries through the water ways.

“At the end of the day what we hope to achieve is to minimise or where possible eliminate the incidents of smuggling of petroleum products that we import into the country for our people.

“This will be the first engagement but certainly this is not the last. We need to look at the strategy, maybe how we undertake our activities at the borders, the different agencies, the inter-agency cooperation that is so essential between the agencies. The application of technology in surveillance and who should host that technology.

“I want to assure you this is going to be a special partnership between the National Assembly and the executive arm of government because today’s situation demands that we do things differently.

“Our Committees in the Senate that supervise the Customs, the security agencies, will be up to date with their oversight. We need to see in the next six months, what different strategies will bring to us.

“We want to see also our citizens participating in the surveillance. We have to mobilise our citizens especially those at the borders. That when they see trucks conveying petroleum products to our neibouring countries, they should not only say something, they should say it to those who need to know. And that is to our security agencies.

“So we need to mobilise our citizens as well because this is something that affect all of us. Not about government. And anyway, government is about the people. 

“What we are trying to do is to reduce the level of snuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria and that will translate into reducing the bill that we pay as petroleum subsidy.”

Responding, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali said his agency had been doing a lot in trying to ensure that the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria was minimised to the bearest level.

He however complained of porous borders and absence of governance at the border communities which made their job difficult.

“Let me say here generally speaking, that we have a porous border. You also know we do not have all those equipments you have made mention of in ensuring the surveillance of our borders.

“And one more critical thing is that, within our border communities, there is no presence of governance. Our border communities completely lack presence of governance.

“Therefore, those of us who are shouldered with the responsibility of ensuring that we gate keep, we find it difficult because the ordinary man in Some border does not see reason why he should be compliant, does not see reason why he should work with the security in Nigeria to protect the border.

“This is simply because there is no presence of governance. In some areas, this border community cross to other country to get basic amenities,” Ali said.

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Legislature

Use diplomacy to free 30 Nigerians Abducted by Camerounians, lawmaker begs Tinubu

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Member representing, Obanliku/Bekwarra/Obudu Federal Constituency, Hon. (Chief) Peter Akpanke has urged President Bola Tinubu to employ diplomatic means to secure the release of 30 Nigerians abducted by some Camerounian militants recently

A border town between Nigeria and Cameroon, Belegete community, was on the 5th of December, 2023, subjected to a horrific attack by suspected Ambazonian militants from the Republic of Cameroon.

These separatists held the people in the community hostage for over 24 hours, inflicting pain and suffering through gun violence, physical assault, and the destruction of properties worth millions of naira.

Addressing journalists on Friday on behalf of the Cross River federal lawmakers in the National Assembly, honorable Peter Akpanke
pleaded with Tinubu to wade into the matter to seek the release of the Nigerian hostages.

He said, “As some of you may be aware, my parents, siblings and children of the Belegete extraction witnessed the saddest day of our existence recently when armed separatists from the Republic of The Cameroons whom have been named Ambazonians attacked the sleepy and peaceful community of Belegete on the 5th day of December 2023.

“Belegete community is a Nigerian border village between Nigeria and Cameroon within the edges of the Obanliku plateau in the hinterland of the Obudu Mountain Resort.

“It is located about 400 kilometres north of the Nigerian port city of Calabar. The community has been under siege by Ambazonian bandits since Tuesday 5th December 2023.

“The bandits have continued to shoot sporadically, beating and carting away people and valuable property to their camp across the border River between Nigeria and Cameron.

“Among the over 30 people abducted is Chief Ogweshi Francis, the Clan Head of Belegete Clan. Apart from those taken captive, several other men, women and children have been abused, injured and emotionally traumatized.

“The area where this barbaric and dastard attack is being unleashed is the ancestral home of the Belegete people. They have inhabited the place for several centuries as law-abiding citizens of Nigeria.

“They have lived peacefully and harmoniously with their far and near neighbours. There is therefore no justification whatsoever for this external invasion on Nigeria’s territory and the disruption of the life of her citizens.

“Beyond the plights brought upon the Belegete people, this unprovoked aggression is a frontal attack on the territorial integrity of Nigeria.

“The Nigerian government needs to take urgent and drastic action to forestall a repeat of what happened in the southern border where Nigeria lost part of its rich territory to Cameroon.

“Furthermore, I urge the Nigerian government to engage in urgent diplomatic dialogue with the Cameroonian government to address the root causes of this conflict. We must work together to ensure that such acts of aggression never occur again.

“The international community must also take notice of this incident and extend their support to Nigeria in its efforts to maintain peace and security on its borders. We call for strict intervention from international organizations to prevent further violence and displacement.”

The federal lawmakers assured the people of the state that the National Assembly would not rest until justice is served and the safety of our people is guaranteed. I will continue to raise my voice in condemnation of this attack and demand accountability from those responsible.

Peter Akpanke said, “We, the people of Obanliku/Bekwarra/Obudu Federal Constituency, are resilient and will not be broken by this tragedy.

“We stand united in our resolve for peace and justice. Together, we will overcome this challenge and rebuild our dear community stronger than ever before.

“It should be treated as a case of once bitten, twice shy. The relevant security operatives have to rise to the occasion to ensure that the sovereignty of Nigeria is not tempered with.

“Security operatives must take drastic actions to secure the security of life and people in the area.

“These barbaric acts have continued since then until date with our brothers and sisters subjected to pain and sufferings as well as destruction of properties.

“These, alongside the abduction of our people and the life threatening injuries inflicted on them with no support yet from the Federal Government leaves one wondering whether George Orwell’s Animal Farm is at play – all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Is that the case with Nigeria right now?

“As I speak, the Clan Head of that Community, Chief Ogweshi Francis is held hostage by armed separatists of another country and we as a Nation are not angered?

“It must be noted that the Belegete community is very rich in natural resources like Uranium and Lithium and this is one of the major reasons that the Amazonian separatists from Cameroon attacked the community.

“This act of aggression is not only a blatant disregard for human life and safety of fellow Nigerians but also a direct assault on the sovereignty of Nigeria.

“We, as a nation, cannot tolerate such acts of impunity and must respond with the utmost seriousness and resolve to forestall its ever happening again.

“It is not the first time such has happened as we have seen from years past in some North Central and North Eastern States like Taraba and Adamawa (which is why I am with my colleagues today to address you all).

“The response to the crisis in Belegete, as it was in those areas has unfortunately been hampered by the lack of readily available access roads and communication infrastructure in this community.

“This has undoubtedly left the community unfortunately feeling vulnerable and exposed.

” While the government works to improve these crucial infrastructures and resources necessary for human existence and security of lives and properties, it’s important to remember the human cost of this delay and the fundamental rights of all citizens to feel safe and protected in our dear Country Nigeria.

“Therefore, we demand immediate deployment of adequate security personnel to Belegete and surrounding areas to ensure the safety and security of our citizens.

“Provision of immediate medical assistance to the injured and displaced and initiation of a thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crimes to justice

“We also demand the Construction of access roads and communication infrastructure to improve the security and well-being of our border communities especially in Cross River State.

“The recent tragedy in Belegete has highlighted the urgent need to bolster security along our borders. We call upon the Nigerian Border Patrol to take immediate action by establishing permanent security outposts across strategic locations.

“The outposts, equipped with necessary resources and staffed with trained and fully armed personnel, will play a crucial role in deterring future incursions into Nigeria and ensuring the safety of our Citizens in their various communities.

“This proactive approach is essential to protecting our citizens and preventing further suffering among the people and wanton destruction of property.”

The federal lawmakers urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to swiftly provide vital assistance to those affected by this tragedy.

The assistance he said, “includes the immediate provision of emergency medical care, food, shelter, and other essential supplies to alleviate their suffering. NEMA must act quickly and decisively to ensure that the people of Belegete are not left to face this hardship alone.

“We also call on the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation to include areas affected by these acts that threaten our nation as well as places where Cameroonian Persons of Concern reside as high priority areas.”

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Legislature

‘Dogs feed better than inmates at Nigeria correctional centers’

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The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Corrections, Mr Haliru Nababa, has disclosed that the Service spends more money to feed dogs than the prison inmates 
He made the disclosure indicating that the daily feeding allowance of Nigerian prison inmates is still N750. However, a dog kept by the Nigerian Correctional Service is fed with the sum of N800 daily. 
The CG spoke when he led other top officials to defend the service’s 2024 budget estimates before the Senate Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Interior in Abuja on Thursday
The committee, which is chaired by Sen. Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo State) had demanded the review of the performance of the 2023 budget of the service.
He said The Nigeria Correctional Service has written the Minister of Interior requesting for the review of the amount we are using to feed the inmates from N750 per day, to N3, 000 per day We are still waiting for approval. 
“We are therefore seeking the assistance of the  National Assembly to approve the increment. 
“We have made provision for the feeding of inmates, dogs, and staff on training in six training institutions across the country. The money is grossly inadequate
Responding to questions from the senators, the CG said there were a total of 81, 358 prison inmates in the country, out of which 53,668 were awaiting trial. 
According to him, each prisoner has a budget of N250 per meal, making it N750 when fed three times in a day. 
This puts the daily feeding budget of the 81, 358 inmates at N61,018,500. 
On the other hand, the service spends N800 to feed one dog per day and keeps over 900 dogs in custodial centers across the country. The daily budget for feeding 900 dogs is around N720,000. 
Probing into the submissions, senators wondered how a human being in today’s Nigeria would survive on N750 per day. 
Leading the questioning, Oshiomhole asked for a breakdown of the ingredients for the N750 food served to the inmates. 
He said, “These inmates are presumed innocent until they are convicted. Educate me on how you use this amount to feed a prisoner. It’s not possible to say you feed prisoners with this amount of N750 a day. 
“Our impression is that these people are not being fed per day. It’s not due to any fault of yours; but you can’t give what you don’t have.” 
He noted that one vital information the committee had deduced from the submissions so far was that “an unconvicted Nigerian is fed with N750 per day, while  a dog is fed with N800 per day.” 
Oshiomhole added, “So a dog is better fed in a Nigerian prison than an innocent Nigerian who has not been convicted…They are just suspects. It hurts if this is the way they are treated. We must be seen to care for Nigerians, including those who are criminals or awaiting trial.” 
When asked what amount of money he considered adequate to feed a prisoner per day, the CG said “N3,000.” 
He told the committee that a recommendation on the N3,000 had been made to the Ministry of Interior but was still awaiting the approval of the ministry.

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Legislature

State House clarifies humongous budget proposal in 2024 budget

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The whooping amount earmarked for the State House as 2024 budget has been attributed to the current economic situation in the country by the Permanent Secretary, Engr. Olufunso Adebiyi.
The Presidency plans to spend about N61.29 billion on renovating and constructing buildings as well as N6.82 billion on buying vehicles, according to the proposed 2024 budget.
It also earmarked the sum of N460,217,071 for the State House’s “Materials and Supplies” in the 2024 Appropriation Bill.
Out of the sum, foodstuffs and catering materials will gulp N253,277,638
Nigerians have been raising issues over high budgetary allocation to the State House by the renewed hope government of President Bola Tinubu in the midst of excruciating hardship being faced by Nigerians.

Engr. Adebiyi said the exchange rate of the naira against the Dollar, obselete equipments, cost of vehicles and engagement of more hands were responsible for the exorbitant budget for the sea of power.

While defending the 2024 budget proposals of the State House before the Senate Committee on Special Duties, Engr. Adebiyi said as a matter of reality, there are many things that affected the budget.

He said one of the factors is the exchange rate on some of the purchases. Second is as part of the drive of President Bola Tinubu “in ensuring service delivery, accountability and fast racking infrastructural development, the number of persons appointed appears high. He selected very competent hands from various sectors to join his team.

Continuing he said, apart from ministers who have targets to meet, he appointed SSAs to serve as watchdogs to ensure compliance with standing instructions. This, he said was part of what makes the cost of their budget to be high.

In addition to that, the Permanent Secretary said the cost of fuel has consequential effect on cost of operations in the State House.
⁰“Not only that, age of the vehiclesò has serious impact. Any new vehicle you buy, the first five years you will not do any repairs, only routine maintenance, but as it gets old the cost of maintenance increases.
On the zero performance of capital expenditure for 2023 a few weeks to the end of the financial year, the senators were not convinced by Engr. Adebiyi’s explanation that most of the projects have been executed and that it is when they are paid for that it can be recorded as completed.

He said, for example, the procurement process for some items started in July and some of the vehicles have been supplied, but until payments are made before they are said to be executed.

The committee also wondered why the State House Clinic can not meet the health needs of the presidency, not to talk of serving other citizens as done in other countries, even in Africa.

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