****Customs, Immigration raises alarm over possible incapacitation
….NAFDAC Warehouses three year capital votes
Funding for the N17.126trillion 2022 budget may not be realizable as some of the revenue generating agencies are complaining of different forms of hiccups.
This was happening as the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control ( NAFDAC), Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, lamented that the 2018, 2019 and 2020 budget of the agency were not passed by the National Assembly leading to warehousing of revenues generated by it for capital expenditure.
Complaints on meeting revenue targets by affected revenue generating agencies came to the fore during the one day interactive session the Senate leadership and its Finance Committee had with them .
The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service ( NIS), Col Hameed Ali ( Rtd), said some provisions of the 2022 Finance Act, have robbed Customs of its operational mandate on some revenue collections.
He specifically cited section 22 and 61(a) of the Act , incapacitating Customs from collecting some taxes like import duties.
“Mr President of the Senate , Distinguished Senators , I thank you for organising this interactive session on the need for improvement by all revenue generating agencies as far as internally generated revenues are concerned and funding of the 2022 budget are concerned .
“However let me bring to the notice of this gathering that some provisions of he Finance Act 2022, are incapacitating Customs from such revenue drive .
“Section 22 of the Finance Act 2022 seeks to amend the Federal Inland Revenue Service law Section 68 (1), (2), (3), (4) and (6) by allowing the Act to takes precedent over any other laws with regards to the administration of taxes, assessment, accounting, collection and enforcement of taxes and levies due to the Federal Government and the federation of Nigeria.
“When the law was signed, it did not state clearly, the extent and scope of the taxes and levies in question. We are aware that the taxes and levies under the responsibilities of the FIRS are income tax, personal income tax, capital gain tax, VAT and so on.
“However, the amendment is so wide and open that we in the Nigerian Customs Service took it that it had hindered our ability to collect levies and other collections.
“Our understanding of the provisions is that all other laws which mandated us to collect are inconsistent with the new Act, then they are voided. This means that the law that mandates us to collect as revenue generating agencies, are voided completely. This means that we do not have the responsibilities to collect levies. If we don’t have the responsibilities to collect, what are we going to discuss here.
“We have consulted with lawyers and the conclusion is that the Act is confusing and if other revenue generating agencies decided to act on the provisions, they may decide not to collect duties and levies”.
Making similar lamentation, the Director of Finance, Nigeria Immigration Service ( NIS), Professor Aba Georg, said the N400billion the agency supposed to be generating as revenue on yearly basis is being cornered by UK based firm, handing most of its outsourced services and operations .
According to him, contract on the outsourced services and operations given to the UK based firm on behalf of Nigeria Immigration Service in 2003 , gives government 33% of proceeds , Immigration 7% while the remaining 60% is cornered by the firm .
” This is our 7th time of tabling this complaint before the Senate or the House of Representatives . Please rescue us from the hook of this firm.
“The contract was entered into without the knowledge of Immigration since 2003 and those behind it , keep on renewing it and denying us about N400billion revenue on yearly basis .
“It is a rip-off and purely one sided contract bleeding Immigration and Nigeria financially on yearly basis “, he lamented .
Apparently piaued by the submission , the President of the Senate , Ahmad Lawan , directed the Committee Chairman, Senator Olamilekan Adeola ( APC Lagos West), to summon the Ministry of Interior for all the contract documents.
“This is unacceptable . We cannot continue like this. We must see the end of this contract in the National Interest “, he said.
On complaints made by the Customs boss, Lawan said, “I wonder why the Ministry of Finance is not here because we need their intervention now. Their presence here would have provided some clarifications. We took it for granted that since it was an executive bill, that there were some engagements among the agencies of the Federal Government.
“We also called for public hearing so that we could exrayed it. You are saying that you don’t have the legal mandate to collect taxes and it is a scary revelation.
“The Senate Committee on Finance and the Ministry of Finance and other agencies would look at the Act. If it is established beyond reasonable doubts that we need to amend it, we will do so without delay.
‘It will be the fastest amendment because we need you to collect more monies for the Federal Government”
But Senator Adeola in his own response said the section cited by the Customs boss , was not targeted at the agency .
“What necessitated that singular act was as a result of the issue between the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission and the FIRS. There were clashes between them from time to time. Some activities of RMFAC were not in tandem with the Act that established it. We discovered that the only way that we can make their roles explicit is through the Finance Act concerning the assessment and accounting of taxes.
“We discovered that RMFAC are going to agencies to audit their tax accounts which is not part of their responsibilities based on the law that established RMFAC.
“The only agencies saddled with that responsibility is the FIRS. That was what that law tends to address. We are ready to look into it again if other revenue generating agencies believe that it has hindered them from performing their responsibilities and we would amend it accordingly”, he said
Akpabio debunks impeachment rumour, says Senate is stable, harmonious
The Senate President Godswill Akpabio has debunked the rumour that some senators were plotting to impeach him.
Reating to the insinuation through his special adviser (Media and Publicity) Eseme Eyiboh in a statement, he said the Senate is stable and harmonious as it cannot be distracted by the innuendo of the merchants of political tar brush.
Eyiboh describe the rumour as a syndicated media attack from outside the precincts of the National Assembly
Reacting to what he described as syndicated reports in some weekend newspapers about plots to distabilise the Senate and its leadership, Eyiboh said the reports were complete imaginations and sometimes laced with malice to achieve what senators are yet to comprehend.
According to him the Senate has since gone past the experience of the keenly contested leadership election
Eyiboh said the plot to drag in Senators who initially did not support the emergence of the present leadership into a conspiracy that does not exist was uncharitable to the senators and a needless umbrage.
“Senators are presently concluding their holidays in their constituencies and other places they have chosen to spend their time after the rigours of the inauguration and ministerial screening and other constructive engagements,” Eyiboh said.
“All senators are also refreshing themselves ahead of the resumption, therefore, any suggestions that they are presently engaged in other subversive plots against the institution is rather uncharitable. “It is mostly uncharitable for those senators who initially did not support the emergence of the leadership but who have all unanimously endorsed the Senator Akpabio-led leadership. Continuing to link these senators with needless conspiracy with barely disguised innuendo is rather unkind.
“We call on the media not to give in to the conspiratorial tales, and not to give damage to the reputations that they have built over time,” Eyiboh concluded.
Senate says, rumour of impeachment of Akpabio is a ruse
The Senate on Saturday described as a ruse the rumour making the rounds in some media that some Senators were planning to impeach the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio.
A press statement by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Yemi Adaramodu said, “our attention has just been drawn to a syndicated satanic verses in a section of the media, of purported and illusory plots of leadership change in the Senate.
Top politicians strongly opposed to the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, were alleged to have planned to remove him when the Senate resumes later this month.
The forces were reported to be upset that the former Akwa Ibom State Governor is playing the role of a lap dog for President Tinubu rather than serving the overall interest of lawmakers and Nigerians
They alleged that Akpabio’s closeness to the president has made him not pay full attention to his colleagues and work hard enough to meet the expectations of Nigerians despite the challenges in the country.
But Adaramodu said,
“The Nigerian Senate is one united and fraternal family. This imaginative composition is in the realm of the fake and fallacious story of 100m per legislator. It’s apt to note that the 10th Senate, under the leadership of Senator Godswill Akpabio, has carried out its legislative and constitutional duties diligently.
“Within a span of less than 60 Legislative days, the Senate has passed life enhancing bills and motions. It has screened and confirmed service chiefs and ministers, among others, apart from very essential oversight functions.
“We urge the fifth columnists, who operate undoubtedly outside the Senate, desperate to cause disharmony through media stunts and thus clipping the wings of Nigeria’s democracy, to take caution.
“The Senate should be allowed fresh air to settle down for its national assignments so that the Nigerian project can move forward. The media, too, should be discerning not to be used as hand tools to these retailers of fake and bad news,” the statement added.
Benue North-East Senatorial contest: Senator Suswam returns as Tribunal Sacks APC’s Udende
Senator Gabriel Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been returned as the senator-elect for Benue North-East as the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sacked Senator Emmanuel Udende of the All Progressives Congress (APC)
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Udende as the winner of the Benue North-East senatorial election held on February 25.
Suswam, a member of the 9th senate, had lost his bid to return to the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
But he had proceeded to the court, arguing that Udende did not score majority of the lawful votes cast in the 25th February, 2023 for the Benue North East Senatorial District election.
Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Ory Zik-Ikeorha and another member, ruled in the favour of Suswam and PDP.
The duo, in their judgment, averred that Suswam and PDP fulfilled the requirement of the law in proving their case of irregularities such as mutilation, non-signing of documents, non-inclusion of lawful votes, among others.
But, in a minority judgement, Justice Umar Mohammed, opposed the decision of the two other members of the panel, saying that the petitioner failed to proved his case.
Mohammed held that Suswam who called 19 witnesses most of who were irrelevant as the irregularities complained about were at the polling units and instead he called ward agents instead of polling unit agents.
Suswam and PDP’s petition was predicated on the ground that Udende did not score majority of the lawful votes cast during the election.
Justice Mohammed held that the evidence by Suswam was grossly insufficient to sustain his petition.
He therefore, dismissed the petition and awarded the cost of N100,000 in favour of each of the respondents against the petitioner.
Meanwhile, Innocent Daagba, on behalf of the APC, said, “we are not satisfied with the decision and will advice my client to appeal.”
The PDP, through Bemgba Iortyom, the State Publicity Secretary has applaude the judgment and congratulated the Senator.
The immediate past Governor of the State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, has also sent his congratulatory to Senator Suswam over his victory at the tribunal.
Ortom said the victory of Senator Suswam has further proven the capacity of the judiciary to uphold justice and serve as the bastion of democracy.
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