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ABU in dire straits over resumption as judgement debt gulps N22.5b



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***Unable to pay for diesel

The 8-month industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) may have come and gone as many universities and students have resumed academic activities but not for the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria as another brouhaha has just began

The foremost university in Northern Nigeria had wanted the ASUU strike to continue, adinfinitum over a judgement debt of N22.5b that has crippled it financially

The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed had let the cat out of the bag during 2023 budget defence of NUC and all universities before the Joint Senate and House Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFUND.

To simplify the budget defence process for federal universities, the Joint Committee allowed the regulator, NUC to present the budget on behalf of the universities while the vice chancellors observe.

Prof. Rasheed expressed gratitude to the legislators on overhead provisions, but said the university vice chancellors wanted him to remind the Distinguished senators and Honourable members of the serious problem they are facing, especially this year because of the strike for 8 months academic calendar.

According to him “eight months is equivalent to an academic calendar in every country. So, one session is virtually lost, but the implication is that one session will now run far beyond one calendar year. It will run between 16 to 18 calendar months depending on the situation.

However, in ABU Zaria, he said, it may run for two sessions, because they have reopened, but they cannot do anything because everything ABU had was taken away under garnishee order and given to former staff.

“The sole administrator, in 1996 sacked some staff and they went to court. Nearly 30 years later the court said ABU should pay N22.5 billion, and the Central Bank removed that money. That was the money ABU needed to function.

“I know ABU was not happy when the strike was called off because it will be exposed. It was hoping that it will continue to take cover under the strike. But once the strike was off, it has to reopen. It only reopened in name, saying they can start in January.

“The truth is that they have only N5 million in the main account and they need a minimum of N70 million to N80 million for electricity alone.

“That is one peculiar case we know, but in general, the rising cost of diesel and electricity is placing serious burden on universities. Our overhead for universities, none is given up to N12 million to N14 million per month. They are given average of N10 million and no university, big or small, spend less than N30 – N40 million in a month. Lagos spends an average of N80 million in a month

The ES, NUC also disclosed that four new universities, two for medical sciences and two for science and technology have not been collecting salaries, including their vice chancellors, adding that the 2023 budget is now making provision for them.

“The four new universities two for medical sciences, and two for science and technology so far have no budget; they have not been collecting salaries including the vice chancellors themselves.

“I know for new universities there is the need now to get them on board. For other vice chancellors, budget is normal ritual. I know they have all made provisions for some few additional staff to cope with new courses, promotions and other issues.

The NUC ES shocked the lawmakers when he said “in NUC’s budget we have a problem. We had additional money given to us that we didn’t request, but I later went to ministry of finance to find out because our budget was always hovering around N3 billion with about N2 billion for personnel, about N700-N800 million for capital, about N700 million for overhead.

“But last year we saw additional N12 billion given for World Bank projects” adding that the World Bank projects are not processed through this mode, through World Bank mode”.

He said his finding at Federal Ministry of Finance showed that as at today over N6b has been released, “but we cannot not touched a Kobo and we are not going to touch a kobo of that money because we do not think it is part of what we are to spend. And in 2023 we see even more coming to us and it unsettles us.

“When our budget is N700 million and I see N12 billion under capital, it unsettles me. I don’t know what it is for and it’s not something I can spend. I don’t know; I’m not complaining. We can house it, but at the end of the year it will disappear”.

At this point, the Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Ahmad Babba Kaita jokingly said “Prof, if I may suggest, bring it here we will appropriate it”.

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Senate Presidency: Yari, Tambuwal, others shut out in Senate new rule that bars first-timers




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***CSOs ask non ranking senators to move against amendments in court

Not up to two weeks after the 10th Senate suffered an impeachment scare, the Senate on Tuesday amended its standing rule and barred first term members from seeking to be elected as president of the Senate or deputy president of the Senate.

Adopting a motion sponsored by senate majority leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, the senate amended section three of its standing rule and specifically stated that to vie for the position of president of the Senate or deputy president of the Senate, a senator must have spent one term or four years in the upper legislative chamber.

With the new amendment to the standing orders of the Senate, first term senators are now prohibited from contesting for the position of presiding officers of the Red Chambers.

Bamidele’s motion was titled: “Amendment of the Standing Orders of the Senate pursuant to Order 109 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (As Amended).”

Rule 3 of the Senate Standing Orders as amended now stipulates that any senator wishing to contest for the position of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President must have spent a minimum of one term in the senate.

But the 1999 constitution as amended in its section 50(1) simply provided that “there shall be a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves”

The Senate also amended its rules and created additional nine Standing Committees, bringing the number of Senate committees to 83 from its previous 74.

It would be recalled that last June, the former Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, got the second highest votes of 46 against Godswill Akpabio’s 63 votes

The contest was the fiercest in the history of the election of President of the Senate.

Three weeks ago, the office of the Senate president raised an alarm about an alleged plot to remove Akpabio from the office.

The uproar generated by that alarm forced the Northern Senators Forum to condemn what they called an attempt by Akpabio to pitch Senators against President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Meanwhile, criticisms have started gathering against the amendment as many believe that the discrimination introduced has no place in the constitution.

“Although the constitution gave power to the senate to regulate it, such regulations or rules .ust not be in breach of the Constitution” a lawmaker.

Reacting to the amendment, the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) said:
“The amendments are unconstitutional and ultra vires because section 42(1) of the Constitution states clearly that policies of government ought not to be made in such a way that a certain category of citizens will be disabled from participating or benefitting therefrom.”

In a statement by its president, comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA said that “the idea of allowing only ranking members to be qualified to contest for offices within the Senate’s hierarchy is impracticable in Nigeria where the turn-over rate of legislators into the national assembly is not as robustly sustainable as the Americans or British experience about their parliamentarians.

“In Nigeria, virtually 40 to 45 percent of Senators don’t get reelected. Supposing those who get re-elected lack charisma and leadership qualities, will the Senate be led by never-do-wells? This law is an attempt to muzzle opposition to the decadent leadership of Sebator Akpabio leadership that is made up of stooges of the executive arm of government. We in the HURIWA are asking those senators so affected negatively from these destructive amendments to file litigation to get the amendments quashed because the amendments are self-serving, lack progressive ideals and are very primitive and unconstitutional”

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Deputy Speaker, Kalu, says, Reps working to promote SMEs through bills, policies




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Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu has disclosed that the Parliament is working on a number of bills to effectively promote small-scale and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria.

He also said that Nigeria under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has already witnessed a series of transformative reforms aimed at repositioning the nation on the
path to sustained economic growth.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Levinus Nwabughiogu quoted Kalu to have made the disclosure at the ground breaking ceremony of the Abia Innovation Industrial Park in Owaza, Ukwa West Local Government Area of the State on Saturday where he joined Governor Alex Otti to perform the ritual.

Initiated by the Abia State Government under the leadership of Otti, the project is expected to foster economic growth, create jobs, and position Abia State as a hub for innovation and industrialization when completed.

He said: “The 10th National Assembly, under the dynamic leadership of the Speaker and myself as Deputy Speaker, has been working tirelessly to complement these reforms with legislative actions that
support economic growth and development.
“7We understand that a
conducive legislative framework is critical to the success of initiatives such
as the Abia Innovation Industrial Park.

“Our legislative agenda is centered around creating an environment that
encourages innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development.

“We are actively working on bills and policies aimed at promoting small and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), enhancing ease of doing business, and
attracting both local and foreign investments.

“It is not just the Abia State Government that is at work here. We are
fortunate to find ourselves in an era of remarkable leadership at the federal
level. Under the Bola Ahmed Tinubu presidency, Nigeria has witnessed a
series of transformative reforms aimed at repositioning our nation on the
path to sustained economic growth. “

Kalu further said that the industrialization of Abia State is not only a dream but also a well-thought-out strategy, stressing that it aligns perfectly with the broader national goals of achieving self-sufficiency and economic prosperity.

“This groundbreaking ceremony not only marks the beginning of a new industrial park but also symbolizes our unwavering
commitment to honoring the giants of our past while forging ahead into a
brighter future.

“This is the beginning of a new era. An era where innovation, industry, and
opportunity will flourish. An era where the dreams and aspirations of our youth and entrepreneurs will find a home and where Abia State will shine as a beacon of progress in our great nation, ” Kalu said.

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Senator Jibrin Echocho celebrates with Nigerians at 63




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Senator Isah Jibrin ( APC Kogi East), has rejoiced with Nigerians on the occasion of 63rd Independence anniversary of the country.

In a statement he personally signed in Abuja on Saturday, the senator urged Nigerians to remain steadfast in their believe in building a strong, united and prosperous country.
“Let us be driven forward by our zeal to strengthen our diversity, culture and beliefs as we remain one nation bound in freedom.
“To my dear constituents, I want to assure you that I will continue to be your voice in the Senate, fighting for your rights and interests with integrity and dedication.
“May this Independence day anniversary bring further positive turnaround, unimaginable fortune, unity of purpose, and breakthrough for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“Once again, I felicitate with all the good people of Kogi East, Kogi State, Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, and wish you all the merits of democracy”.

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