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Controversy again over Onochie, as Dickson questions oil producing status of her LG

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***Ondo senators rejects nominee

President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominee for the position of chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board, Lauretta Onochie was on the spot on Thursday as Senator Seriake Dickson demanded the oil producing status of her Local Government in Delta State

This was coming as the National Assembly’s Joint Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, on Thursday, commenced the screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Assistant on New Media, Lauretta Onochie, and 14 others amidst controversies

Recall that Buhari had on 25th November written the Senate, seeking her confirmation over her appointment as Chairman of NDDC and 14 other members.

Senator had interogated Onochie, to indicate her local government of origin and the community she hailed from.

Dickson indicated he wanted to know her Local Government in Delta state and her community, to ascertaon whether the community she comes from is an oil producing community or it has oil facilities located therein.
Recall that the Senate had rejected Onochie as a national commissioner for the electoral umpire, INEC over a year earlier after public outcry over her being partisan as member of the ruling party the All Progressives Congress.
Her rejection then the senate said was based on federal character principles as they observed that there was a serving commissioner from Delta State, where she hailed from.

However, in what appeared to be a ‘soft landing’ for Onochie who was being screened for the position of Chairman of the board of the NDDC this time around, the Committee did not allow her to respond to the two questions posed to her.

The acting Chairman of the Committee, Senator Bulus Amos (APC – Gombe South) said all issues concerning her nomination and other petitions against her would be discussed by the Committees at an executive session after the screening exercise.

Bulus said, “Madam nomineeyou have heard the question put to you. Just take your time. I am ready and we are all ready to discuss this during our executive session.

“So, I want to plead with all our senators here to allow her for now. We will talk during the Executive Session.”

He told members of the joint committee that all issues surrounding her nomination would be dealt with at an executive session.

Bulus had in his opening remarks said the crowd which attended the event evidenced the importance of the NDDC to people from oil producing states.

“We know that for quite sometimes the Niger Delta Development Commission has been a big place for each and everyone and everybody is desperate to follow what is happening there.

“Probably that is what has informed the large crowd outside. Everybody wants to know what we are doing here. We are doing nothing here than to screen those people that have been nominated,” he said.

In his comments shortly after the Chairman’s intervention, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC – Ekiti Central) said there was need to clarify the position of the Senate at the time she was nominated for appointment as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission and her present nomination as head of the NDDC.

Bamidele said: “The essence of this comment is to clarify the position of the Senate on this matter.

“On the nominee for the Chairmanship position, when we had a reason to turn down the presidential nomination of this same nominee in the Senate, just because the position for which she was nominated was the position of an electoral umpire and there where members of the public who were concerned that because she is a card carrying member of a political party and a presidential aide and in the Senate committee on Electoral Matters we took into cognisance the concern of the public.

“Today in the Senate, we are faced with a different scenario. She has been nominated as a representative from an oil producing state and for the purpose of holding a political appointment for which she is eligibly qualified. That is our position and I want the public to be clear on this.”

In a similar vein, Senator James Manager (PDP -Delta South), urged Nigerians to know that Onochie’s present nomination is an “isolated case.”

Manager said: “This is one nominee we rejected on the floor of the Senate. We rarely reject nominees from the President but this was done.

“Now this person is here again before the Senate. I want the public to know that this one is an isolated case. In an executive session we will discuss it. We will look at the petitions.”

On her part, Senator representing Anambra North, Stella Oduah thanked President Buhari for nominating a woman for such a sensitive interventionist agency.

Oduah said: “Nigeria women are particularly happy that the President did what he did by appointing a female, a very capable woman, to help this wonderful and relevant agency of the Niger Delta.

“Whether we like it or not, when a woman comes in, her innate skills and her multitasking ability would be brought to bare on her job.

“I believe that for the first time Niger Deltans will have the required development that they so much are in need of. I thank Mr President for this nomination.”

On concerns whether Onochie was from an oil producing community in Delta state or not, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who is a member of committee said a precedent had been set when a nominee from a non-oil producing community in the past.

Kalu said: “We need to be more guided, we have appointed a chairman from our state (Abia) that was not from the local government where they produce oil, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, and nobody can tell us to reject this one.”

During his screening session, the Managing Director nominee of the NDDC, Dr. Samuel Ogbokwu, from Bayelsa state, said he would bridge the gap between the youths and the elderly in the region during his tenure.

He said: “I believe I’m a square peg in a square hole to man the position of the MD because I understand the problems of our people.

“I have been part of the Niger Delta struggle, I’m presently working as special assistant to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.

“I will bridge the gap between the youth and the elderly. With my experience in activism and administration, I believe I’m going to bring a positive change in the Niger Delta.

“We are thankful to the President for completing the Forensic Audit of the NDDC, I believe we are going to use that as a guide to usher in a new dawn in NDDC.”
Onochie had in her opening remarks said her vision as Chairman of NDDC would be to redefine the true meaning of empowerment for the youth of the region.

He said the proposed board under her Chairmanship would work collaboratively as a team to deliver projects and empowerments to the people.

She said: “I hail from a community that produces all kinds of agricultural products that have not been properly harnessed.

“These are some of things we will work on to be able to bring food to the table of our people and to empower our people.

“Since the announcement of my nomination I have received thousands of applications from our young people wanting to be personal assistants because that is all they know.

“We are going to show them that there is more to life than being a personal assistant. We are going to show them how to be properly empowered so that our region can start booming like all the other regions.

“I have seen the men that I have been nominated along with. We have been in contact with each other. We are going to work as a team because I am a team player.”
In another twist senators Senators representing the three senatorial districts of Ondo State unanimously rejected the nomination of Mr. Charles Ogunmola as Executive

In a statement that was signed by the three senators said his nomination was not legal.
“Our position is premised on the fact that the nomination of Mr. Charles Ogunmola is non-compliance with the provisions of Section 12(1) of NDDC (Establishment etc) Act, 2000.

“The aforementioned Act clearly stated that the nominee for the position of Executive Director, Project of NDDC “shall be an indigene of oil producing area”. Mr. Charles Ogunmola is not an indigene of oil producing area of Ondo State.

“Therefore, we call on Your Excellency and the Nigerian Senate to uphold the extant Provisions of the NDDC (Establishment, etc) Act 2000 by rejecting the nomination of Mr. Charles Ogunmola.

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Legislature

Akpabio rejects one minute silence for dead innocent civilians in Okwoma

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***Insists, killers of soldiers may not be Niger deltans, Nigerians

The President of the Senate Godswill Akpabio on Tuesday rejected an ammendment to the prayer for a minute silence for innocent civilians just like the 16 soldiers who were gruesomely murdered in Okwoma in Delta State because the Senate was yet to ascertain their number.

Akpabio had also expressed doubt that those involved in the gruesome murder of 16 soldiers in Delta State are from Niger Delta or even Nigeria.

This was as the prayer for a minute silence for Innocent civilians who also lost their lives in the Okwoma community was turned down by Akpabio.
Some military personal who were involve in not just trying to keep peace but to ensure that the resources of the country are not stolen on Thursday, March 14, were attacked and killed at Okuama Community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State. 

While reading out the Prayers in the motion on the Killing of Nigerian Army Personnel in Okuama Community, Delta State and the Necessity for an Urgent investigation sponsored by Senator Abdulariz Musa Yar’adua Chauman, Senate Commitiee on Nigerian Army, Akpabio read the first prayer which was to observe a minute silence for the murdered soldiers.

Prayer one, “Observe a minute silence in honour of the military personnel who lost their lives on Thursday 14th March, 2024 in Okwoma community in Delta State which was unanimously adopted by the senate

He asked if there was any ammendment and Senator Ede Dafinone who wanted an ammendment said, “I will like to suggest that the Senate also recognized the innocent civilians in Okwoma who also lost their lives in this process, if we are observing a minute silence for the soldiers that were brutally murdered in this fracas, I believe also the innocent civilians in Okwaoma should also be recognized in a similar way. I am talking of the innocent Civilians sir.”

However, Akpabio interjected saying, 
“The number of the innocent civilians you are talking about are not yet known to the Senate. I am not saying that no innocent Civilian died. I am saying that what we know is the death of our gallant soldiers were murdered in a very horrific manner. 

“So I will take your ammendment to say that observe a minute silence in honour of those military personnel who were murdered in a horrific manner on Thursday the 14th day of March in Okwoma community of Delta state.

Ned Nwoko (Delta North) had Seconded the motion ably moved by Senator Dafinone that prayer one be amended to include a minute silence for the innocent Civilian who lost their lives on the 14th of March and Akpabio acknowledge it to be the second prayer however

However, he read the second prayer which urged the Federal Government to ensure that those responsible for the heinous crime are identified, apprehended and are made to face the full wrath of the law through a fair and transparent legal process fir which the ayesha had it.

Again, Senator Dafinone moved for another additional prayer to urge the NEMA to reach out and bring relief materials to innocent civilians in Okwoma

However, Akpabio again interjected saying the innocent civillians you are referring to, we don’t have the record of them yet, to give relief materials to those who are killed? Or those who killed, how when they were the ones who killed?

‘I don’t believe that these people are from Niger Delta, those who did the killings because we respect our men and women in uniform, that is why I am saying your additional prayer should actually be to carry out a thorough investigation to know whether these were mercenaries from outside Niger Delta who came in to commit this crime, because I dont think these people are Niger Deltans.
“We are not at war, even in the field of war to lose such number of personnel, no community will go to the extent of doing this kind of thing. I don’t think they are from Niger Delta.
“I think the first point should be that we should first establish the culprits who committed this crime. We must take it seriously, supposen they arenot from Niger Delta? supposen they are not even Nigerians? We will now come and talk of giving relieve materials to people that have killed. People should stand up for the consequences of their crime we don’t support relief materials.

“Like I said this is a very shocking, horrifying and unfortunate incidence and every right thinking man must condemn it and must also mourn the lost of our personal who were involve in not just trying to keep peace but to ensure that the resources of the country are not stolen because that is Niger Delta.

“Whatever it is we have to find a way to reduce the involvement of the military in internal security so that police can do their work. 

“This has happened, while we condemn it we must as a senate set up a committee to do proper investigation and then of course come up with recommendations particularly to ensure that the culprits are brought to book and then we find a way to console the families and then also console the leadership of the Armed Forces of the country.”

Another resolutions of the Senate was to urge the recruitment and training of more police personnel to take up the job of policing responsibilities while the Nigerian Army plays its primary role in the affairs of the country.

It also urged the Federal Government to embark on enlightenment campaign to sensitize the public on their civic responsibilities as it affects their relationship with security agencies.

The Senate had condemned in clear terms the gruesome murder of 15 Nigerian Army Personnel in Okuama Community, Delta State and call for an investigations into this act of criminality. 

This is as it called for a compensation for the families of the deceased soldiers whilst investigations are ongoing.

Presenting the motion, the chairman of the Senate Commitee on Nigerian Army, Senator Yar’Adua noted that the recent tragic incident that resulted in the loss of a Commanding Officer, 2 Majors, a Captain, and 12 soldiers, highlights serious threat to the security and stability of the country. 

“Troops of 181 Amphibious Battalion, while on a peace mission to Okuoma community in Bomadi LGA of Delta State were surrounded by some community youths and killed on Thursday, 14 March 2024. The unfortunate incident occurred when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crises between the Okuama and Okoloba communities both in Delta State. 

“The tragic incident involving the attack on military personnel from the 181 Amphitropous Battalion during the peace mission to Okuama community in Delta State underscores the urgent need for justice and accountability without resorting to retribution.”

The lawmaker voiced concern over the understaffing of the Nigeria Police which has made Nigeria’s military to take over internal policing duties such as, organised crime, oil theft, communal crisis, kidnapping, banditry and other policing responsibilities. 

He also recalled when the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) previously reported in August 2023 the loss of 36 Military Personnel in Niger State, underscoring the persistent challenges faced by the Armed Forces in carrying out their duties. 

“There is a critical requirement for a more streamlined and deliberate collaboration between the armed forces and law enforcement agencies on one side and the Nigerian populace and communities on the other. 

“This collaboration is essential to foster trust, enhance security measures, and promote a sense of shared responsibility in preventing such tragedies in the future,” he added.

On his part, Senator dafinone requested the Senate to show some concern in handling the situation.

According to him, if the matter is not carefully handled, it will lead to a further breakdown of law and order

“We need to commensurate with the people of Okuama Community over the loss of lives of some of the innocent indigenes in the unfortunate incident. 

“I therefore plead with the President, the Defence headquarters and the Chief of Defence Staff to please tamper justice with mercy and not punish an entire community of Okuama for the sins of a few unscrupulous elements,” he added.

Contributing to the motion, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North) lamented over the inhumane act of the murderers of the military men. 

He said, “What happened is despicable. It is inhuman and it is something that cannot be accepted. We need to commensurate with the Nigerian Armed Forces and indeed the entire nation, to condole the immediate families of the fallen heroes and the Nigerian military for what happened. 

“These were men that were trained by the Nigerian government and huge resources spent on them to defend the territorial integrity of this country and keep us safe as a nation.

“Now, they were killed for no reason; not at a time of conflict, not at the war front, they were just murdered in the worst fashion that you can think about. 

“It should be condemned, what happened is inhuman and no stone should be left unturned in trying to find out the culprits who are responsible and they must face justice and this should never happen again in this country.

“The military is doing their best trying to deal with kidnappers, bandits and a host of others challenges, trying to make us safe and now some people decided to go and murder these people and I believe that it is something that we should all condemn and proffer solutions too,” he added. 

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Anchor borrowers loan Default: Senate asks CBN to debit commercial Banks at Source

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Apparently piqued over the level of loan default by beneficiaries of Anchors Borrowers Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Senate has ordered the apex bank to debit the account of commercial banks that guaranteed the loans

The Senate adhoc Committee set up to investigate the printing of N30 Trillion by the CBN through its Ways and Means overdraft and the disbursement of Anchors Borrowers Programme under the Muhammadu Buhari administration issued order at its inaugural sitting on Tuesday.
At its session with officials of the apex bank led by Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, CBN, Bala Bello, the Senate adhoc team led by Senator Jibrin Isah, was peeved that the outstanding sum of N358billion stands the risk of being categorised as bad debt.

Senator Isah who was not impressed with explanations offered by officials of the apex bank to restructure the loans asked the apex bank to go after the collaterals offered by the defaulting beneficiaries, through the Commercial Banks
He said:”They defaulted and why do they default. You can’t restructure the loan forever.! You can go after the collateral, you must up your games, we need to recover these monies. We can’t continue to restructure forever.
“We are talking about N358b that hasn’t
been repaid and at the risk of default.
“For those that have defaulted, I suggest that we put a peg on the interest . Our focus should be on the principal. On that, those loans must have been guaranteed by the banks. I want to believe that those banks must have covered their backs through collateral. I am sure no bank will grant loans without collateral . “They must open up to you. We have the power to go through the whole hog by debiting them at source. We can do that, let them go to Court.”
Deputy Governor, CBN, Corporate Services, Bala Bello expressed regrets over the lack of supervision by the immediate past management of the CBN under its erstwhile Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
He assured the lawmakers that the new management was doing everything possible to recover outstanding loans.
“On our own part, I want to tell you that the new management of CBN have given us a mandate to get the money back. We are under responsibility to recover these money, they belong to tax payers. It saddens my heart to answer questions on things we don’t know. But we inherit both assets and liability. Things could have been done better.”
Speaking on the Ways and Means advances, the Chairman of the Senate adhoc Committee expressed disappointment that the CBN Act was observed in the breach by its immediate past Governor, Godwin Emefiele whom he noted unilaterally approved loans without recourse to the statutory approving authority, the Committee of Governors.
“Under the Ways and Means, Committee of Governors should have been the approving authority. But the CBN Governor did not do that, he unilaterally approved.
“We also want to know the total figure of the Ways and Means because what we have here, the figure didn’t add up. We want to know who got what . ”

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Reps panel on Housing, Habitat Receives New REDAN President

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***Sets up Joint Committee to Review RECON Bill

By Ben Ogbemudia, Abuja

The House of Representatives Committee on Housing and Habitat led by Hon. Aminu Balele on Wednesday received in audience the newly elected President of Real Estate Developer’s Association of Nigeria (REDAN) Prince Adeoye Akintoye in his office.

The committee members who were excited to receive the REDAN 7th Executive members unanimously agreed to turn the visit into interactive session.

Hon Balele while welcoming the Prince Adeoye Akintoye and his Executive members to the National Assembly said the committee is ready to work with them particularly in the area of amending some acts that will help regulate the housing sector in Nigeria.

The Chairman of the committee and its members therefore agreed on a joint committee with REDAN to look into the RECON Bill.

According to Hon. Balele, “we appreciate your coming at this critical time where there is a lot of changes.

“We are going to work together and we are going to come in where you want us to come in, particularly in an area whereby we can amend some acts and other things. An area whereby we can collaborate with other committees to work hand in hand to better the housing situation in Nigeria.

“There are a lot of areas we can touch together, like the issue of people running houses without certificate, this is something we should look into. We need to do this urgently. And so, we are going to set up now a joint committee between you people and our committee to seat down and look at the area that needs an amendment. We assured you that we will push it with our colleagues in Senate and through to the President for absent.”

Earlier, the President of Real Estate Developer’s Association of Nigeria (REDAN) Prince Adeoye Akintoye said REDAN as an advocacy group that will always advocate for the cost of housing and all matters pertaining to allied matters around Housing sector.

Prince Adeoye Akintoye said Housing industry remains one of the avenue to provide employment in a very humongous capacity.

While he strongly believe that working together with the committee will go a long way to change the face of housing in Nigeria, he therefore solicited for the National Assembly help in scaling through the RECON Bill which the 9th Assembly earlier passed but was not absent to by President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“There are so many things that we can push together, concerning the land administration system in Nigeria , I think we have to do more. We practitioner represent property development companies today and the sector is not well controlled. We have signed a strategic agreement with SCUML, EFCC to collaborate with them in shipping out the bad eggs in the built industry.

“We brought a bill and the bill was passed by this honourable house at the last assembly. Both the senate and the House of Representatives, passed the Bill, but getting to the presidency it was not signed and I think that bill has lapsed now.

But today, we will be seeking the help of this honourable committee because we like to bring the bill back. So , our plea is in the area of Synergy, the area of collaboration and the area of advocacy. We assure you that we will not do anything that is outside the law. whatsoever subject that we are asking you to involve in, it will definitely be to the benefit of Nigerians and for the good of the country. When REDAN starts to lend their voice and participate in the renew hope agenda, many Nigerians will get more shelter.

The REDAN President however reminded the committee that, Alh Jakande was the 1st president of the group and by the grace of God he is the 5th president.

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