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Plenary proceedings of the House of Representatives for Thursday, May 28th, 2020, The Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila presiding.

Plenary proceedings of the House of Representatives for Thursday, May 28th, 2020, The Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila presiding.

After leading the opening prayer and the National Pledge, the Speaker went on to examine and approve the second votes and proceedings for Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 ______________________________

COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE PRESIDENT:

1. Submission of the revised 2020-2022 midterm expenditure framework(MTEF) FSP as well as the revised Appropriation Bill 2020. This revision is necessary due to the sharp decline in the global oil price as well as the sharp fall of local oil production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence it is necessary to re-appropriate scarce critical financial resources to critical sectors of the economy to ensure national socio-economic progress in the post-COVID-19 era. The letter was referred to the House committees on finance and appropriations. 2. Request for approval for local and external borrowing to finance the revised 2020 budget, also to finance critical capital projects, and to finance projects to support the state governments. The letter was referred to the House Committee on Loans and Debts Management. The President thanked the House for its usual patriotism in dealing with such urgent national issues and trusts the partnership would continue. ____________________________

_ PETITIONS

1. Rep. Sylvester Ogbaga laid 3 petitions on the same subject matter which is siting of the newly approved Federal College of Education in Abakiliki, Ebonyi State in a zone which already has 2 higher institutions. They called on the House to intervene and ensure the institution is sited elsewhere for fairness and transparency's sake. 2. Rep. Julius Ihonvbere laid a petition from a complainant in the college of education in Edo state siting infringement of his rights. Both petitions were referred to the House Committee on Public Petitions.

_____________________________ MATTERS OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

1. Rep. Ndudi Elumelu moved a motion on the flaunting of the inter-State lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic and it was seconded by Rep. Nicholas Ossai. Rep. Elumelu stated that it has come to the notice of the House that people who are neither healthcare providers nor essential caregivers still travel between states which are in contravention to and violation of the ban on inter-state travel ordered by the federal government and being enforced by state governments. Rep. Elumelu expressed worry that these travels which do not respect social distancing could frustrate the progress made so far in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. He called on the security agencies who are supposed to man the borders not to be complacent and ensure the ban is enforced. Rep. Elumelu also called on the federal government to set up a special task force to monitor and implement the ban on interstate travel.

The motion was voted on, adopted and referred to the relevant Committees of the House. 2. Rep. Preye Oseke moved a motion on the need to stop the regular invasion and destruction of communities in Bayelsa State by military operatives and it was seconded by Rep. Francis Waive. In leading the debate Rep. Oseke stated that it is the right of the communities in Bayelsa state and other communities nationally to enjoy their territorial integrity as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. He bemoaned the way military forces invade, destroy properties and burn down communities in the name of combatting cultists and criminals. Nowhere worldwide he stated is it right to punish the innocent in searching for the guilty, this he stated is a gross violation of human rights and fighting wrong with wrong.

Rep. Oseke while condemning the acts of waste and destruction called on the security and military forces to employ proper investigative tactics in combing out criminal elements. He then called on the Chief of Defense Staff to call the military to order and that the House Committee on Defence should ensure compliance and report back to the House in 6 weeks. The Deputy Speaker of the House, Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase reminded Rep. Oseke that he cannot condemn the military before the investigation by the committee. To this Rep. Francis Waive moved an amendment to expunge the condemnation of the military before the due investigation is carried out.

The motion was voted on, adopted as amended and referred to the relevant Committees of the House. 3. Rep. Dagomie Abiante moved a motion on the urgent need to intervene in the mysterious deaths in Bonny Island in Rivers state and it was seconded by Rep. Aniekan Umanah. Rep. Abiante in leading the debate stated that the symptoms of the deadly and mysterious disease include stooling, loss of taste, loss of appetite and vomiting. These he stated is similar but not the same with the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated that Bonny island being enclosed is a high economic hub and a large contributor to the socio-economic wellbeing of Nigeria as is a major contributor to the oil and gas sector of the economy.

Rep. Abiante urged the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) to brief the Ad-Hoc committee set up by the House on the COVID-19 pandemic, also that the National Emergency Management Agency should provide relief for those affected and that the oil companies should ensure their corporate social responsibility to the communities are maintained as should be, especially in such trying times. The Deputy Speaker of the House, Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase reminded Rep. Abiante that he cannot call on the NCDC to meet with the Ad-Hoc Committee set up by the House with a motion, it has to be a resolution of the House. That prayer was then expunged pending a resolution of the House.

The motion was voted on and adopted as amended. 4. Rep. Ben Igbakpa rose under a matter of personal explanation to remind the House that on 5th February 2020, he moved a motion on a collapsing bridge in Delta state and the critical linking bridge is still in disrepair and near collapse. This would make the people in the affected region of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States not able to have free movement and may lead to loss of lives. He called on the House to call for the repair of the critical linking infrastructure. The Deputy Speaker, Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase called on Rep. Igbakpa to bring up the matter in the form of a motion or Bill as a reminder which is the correct procedure.

_____________________________ PRESENTATION OF BILLS

1. Appropriations Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (HB. 842) (Executive) – First Reading. 2. Federal College of Education Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (HB. 844) (Rep. Oluwole Oke) – First Reading.

______________________________ ORDER OF THE DAY

1. A Bill for an Act to Amend the Appropriations Act, 2020 to Authorize the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N10,509,654,033,053 (Ten Trillion, Five Hundred and Nine Billion, Six Hundred and Fifty - Four Million, Thirty-Three Thousand, Fifty-Three Naira) only, of which N398,505,979,362 (Three Hundred and Ninety Eight Billion, Five Hundred and Five Million, Nine Hundred and Seventy-Nine Thousand, Three Hundred and Sixty-Two Naira) only, is for Statutory Transfers, N2,951,710,000,000 (Two Trillion, Nine Hundred and Fifty-One Billion, Seven Hundred and Ten Million Naira) only, is for Debt Service, N4,928,525,467,849 (Four Trillion, Nine Hundred and Twenty- Eight Billion, Five Hundred and Twenty-Five Million, Four Hundred and Sixty-Seven Thousand, Eight Hundred and Forty-Nine Naira) only, is for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure while the sum of N2,230,912,585,842 (Two Trillion, Two Hundred and Thirty Billion, Nine Hundred and Twelve Million, Five Hundred and Eighty - Five Thousand, Eight Hundred and Forty-Two Naira) only, is for contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on 31 December, 2020 (HB. 842) (Leader) – Second Reading.

Debate Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa moved for the second reading of the Bill and it was seconded by Rep. Abubakar Hassan Fulata. Rep. Ado-Doguwa in leading the debate stated that the amendment of the Bill is necessitated by the realities facing the country as a result of the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need to revise the parameters and indices of the budget has to be effected in order to endure a practical budget that reflects the realities of the times and that can be implemented by the government for Nigerians.

Rep. Ado-Doguwa. urged members to please support the Bill to ensure the good relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is maintained and to ensure the Bill succeeds for the good of Nigerians. He however called on the House Committees on Finance and Appropriations to be judicious in their duties on the Bill and ensure it is judiciously implemented. Rep. Haruna Mshelia in his contribution stated that time is of the essence and urged for the speedy passage of the Bill to be proactive in dealing with the global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Ibrahim Aliyu also supported the Bill stating that budget remains a projection that can be revised depending on prevailing realities. This he stated cannot be overemphasized especially considering the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of the nation.

Rep. Shehu Garba stated that with the tumbling in global oil prices, the earlier passed budget is no more practical, hence the need to revise it. He however pointed out that having gone through the details of the Bill, he had expected the Federal Government to tighten economic measures. Rep. Garba stated that the projections and expenditure in the proposed recurrent expenditure seem to be unrealistically high and that the call to borrow more is saddening, this he stated is why Nigeria keeps getting deeper in debt and dependent on other nations. He called on the House to meet with the Executive on these concerns so that the country practically weathers the storm.

Rep. Sada Soli Jibia expressed concern on the excess of the benchmark where monies are already being projected before the approval of the legislature. He called on the House to be more critical in supervising excess oil revenue funds, if not the illegality will continue in robbing Nigerians. Rep. Taiwo Oluga expressed worry about how even after all necessary amendments the National Assembly must strictly oversight the funds to ensure public funds are not wasted. She also stated that Nigeria as a nation must improve saving expenditure.

Rep. Oluga called for a reduction of the recurrent expenditure in favour of capital expenditures. She called for an improvement in the allocation to critical sectors such as education sectors as the post-COVID-19 educational sector will need more ICT, she also called for improvement in funds for agriculture and manufacturing sectors of the economy. Rep. Oluga stated that the allocations for the Ministry of Finance and National Planning should be cut down further. Rep. Chinyere Igwe called for the government to face the realities of the time and reduce expenditure to what was obtainable before such as exorbitant expenditures on security and huge financing of the offices of Security Chiefs should be drastically reduced till things come back to normal.

He called on the alterations to be done in the best interest of Nigerians. Rep. Nsikak Okon stated that there is nothing wrong with local borrowing as long as it is used to develop local productive industries and revenue-generating sectors. Rep. Ibrahim Shaba stated that the amount of money being appropriated to COVID-19 may end up costing Nigeria more than the country can afford. He called for the rejigging of the national economy. He also called on the House to ensure Nigerians are not ripped off economically in the path of containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Onofiok Luke in supporting the Bill stated that the greater concern is to channel the scarce funds to sectors that will provide employment and ensure stability after the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 he stated is a sharp arrow at the heart of globalization as countries will now be more nationalistic in their approach post-COVID-19. This he stated that will make accountability more critical. Rep. Luke stated that the portion for debt servicing calls for concern and called for using the recovered loots to beef up the economy.

Rep. Victor Mela while also supporting the Bill called for the strengthening of the oversight functions of the committees of the House. Rep. Mela also called for the development of the solid minerals sectors of the different states nationally. Rep. Johnson Oghuma also supporting the second reading of the Bill expressed worry about why the indices and benchmarks of the Nigerian economy are always reactive to speculative international decisions. Rep. Benjamin Kalu in supporting the Bill called for the observation of scale of preference for prioritizing where funds are being channelled to and in downscaling allocations to other less critical sectors. Nigeria, Rep. Kalu stated has failed to channel funds from the revenue from the oil and gas sector to developing key economic and revenue-boosting sectors and it is time to develop those critical sectors that will fund the nation after oil and gas. He called on the House to begin to put structures in place to ensure prosperity post-COVID-19.

Rep. Kalu also called for the reduction in the recurrent expenditure costs. Rep. Henry Nwawuba called for national economic tightening measures in reaction to the desperate times worldwide. He called for diversification of the oil sector to increase the revenue in the sector. Rep. Munir Baba Danagundi expressed concern of borrowed funds being wasted, he emphasized that the funds must be channelled to sectors that will increase revenue for Nigeria. He called for an inward look to ensure critical sectors such as research, education and agriculture sectors are developed maximally.

Rep. Victor Nwokolo called for an upward adjustment of the benchmark of the budget as the price war governing global oil seems to be over and the oil price is on the upward climb. He called for practical diversification of the Nigerian economy as so much is being lost to illegal mining and bunkering. Rep. James Faleke in supporting the Bill stated that it is important to be conversant with the parameters of the budget which represents about 50 percent reduction. The borrowing for executing specific projects will bridge the existing gap in funds for executing such critical projects Rep. Faleke stated.

While praising the call for economic diversification; Rep. Faleke stated that it cannot be done immediately in cognizance of the reality of the times presently as the reward cannot be achieved now, this he stated will be favourable for future purposes. Rep. Toby Okechukwu stated that the House has to stand for Laws that will benefit the teeming masses and he supports every drive by a government that will truly ensure these benefits. He called on the government to ensure a proper environment for Nigerians to become productive and truly self-reliant, instead of just giving handouts in the form of palliatives and social safety nets. Rep.

Toby Okechukwu also called for accounting into the national revenues of oil and gas. Rep. Ndudi Elumelu in supporting the Bill emphasized that the Appropriations Committee needs to do a thorough job in cushioning the dwindling of the national economy as a result of the global business shutdown. He expressed optimism that with the easing down of the global economic shutdown, oil price increase will be continuous and given the resumption of international travelling; the benchmark of the budget should be increased which will reduce the budget deficit and shore up funds for the capital expenditures. Rep. Elumelu reminded members that the Nigerians who voted members into office are akin to an investment in the future of those Nigerians and the right dividends of democracy are the return on those investments, hence he cannot in good faith blindly support what will not be duly over-sighted.

The ball he stated is now in the court of the relevant Committees of the House to protect the public trust of Nigerians by ensuring strict oversight. Rep. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha in supporting the Bill stated that the peculiar situation in which countries are calling for this peculiar approach and called on members to ensure the Bill is passed. She however called on the Executive Arm of government to ensure that the budget benefits all Nigerians as the Legislature patriotically hopes. Rep. Mohammed Tahir Monguno also supported the Bill and called on members to pass it to alleviate the sufferings of the people due to the revenue shortfall from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added a proviso that the budget is fully implemented while calling for stringent over-sighting of the parameters of the budget. The Leader of the House, Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa in exercising the right of reply stated that other impediments such as taxes and royalties have to be respected and accommodated in the expenditure columns of the budget. He expressed optimism that the borrowing plan will be well structured as pains have been made to ensure the interest rate is at a significant minimum. He thanked members for their robust debate and contribution and assured them that the finance and appropriations committees will do the relevant work expected of them. The presiding officer, Deputy Speaker, Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase urged members to vote on the Bill patriotically. The Bill was voted on, passed for second reading and referred to the relevant Committees of the House.

_____________________________ PRESENTATION OF REPORT

Rep. Henry Nwawuba laid a report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the $10 Million bribery allegation made against the House of Representatives.

_____________________________

The Leader of the House, Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa moved a motion that the House do approve and adopt the votes and proceedings of the plenary of the day.

_____________________________ Adjournment:

The House at 14:23 adjourned plenary till Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 by 11:00 A.M following a motion for adjournment moved by the Leader of the House, Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa and seconded by Rep. Abubakar Hassan Fulata

Courtesy: Media Unit, Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives

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