The federal government’s efforts to raise funds to improve power supply in the country suffered a setback yesterday, as the Senate suspended a plan by the federal government to raise a secured bond of N309 billion to finance the shortfall in the Nigerian electricity market.
The Senate urged the government to put the plan on hold pending the outcome of an investigation to be carried out on the proposal by its joint committees on power and privatisation.
The resolution was sequel to the adoption of a motion tagged: “Urgent need to stop the plan to raise a federal government-secured bond of N309 billion to finance the shortfall in the Nigerian electricity market” sponsored by Senator Mustapha Bukar (APC, Katsina) at plenary yesterday.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the House of Representatives had in April this year, also opposed the plan.
The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing at that time, revealed that it had concluded plans to use the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company to raise the bond.
At plenary yesterday, the Senate specifically called on the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to immediately halt the raising of the bonds by Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET).
The Senate also resolved and mandated its committees on power and privatisation to investigate the post-privatisation performance of all players in the power sector in line with their performance agreements, including the management and disbursement of any loans or bonds of the agencies in the sector.
While moving the motion, Senator Bukar said that the planned borrowing was being muted, despite series of interventions such as the bailout by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in March 2015 to the tune of N213 billion through the Nigeria Electricity Sector Intervention (NESI).
He argued that the issuance of bonds would amount to not only spoon-feeding the operators in spite of their inefficiency, but would be at great cost to Nigerians as the risk of default would cause the crystallisation of the federal government sovereign guarantee and lead to national energy crisis in the future.
Bukar further noted that the shortfall has continued to escalate at the rate of about N15 billion per month which is equivalent to N500 million daily. He said the total shortfall as at December 31, 2015, stood at N400 billion.
“Continued incidence of market shortfall is a disincentive for new investors to venture the Nigerian electricity market. This implies that the projected generating capacity is an illusion. As a matter of fact, any increment in generating capacity would further aggravate and escalate the market shortfall,” he added.
Also yesterday, the Senate condemned what it called “midnight invasion”, arrest and detention of some judges in parts of the country last weekend.
Consequently, it mandated its standing committee on judiciary and legal matters to review the existing laws on security and anti-corruption agencies and get back to the House in four weeks’ time and also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call all security agencies to order and direct the full observance of the rule of law in the discharge of their duties.
The red chamber pointed out that while it supports the ongoing anti-corruption fight of the President Buhari-led administration, particularly efforts to sanitise the judiciary, it must be carried out within the confines of the nation’s laws and respect for the principle of separation of powers.
The resolutions followed the adoption of a motion on a matter of urgent national importance moved by Senator Joshua Lidani (PDP, Gombe) at plenary yesterday.
Recall that the DSS had in the wee hours of Saturday, October 8, 2016, stormed the residences of Justices John Okoro and Sylvester Nguta of the Supreme Court; Justices Namdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Justice Kabiru Auta of a Kano State High Court; Justice Muazu Pindiga of Gombe State High Court; and a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Innocent Umezulike.
Debating the motion, Senators spoke in support of the motion, acknowledging the need to purge the judicial arm of government of corruption, even as they chided the DSS for acting outside its constitutional powers.
Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi) and Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna) described the secret police’s action against the judges as a “misnomer” and illegal.
For his part, the chairman, Senate committee on anti-corruption and financial crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu), said the development was “uncalled for” and condemnable, describing it as tyranny of the highest order, which should not have happened even under a military regime.
Also, contributing to the debate, the deputy Senate leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, reiterated that the upper chamber was “irrevocably” committed to the anti-corruption fight of the government, noting that if the action of the DSS was in compliance with the laws of the land, it would not have generated the outcry.
Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who described the incidence as “traumatic” for the judges and members of their households, also said that most of his colleagues were shying away from the debate for fear of another raid on their homes.
“I understand why many senators went into the toilet during the debate…because they don’t want their houses to be invaded by DSS. The method of arrest should have been managed in such a way that it does not affect the judiciary and Nigeria’s image.
“I support the motion because if the DSS had acted in accordance with the law, there would have been no uproar,” Akpabio said.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, also said the Senate was in total support of the anti-corruption war, but insisted that it must be fought within the confines of the laws.
Judges Not Above The Law – Malami
The Attorney-general of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has justified last weekend’s raid on the residences and arrests of seven judges over allegations of corruption.
According to Malami, judges are not above the law or under any constitutional immunity shielding them from arrest or investigation.
While inaugurating the country’s expert review committee for the second cycle of the review of implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the AGF said there was a prima facie case against the judges who are still being expected to be arraigned in court.
He said the judges were arrested on the grounds of reasonable suspicion.
“The fundamental consideration is whether there is an allegation of the commission of a crime, whether there is the need for investigation, and whether the relevant provisions of the law and, indeed, all circumstances, as provided in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act are put into consideration in our conduct as regards the fight against corruption.
“The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to fight corruption. Corruption is a crime and nobody, regardless of how highly placed, is exempted as far as issues that border on crime and criminality are concerned.
“The limited exceptions, as we know constitutionally, are the exceptions of immunity. And to the best of my knowledge, those exceptions do not apply to investigation,” Malami stated.
The attorney-general further pointed out that even for those that are conferred with the immunity, the right to investigate has not been taken away constitutionally.
“So, I think the framework and the circumstances within which we are operating are clearly whether there exists the right to investigate or not, and whether the action borders on criminality.
“Once crime and criminality are concerned, nobody is an exception. I think the undertone should be exclusively the consideration of the existence of a prima facie case; existence of reasonable grounds for suspicion of commission of a crime.
“And if there are, no member of the legislature, judiciary and executive can definitely be exempted from investigation. I think where we are now is the point of investigation and that is what is taking place,” he added.
PMB Nominates Bage, Adamu As S’Court Justices
President Muhammadu Buhari has forwarded the names of Justice Sidi Dauda Bage (North-Central) and Justice Paul Adamu (North-East) to the Senate for confirmation as justices of the Supreme Court.
In a letter dated Thursday, October 6, 2016 personally signed by the president and addressed to the president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, which was read on the floor of the Senate yesterday, Buhari said his action was in compliance with Section 231 subsection 2 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday also began the process of confirming the president’s seven nominees as chairman and commissioners of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in accordance with Section 34 of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005.
The nominees are Prof Akintunde Akinwande (South-West) as chairman; Sanusi Garba (North-West) as vice chairman; other commissioners are Nathan Shanti (North-East); Dr Moses Arigu (North-Central); Dafe C. Akpeneye (South-South); Prof Frank Okafor (South-East); and Dr Musiliu Oseni (South-West).
The nominees have been referred to the Senate Committee on Power for screening.
Reps to investigate DSS
The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee to investigate cases of invasion of property and arrest of persons for reasons outside the general duties of the DSS as prescribed by the National Securities Act.
The decision emanated from a motion on the urgent need to investigate the invasion and arrest of judicial officers for alleged corruption and similar incidences by the DSS.
Mover of the motion, Hon. Kingsley Chinda who noted the principle of separation of powers as well as the independence of the three arms of government, said that the DSS lacked the powers to investigate and prosecute issues of corruption and abuse of office.
According to him, only the National Judicial Council (NJC) was empowered to discipline judicial officers in the Nigeria.
Chinda who recalled similar incidences in the past, expressed concern that if left unchecked, the trend is capable of truncating the nation’s democracy or reliance on self-help.
Similarly, the House mandated its committee on youth development to investigate the recent circular released by the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) to mobilising institutions reducing their quota by almost 70 per cent.
The committee is to report back to the House within one week.