President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday questioned the Senate over its approval of N90.2 billion for the governments of Taraba and Delta states for projects executed on behalf of the federal government, instead of the lower figure of N 78.6 he had sent in for their approval.
Similarly, the president also sought reimbursement for Bauchi and Kogi state governments for projects they executed on behalf of the federal government.
In a letter addressed to the Senate president, dated March 5, 2019, which was received on March 23, 2019, Buhari drew the Senate’s attention to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2017, which empowered the Bureau of Public Procurement to approve vendors and contracts sums.
In a letter entitled, “Promissory note programme and a bond issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations and refunds to state governments for projects executed on behalf of the federal government: Approvals for Delta and Taraba states,” Buhari noted that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved a total sum of N78,601,631,430.16 (N78.6m) as reimbursement to Delta and Taraba governments, but that the National Assembly approved N90, 236, 461, 031.36, a difference of about N11.6 billion.
According to the president, the amount approved by the Senate is higher than the amount FEC approved.
The president also drew the attention of the lawmakers to a similar request for Bauchi and Kogi state governments, noting that the lawmakers were silent about it.
“Nothing was approved for them whereas FEC had earlier approved reimbursement for them,” Buhari said of Kogi and Bauchi states.
“The amounts presented to the National Assembly for approval were duly certified for reimbursement by the Bureau of Public Procurement before they were approved by the federal government.
“Since the BPP is charged with the responsibility of providing contract sums, and there is a need for compliance with the Public Procurement Act, 2007, I wish to request that you forward to us details relating to the amounts approved by the National Assembly for Delta and Taraba states in excess of what was certified by the Bureau of Public Procurement for necessary certification and approval.
“Furthermore, I wish to request the reimbursement earlier submitted in favour of Bauchi and Kogi state governments,” Buhari added.
… Rejects Ajaokuta Steel Bill
The request made by the National Assembly for about $1 billion to be taken from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to resuscitate the Ajaokuta Steel Company has forced President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the bill.
Senate president, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had during plenary read several letters sent by the president to the Senate declining assent to eight bills, including the Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill, 2018.
Other bills the president declined assent to included: The Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill 2018, Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2018, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018, the National Housing Fund Bill 2018, National Institute of Credit Administration Bill 2018, National Bio- Technology Development Agency Bill 2018 and The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018.
Buhari, in one of the letters, said his refusal to assent to the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill was due to the fact that appropriating $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as requested in the Bill by the federal lawmakers was not the best strategic option for Nigeria at a time the country was facing budgetary constraints.
“The nation cannot afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long term social and economic impact that the funds can be alternatively deployed towards.
“Furthermore, as the Excess Crude Account Funds belong to the Federation, it would be proper to consult with the National Economic Council where the states are represented,” Buhari said.
The president also said that his decision to reject the bill was because relevant stakeholders, such as the ministries of Mines and Steel Development, and Industry Trade and Investment were not fully consulted.
“The inputs of key stakeholders are necessary to create the optimal legal and regulatory framework as well as institutional mechanism to adequately regulate the steel sector,” he explained.
On the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018, Buhari cited provisions contained in section 32 of the Bill as the reason behind his refusal to assent to the bill.
“Section 32 of the Bill introduces (I) a 2.5 per cent levy on the profit before tax of the target companies, which will increase the tax burden of the companies while offering no direct benefit to them : (ii) a1 per cent levy on imports which will also add to the cost of doing business in the country (iii), a 5 per cent per cent levy on luxury goods which duplicates efforts by the Federal Ministry of Finance to raise excise on such goods in a more sustainable manner to the benefit of the federal government treasury”, Buhari said.
According to him, if signed into law, the Agency will have objectives similar to the Bank of Industry, particularly with regard to the funding of small and medium enterprises.
On the Chartered Institute of Training and Development Establishment bill 2018, Buhari said there are concerns that the Institute does not possess the capacity to undertake the numerous duties and responsibilities imposed under the Act.
For the Nigerian Aeronautic research bill 2018, the president said there are many inconsistencies in the bill, adding that the bill was not in tandem with relevant international civil aviation regulations.
On his refusal to assent to the National Institute of Credit Administration bill 2018, Buhari said the requirement that every member of the staff of the banks and other financial institutions should hold a National Institute of Credit Administration license before they are eligible to practice as credible managers portends crisis.
On his rejection of the National Housing Fund Bill 2018, Buhari said various levies and obligations imposed by Section 4, 5 and 6 of the bill, including monthly deductions from workers’ salaries, the compulsory investment requirement imposed on commercial banks, merchant banks, insurance banks and pension fund administrations with the minimum of 10 per cent profit before tax into the National Housing Fund, will be punitive to a number of industries and sectors of the Nigerian economy, including cement, manufacturing, banking, insurance and pensions, and may also adversely affect the average Nigerian worker.
On the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018, the president said he was declining to assent to it because of the bill’s failure to spell out in details the required qualification and experience threshold of the directors and senior management staff with specific reference to developmental banking, risk management and mortgage loan administration experience.
Giving reasons why he declined assent to the National Biotechnology Development Agency Bill 2018, Buhari said the bill failed to include the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development within the governing board of the agency.
He also argued that there were number of drafting issues and errors in the bill which would affect the interpretation and operation of the bill.