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2016 budget contains N668.8bn frivolous expenditures, CSJ alleges

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  • MSF-Supported Clinic in Syria Destroyed by Airstrike, Doctors Without Borders Says

A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Social Justice, CSJ, has queried some items in the 2016 budget, adding that the fiscal document contained N668.8 billion expenditures that are “frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful.” The budget, which has drawn flaks from some Nigerians, was presented to the 8th Assembly some weeks ago by President Muhammadu Buhari The group stated this in Abuja yesterday while unveiling a report that analyses the 2016 budget.

Lead Director, CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, who presented the report under Citizens Earth Platform, CEP, insisted that the budget should be reviewed in order to remove all expenditures that are of no value to the generality of Nigerians. He said it had become a tradition among Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, to allocate huge sums of money for expenditures that are unclear in the budget.

Some of the frivolous items the group uncovered are purchase of vehicles, welfare packages, software, computers, uniforms and clothing, refreshment and meals and subscription to professional bodies. Others are maintenance of office building/residential quarters, budget preparation, residential rents, and absence of price database, among others For instance, Onyekpere said N3.91 billion was allocated for annual reporting maintenance of villa facilities, while N618.6 million was budgeted for installation of electrical fittings.

Other expenses that the group considered wasteful are N272 million for upgrade of mechanical power line, N322.4 million for linking of cable to drivers’ restroom at the villa and N213.8 million for linking of cable from guest house to generator house. He said: “Despite provision for the maintenance of villa facilities, this huge sum is being considered for the same location. “The villa guest house and facilities has already taken so much. There seems to be a play on words around electricity for the sum of N1.83 billion. “These cannot be priorities for Nigeria in these lean times.

This is incredible and should be reduced by 70 per cent.” On the huge amount budgeted for vehicles, the group in the report, urged the National Assembly to demand an inventory of all existing vehicles in MDAs before considering such requests. The report said: “Purchase of vehicles is a common request across many MDAs. How do we determine genuine from frivolous requests? “Should NASS demand an inventory of existing vehicles? There is need for justification before every approval. The demand for vehicles is even specifically tied to some foreign brands.

“This is wrong under the Public Procurement Act as only the functional specification of a product should be in the budget.” The group said rather than spend these funds for the procurement of these items; it should be re-channeled to other productive sectors of the economy. Meanwhile, budget defence of the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation, OSGOF, was yesterday stalled at the House of Representatives Committee on Works due to conflicting documents about what the Agency and the Law had. Drama started when the Toby Okechuwku-led Committee faulted the 2016 budget proposals of OSGOF, saying it was not in tandem with what President Muhammadu Buhari laid before the National Assembly.

Director General of OSGOF, Ebisintei Awudu, blamed the budget office for the discrepancies, explaining that they prepared the budget based on the templates given. He said when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Works, they had to be turned down because the Committee asked whether OSGOF now construct roads. Awudu explained that what he was defending before the Committee was what his agency gave as obtained from the Senate Committee. “At the budget office, there is a template and software given to us. In our documents before the Senate, there was the construction of roads for N200 million.

“We are not here to cause confusion, we only removed what was not ours,” he said. When asked on the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of OSGOF, the surveyor general said N1.6 million was remitted into the Federation Account. However, the committee chairman described the N1.6 million as unreasonable. “I know how much surveyors make. There has to be some level of creativity. Our expectation is that you need to be up and doing,” he said. Okechuwku directed that discrepancies in the budget should be corrected, while a later date would be approved for its defence. A breakdown of the agency’s budget shows Overhead cost at N139 million, Personnel N867.5 million, while N1 billion is for capital projects.

Meanwhile, at least seven people were killed Monday after what Doctors Without Borders called a “deliberate” airstrike on one of the hospitals they support in Syria.

The aid group, also known as MSF, said eight staff members were missing and presumed dead following the aerial assault on the facility in Idlib province’s town of Maaret al-Numan.

Five patients, a caretaker and a guard were among the dead, MSF added. Other patients were still missing, but their numbers were not currently known, the group said.

“This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure,” the group’s head of mission, Massimiliano Rebaudengo, said in a statement. “We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms.”

The hospital — which had 54 staff, two operating theaters, an outpatient department and an emergency room — was reportedly hit by four missiles in two attacks within a few minutes of each other, according to MSF.

MSF did not suggest who may have been behind the attack, although the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed Russian warplanes.

The State Department blamed the despotic Bashar Assad regime and his Russian backers for the carnage.

“That the Assad regime and its supporters would continue these attacks, without cause and without sufficient regard for international obligations to safeguard innocent lives, flies in the face of the unanimous calls” by the International Syria Support Group to protect civilians, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

It “casts doubt on Russia’s willingness and/or ability to help bring to a stop the continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people,” Kirby said.

Meanwhile, Syria’s ambassador to Russia claimed the U.S-led coalition was to blame for the attack on the MSF facility.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition denied the Syrian ambassador’s claim, saying the only airstrikes it launched Monday were nowhere near Maaret al-Numan in the eastern Syria near the cities of Raqqa and Hasakah.

There has been a spate of attacks in recent years on MSF medical facilities, which are protected under international law.

An accidental U.S. airstrike on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan killed 42 people in what the group suggested could be a war crime. Last week, an airstrike hit an MSF hospital in southern Syria, killing three people and wounding at least six others.

MSF said Monday that in addition to the Idlib airstrike there were reports that two hospitals unaffiliated with the group had been attacked in neighboring Aleppo province.

The U.N. children’s agency confirmed it had received reports that two UNICEF-supported hospitals in the Azaz area of Aleppo province had been attacked, along with two schools.

According to The Associated Press, at least five people were killed and dozens of others were wounded when a missile struck a hospital for women and children in Azaz. Seven people were killed when an airstrike hit a school in the nearby village of Kaljibrin, the AP reported.

Alaaeddin Alzaeem went to help with the rescue efforts after rockets hit the hospital for women and children in Azaz city.

“It’s broken in the hospital — everything,” he told NBC News by Skype.

He, too, blamed Russian warplanes for dropping the rockets Monday.

“The streets, all, it’s empty because Russians target Azaz,” he said. “Russia and the regime killing us every day, and nobody do anything.”

Moscow says its airstrikes in Syria target terrorist groups — including ISIS — but Western officials have accused Russia of launching strikes in support of Syrian government forces.

Amnesty International said Monday’s airstrikes were “just the latest” in “scores of apparently deliberate attacks” on hospitals and medical facilities.

“Russian and Syrian forces know full well that deliberate attacks on medical facilities are war crimes,” the rights group said in a statement. “All parties to the conflict must cease such horrific attacks, stop destroying medical facilities and allow medical workers to carry out their life-saving work without fear of being killed or injured in the line of duty.”

National Mirror with additional report from NBC

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Tanker Tyre Explosion Sparks Chaos In Surulere

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Tanker Tyre Explosion Sparks Chaos In Surulere

 Pandemonium engulfed Ekololu, a community in the Surulere area of Lagos, on Monday night when the back tyres of a tanker transporting fuel to a Conoil filling station burst into flames near the station.

The News Correspondent who resides in the area reports that the explosion of the tyres and the ensuing billows of smoke made residents living near the filling station flee for safety.

Observations by the newsmen revealed that staff from the filling station hurried out with fire extinguishers to combat the fire, which erupted around 9:00 p.m., just a few meters from the station’s entrance.

Emergency responders, including Federal and State Fire Services, as well as the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), swiftly arrived at the scene following distress calls from the community.

The ill-fated tanker that caused the pandemonium

Upon arrival, the emergency teams assessed the unregistered truck carrying the petrol and raised concerns about safety measures while questioning the driver and filling station management.

They provided guidance and oversaw the safe discharge of the fuel using a long hose to transfer the petroleum product from the stranded tanker into the filling station’s reservoirs.

The Station Manager of the Conoil filling station, Mr Kunle Oniya, informed the emergency responders that the station possessed 20 fire extinguishers, which were promptly utilised to contain the fire and prevent its spread.

The incident led to a traffic gridlock, with vehicles unable to move in the area for nearly an hour.

Some residents shared their experiences of the ordeal with the newsmen.

A resident, Malam Shehu, recounted abandoning his dinner upon witnessing the fiery explosion.

He expressed gratitude that the fire was contained before causing further damage.

Another resident, known as Iya Abigail, described hearing people shouting while she was playing games, prompting her to flee in confusion wearing her nightclothes.

She prayed for continued safety in the community.

An elderly resident, who preferred anonymity, urged filling stations in the area to prioritise safety and the welfare of residents.

She noted that filling stations typically had insurance against fire and other disasters and suggested extending such coverage to vulnerable buildings in their host communities.

Recalling the chaotic events, she said that she heard the sound of an emergency whistle to alert the neighbourhood before hastily evacuating her home.

“I was watching TV and when the incident occurred, I had to blow the emergency whistle to alert the neighbourhood but I quickly dressed up before running out of the house,” she said. 

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Overspeeding Claims 7 Lives In Ibadan- Iseyin Road Crash- FRSC

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Overspeeding Claims 7 Lives In Ibadan- Iseyin Road Crash- FRSC

…As 15 people sustain varying degrees of injuries

Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has confirmed the death of seven persons in a road accident that occurred on Ibadan-Iseyin road on Thursday.

The Public Relations Officer, FRSC, Oyo Sector Command, Mr Mayowa Odewo, said in a statement that the deceased were five male adults, one female adult and one female child.

Odewo said that 15 people also sustained varying degrees of injuries out of the 22 people involved in the crash.

He attributed the accident, involving a Nissan Urvan commercial bus, with registration number: SEY 254 ZY and a Mazda commercial bus, with registration number LGB 343 XA, to speed violations and fatigue.

Odewo stated that the 13 injured victims, including three male adults, nine female adults and one female child, had been taken to a nearby hospital for medical attention.

He said that four of the seven corpses of the victims had been claimed by their families, while the remaining three had been deposited at a morgue.

“The police from Motor Traffic Division (MTD) Police Division, Moniya, Ibadan, have taken possession of the two crashed vehicles, including bags and other valuables recovered from the scene,” he said.

The FRSC spokesperson noted that no victim was saved by the seat belt or other defensive gadgets.

He urged motorists to always obey traffic rules and regulations as well as adhere to all traffic cautions on the road to prevent avoidable crashes. 

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Man Dies After Falling Off Cruise Ship in Australia

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Man Dies After Falling Off Cruise Ship in Australia

Australian police had found a man’s body off Sydney’s coast while searching for a cruise ship passenger who went overboard on Monday.
The man fell overboard before dawn near Sydney Heads, about 18 kilometers from the shore, with police and other emergency services launching a search, New South Wales police said.

At about 10.30 a.m. (0030 GMT), officers located the body and retrieved it, police said.

Police would now prepare a report for the Coroner and have launched an investigation into how the incident unfolded.

P&O Cruises’ ship Pacific Adventure was due to arrive in Sydney Harbour on Monday.

“We thank guests for their care, understanding, and patience on what’s been a distressing day for guests and crew,’’
a statement from the company said, as quoted by local media.

“Our thoughts are with the family of the guest at this difficult time.’’

The ship was returning to Sydney from a three-day trip to Queensland’s Morton Island.

– dpa

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