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Senate probes N2.5bn NDDC Water Hyacinth Project

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Senate probes N2.5bn NDDC Water Hyacinth Project

…As Reps query ₦127bn power budget allocation***

The Senate has begun to scrutinize the award of ‘Water Hyacinth Emergency and Desilting Contracts’ awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from 2017 to 2019.

The probe got under way, just as the House Committee on Power has also queried the ₦127 billion 2020 budget allocation to the Ministry of Power.

Chairman Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide confirmed the Senate probe when the Director, Special Duties of the NDDC, Nosakhare Agbongiasede appeared before the committee in Abuja on Thursday, noting that the investigation became necessary because the initial cost of the contract at N2.5 billion was allegedly jerked to N65 billion on the project.

“Of course, that is a very serious offence. What we are hearing or what we know is that N2.5billion was budgeted for this activity that is, desilting and clearing of water hyacinths.

“We are hearing that the Commission has spent N65 billion, so, we want to know if it is true.

“We had invited the acting Managing Director and Management of the NDDC to come and testify before this committee of the Senate on Public Accounts on an issue that has become of national importance.

“That is, the award of contracts that has to do with the clearing of water hyacinth in the Niger Delta region, and of course the desilting contracts that were awarded by the NDDC under its emergency programme.

“We want to be able to ascertain if due processes were followed in the award of these contracts, particularly with the information we have at our disposal that they exceeded budget limits.

” It is an allegation. It is still an assumption until they come to clear the air surrounding this.

“This is why the senate is particularly interested and has mandated this committee to carry out full investigation.

“So, we want the Acting MD to come. We are aware that the acting MD assumed duties a few weeks ago but government is a continuum.

“It is not a case of whether she is the one that was in office or not, and again we are very clear that this committee is not out to witch hunt anybody,” he said. 

Also read: Senate probes PPRA over non remittance of 5% pump price commission to FERMA

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Power has queried the ₦127 billion 2020 budget allocation to the Ministry of Power.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Aliyu Dau (APC-Kano), queried the Minister of Power, Mr Saleh Mamman and the Permanent Secretary, Mr Louis Edozien during the ministry’s budget defence on Thursday.

The lawmakers raised concerns that the government was spending funds on the planned Mambilla Hydropower Project plant which was conceived over 40 years.

Edozien explained that several things had to be carried out before the project would be materialised.

“When you say there is nothing on ground it is a fact that there is no construction ongoing but with a project of this size and this importance, a lot of things happen under the surface before you start seeing things on ground.

“The first and most important step that must be taken is the studies that underpin the project that leads to a functional and effective contract.

“The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the project is in place.

“The next thing is the total cost of the project is estimated at $5.73 billion; the construction cost is fixed in the EPC contract and many other cost that make up the cost.”

The permanent secretary reiterated that Presidents Buhari and Xi Jinping agreed, in 2018, that the Chinese Export Import Bank would fund 85 per cent of the estimated cost and and the Nigerian Government will finance 15 per cent.

He said the negotiations Chinese government’s loan was ongoing and was being handled by the Ministry of Finance.

He also said that that president established the Nigerian Infrastructure Development Fund, under the auspices of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, and had “raised and set aside 200 million dollars and they have made a commitment to raise the balance”.

“But their concern is that before they start releasing funds they must receive assurance that China Exim Bank will loan the principal sum on terms favourable to the country.”

Chairman of the committee raised concerns that that compensations had been paid to unknown entities in the 2019 budget under the Mambilla Project.

He, however, did not mention the amount.

“You are yet to identify the sight and we have been paying some compensation; in 2019 compensation was paid and I do not know to whom.

“I have interest, Nigerians have interest, President Buhari has interest on this Mambilla Project and we have to be able to achieve it within this next four years.

“Something has to start; we are here to ensure that we appropriate the money.”

A member of the committee, Rep. Sada Soli (Katsina-APC), however suggested that the project be taken out of the ministry and given a “special purpose vehicle” if the it were to be realised.

“My advise to you and the committee, if at all we want Mambilla to be achieved, his project mist be taken out  of the Ministry of Power.

“It must have a special purpose vehicle; we have to do it the way MDPDC was done and those power stations were achieved within a time without interaction from the ministry cutting all the red tapes from the bureaucrats, because they are making money off this.

“The Ministry of Power, go and tell yourselves the bitter truth if at all you are interested in the progress of this country.

“What I want you to, and we are going to push it, is to get the project out of that ministry otherwise it will not see the light of day.

“Go back and present a memo to the president, get it out of that ministry, provide a special purpose vehicle for it and you drive it.”

The chairman, however, approved the budget of the ministry.

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Onslaught: Troops Eliminate 105 Terrorists, Arrest 140 Others In 1 Week – DHQ

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Exercise Enduring Peace recording successes in FCT – Army

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) says the troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria operating in different theatres of operation eliminated 105 terrorists and apprehended 140 others in the last one week.

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba said this at a bi-weekly news briefing on the operations of the armed forces on Thursday in Abuja.

Buba said the troops also arrested 26 perpetrators of oil theft and rescued 86 kidnapped hostages in the South-South region.

He added that the troops recovered 208 assorted weapons and 5,332 assorted ammunition comprising 95 AK47 rifles, one assault rifle, 39 locally fabricated guns, 34 Dane guns, 14 pump action guns, among others.

In the North East, Buba said the troops of Operation Hadin Kai neutralised seven terrorists and arrested four terrorists as well as recovered 20 AK47 rifles, two fabricated guns and 12 dane guns.

He added that 353 rounds of 7.62mm special ammo, 209 rounds of 7.62mm NATO, 34 live cartridges, 62 mobile phones and the sum of N100,000, among others, were also recovered.

According to him, 224 ISWAP/JAS terrorists fighters and their families comprising 23 adult males, 126 adult females and 87 children surrendered to troops in the Bama and Konduga areas of Borno within the week.

Army raid kidnappers, rescue C/River commissioner; Police neutralise 3 suspected gunmen, recover 50 arms

In the North Central, Buba said the troops of Operations Safe Haven and Whirl Stroke neutralised 35 insurgents, arrested 65 violent extremists and 15 rescued kidnapped hostages.

He added that troops also recovered various caches of arms and ammunition within different theatres of operation.

In the North Central, the defence spokesman said the troops of Operations Hadarin Daji and Whirl Punch, neutralised 57 insurgents, arrested five and rescued 66 kidnapped hostages during the week.

In the South-South, Buba said the troops of Operation Delta Safe destroyed 18 illegal refining sites and recovered 657,300 litres of stolen crude oil, 23,750 litres of illegally refined AGO and 1,050 litres of DPK.

He added that the troops discovered and destroyed nine dugout pits, 19 boats and 21 storage tanks, 35 cooking ovens, nine vehicles, nine mobile phones, and three pump machines.

According to him, troops rescued three kidnapped hostages and apprehended 50 people suspected of oil theft and other violent extremists/insurgents as well as recovered 20 weapons and 243 ammunition, amongst other items.

In the South East, Buba said the troops of Operation UDO KA neutralised six insurgents, arrested five and recovered various types of arms and ammunition.

“All recovered items, arrested suspects and rescued hostages were handed over to the relevant authorities for further action,” he said.

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Food Prices: Tinubu Directs Immediate Release Of Grains, To Foreclose Crisis

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A little respite in the nation’s food crisis is expected as President Bola Tinubu has directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to release about 42,000 metric tonnes of grain including maize, millet, and garri. The gesture is to douse hunger and prevent looming protests.

Some Nigerians however told the Maritime First that the directive was a lot coming late; and the metric tonnes being expected, too little, for over a hundred million people. Some cynics bluntly blame the President for his inability to tame insurgency and terrorism, which apriori, prevented the farmers from going to work.

ALSO READ:… Nigerians Now Eat Junks as High Food Prices Put Balanced Diet Out Of Reach- Survey

Some states have begun dress rehearsal for the real crisis protests, over galloping food prices. A bag of rice which sold for N62,000 Tuesday, last week in Bodija Market in Ibadan, emerged N69,000 Wednesday morning. less than 24 hours later, throwing calculation to the winds.

The Maritime First can freely indicate that widows, single mothers, and those from polygamous-induced large families are presently, not finding it too easy to cope.

In the meantime,, the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria has also committed to immediately release over 60,000 metric tonnes of rice to the public. The body however failed to indicate why they waited till the Presidential directive, before making their commitment.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, disclosed this after the meeting of the Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention on Thursday in Abuja.

The Minister also failed to indicate measures to be adopted, to ensure that middlemen do not hijack and mess up Tinubu’s honest effort.

He said that these were immediate measures taken by the Federal Government to reduce the hardships faced by Nigerians who are made to bear the brunt of high prices of food in the market.

“These will be made available and we know that that is enough to take Nigeria in the next couple of weeks. One month, six weeks, perhaps up to two months.

“Now the whole idea of this is to crush the cost of these food items. And these are measures that will happen immediately.

“Now, the third item is that government is also looking at the possibility of, if it becomes absolutely necessary and as an interim measure, to also import some of these commodities immediately so that these commodities can be made available to Nigerians,” he said.

Idris also said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security would further invest massively in the farming process to boost production and ensure the country’s food potential is fully exploited.

He said that government would appeal to persons or groups to stop hoarding these products in order to maximise profit at the detriment of ordinary Nigerians.

“Government of course is also looking at all those who are hoarding these commodities because actually, these commodities are available in the stores of many traders.

“Government is appealing to them that they should open up these doors and make these commodities available in the interest of our nation.

“There is no point when the whole country is looking for this food you are locking up these products where you make more money and then Nigerians suffer. Of course, the government will not fold its arms.

“If they don’t respond by bringing these commodities to the market, the government will take appropriate measures to ensure that these products are made available to Nigerians.”

The Minister said that the government would also take measures to ensure that food continues to be accessible and affordable to Nigerians.

“We ask that Nigerians need to be more patriotic; be our brother’s keepers. Sell this thing, of course at a margin but at a margin that is not also killing to Nigerians.

“This is an emergency. Every nation faces emergency situations. This is our own time to face these challenges.

“The President has directed that whatever it will take, food will be available to Nigerians at a cost that is also very reasonable,” he said.

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President Tinubu Returns After Private Visit To France

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President Bola Tinubu has returned to the country after a two-week private visit to France.

The President arrived in Abuja aboard the presidential flight at about 9:0 pm on Tuesday.

He was received by top government officials led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. George Akume.

The president left Abuja on Jan. 24 for his first break since assumption of office on May 29, 2023

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