Politics

Public Officers interact with Confab Committees

National Conference
To help some of the National Conference standing committees put their work in perspective and come out with sound, practical and beneficial proposals and reports, officials of some relevant government institutions have been routinely invited to brief the committees. On Tuesday, April 29, the top government functionaries interacted with the following Committees:
Committee on Foreign Policy and Diaspora Matters
The Committee met with the Director of the Technical Aids Corps Dr. Pius Oshunyekanmi who briefed members on the activities of the Corps and how it has enhanced the nation`s foreign policy.
Dr.  Oshunyekanmi lamented the politicization of the academic environment in the country, a development which has discouraged Nigerian academics in the Diaspora from contributing to research and learning in the country.
He solicited for the intervention of the committee to help build a robust platform that would help Nigerians in the Diaspora integrate into the nation’s academic system.
He pointed out more countries are currently soliciting the help of the Corps to set up departments of Nigerian local languages in their higher institutions of learning.
He reiterated the need  to clearly spell out the Directorate’s objectives, as well as the need for the Corps to be strengthened to integrate Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku also appeared before the committee. He agonized over the collapse of values and the difficult times the country was passing through.
He advocated for an ombudsman to watch and guide the media, even as he expressed his believe in free press as being fundamental to a free society.
A member of the committee, Ambassador Yusuf Mamman advocated the scraping of Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) because it is not serving it purpose. He described the NBC as a toothless bull dog which is also wallowing in corruption.  Another member, Adebayo Oladimeji, suggested the re-activation of Nigeria Today, a weekly tabloid published by the Nigeria High Commission in London to correct the negative reportage of Nigeria by the media.
George Aboi wanted to know what government was doing to properly coordinate all agencies of government responsible for laundering Nigeria image.
Committee on Land Tenure and National Boundary
The Presidential Committee on Land Reforms also made a presentation to the Committee on Land Tenure and National Boundary. In the 20 page presentation by the Committee chairman, Professor Adeniyi, issues of land governance, current government efforts at harnessing the wealth inherent in appropriately titled and registered land, adoption of systematic land titling and registration and preparation of draft regulations were exhaustively tackled.
Professor Adeniyi recommended among others: the establishment of a National Land Commission, the improvement of the poor state of mapping and map production in the country, systematic land titling and registration programme and removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution.
Committee on Public Finance and Revenue
The Deputy Comptroller General of Customs, Tariff and Trade, Mr. G.T Aliu, addressed members of the committee on ways of improving on revenue collection. On the issues of waiver and exemptions, the Customs chief admitted that if implemented appropriately, waiver could be, and is actually a good incentive. He however said it should not be given selectively.
On the seven per cent given to the organization when there is a surplus in revenue generation, the DCG said recording surplus is rare but even with that, the organization has a way of ensuring the proper management of its revenue.
The chairman of the Committee, Senator Adamu Aliero, said it was unwise to allow a 100 percent waiver of import duty on rice as this has not only encouraged but has given way to smuggling of rice across the nation’s borders, especially from Benin Republic.
On the concerns variously expressed about oil theft and irregular statistics of oil export figures, the DGC said the Customs was working out ways to accurately measure the quantity of crude oil at the point of loading. He disclosed that there are about 22,000 Customs officers across the country.
A non-governmental organization (NGO), Legislative Watch also made a presentation before the Committee. The Executive Secretary of the body, Hon Ngozika Ibouma  suggested  among others: the abolition of joint state and local government account as well as the office of the Auditor General of Local Governments at state level; and the expansion of the revenue act to include all items as contained in section 162(10) if the 1999 Constitution.
The committee promised to present all the recommendations to the Conference.
Committee on Power
Minister of State for Power, Alhaji Mohammed Wakil, and the Permanent Secretary Godknows Igali, appeared before the Committee on Energy on Tuesday, April 29. In their presentations, they said the nation needed about 1.5 billion dollars investment in power generation and transmission, a situation they suggested called for private investment.
They told the Committee that government was working on the review of the power reform policy and the use of solar power.
According to them, vandalism of power infrastructure and the attitude of local communities was another major problem facing power generation and distribution.   They also told the committee that the World Bank was interested in supporting the post privatization process and that the President has approved a shadow cabinet for Manitoba hydro.
The Minister of Solid Minerals, Mohammed Sada who also also appeared before the committee spoke on the use of solid minerals for power generation. The minister said a company has expressed interest on the Orji River plant and that there was a proposal for the resuscitation of the thirty megawatt plant. He said all the coal blocks in Enugu have been reserved for power generation. The minister reaffirmed that the Coal Corporation has been privatized.
The Committee wants the Ministry to take an aggressive lead in using coal for power generation.
Committee on Public Service
The Acting Director General Pencom, Chinelo  Anohu Amazu,  who appeared before the  Committee on Public Service hinted that PENCOM has moved from a two trillion naira deficit to a growing asset of over four trillion naira.
She suggested that money meant for the payment of pension should be released directly to the pensioners instead of lodgement in an account which is prone to abuse.
The next focus of investment apart from bonds, according to her, is the Real Estate and infrastructure; and appealed to the committee to beam its searchlight on non-remittance of contributions of workers by their employers.
The Head of Service, Bukar Goni Aji, was also there, and spoke on the reforms in the civil service and staff welfare.
Committee on Trade and investment
Minister of Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, represented by some directors in the ministry briefed the Committee on Trade and Investment on tourism potentials and development in the country. The committee considered the reports of some of its sub-committees on Development Financing and Planning in Nigeria, Manufacturing, Value Addition and Employment Creation as well as Trade and Investment.
Akpandem James
Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications

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