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Reps panel to probe NPA over ‘$800m debt’ to port operators

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The house of representatives committee on public accounts says it will commence an investigation into alleged $800 million indebtedness by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to port operators.

The committee disclosed this at its investigative hearing on Friday.

According to Oluwole Oke, chairman of the committee, NPA is said to owe port operators over $800 million, an amount described as “not small”.

The committee said the investigation would be taken closer to both parties in Lagos.

“The parliament will move the hearing to Lagos where all parties will meet with us at Marriott Hotel in Ikeja between December 8 and 9. We hope to resolve this issue once and for all. $800 million is not a small amount of money,” Oke said.

Meanwhile, the committee is also probing the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) for failing to employ workers in 2018 despite appropriate allocation.

The office of the auditor general of the federation had, in an audit query being verified by the committee, said N1.7 billion was approved for PTAD as personnel cost in 2018 but it utilised only N1.4 billion and returned the balance of about N310 million to the consolidated revenue fund (CRF).

Speaking at the hearing, Oke said despite workers not being recruited, PTAD received N1.7 billion as personnel costs in 2018.

“In 2020, the agency’s allocation for personnel cost went up to N1.8 billion, reducing to N1.6 billion in 2021, going up again to N1.9 billion in 2022, even when the workers have not been employed,” the query read.

Responding to the query, Chioma Ejikeme, executive secretary, PTAD, represented by Abdullah Abubakar, senior officer of PTAD, said N1.7 billion was budgeted for personnel costs in 2018 because the agency initially planned to employ new hands.

Ejikeme added that the balance of N310 million was returned to the treasury.

“Our personnel are handled by IPPIS. The balance of the money budgeted was returned to the CRF because we did not employ the staff that we needed to employ. Till date, we are still in need of those workers, but we are yet to get a waiver from the head of service to employ,” she said.

The PTAD boss also said the increase in expenditure, despite not employing new members of staff, was a result of the promotion of existing workers and the need to adjust their salaries in accordance with their new positions.

However, Oke said PTAD committed an offence for failing to utilise the funds given for that specific purpose.

“The head of service and the federal character commission must have carried out a needed assessment on your agency leading to your request for funds to employ. We (parliament) gave you that money but you failed to use it,” Oke said.

“The complaint of most agencies has been lack of funds. But here in PTAD, you got the funds you requested and, yet, failed to use them. You have lied to the parliament through the president and have denied other agencies the use of that money.

“So, we need to see the assessment that was carried out on your agency that led to the parliament giving you this money. By not using this money for what it was meant for, you have committed an offense against the Appropriation Act. But we will give you a right of fair hearing to explain to us the reason(s) for your action.”

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Again, INEC extends PVC collection deadline

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has extended the deadline for the collection of permanent voter cards (PVCs).

This is the second time INEC will extend the deadline for PVC collection.

The previous deadline was January 29.

In a statement on Saturday, Festus Okoye, national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, said the decision was taken after a meeting on Saturday.

The new deadline for PVC collection is February 5.

“The Commission met today, Saturday, 29th January 2023 a day after its meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) from the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal capital Territory, Abuja and deliberated on a number of issues, including the reports from RECs on the ongoing collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) in its 774 Local Government Offices nationwide,” the statement reads.

“It will be recalled that at the meeting with RECs on Friday, 28th January 2023, the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu indicated that the Commission will not hesitate to consider additional measures to ensure that all citizens have ample opportunity to collect their PVCs ahead of the General Election.

“Having reviewed reports from all the States of the Federation, the Commission is encouraged by the progress made so far as more Nigerians troop out daily to collect their PVCs.

“Arising from reports from the various States and discussions with Resident Electoral Commissioners, the Commission has decided to further extend PVC collection in all its Local Government Offices nationwide by an additional one week.

“The ongoing collection of PVCs nationwide will therefore continue and end on 5th February 2023. This is the second time the Commission is extending PVC collection nationwide and this will be the last extension of the exercise.

“Collection period has further been extended by an additional two hours and will start at 9am and end at 5pm daily including Saturdays and Sundays.”

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Lagos state government to divert traffic at old tollgate/Berger axis for 10 weeks

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The Lagos state government has announced a 10-week diversion of traffic at the old tollgate to Berger section of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

Frederic Oladehinde, Lagos commissioner of transportation, said the traffic diversion will commence on Monday, January 30, and end Friday, April 15.

He said the diversion is for the continuation of the rehabilitation of the road by the ministry of works.

Oladehinde said the construction would be carried out in short segments to minimise inconveniences for motorists.

He said traffic on the Ibadan-bound carriageway would be narrowed to two lanes to allow for the reconstruction.

Oladeinde said the U-turn in front of the Lagos State Emergency Centre would be temporary closed to traffic, adding that motorists on the expressway would be diverted to the next U-turn at the old tollgate by the traffic control point.

He said motorists from CMD Road intending to connect 7UP and motorways on the Lagos bound carriageway would make use of the old tollgate/traffic point U–turn as well.

He said trucks and heavy-duty vehicles will be diverted to Ojota interchange.

The commissioner added that traffic on CMD Road inbound the expressway will be diverted to the entry point beside the FMW weighbridge to access the expressway.

He said the exit route to the expressway by Caleb International School will be temporarily closed and that the CMD Road will be used as an alternative for the displaced Ibadan-bound traffic.

Oladeinde appealed to residents to shun indiscriminate stopping, waiting and parking along CMD Road so as to complement the efforts of the traffic management team that will be deployed to manage vehicular movement.

He assured that signage with directions will be mounted along the road to guide motorists.

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Ganduje asks Buhari to postpone Kano visit over hardship caused by naira redesign

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Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano state governor, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to postpone his planned visit to the state due to security concerns and complaints from locals about difficulty in obtaining the new naira notes.

Ganduje’s request was contained in a letter to the president, according to a statement signed by Abba Anwar, the governor’s media aide.

Buhari was scheduled to visit the state on January 30 and 31 to commission some projects executed by the Ganduje administration.

The governor was quoted as saying lawmakers from the state, political stakeholders and the business community agree with the decision to postpone the planned visit.

Ganduje also called for an extension of the deadline for returning old naira notes.

“Deeply concerned with the hardship caused by the limited time given for halting the use of old Naira notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and for security reasons, Kano State governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje reveals that the state resolved and wrote to Presidency that, the visit of the President to commission some projects to be postponed,” the statement reads.

Anwar said the decision was made on Friday at the government house during an interactive session with academics, lawmakers, political leaders, and members of the business community.

“As we are waiting for this important visit, we found ourselves in this situation, which puts citizens into untold hardship. For security purposes, we wrote to Presidency that President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Kano is postponed,” the statement reads.

“We got an acknowledgement copy of the letter. People are suffering because of this policy.

“During the meeting with sections of citizens in the state, they accepted that the decision was a unanimous one. As they all spoke in support of the letter sent to the Presidency.

“Two serving senators from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya and Barau Jibrin, Twenty members of the House of Representatives and Thirty legislators from the State House of Assembly were amongst the groups that put their weight behind the governor.”

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