Abuja — A bill seeking to reserve 20 per cent of the annual budget of the federal government for constituency projects yesterday passed second reading in the Senate.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Stella Odua from Anambra State, is seeking that 20 per cent of every annual budget be reserved for the services and implementation of all constituency projects.
The bill was seconded by the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi from Niger State.
Also wednesday, the Senate passed a motion urging the federal government to declare a state of emergency on unemployment.
In addition, it directed its Committee on Local Content to investigate the dominance of foreign vessels in the carriage of petroleum products.
In her lead contribution to the bill on constituency projects, Odua said the constituency projects were the only avenue that members of the various constituents could feel the presence of the federal government.
She explained that the constituency projects shall be executed by the executive arm of government with the lawmakers only submitting to the appropriate government agencies, the needs of the various constituencies depending on their needs.
In seconding the bill on the constituency bill, Abduallahi said the constituency projects were the only way that people in the rural areas could feel the impact of the federal might.
He urged senators to support the bill so as to correct misinformation and misinterpretation Nigerians have on the constituency projects.
After his contribution, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, asked for further contributions from senators but none of them made further contributions.
He then said, "this is a straight forward bill" and put the question whether any senator is against the bill. All the senators voted in support of the bill.
It was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance for further legislative work. The bill is expected back after four weeks.
Asked to comment on the position of the Senate, the Special Adviser on Media and Communication to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, said the ministry was yet to be communicated officially on the Senate's position.
"We don't have that as an official communication, so reacting will be tantamount to hearsay."
Meanwhile, the Senate is to investigate the dominance of foreign vessels in the local carriage of petroleum products within the nation's coastal and inland waterways.
It has, therefore, mandated its Committee on Local Content to investigate the reasons for the dominance of foreign vessels above locally owned, manned and registered vessels in the domestic carriage of petroleum products within the coastal territory and inland waterways of Nigeria.
The decision followed the adoption of a motion titled: "Urgent need to investigate the breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels in coastal shipping of coastal shipping of petroleum products in downstream sector of the Nigerian maritime industry," moved by Senator Olalekan Mustapha and 10 others.
The Senate also mandated its Committees on Local Content and Petroleum Downstream to carry out an investigation to unravel the influx of foreign vessels in the coastal region and the level of patronage of Nigerian shipping companies.
The Senate is also to investigate the flagrant abuse of the NOGICD Act 2010 and Cabotage Act 2003 respectively, by the operators and stakeholders in the maritime industry through ship-ship transfer with coastal foreign vessel while also investigating foreign ship owners of freight associated with downstream activities repatriated overseas by NNPC to the detriment of the local economy or patronage.
It has mandated its committee on local content to carry investigations into this.
Senate Seeks Emergency on Unemployment
Meanwhile, the Senate wednesrday passed a motion urging the federal government to declare a state of emergency on unemployment in the country.
The motion sponsored by the former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who warned that unless something serious is done to tackle unemployment that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder. The motion was seconded by Senator Smart Adeyemi and supported by many senators.
Ekweremadu who quoted report published by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2019 stated that Nigeria's unemployment rate stood at 23.1 per cent of the workforce in the third quarter of 2019.
He added that a statement credited to the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, showed that Nigeria's unemployment rate would hit 33.5 per cent by 2020.
He expressed worries that any nation with such number of unemployed, but employable youth population, is only sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
He said he was perturbed that the most pressing demand on the hand of every legislator and public officer was the rising number of curriculum vitae and application for employments from constituents and Nigerians.
Many senators spoke in favour of the motion, stating that it is timely due to its severity and implication on Nigeria as a country.
After some senators have spoken, the Senate resolved by urging the federal, state and local governments to declare emergency on unemployment.
The Senate also urged the federal government, through the Ministry of National Planning, to put up programmes to provide employment for the youth.
The Senate also urged the federal, state and local governments to revitalise industries, build new ones and provide enabling environment for the private sector to build more industries.
It also called for the creation of a sustainable Unemployment Fund for the payment of living stipends to unemployed Nigerians until such persons secure jobs.
Meanwhile, the Senate also received the 2020 statutory budget proposal of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
It also approved the report of the Conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on the Finance bill recently passed by the National Assembly.
The president, in a letter dated December 10, 2019 and addressed to Lawan had requested the National Assembly to consider the 2020 budget proposal of the FCTA.
Buhari, in his letter, explained that the request to the Senate was in compliance with Sections 121 and 299 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The letter reads: "Pursuant to Sections 121 and 299 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), I forward herewith, the 2020 statutory budget proposal of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, for the kind consideration and passage by the Senate.
"While hoping that this submission will receive the usual expeditious consideration of the Senate, please accept, Distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration."
In the same manner, the upper chamber also on Wednesday referred Buhari's request for the confirmation of the Chairman and Members of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to the Senate Committee on Finance.
It also referred Buhari's request for the confirmation of Edward Lametek Adamu as Chairman, Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to the same committee for further legislative action.
The committee, which is chaired by Senator Olamilekan Adeola, is expected to submit its report before the National Assembly adjourns for the Christmas break.