Senate’s positions on budget, CAMA Act



ngozi-okonjo-iwealaEZREL TABIOWO captures last week’s moments in the Senate before the upper chamber proceeded on a two weeks recess

2014 Budget
The Senate and House of Representatives last Thursday passed into law the 2014 Appropriation Bill of N4.695 trillion, a development which saw the figure proposed by the Executive arm to the National Assembly last year December, being raised by N52.2billion.

President Goodluck Jonathan had on the 19th December, 2013 through the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala presented a budget of N4.642trillion, one which was reviewed by the Senate to accommodate an aggregate expenditure of N4.695, 190, 000, 000 trillion that accounts for the raise.
Also, while the executive in the budget proposals fixed $74.00per barrel as bench mark oil price for the budget, the Senate upped same to $77.5 per barrel as earlier reached between the Harmonisation committees of both chambers during the course of consideration. But other parameters like estimated crude oil production of 2.3883million barrel per day, GDP Growth Rate of 6.75%, Inflation Rate of 9.5% and exchange rate of N160 to one US Dollar tallied with the ones approved by the Senate in the budget passed.
A breakdown of the budget showed that N2.454 trillion is for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure; N1.119 trillion is for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure; N712 billion for debt service, while N408.687 billion is for statutory transfers.
But the initial breakdown of the budget indicated that N2.43 trillion is for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure; N1.1 trillion is for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure; N712 billion for debt service, while N399.687 billion is for statutory transfers.

Amendment of CAMA Act
Also, the Senate last week passed a bill that amended the Companies and Allied Matters Act Cap. C20 laws of the Federation, 2004. The bill among other provisions, requires the Corporate Affairs Commission to subject the appointment of its chairman to senate confirmation while also providing for the appointment and functions of Secretary of the commission. Also, the bill among its provision makes it mandatory for the commission to submit its annual estimates and reports to the National Assembly.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Senator Odion Ugbesia, while presenting details of the report for the consideration of the upper chamber, explained that the major objective of the bill was to strengthen the CAC. The lawmaker who emphasised the place of the commission as gateway to the nation’s economy, said the bill stipulates that the appointment of the commission’s board chairman and its members should reflect the federal character principles as provided in the 1999 constitution as amended.
He said the bill recommends that the chairman of the commission shall be appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the recommendations of the Minister of its supervising ministry.

The lawmaker added that the chairman of the commission, “shall be a person who by reason of his ability, experience or specialised knowledge of corporate, industrial, commercial, financial or economic matters of business or professional attainments would in his opinion be capable of making outstanding contributions to the work of the commission.”
According to Ugbesia, the board would have representatives each from the business community appointed by the minister on the recommendations of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.
He also stated that the legal profession, accountancy profession, Manufacturer Association of Nigeria, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the ministries of Commerce, Justice, Industry and the Registrar General of the federation would be represented in the CAC board.

Ending discrimination against HIV persons
The Senate in its bid to put an end to discrimination and stigmatization against persons living with the Human Immune Virus (HIV) in the country, passed the HIV and AIDS Anti-discrimination bill following consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Health during plenary yesterday.

The bill among other things, seeks to reduce the HIV burden through the prevention of discrimination and stigmatization on the basis of real or perceived HIV status thereby encouraging voluntary testing and counseling, access to treatment, improved health outcomes and reduction of risky sex behaviours.
Also, the bill accommodates provisions which would ensure that the rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS is protected, as well as promote appropriate and effective ways of managing HIV in the workplace, community, institutions and other fields of human endeavours.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, in his presentation, lamented the increasing rate of the HIV pandemic, noting that it is one of the most significant challenges to health, development and economic and social progress facing the world today.
The lawmaker also cautioned that unless proactive measures are taken to address the HIV scourge, it will continue to be a prevalent cause responsible for the rise in figure of mortality in many countries of the world. He said: “In the countries that are worst affected, including our dear country, Nigeria the impact of HIV and AIDS have eroded decades of development gains, undermined economies and destabilize societies.”

According to him, “AIDS is expected to continue to be the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in many countries and populations, including Nigeria unless proactive measures are taken in the implementation of action plans that are workable and friendly, together with advocacy programmes at all levels of society.”
Remarking on the bill after being passed for third reading, Senate President David Mark said, “HIV and AIDS is not something that people should be ashamed of anymore because we know it does exist, it is only better that we take care and look after those who are infected rather than discriminate against them.”

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