Again: Buhari, Saraki in a closed door meeting

President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President, Bukola Saraki, again, met behind closed doors on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

This was coming barely 24hours after Sen. Ali Ndume was removed as the leader of the senate and was replaced by Sen. Ahmed Lawan

Saraki told State House correspondents that his frequent visits were mainly because of the 2017 budget currently before the National Assembly.

He denied claims that he sacrificed Senator Ali Ndume as Majority Leader in order to restore peace to the National Assembly.

President Buhari had, on December 17 last year, submitted the N7.29 trillion budget tagged budget of recovery and growth to the National Assembly, shortly before the lawmakers proceeded on recess. The lawmakers resumed on Tuesday.

The Senate President said the meeting, which lasted for about 30 minutes, was important in view of the issues before them, especially the budget.

“You know getting the government going, getting the National Assembly moving; and, as you know, there is nothing more important to us now than the budget process and the work we need to do in those areas,” he said.

Speaking on Ndume, who was replaced by Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday as majority leader, he said “no individual is bigger than institution”, expressing optimism that harmonious relationship ‎will continue despite the change.

Ndume had, in December, told State House correspondents that the Senate had not rejected the confirmation of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu. He said contrary to media report, Senate was yet to take a clear stand on Magu.

Saraki, who also denied claims of crises in the National Assembly, following the change of the majority leader said “things like this do happen and, as you said, the institution is bigger than everybody, and I am sure he (Ndume)and everybody else will always work for the interest of the institution and for the interest of the country. Everything is calm, solid and fine.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has approved Nigerian citizenship for 335 foreigners, having disqualified over 100 ineligible applicants.

This is even as it put on hold  approval of new projects in the Ministry of Water Resources, stating that it would concentrate on completing the 117 abandoned projects inherited from previous administration.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Aso Rock Villa, granted the approvals for the citizenship following a request from the Minister of the Interior, Abdurahman ‎Dambazzau.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, alongside the Minister of Water Resources, Suliaman Adamu, Dambazzau noted the last time citizenship was approved was in 2013, and this racked up some backlog of over 500 applications, out of which 245 who applied on grounds of naturalisation were granted, and 90 based on registration were also approved.

Dambazzau said: “Citizenship is either by naturalisation or registration. There are 245 that applied for citizenship by naturalisation and the requirements to be met are clearly stated in Section 26 of the Constitution.

“There is citizenship by registration, and that is what is popularly known as ‘Niger-wives’, which is for women of foreign countries who are married to Nigerian citizens. That is also clearly spelt out in Section 27 of the Constitution.

“Those who met the requirement, the advisory council recommended and sent to Council for approval. So, today, FEC approved the recommendations of those who applied, 335 of them – 245 by naturalisation and 90 by registration.”

The Interior Minister also explained that those who were disqualified were not so treated based on security issues alone, ‎but based on myriad of requirements as the law demands.

“It’s not just the issue of criminality, there are requirements laid down in the Constitution, and each of these requirements must be met by every applicant. Check Sections 26 and 27 of the Constitution; they are clearly stated there.

“If there are security issues, the security agencies will bring them out to say that a person belongs to a given group – in terms of security risk. But apart from that, we followed the rules and regulations, those constitutional requirements must be met.”

Adamu, speaking on the approvals for Water Resources Ministry, said two memos presented to council were approved.

He said council approved the completion of the Sabke Water Supply Project Katsina at the cost of N1.735 billion.

Adamu said Sabke water project was one of the abandoned projects and the approval was in line with the current administration’s commitment to complete ongoing and abandoned projects as much as possible.

He said Council also approved outlined business case for  concessioning of the Gurara 30 megawatt Hydro Power Plant, which is expected to fit into the industrial area of Kaduna city.

Adamu said his ministry inherited 117 ongoing and abandoned projects and debt profile of N89 billion, adding that a total of N250 billon was needed to complete the ongoing projects.

“Our task is to complete the projects, so, we did a technical audit early last year based on which we prioritised them- top, medium and low priorities. Some projects that were thought not to be worthwhile were cancelled.

This project approved today happens to be one of the top priority projects; that is why we are willing to spend a little more money to get the value for which the project was intended.

“We are going to continue like that, and we hope to complete, at least, 25 per cent of 117 ongoing projects in the 2017 budget. We were able to complete one last year, which was the Central Ogbia Water project, the next one will be the Northern Ishan in Edo State,” Adamu said.

The minister said the abandoned projects cut across water supply, dams, hydro power and irrigation, and were all being accorded  priorities. He said the technical audit helped in prioritising the capital projects in 2016, and also helped in preparing the 2017 budget which enabled his ministry have a clear view of which project to do.

“In the next two years, we are de-emphasising on new projects, so  we can continue and complete the ongoing projects as many as possible; that way we can get value for money because most of these projects have direct impact on the citizenry, and so there is no reason why they should be abandoned.

“This year, we will continue to complete these projects, notwithstanding that they were initiated by previous government. It doesn’t mean we will not embark on new projects, but we will only do new projects that are very critical to the current infrastructure requirements.

“For instance, from 2018 we intend to embark on additional irrigation and hydro projects. Those two priorities are for the next three to four years. So, while we are doing these projects, we will be preparing for new projects so that, by the time they are completed, we will now have an overlap, so that as we are finishing some, we are starting other ones,” he said.

Adamu disclosed that some projects had reached advanced staged while others were stuck due to lack of budgetary allocation for several years.

“The Northern Ishan project, for instance, we need additional N200 million to be injected into the project which is far less compared to what has been spent, which is close to N3 billion. Once the stolen and vandalised components are fixed, we will be ready to commission the project,” he said.‎

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