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Sequel to the response of the National Assembly justifying its distortion of the 2018 Budget, the following clarifications have become necessary.

1. Throughout the budget consideration process the executive, through the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, was in touch with the National Assembly. The executive was approached by the National Assembly who indicated that they intended to increase the benchmark price by US$5, from US$45 to US$50. Out of the US$5 increase the National Assembly informed the Executive that they intended to utilize US$2 (amounting to about N170 billion) for projects selected by themselves. They asked the Executive to suggest important projects that could be accommodated with the funds arising from the balance of US$3.

2. After some consideration, the Executive was of the view that an increase in the benchmark price of crude oil to US$50 was not unrealistic and the President decided to accept this in the spirit of compromise required for a successful budget exercise. The Executive had, in that spirit, suggested that from the additional funds arising out of the US$3 increase, $1.25 from the increase should not be appropriated as expenditure, but utilized to reduce the deficit in the budget. The Executive therefore restricted itself to submitting, for the consideration of the National Assembly, important items that could be funded from US$1.75 of the US$3 increase. NASS eventually raised the benchmark price to US$51, apparently to accommodate the additional allocations to Health and NDDC.

3. The Executive is therefore surprised that with an additional sum of N170 billion Naira available for the National Assembly to spend on Constituency Projects, together with the sum of N100 billion Naira, already provided for in the Budget, that the National Assembly should feel it necessary to cut allocations to important national projects, and thereby distort the Budget, in order to further increase their allocation for Constituency projects. How much is enough!

4. The President’s position is clear from paragraph 12k of the President’s speech, where he said “About 70 new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote. Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly”.
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Ebonyi state government, yesterday told Federal government that the State has no land for cattle ranching.

The federal government had some days ago listed Ebonyi as among the ten states that have provided land for cattle ranch.

But addressing journalists after the state Executive Council meeting, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Barrister Ikechukwu Nwobo told the federal government that there was no vacant land for cattle ranch in the state.

Nwobo said “the state executive  council frowned at the news making rounding that the State has directed or provided for a cattle ranche in Ebonyi State.

 The highest organ of Ebonyi state is the state executive council and the state security council and any decision taken by this council is the last bus stop for the people and government of Ebonyi state. Whether the federal government  consulted us, we are not aware of that. The State Executive council has decided and made sure that there is no land for ranching in Ebonyi State.

“We never provided land for ranching in Ebonyi State and it is still our position and that those  land they said is for ranching is for those Northern state that have always been doing ranching which have been gazzeted before now.

“We have no idea that we were included in the ranching, we were not gazzeted. There is no land for any ranching in Ebonyin state and we are not aware that we are among those mentioned as ranching states.

“The Ebonyi State through the executive council wishes to state that the government has not provided or released any land for ranching, it has no plan to  do that. The ranching programme being done by the federal  government does not include Ebonyi State and it has been redirected to those states in the North where the farmlands have been gazetted and have ranching ground which they will now revitalized”.
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Presidency has dispelled insinuations that the arrest and continuing detention of Jones Abiri, who claimed to be a journalist, trampled on freedom of the press.

The presidency said on Thursday that Abiri has not been able been able to prove that he is a bona fide journalist.

Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), said in Abuja on Thursday said: “It is very uncharitable for anyone to infer that the President is in support of restrictions on freedom of expression and the media.’’

“On the issue of the arrest and continued detention of Abiri, who allegedly parades himself as a journalist, by the Department of the State Services (DSS), it is instructive to note that the accused is a guest of the security agency because of his alleged involvement in militant and criminal activities.

“Admittedly, the issue of Abiri had been brought to the attention of the Presidency by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Abiri is accused of being a Niger Delta militant by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Abiri who claimed to be a publisher of the Atlantic Express, was arrested on July 21, 2016 in his Yenagoa office and has since been in the custody.

He was accused of sponsoring the circulated hoax of a planned overthrow of President Muhammadu Buhari and destruction of pipelines belonging to oil multinationals.

DSS had alleged that Abiri masterminded the vandalism and bombing of Agip Oil Company and the Shell Petroleum Development Company pipelines in Southern Ijaw and Brass on July 8, 2016.

“As a true believer in the rule of law and the integral role of the media in a democracy, the Presidency did interface with the security agency involved in the matter and our findings confirmed that the suspect is in custody because of alleged involvement in pipeline vandalism and theft.

“Abiri is not a registered journalist with any of the media professional bodies in the country.’’

Shehu further stated that there was no evidence to show that Abiri belonged to any chapel or membership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) or payment of the union’s check-off dues.

“Abiri’s stock-in-trade and notoriety in the liberalised Nigeria media industry include fronting as a spokesman for militants engaged in economic sabotage in the Niger Delta region,’’ he added.

He said the administration would continue to promote the freedom and safety of journalists.

He assured the world that the administration would do nothing untoward to damage the credibility it has demonstrated in promoting press freedom.

According to the presidential aide, President Muhammadu Buhari is resolutely committed to the freedom of the press.

He said the administration would ensure that media personnel in the country discharged their duties without let or hindrance.

He, therefore, frowned at those individuals or groups insinuating that President Buhari was in support of restrictions on freedom of expression and the media.

The presidential spokesman, however, maintained that the Buhari administration would continue to promote the freedom and safety of journalists.

He reassured that the administration would also do nothing untoward to damage the credibility it had demonstrated in promoting press freedom since coming into power in May 2015.
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Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Friday congratulated the Super Eagles of Nigeria on their victory over Iceland in their second group game at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Ekweremadu in a statement by his media aide, Uche Anichukwu, said the Eagles manifested the true Nigerian spirit, noting, however, that they should not relent, but bring out the best in them in order to book a place in the round of 16.

“I congratulate the Super Eagles on this resounding victory. I am happy that they overcame their demoralizing loss to Croatia and a disappointing first half against Iceland to give Nigerians and Africans something to cheer.

“However, we are obviously not in the round of 16 yet. The Super Eagles should rather see this superlative win as a motivation to fly over a wounded and demystified Argentine team. The Super Eagles can do it.  They understand the Argentine team, having confronted them in previous World Cup events and also beating them in the friendly ahead of the mundial”, Ekweremadu said.

He urged Nigerians to continue to support and pray for the team.