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Tinubu’s influence and four other reasons Gbaja could emerge house of reps speaker

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The 9th national assembly to be inaugurated in June will definitely come with a lot of surprises, intrigues and power play. The two prominent leaders of the legislature are most likely not returning to their positions. This leaves room for speculation over who presides over the two chambers. Senate President Bukola Saraki lost his reelection bid, while Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house of representatives, now falls within the minority, having defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The current composition of the lower chamber shows that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has 211 seats, while the PDP trails with 111 seats. The race for the speakership has begun and all eyes are on Femi Gbajabiamila, majority leader of the house.

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the party, favoured the lawmaker representing Surulere 1 federal constituency of Lagos, for the position. But Dogara secured just eight votes ahead of him to emerge speaker.

With his reelection on February 23, the 56-year-old lawmaker may emerge as the next helmsman, considering his pedigree and experience. Below are five reasons why Gbaja, as he is called in the political circle, might succeed Dogara:

16 YEARS OF LEGISLATIVE EXPERIENCE

Gbajabiamila assumed office in 2003 – making him a four-time returnee to the green chamber. He was the deputy minority leader in the 6th assembly and emerged as the minority leader with the 7th assembly. Aside his eloquence and tactical approach to issues in the house, Gbajabiamila maintains an enviable track record.

Having sponsored a myriad of bills in the national assembly, he is seen as one of the brilliant minds to have graced the chamber. He initiated a motion in the house for the invocation of the doctrine of necessity while former President Musa Yar’adua was critically ill and absent from the country. This led to the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as acting president.

In 2011, Gbajabiamila rejected his nomination for a national honours award of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), citing that he wasn’t qualified for it given that the award was no longer achieving its original intent.

PROTECTED THE INTEREST OF THE PARTY

Gbajabiamila addressing the media after a caucus meeting of the APC reps

The Lagos lawmaker played a pivotal role in protecting the interest of the APC, positioning it as a strong force, especially in the eight assembly where the party suffered internal crisis that led to gales of defection.

While 37 members of the caucus dumped the party during plenary on July 2018, Gbajabiamila led the remaining members to reject the defection, while he hinted at taking “necessary steps” over the move which he described as illegal.

“People elected you on a particular platform to represent them. That seat does not belong to you; it belongs to the political party. Not only does APC remain the majority in the house it is still a clear majority. This leaves APC over and beyond what is required for majority,” Gbajabiamila had said.

A LAWYER LIKE PREVIOUS SPEAKERS

This lawyer might succeed his ‘learned’ colleague

Gbajabiamila’s legislative know-how might have stemmed from his experience as a lawyer and strong academic records. Interestingly, the house has recently been headed by lawyers: Aminu Tambuwal and Dogara.

A law graduate from the University of Lagos, he started his career with the Bentley, Edu and Co law firm in Lagos before he established his own firm, Femi Gbaja and Co. where he was principal partner. Gbajabiamila later returned to John Marshall Law School in the US and was said to have graduated top of his class, earning himself a juris doctorate. He set up a law firm and had a brief stint of practice in the US after he passed his Georgia bar exams in 2001. Later, he returned to Nigeria to join politics.

TINUBU’S GODSON

The lion of Bourdillon

One thing that might work for Gbajabiamila is the undeniable fact that he is a loyalist of Tinubu, the Lagos-based political kingmaker. In his bid to clinch the speakership seat in 2015, Tinubu pushed for his endorsement in the party. In fact, he won the mock election conducted by the party for the seat and was widely accepted before he was narrowly trounced on the floor of the house.

In Dogara’s biography written by Dele Momodu, Ovation publisher, the speaker narrated how Tinubu begged him to drop his ambition for the speakership to support Gbajabiamila.

“He appealed to us and said what he only wanted, as a leader, as a political father, was for us to please collapse our campaign into Femi’s and declare our support for him. Asiwaju maintained that, as a matter of fact, support for Femi was a support for him. He said if we supported Femi by extension we were actually supporting him and reciprocating the work he did to ensure APC won the Presidency,” Dogara said.

Tinubu has also played key roles in the political career of the lawmaker.

LED APC CAUCUS FROM MINORITY TO MAJORITY PARTY

As the APC maintains its majority control of the house in the 9th assembly, one cannot divorce Gbaja’s role in the transition of the party to its present domination. He was the minority leader when the PDP maintained hegemony. When APC flipped the script and had the domineering figure, he stepped up to become the majority leader. With the present vacuum in the leadership of the next assembly, he’s could just leap to the “next level”.

Apart from Gbajabiamila, another top contender that could be considered is Abdulmumin Jibrin from Kano state.

The lawmaker, who was elected to represent Kiru/Bebeji federal constituency in 2011, also appears to be a top contender for the seat he eyed in 2015. He dropped his ambition to sponsor and support Dogara but the duo later fell out.

Aside having limited experience in the house compared to Gbajabiamila,  having come from the north west, the same zone as the president, may not work in Jibrin’s favour.

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Poor tax collection: Fowler replies Buhari’s query

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The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, has responded to a memo from Abba Kyari, the chief of staff to the president, who said there were significant variances between the tax budgeted collections and actual collections for the period 2015 to 2018.

However, Fowler in his response explained that the recession experienced by the Nigerian economy in 2016 as well as lower oil prices affected the revenue collected by the FIRS.

See Fowler’s response: “I refer to your letter dated 8th August, 2019 on the above subject matter and hereby submit a comprehensive variance analysis between budgeted and actual collections for each main tax item for the period 2012-2018 as requested (see appendix 1).

“Your letter stated that actual collections for a 3-year period were significantly worse than what was collected between 2012 and 2014. Total actual collection for the said period wasN14,527.85 trillion, while total actual collection between 2016 to 2018 was N12,656.30 trillion.

The highlight of these collection figures was that during the period 2012 to 2014, out of the N14,527.85 trillion, oil revenue accounted for N8,321.64 trillion or 57.28% while non-oil accounted for N6,206.22 trillion or 42.72% and during the later period of 2016 to 2018, out of the N12,656.30 trillion, oil revenue accounted for N5,145.87 trillionor 40.65% and non-oil revenue accounted N7,510.42 trillion or 59.35%.

FIRS management has control of non-oil revenue collection figures while oil revenue collection figures are subject to more external forces.” He wrote: “The non-oil revenue collection grew by N1,304.20 trillion or 21% within the period 2016 to 2018.

“Kindly note that the total budget collection figure during 2012 to 2014 stood at N12,190.52 trillion compared to N16,771.78 trillion for the period 2016 to 2018, which represent an increase of 37.58%.

“Please note that the variance in the budgeted and actual revenue collection performance of the Service for the period 2016 to 2018 was main attributed to the following reasons:

“1. The low inflow of oil revenues for the period especially Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) was due to fall in price of crude oil and reduction of crude oil production. Notwithstanding government efforts to diversify the economy, oil revenues remains (remain) an important component of total revenues accruable to the Federation. The price of crude oil fell from an average of $113.72, $110.98 and $100.40 per barrel in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to $ 52.65, $43.80 and $54.08 per barrel in 2015, 2016 and 2017. There was also a reduction in crude oil production from 2.31mbpd, 2.18mbpd and 2.20mbpd in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to 2.12mbpd, 1.81mbpd and 1.88mbpd in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

“2. The Nigerian economy also went into recession in the second quarter of 2016 which slowed down general economic activities. Tax revenue collection (CIT and VAT) being a function of economic activities were negatively affected but actual collection of the above two taxes were still higher in 2016 to 2018 than in 2012 to 2014. During the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, GDP grew by 4.3%, 5.4% and 6.3% while in 2015, 2016 and 2017 there was a decline in growth to 2.7%, -1.6% and 1.9% respectively. The tax revenue grew as the economy recovered in the second quarter of 2017.

“3. It is worthy of note that strategies and initiatives adopted in collection of VAT during the period 2015-2017 led to approximately 40% increase over 2012-2014 collections. In 2014 the VAT collected was N802billion, compared to N1.1 trillion in 2018. This increase is attributable to various initiatives such as ICT innovations, continuous taxpayer education, taxpayer enlightenment, etc embarked upon by the Service.

“4. Furthermore, it is pertinent to note that when this administration came on board in August 2015, the target the target for the two major non-oil taxes were increased by 52% for VAT and 45% for CIT. Notwithstanding the increase, FIRS has in line with the Federal government’s revenue base diversification strategy has grown the non-oil tax collection by over N1.304 trillion (21%) when the total non-oil tax collection for 2016-2018 is compared to that of 2012-2014.

“I am confident that our current strategies and initiatives will improve revenue collection and meet the expectations of government.

“Please accept the assurance of my highest regards.”

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We’re not aware of Oyo-Ita’s purported retirement – Presidency

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The Presidency on Monday declared that it was not aware of the purported move of the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, to retire from service.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had last week Tuesday grilled Oyo-Ita over alleged N3bn scam. The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a text message said that the Presidency was not in possession of any letter of intent from Oyo-Ita to retire from service. “Thanks.

We have no such letter here, in the event that such a letter exists. This is our position,” he stated

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Alleged N3bn Contract Scam: Winifred Oyo-Ita sends retirement letter to Buhari

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Winifred Oyo-Ita, the head of service of the federation, has offered to immediately proceed on retirement in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The widow had been under pressure from her immediate family to retire after news reports emerged that she was being probed over an alleged N3 billion contract scam.

Although she has vehemently denied involvement in any scam, she bowed to family pressures and sent in a letter on Sunday offering to proceed on retirement, we can report.

Buhari is yet to take a final decision on it but reports say he is favourably disposed to the option.

“Mrs Oyo-Ita has sent in her letter of retirement,” a family member, who asked not to be named, said on Monday morning.

She was absent at the presidential retreat for ministers-designate, federal permanent secretaries and top government functionaries held at the state house conference centre in Abuja.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently questioned Oyo-Ita over allegations that she used front companies to get contracts when she was a permanent secretary before her appointment as head of service by Buhari in 2015.

There were insinuations that she was being “punished” for “falling out” with Abba Kyari but it was learnt that the president’s chief of staff was unaware of the EFCC probe until it was leaked to the media.

Oyo-Ita has also told her associates not to drag Kyari into the matter because “it is not true”, according to a family member.

The EFCC said the petition against her was written in 2014 when President Goodluck Jonathan was still in office. It was however, learnt that Oyo-Ita was not the subject of the probe.

It was also reported that N600 million was traced to the account of one of her aides who has been quizzed by the anti-graft agency and released.

However, Oyo-Ita also denied the allegation, saying the money was meant for the death benefits of staff and was meant to be kept in a designated account for that purpose by the project accountant.

“She denied knowing anything about where the money was kept and said there was no fraud involved, at least not from her end,” the family member said.

The Cable

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