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FG Budgets N4.8bn to Monitor WhatsApp, Others

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Federal Government has earmarked N4.8 billion for the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), to monitor WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging application, and Thuraya, a satellite telephone.

The provision seen by an online newspaper, TheCable, is contained in the supplementary 2021 budget passed by the National Assembly.

This is coming as the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, has advised the 36 state Houses of Assembly not to cow minority leaders in their midst.

National Assembly had approved the sum of N982 billion as the supplementary budget for 2021. While N123 billion was approved for recurrent expenditure, N895 billion was earmarked for capital expenditure. The budget is meant to boost military operations and to facilitate the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine.

The line items of the budget showed that police “commands and formation” got N33.6 billion for some projects, including the fumigation of 19 training institutes at N200 million, while N936 million was earmarked for the police to buy uniform and kits, N910 million was voted for allowances and salaries of trainees.

Under the Ministry of Defence, N1.6 billion was set aside for an “additional 2,700 troops.” The army also got N675 million for operation allowance for the troops.

The Nigeria Air Force got N239 billion, of which N266 million was budgeted for small arms and ammunition, N1.5 billion for upgrade of barracks “through direct labour” and N84 billion for the payment of “defence equipment.

Department of State Services (DSS) got N17.5 billion for the purchase of vehicles, arms and upgrading of its six training institutes nationwide, among other line items.

Under health, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) got N1.6 billion for a “treatment programme”. While N20.6 billion was voted for the “delivery” of vaccines to every ward/primary health centre, N60.7 billion was earmarked for the purchase of COVID vaccines.

The sum of N6.7 billion was earmarked for the procurement and installation of oxygen plants nationwide.

Meanwhile, Abaribe has cautioned the 36 state Houses of Assembly against suppressing and intimidating opposition voices.

Abaribe, in a statement on Monday, expressed concern at recent happenings in some state legislatures in the country, where minority leaders and opposition party members are hounded as perceived enemies in the performance of their statutory functions to oversight the executive.

“Most worrisome, according to Abaribe, was the recent incident in Imo State House of Assembly, where the Minority Leader, Hon. Anyadike Nwosu, and some other members were suspended without following due process.

“The beauty of democracy is in the checks and balances, accommodation of all shades of opinion and allowing free canvassing of viewpoints in the constitution”, he noted.

He said: “Democracy does not stop at the national level. It must permeate all levels of government, that is, wards, local governments, state and other democratic institutions. In all of these, everybody must enjoy the freedom of expression and association as guaranteed by our constitution.

“So, it is undemocratic and smirks of dictatorship, any attempt by anybody, particularly a parliament for that matter to abhor minority functions and stifle opposition voices, just because you want to pander to executive whims. It is reprehensible to even contemplate suspension of a minority leader because he questions the executive on things that seems to be antithetical to democratic norms”.

Abaribe advised the state legislatures to always see every party represented on the floor as partners in progress, whose viewpoints are all geared towards achieving good governance, Thisday reported.

“Without dissenting opinions, democracy loses its kernel. The essence of liberal democracy is the accommodation of different viewpoints, which is warehoused in the interplay of the executive, legislature and judiciary independently in the political system,” Abaribe added.

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