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Labour accuses Sunak of ‘smoke and mirrors’ budget due to lack of new money

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Labour accuses Sunak of ‘smoke and mirrors’ budget due to lack of new money

Labour has accused Rishi Sunak of presiding over a “smoke and mirrors” budget after he conceded that just 20% of his biggest single spending commitment unveiled before the speech is made up of new money.

The Treasury has committed to almost £26bn of spending in a rush of announcements before Wednesday’s budget and spending review. It is expected to contain no tax cuts and the chancellor has sought to reassure anxious Tory MPs that he is a fiscal Thatcherite at heart.

Following months of general equanimity among parliamentary colleagues and the public as Sunak spent billions on Covid relief, he faces a hugely tricky budget, trying to balance the worries of Tory MPs about what they see as an increasingly high-tax, high-spend government, and demands for new infrastructure.

On Sunday, Sunak conceded that of £7bn to be pledged in the budget for what could be the flagship announcement, part of the so-called levelling up agenda, just £1.5bn is actually new money.

Challenged on Sky News about the makeup of the money committed for rail, tram and bus projects outside London, Sunak accepted that most of it had already been announced, with the main news on Wednesday being where it will be spent.

Sunak said he had already announced £4.2bn for the “overall envelope for improving how people get around our big cities”, adding: “What we’ve actually done is top that up, as you said, by £1.5bn, but then crucially give out the allocations in that envelope – where all the bits are going to go.”

Of a dozen Treasury trails for budget commitments, several others are not fully new spending, or involve money used to replace earlier commitments. For example, of money announced to assist crime victims, including victims of domestic and sexual assault, just 40% is new. For a new safer streets fund, two-thirds is new. Other announcements cover the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which replaces funding from the EU.

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said: “We’ve seen a weekend full of Treasury smoke and mirrors ahead of the budget – with a government that would rather re-announce plans than get the work done.”

The commitments already made by Sunak even before Wednesday are nonetheless extensive, including an extra near-£6bn for NHS catch-up and diagnostics, and £5bn for genomic health research, £3bn on skills, and £850m for museums and galleries.

Another £500m will be spent on families an early years programmes, including for family support programmes, and on so-called family hubs, a scheme reminiscent of Labour’s sure start centres, a programme decimated by austerity since 2010.

Sunak argued that in spending on families and early intervention he was not accepting that cutting Sure Start had been a mistake, arguing that work done more recently by Tory colleagues such as former business secretary Andrea Leadsom had only now demonstrated the need for such policies.

“What they show very clearly, as the evidence does, is the very early years in young families’ lives are critical and that’s where parents often struggle and that’s where actually we need to provide a little bit more attention,” Sunak told Sky.

In response, Reeves said Sunak was proposing a “pale imitation that doesn’t even take us back to where we were in 2010”.

She said: “It’s all well and good saying we’re going to invest in these family parks, but thousands of children’s centres and Sure Start centres that were proud features of our communities, particularly of our poorer communities, have long gone.”

In another interview, with the BBC, Sunak rejected a call from Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United striker and anti-poverty campaigner, to extend free school meal programmes into the school holidays for the next three years.

Sunak said that as with the furlough scheme, while such programmes were necessary during lockdown, “it’s right that we’ve transitioned to a more normal way of doing things”.

Sunak also confirmed that on Wednesday he will unveil the results of a review into business rates – but gave no sign that this could lead to a reduction in the levy. Business groups and many Tory MPs have called for a cut to boost high streets, but the Treasury appears resistant.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, former minister David Davis castigated Sunak for his approach to taxation, and called into doubt the chancellor’s allegiance to the fiscal ideas of Margaret Thatcher.

“I knew Margaret Thatcher, so I will watch with interest whether he can match the brilliance that Thatcher, and her great Chancellor Nigel Lawson brought to government,” Davis wrote.

“Sadly, every indication so far is that his current course will take us on to the rocks – not away from them.”

Challenged about his policies on Sky, Sunak insisted he still stood for low-tax Conservatism: “Of course I do stand for that, and that’s what I would want to deliver, and that’s what my instincts are. But you also have to take a step back and think, what have I and the government had to grapple with over the past year and a half? We’ve had the biggest economic shock that we’ve experienced in 300 years.”

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Impeachment: Deputy gov drags Oyo Assembly to court

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Impeachment: Deputy gov drags Oyo Assembly to court

The Oyo State Deputy Governor, Rauf Olaniyan, has dragged the State House of Assembly to court over the impeachment move against him by the lawmakers.

The deputy governor was represented in court by his counsel, Chief Afolabi Fashanu, SAN, in the case which came up before Justice Ladiran Akintola at the Oyo State High Court, Ring Road, Ibadan, on Tuesday.

The judge ordered that the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adebo Ogundoyin, and the Clerk of the House be put on notice before he adjourned the matter to Wednesday.

The lawmakers had, two weeks ago, initiated an impeachment move against Olaniyan.

The House in a letter read by the clerk, accused the deputy governor of financial recklessness, gross misconduct, and insubordination among other allegations following his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.

Olaniyan had also filed his response to the allegations against him and the lawmakers had said the matter would come up for discussion on Wednesday.

The Speaker of the House, Adebo Ogundoyin, said the petition met the two-thirds requirements to initiate the impeachment process.

Olaniyan had recently defected from the PDP to the APC and the ruling PDP recently asked him to resign or be ready to be removed.

Rising to defend the embattled deputy governor, the governorship candidate of the APC, Senator Teslim Folarin, said the moves to remove Olaniyan would be resisted.

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Why I Did Not Implement Report Of 2014 National Conference – Jonathan

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Why I Did Not Implement Report Of 2014 National Conference – Jonathan

Former president Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said he did not have enough time to implement the report of the 2014 national conference.

He made the comment at the public presentation of a book ‘The National Question’ authored by Akpandem James and Sam Akpe.

Jonathan was represented at the event by former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.

“Whenever people say that I should have implemented its recommendations, my feeling is either those people did not understand the political environment at that time, the length of time it would take to implement the report of a conference like that or probably were just playing politics with such an important matter,” Jonathan said.

“Those knowledgeable about the processes of constitutional reforms will
know that to implement the Confab report, a number of alterations will be
made in the constitution which would require the involvement of the National Assembly and state assemblies.

“Such elaborate review couldn’t have been possible at that time because by the time the report was submitted in August 2014, we were already on the verge of a general election.

“It is also important to point out that at that time, the speaker of the House of representatives, Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was a member of my party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had already moved out, with some members, to the opposition party.

“When you know that your parliament is under that kind of situation, it would have been imprudent on my own part to take such a precious document, which I consider as crucial to our development yearnings, to a parliament that would not give it due consideration.

“If we had a task that would require the alteration of the constitution, enactment of new laws, and amendment of some existing ones, there was no way that could have been done overnight.”

Read the full text of Jonathan’s address at the book launch:

REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN GCFR, GCON, PRESIDENT FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2010-2015) AT THE PUBLIC
PRESENTATION OF THE NATIONAL QUESTION’, A BOOK BY AKPANDEM JAMES & SAM AKPE
ABUJA TUESDAY JUNE 28, 202

(PROTOCOLS)

I am pleased to be part of the public presentation of this special book titled ‘The National Conversation’.

I thank the authors, Akpandem James and Sam Akpe for inviting me to chair the event. I would have loved to be physically present to carry out this important function myself. Unfortunately, I had to travel abroad for an equally significant international assignment, hence my decision to assign former secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF) and former President of the Senate, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to represent me at this event.

Once again, I commend Akpandem and Sam for this great idea of documenting the experience of the 2014 National Conference, including the intrigues, schemings, interests and the side attractions that formed part of the activities that produced the beautiful document we have as the report of the Conference.

I believe that such a historic event would continue to attract the attention of writers and historians, as a way of documenting and preserving all that went down, for the future generation.

I am pleased that this work has been put together by no less individuals than seasoned journalists who participated directly in the conference, with Mr. Akpandem James playing a key role as the media officer of the conference.

I thank them specially because they have made it easier in this book for people to understand the vision of the Confab. It is understandable that not everybody will have the time and take the pains to go through the 900 page report. This book, I believe, is therefore designed to give the
people a bird’s eye view of the document and it is being launched at the most appropriate time. A time the country is preparing for the next general elections.
I see their effort as a way of preserving this momentous national accomplishment in an engaging book, for posterity.

There is no doubt that a conference of this nature will continue to generate interests and debates with people approaching the discourse from the viewpoints of their beliefs, sectional sentiments, political orientation and ideological persuasion.

The comments, appraisal and controversy have continued, many years
after the conference. One of the questions that has been variously asked
has to do with why my administration did not implement the recommendations of the conference before leaving office.
Although I had offered reasons for this on many occasions and even addressed it in my book ‘My Transition Hours’, the concern has continued to recur. However, since this is the first major public event on the 2014 Confab after I left office, I feel obliged to offer further explanations on my thoughts on the conference.

The essence of the 2014 Confab was to encourage a healthy conversation among the populace, address the queries agitating the mind of Nigerians and mend fences, where possible. As at that time, it was obvious that the ethnic nationalities were singing discordant tunes on the state of the nation and future of the country. The widening fault lines posed a clear threat to the stability and existence of our dear nation.

In responding to the yearnings of the people, my administration inaugurated the conference to provide the opportunity for Nigerians to discuss their issues and agree on the way forward.

My message to the conference was very clear; that they could discuss everything, save for the sovereignty of our great country, Nigeria. I believe, like most Nigerians, that we are better off as one united country.
The ethnic diversity and population of our great country can be deployed to enhance our economic development and our relevance in the global scheme of things. On the contrary, disintegration into smaller fragments will diminish the status of our people and their standing in the world.

As a show of concern and demonstration of goodwill of our administration, my charge to the conference was to discuss matters comprehensively and exhaustively before agreeing on a common point. I implored the members not to rely on simple majority if they must vote on any issue but a convincing approval by no less than 75 percent of the members, before passing any decision. I am happy that most of the resolutions reached were not through voting but by overwhelming consensus.

That showed that the conference tried to mend fences and create a common focus for the country.

As the chairman of this event, I will not take too much time because I know that the guest speakers and the reviewers will have all the time to ventilate the issues. It is their day. However, I would be remiss in my duties if I do not use this unique opportunity to address this particular issue which some people continue to raise on the implementation of the Confab report.

Whenever people say that I should implemented its recommendations, my feeling is either those people did not understand the political environment at that time, the length of time it would take to implement the report of a conference like that or probably were just playing politics with such an important matter.

Those knowledgeable about the processes of constitutional reforms will
know that to implement the Confab report, a number of alterations will be
made in the constitution which would require the involvement of the National Assembly and state assemblies.

Such elaborate review couldn’t have been possible at that time because by the time the report was submitted in August 2014, we were already on the verge of a general election.

It is also important to point out that at that time, the speaker of the House of representatives, Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was a member of my party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had already moved out, with some members, to the opposition party.

When you know that your parliament is under that kind of situation, it would have been imprudent on my own part to take such a precious document, which I consider as crucial to our development yearnings, to a parliament that would not give it due consideration.

If we had a task that would require the alteration of the constitution, enactment of new laws, and amendment of some existing ones, there was no way that could have been done overnight.

We were also fully aware that, for the segments of our population that were already suspicious of all the actions of government, our intentions could have been misread, especially against the backdrop of the ECOWAS protocol on constitutional reforms which states that no substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws of member states in the last six months before elections.”

When I contested the 2015 elections, my expectations was that I would win a second term within which period I would have worked for the implementation of the Confab report. I felt that within the next four year mandate, my first two years would have been dedicated to implementing a reasonable part of the recommendations.

If we take politics out of our national calculations, we would all agree that
with a fresh government it would have been easier to achieve the implementation of the report. One of the problems of this country is that we like playing politics with things that have very much to do with national interest. We play politics with our security. We play politics with our economy. We play politics with almost everything. That, definitely, is not the way to go, if we must make progress in realising our national
aspirations and goals.

May God bless the soul of Justice Idris Kutigi, chairman of the Conference, who died in 2018. However, the Vice Chairman Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and other members who are still alive can testify that I never interfered with any decision of the conference. I can recall a
particular incident when the chairman and his vice approached me for my guidance on a pressing matter before them, but I bluntly told them to figure it out themselves.

I reminded them that, apart from the representatives of the youths, human rights and student groups, most of the members of the conference, up to 60 per cent of them, were older and even more
experienced than myself. I encouraged them to deploy their vast experience to execute the assignment without interference.

In closing, I implore our citizens to realise that the 2014 Conference was
neither about me nor what my administration stood to gain from it at that time. It was all for the good of our country, our children and our grandchildren.

I plead with Nigerians not to play politics with the 2014 Conference report. I believe that at the appropriate time, the country through a dedicated parliament will do the right thing. And the right thing is to duly and dispassionately consider the report of the conference with a view to implementing the recommendations for the good of the country.

I thank you all.

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Reps to ‘apply diplomatic pressure’ to ensure Ekweremadus get justice in UK

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Reps to ‘apply diplomatic pressure’ to ensure Ekweremadus get justice in UK

The house of representatives has resolved to take measures to enable Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy senate president, and his wife, Beatrice, to get justice in the UK.

At Tuesday’s plenary session, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house, said he will “try” to meet his UK counterpart to ensure the Ekweremadus are given fair treatment.

Gbajabiamila made the remarks following the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Abdullahi Abdulkadir, a legislator from Bauchi state.

The former deputy senate president and his wife were recently arrested for allegedly taking an individual to the UK for organ harvesting.

They were subsequently remanded in custody till July 7.

Gbajabiamila said the lower legislative chamber will use “diplomatic pressure” to ensure that “due process” is followed in the issue.

“I have spoken with the Nigerian high commissioner (to the UK, Sharafa Ishola) who has been extremely proactive in this matter and I expressed the need for him to continue to avail Senator Ekweremadu with all the necessary assistance that he will need to prove his case. I think this should be heightened as well to the UK parliament,” Gbajabiamila said.

“I would try and get in touch with the speaker of the parliament (UK) whom I was opportune to meet with and had fruitful discussions with just a couple of months ago. I believe honourable Buba Yusuf (chairman of the house committee on foreign affairs) should also get in touch with his foreign affairs counterpart in the UK parliament.

“We are not talking about anything but for the parliament in the UK to make sure that Senator Ekweremadu gets the proper due process, that the rule of law is applied and that he is treated fairly on this matter. I believe the UK parliament or the congress of the United States, if their own was involved or if they have one of theirs, even a citizen, in this country that was going through the same travails, I believe that those parliaments would responsibly get involved as well. So, we must apply diplomatic pressure.”

The speaker said Nigeria and the UK have “strong diplomatic ties”, adding that “we have to wait to gather all the facts” on the matter.

THE MOTION

While moving his motion, Abdulkadir said fresh information suggests a different narrative which might not be available to the UK police at the time of the arrest of Ekweremadu and his wife.

He said the UK should work with Nigeria to “conduct a holistic and thorough investigation to ascertain all the facts relating to the allegation in order to make a fair determination on the issues in the best interest of equity and justice for all concerned”.

Contribution to the motion, Toby Okechukwu, deputy minority leader, said the UK may have acted on inaccurate information.

The motion was unanimously adopted when it was put to a voice vote by Gbajabiamila.

The house subsequently mandated the ministry of foreign affairs and the high commission of Nigeria to the UK to wade into the matter.

The lower chamber asked the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and banks to “swiftly respond to legitimate requests for information to facilitate the prompt resolution of the charges”.

The minister of foreign affairs, acting comptroller of the NIS, director-general and chief executive officer of NIMC were also invited to “brief the house of representatives through the relevant committees on all necessary actions taken regarding this matter”.

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