Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
The Senate yesterday set up an ad hoc committee to investigate and recover the over N6 trillion which accrued from the non-payment of ground rent from property owners across the country.
Also, the Senate yesterday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to direct commercial banks operating in the Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State to resume full operations without further delay.
The resolution of the Senate to investigate and recover the over N6 trillion which accrued from the non-payment of ground rent from property owners across the country, followed a motion by Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central) who cited orders 41 and 51 of the senate standing rules.
He said the Land Use Act has vested ownership rights on the federal government over its land in states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The Senator stated that the rights included the power to control and regulate town planning and physical development in relation to such lands and by extension prescribing and collection of any tax, fees or rates.
He noted with concern that since 1992, over two million houses across the 36 states of the federation, including FCT had been built and allocated to beneficiaries by the federal government, yet majority have no evidence of payment of ground rent on their properties.
He said that with the current revenue challenges facing the country, there was need for the government to look into other means of generating income than relying on oil revenue.
He added that investigation revealed that the failure of relevant authorities to recover these funds had led the country loosing over N6 trillion.
The Senators took turns to call on the federal government to come up with a computerised system where all allotted lands and properties, persons yet to pay and fashion out mode of recovering the funds.
The senate resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee to investigate the inability of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to investigate and recover incomes for the government.
The upper chamber is to also investigate the circumstances that led to the inability of the land use act allocation committee, saddled with the responsible of handing rent and licence matter, to carry out their responsibility on the matter.
The red chamber also called for a comprehensive data of federal government property sold to the public under the ministry of works and housing across the country.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, set up the committee and announced the following senators as members.
They included Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi Central), Sani Musa (APC, Niger East), Sam Egwu (PDP, Ebonyi North), Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers West), and Yusuf Abubarkar Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central)
The committee was given one month to report back to plenary.
Meanwhile, the Senate has urged the CBN to direct commercial banks operating in the Oron to resume full operations without further delay.
The red chamber also directed its Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, to probe all banks closed from 2010 till date.
The Senate believed that it would enable the CBN to strengthen the operations of banks across the country.
It specifically asked the apex bank to carry out thorough study on the causes of banks’ closure, with a view to guiding against them.
These resolutions were sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Akon Etim Eyakenyi (PDP Akwa Ibom South) during plenary.
Leading debate on the motion, Eyakenyi noted that all banking operations in Oron Local Government Area had been suspended since February 17, 2023, following the protests and commotions caused by customers over acute scarcity of naira.
She said, “Despite the straight roles that those banks play in commercial activities and the economy of Oron nation comprising of five local government areas – Mbo, Okobo, Udunguko, Urue Offong/Uruko, and Oron.”
The lawmaker noted that the naira redesign and cashless policy of the CBN led to cash crunch nationwide while customers rushing to the banks without monies available for withdrawal.
She, however, expressed happiness that normalcy returned in many parts of the country, particularly in Oron after the apex bank directed commercial banks to pay old N500 and N1000 notes.
Eyakenyi recalled incidents where bank customers out of anger, sacked bank staff, in some cases attack them because of non-availability of money to dispense, adding that the Police had since arrested 15 persons for the crime.
The lawmaker lamented that Oron was one of the places “where customers converged at various bank premises for several days without money to pay them, while the agitated customers protested and caused commotion in banking halls.”
She, also, expressed concern about the “heavy hardship orchestrated by this continuous shutdown of banks in Oron despite assurances by the Nigeria Police that they have taken punitive measures and absolute control to avert similar occurrence.”
Contributing, Senator Binos Yaroe (PDP Adamawa South), urged the Senate in session to direct its Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions to investigate the causes of banks shut down in the last 10 years with a view to ensuring that all monies deposited by their customers are paid to them.