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Buhari: Why I declined assent to controversial National Housing Fund Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari said he declined assent to the controversial National Housing Fund Bill passed by the National Assembly because the various levies imposed on Nigerians in the Bill will not only be “disruptive and punitive” to industries and other sectors of the Nigerian economy but will also have negative impact on Nigerian workers.

Buhari said his decision to decline assent to the bill was pursuant to Section 58 (4) of the 1999 Constitution.

In separate letters addressed to Senate President Bukola Saraki and read on the floor at Tuesday plenary, President Buhari also explained why he rejected seven other bills, including a bill that sought to appropriate $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Company.

Before the President’s dissent, condemnations had trailed the passage of the National Housing Fund (Establishment) Bill passed by the National Assembly, which will seeks to repeal the National Housing Fund Act, 2004 and provide additional sources of funding for effective financing of housing development in Nigeria.

According to Sections 4, 5, and 6 of the Bill, some of the levies imposed on Nigerians include: 2.5 percent monthly deduction from workers’ salaries; 2.5 percent of the ex-factory price before transportation cost of each manufactured or imported 50Kg bag of cement or equivalent in bulk.

Others are a minimum of 10 percent Profit Before Tax imposed on commercial banks, merchant banks, insurance companies and Pension Fund Administrators into the National Housing Fund.

“The provision of Section 6(5) of the Bill in relation to Pension Reform Act and real estate investments thereunder may undermine the administration of the pension industry by the National Pension Commission and adversely affect the safeguards that protect the pension industry against unreasonable investments risks,” the letter titled Presidential decision to decline assent to the National Housing Fund, 2018, read in part.

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Although the President declined assent to the bill on March 19, it was received at the office of the President of the Senate on March 28, 2019.

He also rejected the Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill, which proposed the withdrawal of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account for the completion of the company.

The President noted that in the midst of competing priorities, Nigeria cannot afford to release such a huge amount in one fell swoop.

He also noted that relevant stakeholders including the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development and Industry, Trade and Investment were not fully consulted.

Such appropriations, he said, should have been earmarked through the ‘traditional’ budgetary process with approval from the National Economic Council (NEC).

Other bills rejected by President Buhari include the Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill, National Biotechnology Development Agency Bill, National Institute of Credit Administration Bill, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill as well as the Chattered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill.

Source: By  wede Agbajileke

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