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Monday, July 15, 2024

Nigerian newspapers headlines Wednesday morning

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Senate Okays Life Imprisonment For Kidnappers [Leadership]

The Senate yesterday passed a bill prescribing life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of the offence of kidnapping.

The Red Chamber passed for the third reading an amendment bill to the Criminal Code Act, 2004, thereby introducing new amendments to strengthen the original legislation.

The bill was sponsored by the Senator representing Lagos Central, Oluremi Tinubu. Sequel to the consideration of the report by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters at plenary, the proposed law, if assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, will broaden the scope and definition of rape and sexual offences, while providing life imprisonment for a convicted kidnapper.

Amendment to Section 357 of the principal Act, specifically substitutes the words “woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent”, with the words, “any person, without consent, or with consent.”

The amendment bill also seeks to protect mentally challenged persons from sexual defilement and rape through an amendment to section 221 of the principal Act.

The Senate while retaining the provision of Section 364 of the principal Act, however expunged the gender specific term “him” and substituted the same with “such person” in defining the punishment for the offence of kidnapping.

Earlier, chairman of the committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), in his lead contribution to the debate on the bill, said the piece of legislation “will address the lingering issues of status of limitation in the prosecution of rape/defilement cases and the incessant kidnapping menace, which are on the rise, in recent times.”

The lawmaker stated that contrary to views expressed by those opposing the passage of the bill on the ground that its passage would usurp the powers of the states of the federation to legislate on the subject matter; the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act of 1916 and not Criminal Codes of the states.

 

774,000 Jobs: I Have PMB’s Nod To Proceed With Recruitment Exercise – Keyamo [Leadership]

President Muhammadu Buhari has given minister of state for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, the go-ahead to continue with the plan of recruiting 774,000 Nigerians under the Extended Special Public Works progamme (SPW) despite protest by the National Assembly.

The minister, who confirmed the development to journalists in Abuja yesterday, said he has the fresh instruction of Mr President to proceed with the recruitment exercise.

In his words: “I have fresh instructions to proceed with the program as directed by him and to continue to supervise the program in accordance with the law. I stress it, in accordance with the law.”

Meanwhile, when LEADERSHIP reached out to the Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru, for a reaction to the development, he declined comment, saying he cannot exchange words with the junior minister of Labour and Employment in order not to disrespect the president.

It is, however, expected that the Senate might formally react before the end of today through the Senate poresident, Ahmad Lawan, or Senator Basiru.

President Buhari had approved the engagement of 774, 000 Nigerians under the Special Public Works programme of the National Directorate of Employment to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.

But following a disagreement between members of National Assembly and the minister of state for Labour and Employment, Keyamo, on the modalities for the recruitment, the National Assembly called for a suspension of the process.

Trouble started when lawmakers queried Keyamo for allegedly undertaking lopsided recruitment without the active involvement of the NDE, the agency that got N52 billion approval from the National Assembly to implement the programme.

The argument that ensued afterwards led to a shouting match between both parties which later degenerated to the forceful exit of Keyamo from the meeting.

CBN Targets 370,000 Youths In Accelerated Agricultural Scheme

In a related development, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said it hopes to engage a minimum of 370,000 youths in agricultural production across the country over the next three years in order to reduce unemployment among the youths in the country.

The plan is to be driven through the Bank’s initiated Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).

The programme specifically targets Nigerian youths within the ages of 18 to 35 years. It is to be funded by the CBN and also serve as its managing agent.

“The objective of the AADS is to increase agricultural production towards food security, job creation and economic diversification”, the apex bank said in guidelines for the programme posted on its website yesterday.

Under the programme, state governments are expected to mobilise prospective young farmers with representation from all Senatorial Zones, allocate 2-5 hectares of land per beneficiary and charge a rental on land (Maximum of N10,000 per ha) to defray the cost of land clearing and other infrastructure provided.

The beneficiaries would be responsible for the management of the farm and provide a third party guarantor for repayment of financing facility among other requirements.

According to the new guideline, any participating financial institution (PFI) that fails to disburse the fund within the stipulated days of receipt to the borrower will be charged a penalty at the PFI’s maximum financing rate for the period the fund was not disbursed. The Bank also warned that failure to remit repayments received to CBN within the stipulated period shall attract penalty at the PFIs maximum financing rate.

 

Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot dies [Punch]

Nigerian Air Force’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Tolulope Arotile, has died in a road accident.

It was learnt that Arotile sustained head injuries from the road accident which occurred at the NAF Base in Kaduna.

NAF in a press statement said the flight officer died on Tuesday.

The statement quoted the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, as describing her death as an “irreparable loss”.

Arotile, who hailed from Iffe in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, recently completed a programme at the Starlite International Training Academy, South Africa.

She died less than a year after she was decorated as the first female combatant helicopter pilot.

The statement read, “It is with great sorrow that the Nigerian Air Force regretfully announces the unfortunate demise of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, who died today (Tuesday), 14 July 2020, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna.

“Until her death, ‪Flying Officer Arotile, who was commissioned into the NAF in September 2017 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 64, was the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Service.

“During her short but impactful stay in the Service, the late Arotile contributed significantly to the efforts to rid the North Central States of armed bandits and other criminal elements by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State.

“We pray that the Almighty God grants her soul eternal rest.”

The PUNCH reports that the deceased was one of the 13 pilots inducted at the NAF Headquarters, Abuja, on Tuesday, August 15, 2019.

They were deployed in the North-East and other parts of the country for security operations.

Arotile graduated as the best flight student from the Nigerian Air Force in 2017.

Meanwhile, Nigerians have taken to social media to mourn the flight officer’s death.

Reacting to her death on Twitter, @lekanpaul, said, “Her death came barely a year after she was winged as a combat helicopter pilot in the Air Force following the completion of her course in South Africa.”

Zahra Musa said Arotile’s death was a great loss for Nigeria.

“Oh! She was so young! That’s a great loss for her family and Nigeria! Her achievements at such a young age are remarkable indeed. Rest In Peace gallant one,” Musa said.

@1Vitalsplash tweeted, “So sad. May her soul RIP. Road traffic accident? Just like that? On NAF base? Seriously?”

“Sad end to a promising career!” @OAjayi added.

@abdul_dodomix said, “This is a great loss to the nation, I commiserate with @CAS_AMSadique.”

 

774,000 workers recruitment: National Assembly set for hot session as Buhari backs Keyamo [Punch]

  • Labour ministry opens job portal, invites applications from jobseekers
  • Buhari telling Keyamo to shun federal legislators is unfortunate, says Rep

The Minister of State for Labour and  Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), on Tuesday, said he had got the approval of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.),  to supervise the recruitment of 774, 000 youths under the Special Public Works Programme.

Keyamo, who disclosed this in a text message sent to one of our correspondents in Abuja in response to a question, said the President had directed him to supervise the recruitment.

Buhari’s order contradicted a directive of the National Assembly,  which, earlier this month, said the programme should be suspended.

Although the two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday declined to comment on the approval given to Keyamo by the President, The PUNCH learnt that the lawmakers would on Wednesday (today)  debate the issue.

Buhari had, a few months ago, approved the employment of 774,000  workers as part of efforts to cushion the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the programme, 1, 000 Nigerians, who will earn N20, 000 each on a monthly basis for three months, will be recruited in each of the 774 local government areas of the country.

The programme was, however,  hit by a crisis on July 1 when the National Assembly said it had suspended it because of a disagreement it had with Keyamo.

The spokesperson for the Senate, Dr Ajibola Basiru, and his counterpart for the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who disclosed this in a statement they jointly signed, said Buhari could challenge the decision in court.

In the statement titled, “The FG public works programme must benefit Nigerians:  Implementation of the public works to be put on hold,”  the lawmakers accused the minister of trying to hijack the scheme from the National Directorate of Employment, its implementing agency.

The dispute between Keyamo and the lawmakers started on June  30, when the minister was ordered out of the National Assembly because of his refusal to apologise when the legislators accused him of raising his voice against them.

The minister and the  Director-General of the  NDE, Mr Nasiru Argungu,  were at the National Assembly to brief its Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity on the public works programme.

In his reaction to the lawmakers’ decision, Keyamo had said that the National Assembly had no power to issue any directive to the executive.

In the text message sent to The PUNCH correspondent on Tuesday, Keyamo  said, “I have the instructions of my boss, Mr President, to proceed with the supervision of the preparation for the execution of the programme in accordance with the law.”

A few minutes after Keyamo said he had got the President’s approval, the Federal Ministry of Labour in a tweet said the recruitment of the  774, 000 youths had started.

The tweet read, “Special public works programme of the Federal Government has started nationwide. The state selection committees have been inaugurated and have commenced work. Find the names and contact details of members of your state’s committee on the portal.”

It was also learnt that Keyamo directed the NDE DG to halt further actions on the recruitment of the workers, which he insisted would be undertaken by the ministry.

Findings indicate that the  SPWG portal, https://specialpublicworks.gov.ng/site/ has started functioning. It contains the list of state selection committee members inaugurated by the minister a few weeks ago and other tips on the exercise.

We haven’t  received information on Buhari’s directive –N’Assembly

The Senate spokesman, when contacted, said he would not react to the report that Buhari had directed Keyamo to ignore the National Assembly’s suspension of the programme.

He said, “I cannot react to information which was not officially communicated to the Senate. I won’t answer further questions on the issue because we don’t have such information at the Senate.”

Also, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, on Tuesday night, stated that the position of the Presidency on the matter had not been officially communicated to the parliament.

But a senator confided in one of our correspondents that the issue would be raised on Wednesday at the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Senator from the South-South, said, “I read the report online but it has not been brought to the attention of the parliament.

“ I am sure a member would raise it as a point of order during plenary tomorrow (Wednesday) and we will have a hot debate on it.

“We will still have a debate on it even if the President sends a communication, objecting our resolution to suspend the programme, which was communicated to him two weeks ago.”

It was learnt  that the action of the Buhari-led executive did not go down well with the federal lawmakers, who vowed to resist it.

The Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, in a chat with The PUNCH on Tuesday, said,  “I’m not going to react in my personal capacity. I will make my position know when we meet to take a decision. We will definitely have a meeting on the issue.”

Also, Senator Chukwuka Utazi said he would not want to preempt the decision of the Senate on the issue with his own personal reaction.

He said, “Don’t let me preempt the Senate with my personal comments. We will meet on the matter and take a joint decision.”

Buhari telling Keyamo to shun NASS, unfortunate – Reps

Reacting to Keyamo’s claim on Tuesday, a member of the House Committee Media and Public Affairs, Mr Bamidele Salam, said he doubted Buhari could ask any of his ministers to shun the National Assembly’s directive.

Salam said, “I don’t believe that the President will tell any minister not to obey a resolution of the parliament. I don’t really think so. I doubt it.”

When asked if Keyamo lied, the lawmaker said, “I won’t use the word ‘lie’ but it will be unfortunate if the Presidency actually directed the minister to disregard a decision of the parliament. It will be unfortunate.”

The immediate past Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas,  said he was not sure that the President backed Keyamo against the National Assembly.

Namdas, who is now Chairman of the Committee on Army, asked, “It is confirmed? Is it true? What Keyamo said was to prove that the President had backed him. This issue of the President backing a minister is coming from the person in charge. The information, assuming it is a statement from the Presidency, then we can begin to say it is the President’s position. But we have not seen any statement from the Presidency. And the person who is having problem with the National Assembly members is the one saying the President said it. Until I hear from the President or official statement from the Presidency, I still feel that this story is not true.

“The President knows that we have a good working relationship with the executive and any decision taken by the National Assembly is taken in good faith. It is done to enhance rule of law and provide dividends of democracy. I feel that the President will always do the right thing. I believe that the position of the National Assembly is a very good position because our leaders must have done some consultations before coming to this conclusion.”

‘Keyamo can’t lie against the President’

But a Presidency source said Keyamo could not have lied against the President on the controversial 774,000 jobs.

When asked if indeed the President asked the minister to defy the federal lawmakers’ directive, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Keyamo is a minister of the government. He is an appointee of the President.

“So, if he comes out publicly to say that the President has given him a directive on an issue, I entertain no doubt on the authenticity of his information.”

 

Soon, many’ll be discouraged to stand against corruption – Osinbajo [Punch]

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has predicted that the fight against corruption will continue to get more difficult daily.

He said it would get to a point that many people would become discouraged to stand up against corruption.

Osinbajo said this in his address at the 20th anniversary regional webinar organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission.

His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, made copies of his remarks available to journalists on Tuesday.

The webinar was titled, “Combating corruption and illicit financial flows: New measures and strategies.”

The Vice-President said, “The fight against corruption is nuanced and hydra-headed, it is not going to get easier by the day; as a matter of fact, it will get more difficult by the day and many will become discouraged in standing up against corruption.

“But it is our duty both as individuals and institutions, especially in developing countries where corruption has such a devastating effect, to ensure that we prioritise the fight against corruption and continually devise new ways and new approaches even as the hydra-headed problem itself continues to manifest in different ways.”

Osinbajo said the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had been demonstrating the political will and support for anti-corruption measures, which, he said, had afforded all anti-corruption agencies in the country the latitude to do their work without interference.

Osinbajo said the theme of the webinar was only a reminder that corruption remained a scourge militating against the country’s development aspirations.

He noted, “Over the years, massive public resources and assets have been directly stolen, diverted, deliberately misapplied to gratify corrupt tendencies, stashed in foreign jurisdictions or mired in and susceptible to pilferage by the inequitable and unjust international economic system that continues to undermine the social and economic development aspirations of poor countries, especially from Africa.

“Without effectively combating corruption and IFFs and promoting international cooperation for asset recovery and asset return, Africa cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 16 of the SDGs is devoted to corruption.”

He said breaking the wall of secret corporate ownership was crucial, especially in developing countries, because secrecy around corporate ownership was implicated in the countries’ underdevelopment.

Osinbajo added, “Although anonymous companies are not always illegal, nevertheless secrecy provides a convenient cover for criminality and corruption.

“Our experience in Nigeria, as in other developing countries, is that anonymous corporate ownership covers a multitude of sins, including conflict of interests, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and even terrorism financing.”

The Vice-President disclosed that Nigeria was in the process of amending its corporate law to mandate the disclosure of beneficial interest in a company’s shares and prescribe punitive measures for failure of disclosure.

He added, “We must make corruption expensive for those who engage in it and send the unequivocal message that corruption simply does not pay.

“It is the unenviable but noble task of the ICPC and other anti-corruption agencies to make corruption unattractive to its disciples and facilitate new approaches to stemming IFFS and promoting asset recovery and return.”

Osinbajo added that while many citizens are interested in the fight against grand corruption, they also want to see action in what would be regarded as petty corruption.

He added, “We must protect, even more, whistle-blowers – persons who come forward with information against corruption.

“We must protect those who are ready to fight against corruption and who are prepared to do so without necessarily disclosing their identities and even those who are ready to disclose their identities.

“The thing that we must take note of is that corruption fights back. And it is fighting back and it has the resources to do so.”

 

Magu: Govt’s anti-corruption focus won’t shift [The Nation]

PRESIDENT Muhmmadu Buhari has assured that there will not be a shift in focus of his administration’s anti-corruption campaign.

The President said most of the piles of corruption cases the administration had been dealing with were passed down from the previous administrations.

He spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba, Shehu.

According to him, the reaffirmation became necessary in the face of criticisms by the opposition, especially since the Justice Ayo Isa Salami Presidential Investigative Panel began the probe of allegations levelled against the suspended acting Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

Fielding questions from reporters at the State House, Abuja, on the issues raised by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Shehu said the volume and reach of the anti-corruption crusade so far had reflected what the PDP left behind.

The presidential aide said corruption became so normalised by the PDP that they had difficulty defining what is “corruption” and “theft”.

He said: “The large number of cases, new and old, may appear to be daunting, but PDP, which is now heckling the President, has forgotten that the party bequeathed this to the current administration. They had large number of cases they did not investigate and prosecute.”

“The current administration is handling many of the cases that the PDP should have dealt with and the new ones as they arise.”

 

Senate prescribes life jail for kidnapping [The Nation]

  • Statute of limitation on defilement removed
  • •Senate urges Fed Govt to repair, concession Eastern rail line

THE Senate has raised the punishment for kidnapping from 10 years to life imprisonment.

It also deleted the statute of limitation on defilement as well as removed gender restrictions on rape.

The resolutions followed the third reading and passage of “A Bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act CAP. C.38, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004.”

The Bill, sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), seeks to delete the statute of limitation on defilement, increase punishment for kidnapping and remove gender restrictions on rape and other related matters.

The Bill also eliminated the current time frame for reporting and prosecuting defilement cases across the country.

It also removed gender restrictions on rape by explaining that both male and female could be raped. The senators noted that when the Bill becomes law, an offence of defilement or rape would be actionable perpetually.

In his report on the Bill, Chairman of the Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human and Legal Matters, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central), noted that aim of criminal law and criminal justice system is not only for punishment but also for deterrence, retribution, restoration and rehabilitation of offenders

He insisted that where a law fails to achieve any of its main objectives, it becomes inherently defective; hence the need for the amendment of such a law to conform with best practices.

The senator said the amendment of the Criminal Code Act was in response to the observed anomalies.

“Therefore, the amendment to the Criminal Code Act, that is being proposed, is a welcome development to our criminal justice system.

“Firstly, it should be noted that the proposition to delete statute of limitation on the prosecution of offences under sections 218 and 221 of the Criminal Code Act is a welcome development as the statute of limitation, placed on defilement and rape, negates the principles of natural law, equity and good conscience.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that anyone who has carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 or a girl being of or above the age of 13 and under the age of 16 or attempts to commit same offences, may not be punished, as prosecution of such offence is barred after the expiration of two months from the date of commission of the offence by virtue of statute of limitation.

“Furthermore, Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act defines rape as an offence against women.

“However, in recent times, there are incidences of non-consensual sex perpetrated against the male gender.

“Therefore, the passage of this Bill will ensure that our laws and jurisprudence evolve in tandem with the rest of the world.”

Also, attempt by Senator Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central) to effect an amendment to Section 357 of the Bill to define persons susceptible to rape and accommodate “married and unmarried persons” was rejected by lawmakers during the clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill.

The Senate, which retained the provision of Section 364 of the principal Act, expunged the gender specific term “him” and substituted same with “such person” in defining the punishment for the offence of kidnapping.

The Senate has urged the Federal Government to urgently rehabilitate and concession the Eastern rail line.

This was even as the Upper Chamber mandated its Committee on Land Transport to liaise with relevant ministry and agencies to facilitate the execution of the Eastern corridor.

In its resolution, the Senate mandated its Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance by the Executive in executing the project.

The resolutions followed the consideration of a motion, titled: “Urgent need to resuscitate and re-activate the rehabilitation and concession of the Eastern Rail Line Project,” sponsored by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North).

In his lead debate, Kalu noted that one of the greatest challenges facing the nation as an emerging economy is poor infrastructural development.

“The movement of goods and persons from one point to another is becoming very cumbersome, if not hazardous,” he said.

 

NDDC forensic auditors to examine 8,000 documents, says Akpabio [The Nation]

  • Agency’s liabilities hit N2tr •IMC fails to explain N142b shortfall

MINISTER of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio on Tuesday said endemic corruption is the cause of the problem in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

He said over 8,000 documents have been given to forensic auditors looking into the books of the agency.

He said with the announcement of the forensic audit, 70 contractors have gone back to sites.

Akpabio said effecting reforms in the commission is not a personal thing because he will not be a minister for long.

He said no money was missing in NDDC because the commission’s 311 accounts have been reduced to one, which is with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

He confirmed that the liabilities of NDDC have risen to N2trillion.

He, however, avoided comments on alleged spat with a former Interim Managing Director of NDDC, Ms. Joi Nunieh, because he preferred to address official matters as a minister.

Akpabio, who spoke with reporters in Abuja, said: “I see a major change coming out of the rumbles in the Niger Delta.”

He said: “The Niger Delta is in need of your support. It is time for the modus operandi to change.

“We are very determined to reposition the NDDC. I think the root cause of the problem in the commission is about its years of corruption; endemic corruption. Mr President is very determined to leave a legacy of having an NDDC that is free of corruption. For me, I believe strongly that we shall achieve the objective.

“About the story you heard about the missing money, there is nothing like that. Money could have been missing in those days in NDDC when they had over 311 accounts across all banks in Nigeria and when they had the culture of foreign accounts.

“But today, they have only one account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) because of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

“It is no longer possible for somebody to go to the CBN and take out N40billion without a trace. I am aware that when you are coming to a commission, you will inherit both the liabilities and the assets. And in this case, their liabilities include a pile up of debt to the tune of over N2trillion.”

Speaking on the rot in the NDDC, which has slowed down the development of Niger Delta, Akpabio said: “Sometimes, people do the job and they are not paid, and in some other instances, those who were paid, did not do the job. And those who have the papers in their hands, they did not perform but they have signed the contracts. That means they have indulged in what is called contingent liabilities.”

The minister also opened up on why forensic audit was necessary in the NDDC.

He said: “As of today, the Federal Executive Council has approved a forensic Lead Auditor, Olumuyiwa Bashir and Co, and we have started work. Over 8,000 documents have been given to them.

“The first contract was the appointment of the forensic auditor and off course; the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved that. The second contract was the COVID-19 intervention of the NDCC. I didn’t know I will meet you here (referring to the journalists), I would have brought the list of what was being supplied to the nine states of the region.

“So, I want to see the NDCC with a balance sheet. That is, the forensic audit will throw it up. We want to know which one was laid, which one was not laid. Who collected money that did not execute the job, who has money to refund, who has the job to go back and do.

“Even, when they announced the forensic audit, over 70 contractors have gone back to sites. Today in the Niger Delta, people have seen over 50 completed roads in the nine states in the last six months because of the fear of the forensic audit,

“For 19 years, we can’t point out one project, we cannot point out one industry from the NDDC and we cannot point out one hospital for the NDDC. What we can point at is the cash probably in the pockets of those who had the opportunity. But for me, I want to see the total turn around. When we finish the forensic audit, it is not meant to witch hunt anybody. It is meant to reposition the NDDC.

On the alleged fraud in NDDC with his involvement, the minister said: “In the NDDC one of the things we have done is that, since I became a minister, I have not given out a contract but I only have been involved in the execution of two contracts.

Akpabio said: “As the minister of the Niger Delta, I am committed to those objectives of changing the narratives in the Niger Delta and I am working towards them. But I can’t achieve all these if the only parastatal under my ministry, NDDC still remains the way we all know it. I am not a fugitive from reality, people used to pretend that such does not exist, but I will not.

“I know as a governor, I didn’t like the NDDC, I know as the Minority Leader in the Senate , I did not like the NDDC because of  most of the things that were going on there. The major projects there are not the projects that can turn the lives of the people around.

“They believe in the projects that would put money in people’s pockets. They are more interested in retreats, training and re-training. They supply equipment to hospitals that they do not need.

“They started three specialist hospitals, one in Port Harcourt, one in Ondo and up till now, they have not completed them.

“I want an NDDC where the final budget that comes out will be the one that will bring infrastructural development to the region. I like to see an NDDC that has its international headquarters where people can come and negotiate investments. I like to see an NDDC with a balance sheet that is careful of going to everyman but it will develop the Niger Delta region. That is the agreement we had with the International Food and Agricultural Development (IFAD) to give $173m for farming and a request for $5m as the counterpart funding but that was not possible, it was thwarted by the budgeting process.

“As the Minister of the Niger Delta, I want to see a Niger Delta region where employment opportunities created for the people. I want to see major bridges connecting from Okirka to Yeneogoa. I want to see are NDDC specialist hospitals.”

 

Kidnappers, rapists in trouble as Senate approves life jail for convicts [Sun]

  • Law applicable only in South

The Senate yesterday amended the Criminal Code Act, 2004, expunging the 10-year jail sentence for kidnappers and replacing it with life imprisonment for convicts.

A report read on the floor of the Senate by the Chairman, Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Michael Opeyemi, listed other key areas that the bill amended to include yanking off gender biases in favour of women or the girl-child. The Senate, while approving the amendments, said there were also cases of sexual violence against the male child.

The amendments have also removed status of limitation in the case of rape. With the new amendments, rape offences are no longer barred after the expiration of two months from the date of commission of the offence by virtue of statue of limitation.

Part of the amendments read: “There is no gainsaying the fact anyone who has carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 or a girl being of or above the age of 13 and under the age of sixteen 16 or attempts to commit same offences, may not be punished, as prosecution of such offence is barred after the expiration of two months from the commission of the offence by virtue of statute of limitation.

“Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act defines rape as an offence against women.  However, in recent times, there are incidences of non-consensual sex, perpetrated against the male gender.

“Therefore, the passage of this Bill will ensure that our laws and jurisprudence evolve in tandem with the rest of the world.

“Finally, they submitted that the frequency of kidnapping across the federation and the resultant trauma, not to mention the number of lives lost to the crime, makes it imperative to review our laws with a view to ensuring appropriate punishment for perpetrators as well as serve as deterrence to would be perpetrators.

“Thus, the passage of this Bill would proffer a life sentence for persons found guilty of kidnapping as against the provisions of section 364 of the Act, which proffer the punishment of imprisonment for a term of ten (10) years, where the offence of kidnapping is established.”

An attempt by Lilian Ekwunife to include a controversial clause on spousal rape was rejected by the Senate. She and Abba Moro from Benue State were the only people that supported the move.

However, the Senate said the Bill when signed into law would only be applicable in Federal High Courts in 17 southern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

“The Bill, when enacted, will be applicable by the Federal High Court, in the southern part of the country, where the Criminal Code Act, is be applicable and operational,” the report noted.

 

NDDC: Akpabio denies sexual harassment allegation [Sun]

  • Rivers vows to protect Nunieh

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has described the rumble and allegations of malfeasance against him in the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as corruption fighting back from those resisting “the wind of change.”

At a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, the minister also dismissed the sexual harassment allegation against him by former NDDC acting Managing Director, Dr. Joi Nunieh. He also dismissed allegations of  N40 billion of NDDC funds squandered under his watch.

Asked to respond to Dr. Nunieh’s sexual harassment allegation, Akpabio replied: “As a minister of the Federal Republic, I can’t talk about individuals. I’m more concerned about what this administration can deliver to Nigerians and how to make sure NDDC delivers its mandate to the region. All the rumbles you are hearing are because of the change that is coming; for the first time, the people will have a say on how their funds are used. Change is coming and they should be prepared for it. N18 billion was inserted into the NDDC budget for schools, yet, they have no school to run.

“Since I became a minister, I have only given out two contracts. The first, was for the forensic audit of NDDC and the other for COVID-19 intervention to states in the region.

“NDDC is assisting states to set up two testing centres. We also assisted the governors financially to set up isolation centres. The story of the Niger Delta will change. The forensic audit will throw up who has money to refund, who still has job to do. And even now, over 70 contractors have gone back to work. All the participating forensic audit firms are registered with the Auditor General of the Federation. With a mere mention of forensic audit, over 70 roads have been completed in the Niger Delta. The forensic audit is meant to block leakages in the system. On the first day of the forensic audit, 8,000 documents were given to them. Some who collected money in 2004, 2006, are now coming back to do the work. Someone collected billions to supply fingerlings in the past and when I assumed office, he came to me and said the fingerlings are now ready. I just laughed and asked him to return the money to NDDC.”

On allegations of missing N40billion, he said: “Money could have been missing in those days when they had over 300 bank accounts, but now, because of the Treasury Single Account, the NDDC now has only one account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria. So, no money can be taken out just like that. We’re very determined to reposition the NDDC. The root of the problem has been years of corruption, endemic corruption. Mr. President is determined to leave a legacy that he came and cleared corruption at the NDDC. For me, I believe we will achieve that objective

“For 19 years, you can’t point at one project of the NDDC in the region, but you could point at cars and limousines of those who managed the place. The Federal Executive Council has approved the forensic audit and they have since started work. The forensic audit is not a witch-hunt. As a former governor of Akwa Ibom State and when I was the Senate minority leader in the Eighth Senate, I didn’t like what was going on there. They were doing things that would put things in people’s pockets. I’m not interested in that. Now, I’ll like to see completion of the East-West Road; at least, two sections have been completed. I’ll like to see an end to amnesty, see a place where there would be jobs for our people. I’ll like to see Niger Delta rice sold in Lagos, and also see an NDDC specialist hospital where major health problems can be solved. If we put things right, children of the Niger Delta can get employment within the region.”

Meanwhile, Rivers Government has declared that it has an obligation to protect its citizen, irrespective of political affiliations  warning  that people should thread with caution.

Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said the state would not fold its hands and watch Nunieh suffer any harm in the ongoing controversial probe of the NDDC.

“Rivers State government has viewed with concern the recent developments at the NDDC in which the name of our daughter, Dr. Joi Nunieh, the immediate past acting Managing Director of the Commission, has been dragged into. We hereby call on those involved in the ongoing investigations in the NDDC to ensure that Dr. Joi Nunieh does not suffer any harm  in the course of their undertakings.

“The state owes it as a duty to protect her citizens from danger no matter their political affiliation and  we cannot fold our hands and watch anyone harm her or,  in deed,  any Rivers citizen. We advise those involved in the present altercations in the NDDC to thread with caution in their actions and utterances.”

 

Call off strike, Sanwo Olu begs doctors [Sun]

Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has blamed the ongoing strike by the Medical Guild on inadequate communication and understanding.

He said the bone of contention, non-payment of the May and June additional COVID-19 allowance, had been settled.

He explained that the cause of the delay in payment was because of the  enumeration, which his administration had to carry out to ensure that only those  eligible receive  it.

The governor spoke when he  fielded questions from journalists at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos,  where he commemorated year 2020 Tree Planting Day and commissioned a 36-chamber morgue donated by IHS Towers to the state government.

Sanwo-Olu also lamented that the Coronavirus pandemic had drastically altered the way Nigerians live their lives and do business.

While, appealing to the striking doctors, Sanwo-Olu said: “I think I owe the system as the Chief Incident Commander to express and to say to you that come back to work, I am still your governor, resume back to work and whatever the issues are we will sort it out.”

The COVID-19 additional allowance, which is different from hazard allowance that the government had earlier increased by 400 per is for all health workers.

However, he explained that the Coronavirus additional allowance was  for only frontline workers at the isolation centres, “but it became an all comers affair which was becoming a drain on the state’s purse, hence the enumeration”.

Other issues that led to the strike like taxes, residential quarters for doctors, shortage of doctors, dismissal of health workers etc, the governor said were being taken care off and the doctors are aware of it.

Meanwhile, the Medical Guild has appealed to government to ensure proper engagement with doctors toward resolving the issues that led their three days warning strike.

“We still remain committed to peaceful resolution of issues that we have raised with the state government.

“Our position is that there is a need for proper engagement, negotiations and implementation of agreements, in order to make progress in the state’s health sector,” Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo, the Guild chairman, said.

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