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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Nigerian newspapers headlines Friday morning

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Alleged NDDC fraud: Senate wants IMC sacked [Sun]

  • Recommends Commission should be under Presidency

The Senate, yesterday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and set up a board for the commission despite the ongoing forensic audit.

The upper legislative chamber also indicted the IMC over alleged misappropriation of funds earmarked for the development of the oil-producing region and asked it to refund all “unjustifiable funds” paid to staff of the commission.

The Senate said the refund should cover the period between October 2019 and May 2020, when the IMC was constituted by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio with the approval of President Buhari.

Lawmakers who took their turns to speak at yesterday’s plenary described the NDDC as a cesspool of corruption and called for drastic actions to reverse the trend.

This comes exactly two weeks after the acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Kemebradikumo Pondei, admitted that the commission spent N1.5 billion for staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds.’

He made this statement at the investigative hearing on the N40 billion corruption allegation against the commission.

A report read by the chairman of the Ad-hoc committee  investigating the misappropriation of funds in the commission, Olubunmi Ayodeji, called for the reconsideration of executive oversight of the NDDC. The Senate also resolved that the control of the NDDC should be reverted to the Presidency in line with the laws establishing it.

It frowned at  the supervisory role of the Niger Delta Ministry, arguing that it cannot play the role of board members even as it noted that spending without the framework of a budget was not helpful to the NDDC.

 

UN, US, EU, others express sadness over execution of humanitarian workers [Sun]

  • Zulum shocked, saddened

Outrage and condemnation have greeted the killing of five aid workers by insurgents in Borno State.

The United Nation (UN) the European Union (UE), the United States of America and other organisations flayed killing by members of the Boko Haram.

The five aid workers were staff of Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Action Against Hunger and  Reach International and International Rescue Committee (IRC).

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, said the victims were committed humanitarians who devoted their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence.

“This is tragically not the first killing of kidnapped aid workers. We have repeatedly called for such devastating fate and blatant violation of international humanitarian law to never happen again.

“And yet, it does. I implore all armed parties to step up their responsibilities and stop targeting aid workers and civilians,” he said.

Kallon said all aid workers and the assistance they provide to the most vulnerable populations made the difference between life and death for entire communities.

“At a time when humanitarian needs have reached unprecedented levels, it is unacceptable that those who are trying to help are being attacked and killed,” he said.

The European Union (EU) said the humanitarian community was going through extremely difficult time in Nigeria.

In a condolence message, yesterday,  Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, said the EU joined the humanitarian community in strongly condemning the recent killing of the aid workers that were abducted in June along the Monguno-Maiduguri road in the Northeastern state.

“The EU continues to appeal for the adherence to international humanitarian law and the safeguard of human rights – conflict is not an excuse to breach these rules and target humanitarian workers and civilians.

“It is an extremely difficult time for the humanitarian community in Nigeria.  Informal vehicle checkpoints and ambushes along the main roads in Borno State have resulted in hundreds of civilians being abducted, wounded or killed since the beginning of the year. Insecurity in conflict-affected Northeast Nigeria is severely impacting the civilian population and hindering the capacity to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need of urgent support,” Lenarcic said.

Lenarcic further said humanitarian workers had only one mission which was that of saving lives.

“Saving the lives of others should not cost lives,” Lenarcic said.

Also, the United States embassy in Nigeria flayed the execution of the aid workers.

“We are deeply saddened by the execution of five humanitarian workers by terrorists in North-east Nigeria. This comes against a backdrop of deteriorating conditions for millions of Nigerians.

“These brave individuals dedicated their lives to easing human suffering. We hope that their families and colleagues can take comfort in their selfless sacrifices on behalf of others. We will remember their dedication to others.”

Other international humanitarian organisations including Medicine Sans Frontiers known as Doctors Without Borders have also condemned the killing.

Meanwhile, Governor Babagana Zulum, has expressed shock and sadness over the killing in Borno of five aid workers by Boko Haram insurgents.

Zulum, in a statement by his media aide, Malam Isa Gusau, described the aid workers as “heroes who were serving humanity.”

The governor, Gusau said, was informed of the execution on Wednesday evening, while visiting the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Headquarters in Abuja to discuss introduction of civil-defence volunteer programme and the deployment of more agro rangers to secure farmers in Borno.

 

Ohanaeze backs NASS on Service Chiefs [Sun]

The call  by the National Assembly for the removal of service chiefs received a boost with the apex Igbo cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, declaring full support for the lawmakers.

In supporting the call, Ohanaeze Ndigbo stated that the continued  retention of the current service chiefs was becoming a national and international embarrassment to the nation.

President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, in a statement by  his spokesperson, Chief Emeka Attamah, yesterday, described the response by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, as “unacceptable and an insult to Nigerians who are receiving the brunt of the attacks and killings.” Nwodo wondered why the Federal Government had refused to save the nation from undeserved calamity.

Questioning what was special about the current service chiefs that made them indispensable, the Ohanaeze chief noted that it was unconstitutional to keep a worker in service long after he was due for retirement. Nwodo observed that the continued retention of the service chiefs went against the grain of military service, which according to him, breeds bad blood among the officers whose careers were stunted by the action.

He said it was not surprising that there were “overt dissensions in the military with soldiers resigning in their numbers due to dissatisfaction and disaffection, coupled with the alleged corruption in the force.”

Reacting to the recent killing of Nigerian Army officers and soldiers by bandits in Katsina and five aid workers by Boko Haram, Nwodo, regretted that innocent lives of young Nigerian men and women and even foreigners were being wasted daily due to the refusal of the Federal Government to do the needful.

 

I rejected Funtua’s request that Sowore begged Buhari – Falana [Punch]

Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), on Thursday, said he rejected the request of a delegation comprising the late Isa Funtua and two newspaper publishers to prevail on the Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, to apologise to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Falana, in a statement titled, ‘On the collapse of secret meetings designed to compromise Omoyele Sowore in custody’, said he also rejected the delegation’s request to have Sowore, who was in detention, to write an undertaking to desist from further embarrassing the Federal Government.

He said at the meeting, which held last year in Lagos, Funtua, an ally of Buhari, said “rather condescendingly” that the regime in power could not be defeated.

Falana said he was quick to remind the deceased that the Nigerian people had defeated military dictators to pave way for the current democratic dispensation.

The senior lawyer said his statement on the issue was informed by “incendiary” and “erroneous” account given by a presidential spokesperson, Mr Garba Shehu, regarding the meeting he had with the delegation.

Sowore, who was detained by the DSS for over four months in 2019, was visited by the late Funtua, Shehu, the publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Sam Amuka-Pemu; and the publisher of ThisDay Newspapers, Nduka Obaigbena.

Following Funtua’s demise on Monday, Sowore granted an interview to his news platform on Tuesday, narrating how the deceased and others paid him a visit while he was in the DSS custody and asked him to put aside his ‘revolutionary views’ and stop fighting the government for him to be released.

 

I rejected Funtua’s request that Sowore begged Buhari – Falana [Punch]

Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), on Thursday, said he rejected the request of a delegation comprising the late Isa Funtua and two newspaper publishers to prevail on the Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, to apologise to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Falana, in a statement titled, ‘On the collapse of secret meetings designed to compromise Omoyele Sowore in custody’, said he also rejected the delegation’s request to have Sowore, who was in detention, to write an undertaking to desist from further embarrassing the Federal Government.

He said at the meeting, which held last year in Lagos, Funtua, an ally of Buhari, said “rather condescendingly” that the regime in power could not be defeated.

Falana said he was quick to remind the deceased that the Nigerian people had defeated military dictators to pave way for the current democratic dispensation.

The senior lawyer said his statement on the issue was informed by “incendiary” and “erroneous” account given by a presidential spokesperson, Mr Garba Shehu, regarding the meeting he had with the delegation.

Sowore, who was detained by the DSS for over four months in 2019, was visited by the late Funtua, Shehu, the publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Sam Amuka-Pemu; and the publisher of ThisDay Newspapers, Nduka Obaigbena.

Following Funtua’s demise on Monday, Sowore granted an interview to his news platform on Tuesday, narrating how the deceased and others paid him a visit while he was in the DSS custody and asked him to put aside his ‘revolutionary views’ and stop fighting the government for him to be released.

 

Magu can’t open defence [Nation]

  • Suspended EFCC boss awaits allegations

After waiting for about nine hours, the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu could not get copies of the allegations against him by Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets (PCARA) and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).

He, however, pleaded with the Presidential Investigation Committee on the activities of the EFCC to make the allegations available to him.

But a source attributed the challenge in getting the allegations to communication gap between the committee and Magu.

The source said the panel was not aware that Magu was at the venue of the sitting of the panel.

It was learnt that Magu arrived at the venue of the panel at about 9.30am and left at about 7.15pm when he could not open his defence.

It was gathered that on arrival, Magu was taken to a waiting room while the panel was holding its session upstairs.

The counsel to the suspended Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Wahab Shittu said: “We are waiting on the panel to release the list of allegations against Magu. We came to the venue of the panel with the determination to open our defence but we have not got the copies of the allegations.

“We were civil in our approach. We have a lot of respect for the Chairman of the Presidential Investigation Committee, Justice Isa Ayo Salami (Rtd. PCA), we appeal to him and other members to assist us with the allegations.

Shittu added: “We are not opposed to the probe. But we want the list of the allegations against him by Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets (PCARA) and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).

“It is when we have the allegations that we will be able to respond appropriately. So far, Magu has not been able to testify before the panel. We want fair hearing, we want justice

“It was around after 7pm that we were told that Salami committee was not aware that Magu came to the venue to begin his defence.

“My appeal to the panel, on behalf of my client, is to ensure fair hearing for all. They should oblige us the copies of the allegations.

A top source said: “I think there was a communication gap between the panel and Magu. The investigation committee will hear from Magu.”

 

Reps to sue Akpabio for perjury, defamation as minister back tracks [Nation]

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio on Thursday ate the humble pie as he denied accusing National Assembly members of being major beneficiaries of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

In spite of his denial, the House of Representatives resolved to sue him for perjury and slander.

Perjury is a criminal act of lying on oath in an official proceeding while slander is making a false statement that damages a person’s reputation.

Akpabio, while testifying before the probe of malfeasance in the NDDC on Tuesday, sensationally made the allegation.

He said: “Who are the greatest beneficiaries? It’s you people now … I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts of NDDC are given to members of the National Assembly…The two chairmen can explain to you.”

The video clips showing Akpabio making the claims are still trending online.

With the expiration of the 48-hour ultimatum given to him by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to name the beneficiary-lawmakers, the contracts and their locations, Akpabio, a former senator, made a U-turn in a letter to the House.

When plenary kicked off on Thursday, Gbajabiamila notified the lawmakers of the letter, saying he had already instructed clerk of the House, Patrick Giwa, to engage the services of lawyers to initiate the perjury proceedings against the minister for failing to publish the list as demanded.

He said the House will also initiate civil proceedings against the minister, adding that he will not allow anybody to tarnish the image of its members.

He said: “Last Tuesday, I issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the minister   to substantiate his allegation that over 60 per cent of contracts awarded by the NDDC went to members of the National Assembly. I said then that the minister owed it to himself and the country to provide evidence to support these serious allegations.

“The minister has failed to respond to my request. Therefore, I must conclude that his statement was intended solely to gaslight the nation to avoid accountability for the evident maladministration and malfeasance in the NDDC.

“I recognise that the House has not always lived up to the high expectations of the Nigerian people. As much as we still have a lot to do in that regard, I refuse to sit here in good conscience and allow anyone to assassinate the character of the House in an attempt to deflect accountability for their conduct in office.

“Such mendacity as was witnessed at the public hearing will not be tolerated from anybody no matter how highly- placed.

“This morning, I asked the Clerk to engage the services of legal counsel, and instruct them to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury against the minister. At the same time, we will instruct counsel to explore the possibility of a civil defamation suit against the minister.

“We will resist every attempt to undermine this institution, whether such attempts come from within or from outside.”

In his letter, which Gbajabiamila read on the floor of the House, Akpabio  said   as a former Minority Leader of the Senate, he holds the legislature  in high esteem.

The letter reads in part: “I refer to the resolution of the House passed on the 21st of July 2020 and forwarded to me on the same day, directing me to respond to the content therein within 48 hours. I hereby respond as follows:

“Investigating committee on NDDC refused or neglected to give me the opportunity to explain that reference to most NDDC contracts yearly being awarded since 2001 from the records allegedly given to members of the National Assembly were done without the knowledge of the alleged beneficiaries (whatever that means. The Speaker chipped in).

“However, the two chairmen of both chambers had adequate knowledge (Gbajabiamila said, once again, he’s referring to two people).

“I never referred to members of the 9th National Assembly as beneficiaries of the NDDC contracts (the Speaker paused as members celebrated their vindication with loud clappings).

“Again, let me repeat, I never referred to members of the 9th National Assembly as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts as NDDC is yet to fully implement any budget since the commencement of the 9th National Assembly.

“In fact, the 2019 budget passed in February and harmonised between the 4th and 6th of March 2020 was received by the commission in the middle of April 2020, when same was designated to expire on the 31st of May 2020.”

 

Ngige promises non-interference in 774,000 jobs recruitment [Nation]

  • NDE DG: no comment
  • Lagos inaugurates 20-man selection committee
  • Nasarawa recruits hawkers, artisans

Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige on Thursday said he will not take over the supervision of recruitment for 774,000 Nigerians into the Special Public Works programme, as directed by the National Assembly.

This is just as the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nasir Ladan, refused to comment on whether the agency was going ahead with an alternative plan to implement the recruitment.

When our reporter called agency chief on Wednesday, Ladan said: “I don’t want to speak to the press on this, please.”

Ngige said the NDE, as a government agency, is supervised by the Office of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, headed by Festus Keyamo (SAN).

He said: “…We have delegated the NDE to him. I have had three ministers of states and they all managed the NDE. It is in their schedule.”

On Tuesday, both chambers of the National Assembly called for the removal of Keyamo from supervising the recruitment.

The Senate and the House of Representatives, at their separate sessions, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to stop Keyamo from supervising the recruitment.

Despite objection by the National Assembly, Keyamo, on July 14, said he had got presidential approval to supervise the recruitment in accordance with the law.

Also, Lagos State has inaugurated a 20-man selection committee to recruit 20,000 persons from the 20 local government areas of the state for the programme.

Chairman of the committee, Alhaji Mutiu Are, spoke on Thursday with The Nation at the state office of the NDE during the inauguration.

He said: “The selection committee members comprise a representative from Lagos State government, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Muslim community, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), market women, persons with disabilities, youth organisations and respected traditional rulers as part of this process to accomplish the desired results.”

“Our primary assignment is to identify and select 20,000 people from Lagos State, which is 1,000 per local govt. The way we are doing it is to take the jobs back to the local government areas.”

The Nasarawa State office of the programme on Thursday began recruitment of street hawkers and artisans for the 774,000 jobs.

Chairman of the state office of the programme, Kasim Mohammed Kasim, led officials of the programme for the recruitment in Akwanga, Nasarawa Eggon and Lafia local government areas.

Addressing reporters after the recruitment in Gudi, Nasarawa Eggon and Lafia towns, Kasim said two persons were arrested in Akwanga Local Government Area for selling fake recruitment forms of the programme to unsuspecting members of the public.

He also pledged to follow Keyamo’s instructions and ensure that politicians do not hijack the recruitment.

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