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Monday, July 22, 2024

Nigerian newspapers headlines Saturday morning

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Magu kicks as Salami panel recommends sacking [Punch]

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Ayo Salami (retd) set up by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), to investigate the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, has submitted an interim report to the President.

The report was said to have recommended Magu’s sacking.

A report by an online medium, TheCable, stated that the President was asked to appoint a new chairman for the anti-graft agency.

A top source in the police told Saturday PUNCH that although the panel was still probing Magu, testimonies and documents from witnesses so far were enough to make it recommend the removal of the suspended EFCC boss.

A police source who is privy to the investigation but who pleaded anonymity because government has yet to take a decision on the matter said,  “The Salami panel has been sending interim reports to the President. Its latest report, however, recommends Magu’s sacking from the EFCC and possible prosecution.”

When asked why the report was sent when Magu had not yet opened his defence, the police officer said, “But Magu has been part of the process. He has been attending sittings and has even been given the opportunity of cross-examining some witnesses.

“The interim report is for the President alone and is to keep him abreast of the activities of the panel.”

However, Magu’s lawyer, Wahab Shittu, said Justice Salami had informed him that no such report had been submitted to the President.

Shittu said Magu had yet to open his defence and that it would be unjust for the panel to recommend his sacking.

He said, “I don’t understand why we should be talking about a reaction to something that is blatantly falsehood. First, the panel is still calling witnesses. Two witnesses appeared before the panel today. So, if there were ongoing proceedings on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and the panel has adjourned till Monday, if witnesses are still being taken and interrogated, and documents are still being submitted, what that should suggest to you is that proceedings are ongoing and have not been concluded. Does it (then) make sense for a report to be submitted?”

The lawyer said even if the report was an interim one, it would be wrong to submit it without hearing from Magu.

Shittu added, “Ibrahim Magu, my client, has not opened his defence and the panel has repeatedly indicated that he would be allowed to defend himself only after witnesses have been exhausted. So, somebody who has yet to defend allegations against him, can he be indicted?

“Whether interim or final, you cannot issue the report without listening to all the witnesses and then take the defence. My reaction is that the story is planted by mischief makers. A similar falsehood was published by a newspaper and I confronted the panel yesterday (Thursday) and the chairman said how could they have issued such a report when they haven’t formally served him with the allegations and he told me to disregard the report.”

 

AGF Malami revives public property recovery panel dissolved by Buhari [Punch]

  • appoints ex-CJN Onnoghen’s accuser as panel lead consultant
  • SPIP begins verification of Abuja houses, threatens occupiers

The Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property disbanded by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), about a year ago, has been revived by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

Our correspondent also gathered that Malami has appointed the head of a civil society organisation, the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative, Dennis Aghanya, as the “Lead Consultant”, who solely administers the affairs of the panel from an office allocated to him at the Federal Ministry of Justice’s headquarters in Abuja.

The panel originally comprised five members with Mr Okoi Obono-Obla as the Chairman when it was constituted in August 2017.

Aghanya, who now runs the panel as a “unit” of the Federal Ministry of Justice, was the one who sent a petition to the Code of Code of Conduct Bureau in January 2019 for the probe and prosecution of the immediate-past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

His petition to the CCB sparked the probe of the former CJN, who was subsequently charged with five counts at the Code of Conduct of Tribunal for failing to declare his assets in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

Malami, as the AGF, appointed Umar Aliyu (SAN), now deceased, who prosecuted Onnoghen at the CCT on behalf of the CBB and the Federal Government.

In April 2010, the CCT convicted Onnoghen, ordered his removal from office and barred him from holding public office for at least 10 years.

No reason was given for the appointment of Aghanya by Malami as the sole administrator of the SPIP.

The SPIP, constituted in August 2017, was dissolved by Buhari on September 18, 2019.

The dissolution, announced in a statement by presidential spokesperson, Mr Femi Adesina, on September 17, 2019, followed the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission’s probe into allegations of records falsification and financial impropriety levelled against its then chairman, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla.

With the dissolution of the panel, which within the two years of being constituted drew various controversies concerning the legality of its existence and mode of operations, Buhari directed its cases be taken over by the AGF office.

Our correspondent learnt that the Obono-Obla-led panel had over 1,000 cases, including charges filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja against high profile personalities, including a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, the President of the Nigerian Football Association, Amaju Pinnick, Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma. It was further learnt that the cases have been withdrawn by the AGF office.

Consultant begins house ownership verification exercise

Saturday PUNCH confirmed that since his recent appointment by the AGF, Aghanya has picked up the “verification/proof of ownership of property” exercise started by the Obono-Obla-led panel.

The new panel under Aghanya’s leadership, which is acting independently of the units and departments, including the Assets Recovery Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice, has been inviting occupiers of houses suspected to have been illegally acquired from the Federal Government in Abuja.

Despite the November 18, 2018 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which barred the panel from initiating any court proceedings, the letters sent out by Aghanya are laced with threats of possible litigation against whoever fails to comply with his demands within 14 days.

It was gathered that many of the recipients of the panel’s demands, via the letterhead of the SPIP, have forwarded complaints to the AGF office and other departments of the Federal Ministry of Justice  questioning the legality of the panel. They expressed shock about what one of them described as “a backdoor reinstatement of the panel.”

One of the demand letters issued last week and served on an Abuja house was seen by our correspondent on Friday.

The letter which is understood to be a sample of what had been served on many other Abuja houses, acknowledged that the President had dissolved the SPIP and directed the AGF “to take over and conclude all outstanding investigations and other related activities of the defunct SPIP.”

Aghanya in the letter described SPIP as a unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice which “is conducting verification and recovery exercise on Federal Government landed properties.”

Many officials of the ministry told our correspondent that the SPIP unit (as the disbanded Obono-Obla panel now described itself) was not part of the recognised units of the ministry.

Some officials said the description of the SPIP as a unit in the ministry was “a crafty way of bypassing the approval of the President, who disbanded the panel led by Obono-Obla and reserves the power to reconstitute it.”

The letters issued by Aghanya  “directed” the recipients “to furnish this office, through the designated channel below, the following and records in respect of the above referred Federal Government of Nigeria property:

“Offer letter, letter of allocation, evidence of payment, Certificate of Occupancy, property verification form (duly completed), photocopy of this correspondence, any other document you consider relevant to justify your claim.”

The letter added, “Kindly note that the above requested information and records must be submitted to the above address within a period of 14 days from the receipt of this letter, failure which necessary criminal action and recovery proceedings shall commence.”

It directed the recipients of the letter to direct any inquiry they might have to the SPIP office at Room 1B, 32, Ground Floor of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

AGF office examining allegations against new panel –Malami’s aide

When contacted by our correspondent to respond to allegations that the AGF reinstated the SPIP without presidential approval and that Aghanya’s appointment was a compensation for his role in the ouster of the ex-CJN Onnoghen, the minister’s special assistant on media and publicity, Dr Umar Gwandu, replied in a terse message that the AGF office “is examining the allegations and will respond accordingly thereof.”

Aghanya, who was contacted by our correspondent on telephone and promised to respond to the same set of allegations, had yet to send his response as of the time of filing this report on Friday.

The reinstatement of the panel, which has been inundated with several legal actions challenging its legality before it was wound up by a presidential directive last year, is said to re-awaken many controversies surrounding it.

The House of Representatives in a report by its Ad Hoc committee on ‘The Need to Investigate the Legality and Modus Operandi of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel’ had before the panel’s dissolution urged the President “to dissolve the panel in view of the arbitrary use of powers and abuse of office by the chairman (Obono-Obla).”

“That the Code of Conduct Bureau should be utilised to perform the functions that the panel sought to perform in the current anti-corruption drive,” the House of Representatives stated in the report which was unanimously adopted at plenary on December 20, 2018.

Before the panel watch was wound up by the presidential directive, Ekweremadu had filed a suit contending that the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act which established the panel had been overtaken and rendered inactive by the establishment of the CCB in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, to accept and administer assets declaration by public officers, the same mandate the panel sought to perform.

I applied and got the job, says Aghanya

When also contacted by our correspondent on Friday, Aghanya said it was insulting to tag his involvement with the SPIP files as a compensation for his roles in the removal of Onnoghen.

Aghanya said he was only assisting a committee set up to review the files of the defunct SPIP in its winding up mandate.

“Rather than call it compensation to me, I am rather assisting the winding up committee on the defunct SPIP to achieve its mandate,” he stated.

He said he applied to be appointed as the lead consultant for recovery of illegally occupied government property after the Federal Ministry of Justice set up a committee to review all the SPIP’s recovered files.

Aghanya said he had never seen Malami since he started the job.

He stated, “The committee also invited me, on the basis of my application, as the consultant who was responsible for all the files for the recovery of Federal Government houses occupied illegally under the defunct Obono-Obla panel.

“They set up a smaller committee which I am working with in carrying out this assignment. My involvement is merely to guide this committee I am attached with because I have the expertise, since I was the one who generated the files, under the defunct Obono-Obla panel, which they are now working on.

“It’s therefore an insult to my personality and lack of appreciation for anyone to attribute this odious task I am handling to a form of compensation for revealing the infraction committed by the former CJN, Onnoghen.

“I can also assure you that I have never set my eyes on the HAGF (Malami) since I got involved with this assignment. If I have any need, I meet my smaller committee who now takes my issue to the main committee.

“What I am doing is simply in line with my call for anti-corruption advocacy. I do it for passion as service to my fatherland and in support of the anti-corruption fight of the current administration which the HAGF has demonstrated appropriately.

“I don’t want to be dragged into any form of politicisation of noble issues. I would have ignored your text message making inquiries on this matter, but I believe it’s an opportunity provided for me to clear the air before my head would be shaved in my absence.

“One of the most difficult assignments, in this direction, is to identify Federal Government houses illegally occupied, but we have recorded unimaginable success.”

 

$1m fee: We’re ready to return home over harassment in Ghana, say Nigerian traders [Punch]

Nigerian traders in Ghana have said they are ready to return home, if Ghana refuses to honour the multilateral trade agreements of the Economic Community of West African States.

Last week, a Nigerian trader, whose store was forcefully locked up by the Ghanaian security officials, had recorded a video of the incident.

In the video, the trader is asked to pay a $1m registration fee. Though the victim shows the officials his business registration certificate and other documents, the enforcement team insists on shutting his store.

The closure of scores of other Nigerian businesses by Ghanaian security agents in Abossey Okai Circle, Accra and Kumasi, Ashanti Region over non-payment of the imposed $1m fee, as well as allegations of harassment by local traders, sparked protest among Nigerian traders and resulted in diplomatic talks between the two countries.

The ECOWAS Revised Treaty, among others, states under Article 3(2)(g) and 3(2)(i) that the community shall ensure “the adoption of measures for the integration of the private sectors, particularly the creation of an enabling environment to promote small and medium scale enterprises” and “the harmonisation of national investment codes leading to the adoption of a single Community investment code.”

The President of the Nigerian Traders Union in Ghana, Chukwuemeka Nnaji, in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, stated that ECOWAS nationals should be treated as Ghanaian citizens when it comes to doing business.

Nnaji said, “The Protocol of the rights of establishment say the citizen of any member-state who moves into another member-state should have the right to economic activities. You can set up a company and manage it. And the same legislation that is used for its own citizen should be applied to ECOWAS citizens.

“Therefore, if that protocol is followed, Nigerian traders in Ghana should not be asked to pay $1m, unless the same is being demanded of Ghanaian traders. Nigeria has a foreign policy when it comes to trade. But we have never applied it on Ghanaians because there is an agreement.

“That shouldn’t even be a matter for discussion, but if Ghanaians think they must apply their law in its fullness, we are ready to go home because we cannot fight with them over their law.”

‘160 businesses affected, closed shops cost N4m each’

The NTUG president added that over 150 businesses had been closed, though he refrained from giving an estimate of the worth of businesses affected or losses incurred as a result of the mass closure.

He said, “I know it’s not as easy as that. Those places are high-income areas where people pay a lot of money. Getting a shop there would be between 50,000 to 80,000 cedis, which is N4m to N6m.

“So far, we are talking about between 150 and 200 (businesses). The last figure I got from the public relations officer was 158, but they continued (closing shops) the next day, which means it would be over 160 now, or less than 200 shops.”

While bemoaning the mistreatment of Nigerian traders in Ghana, Nnaji said, “Regarding what happened last week, we have had it worse than that. Ghanaian traders would organise hoodlums to beat us up. Some of our members were attacked with machetes.

“In 2018, we called the attention of the governments of both countries to the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians. We kept it cool because the governments intervened and things were curtailed. One would not be far from the truth to say these are xenophobic attacks, but this time, it’s in a different form. The (Ghanaian) government is not handling this.”

We’re engaging with Ghana to resolve issues, says FG

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, said engagements were ongoing with the Ghanaian government to resolve the issues surrounding Nigerian businesses and traders in the country, while assuring that it was a matter of “great concern.”

The spokesperson for the ministry, Mr Ferdinand Nwoye, on Friday, adding that while the Federal Government did not plan to evacuate any of the traders, whoever was willing to return to Nigeria was free to do so.

Nwoye said, “When you talk about efforts in resolving the matter; that is fine. I don’t think there is any option of bringing them back by the government. Any individual who feels e wants to return can; that is okay. But the government is engaging with the Ghanaian authorities at the highest level and things are going very fast, aimed at resolving the whole matter.

“So, it is a matter of priority and of great concern to the government. So, the engagement is going on both  here and in Ghana through our mission there. There was no reported vandalism. It was just a report about the locking up of their shops.”

When contacted, the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, also said only the ministry could address the matter.

“It is a national policy issue which can only be addressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I suggest you contact him,” she stated in a chat to our correspondent.

We’re not aware of  Nigerian traders’ exit threat —Ghana

When contacted, the Ghanaian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Rashid Bawa, was unavailable.

But the Vice Consul, Ghana High Commission, Mrs Ruth Kumah, told Saturday PUNCH that she was not aware of the threat by the Nigerian traders to leave Ghana.

ECOWAS protocol not superior to our law, Ghanaian traders insist

The acting Vice President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, Clement Boateng, while responding to the Nigerian traders’ protests in a telephone interview, claimed that the closure of Nigerian shops in that country had nothing to do with the ECOWAS Protocol.

Boateng said, “The ECOWAS Protocol does not supersede any country’s sovereign laws and that is the more reason why Nigeria found it necessary to close its borders without even giving prior notice to the other members because Nigeria found it necessary to protect their local industry. And up till now, it has not found it expedient to open the border and nobody has complained.

“So, why is it that Ghana is enforcing its laws and Nigeria is complaining? Why? We don’t understand. It is a matter of applying the law and it is not to Nigerians alone. It is applied to all foreigners. All foreigners who have not satisfied the requirement of the law are being asked either to provide their documents for the authorities to scrutinise.

“If you provide your documents, they (Ghanaian authorities) scrutinise them and they see that you have complied with the rules and regulations of the law, they allow you to operate your business.”

 

Jonathan leads West African leaders to Mali [Nation]

  • As UN mission visits President Keita, other detained govt officials

FORMER President Goodluck Jonathan is due in Bamako today at the head of a delegation of West African leaders to ”help the search for solutions” in Mali, following Tuesday’s ouster of President Ibrahim Keita by soldiers.

Also on the delegation are 14 other leaders from the region.

They are scheduled to hold peace talks with the junta leaders including Assimi Goita who has declared himself head of the junta.

The junta is receptive to the meeting with one official saying yesterday: “We will receive the ECOWAS delegation with pleasure… it is important to talk to our brothers.”

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday announced that it would dispatch a high-level delegation “to ensure the immediate return of constitutional order”. It also demanded that Keita be restored as president and warned the junta that it bore “responsibility for the safety and security” of the detainees.

Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other senior officials are currently in custody.

Moments before the coup on Tuesday, Jonathan had told President Muhammadu Buhari during a briefing in Abuja that Mali’s main opposition group, M5, was adamant on its call for the resignation of Keita.

Keita, who later appeared in a state television broadcast on Wednesday, declared the dissolution of the government and National Assembly and said he had no choice but to resign with immediate effect.

In a related development, members of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have managed to visit President Ibrahim Keita and other senior government officials who have been detained by the leaders of military mutiny, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said yesterday in Moscow.

The coup rocked Bamako on Tuesday when a group of Malian soldiers took control of the Kati military base near the capital and seized President Keita and some other high-ranking officials.

Keita subsequently announced his resignation and dissolution of parliament.

“Yesterday in the evening a team of #DroitsdelHomme [Human Rights] of MINUSMA visited #Kati within the framework of its mandate to protect human rights and was able to have access to President Keita and other detainees,” the MINUSMA tweeted.

Leaders of the countries across the world and international organisations condemned the coup, including the West African ECOWAS union, which also closed borders with and cut political and economic ties with Mali.

The military established the National Committee for the Salvation of the People the country’s new governing body under the leadership of Assimi Goita, who was previously the commander of military forces in central Mali.

 

How N13bn for community policing will be spent — IGP [Nation]

  • Warns vigilance groups against possession of firearms •Ortom insists Nigerians be allowed to carry AK-47 rifles

MUCH of the N13 billion just approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the take- off of community policing  in the country will go into training, sensitization and purchase of equipment, Police Inspector General Mohammed Adamu said on Friday.

Adamu warned vigilance and neighborhood watch groups against using the community policing programme to get involved in illegal possession of arms.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State made a fresh case for Nigerians to be allowed to bear AK-47 rifles for self-protection and defence in view of the general insecurity in the country.

The IGP, speaking during a briefing by Police Affairs Minister Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi on his stewardship/one year anniversary of the re-establishment of the ministry, said much ground has been covered in getting community policing off the blocks.

He said of the programme: “Community policing is a strategy. It is not a new police structure that is being created but within the police we re-strategise and then bring in community based initiatives.

“The idea and what we are implementing is that the community should take responsibility for policing. The implementation has gone far. So far we have inaugurated state community policing advisory committees in all the states. And that advisory committee comprises the community leaders, representatives of faith based organizations, representatives of market women, representatives of national union of transport workers, students etc.

“At the local government level we also have the same strategy represented by the same group of community leaders. At the local government level again we have community policing committee which will have the same people from the ward and villages. This committee is the one that would help us identify within the wards and the villages their own citizens and natives who are able bodied. We would select them and train them as community policing officers and send them back to their communities where they come from. We have reached this stage already. Now we are at the stage of recruitment.”

He said the community policing committees would be the ones to receive reports of challenges and problems of crime within the communities through the community police officers.

“They would deliberate on these problems and see how they can solve the problem without necessarily bringing it to the DPO because it is a community based initiative to deal with community issues.”

On the money released, he said: “The money is for implementation of the project. It is a process. We have started it in terms of we are going to do town hall sensitization. We are also doing training for the community police officers. We are going to buy all the equipment that is needed and then the process goes on this year, next year until everything is established.”

To vigilance and neighborhood watch groups across the country, the IGP said: “If you are caught with an illegal weapon, you will be prosecuted and you will go to jail. For the benefit of doubt, anybody seen with any prohibited firearms will be arrested and prosecuted. Even if you are a recognised vigilante group called any name that is given to you by the state government that created you as a vigilante group or neighbourhood watch, created to help law enforcement agencies in fighting crime if you carry firearms that you are not licensed, you will be prosecuted and you will go to jail.”

On his part, the Minister said community policing was driven by the need to take policing closer to communities.

“The idea is to improve on existing police/community partnership to guarantee community ownership of policing efforts, for better intelligence gathering, insulate manpower gaps, resolve communal clashes in affected areas and build goodwill, trust and confidence for sound policing. State and local government implementation committees have been set up in all the states of the federation, while recruitment of constabularies in local government is in progress,” he said.

He said in the past year, the ministry had recorded a lot of successes in efforts to match the increasing crime rate across the country with actions to drastically reduce the problem.

He said although there is still much to achieve, the Ministry of Police Affairs is working closely with the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force to put in place a more proactive security structure across the country to secure lives and properties.

Ortom insists Nigerians be allowed to carry AK-47

Also speaking on community policing on Friday, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State said the N13.5 billion approved by the Federal Government for the project will go a long way in the training of personnel.

Ortom also insisted that Nigerians be allowed to bear AK-47 for self-protection and defence in view of the general insecurity in the country.

His state, he said, has so far arrested 400 herdsmen, prosecuted 130 herders and arrested 9,000 cattle that violated its law prohibiting open grazing.

He said that all the North Central state governors were ready to augment the capacity and the strength of the Nigeria police to ensure the success of community policing.

He said: “It is a policy that we engage the rural people and government is told to find ways of giving them stipends but the police will train these recruits.

“Already, we have done the recruitment from all the 276 wards in Benue State. So I think the next thing is for the training to take place.

“I believe that the N13.5 billion that was approved will support the logistics of training these people, otherwise we had undertaken that the local governments and states will jointly see how they can provide stipends so that these people will report to the police and support the police but they will work hand in hand with vigilante groups.”

The Governor said that the Benue State government has arrested over 400 herdsmen and successfully prosecuted 130 of them.

He said he that the recent statement by the Inspector General of Police that some herdsmen operating in some parts of the country are foreigners vindicated his position on the matter.

Ortom said: “We have arrested about 400 herdsmen and some are not even Fulani. But majority of them are Fulani and we have prosecuted them.

“Today, we have convicted more than 130 herdsmen who are already serving various jail terms and some have paid fines.

“We have arrested over 9000 cattle, but as the law stipulates, once you pay fine, we release them to you and you transport them. You no longer go on foot with those cattle within Benue State.

“On the issue of foreign herdsmen coming into the country, I am happy that the Inspector General of Police some few days ago did say that these herdsmen are not Nigerians. That is what I said about two to three years ago.

“I knew it. I am not a security expert. But as governor, I receive briefings and I was able to do my independent investigation and knew that these people are coming for an agenda.

“Nigerians must wake up. If we don’t wake up we will all be consumed.

“I heard people complaining that Ortom called for Nigerians to be allowed to carry sophisticated weapons and that it would bring about anarchy.

“What about the herdsmen who are carrying AK-47 and kidnapping innocent Nigerians, raping our women and destroying our villages and towns and becoming a terror to us? How about them? Why can’t we collect these sophisticated weapons from them? How many of them have been arrested?

“I am aware that some of them have been apprehended, but majority of them are still there with these AK-47.

“This is a suggestion that the Federal Government should take up seriously because in America people are licensed to carry sophisticated weapons but life is still going on.

“It is left for the Federal Government to look at it if my suggestion can be carried but for me, I still stand with my suggestion.”

 

Pandemic to end in less than two years —WHO [Nation]

THE World Health Organisation said on Friday that it hopes the planet will be rid of the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years — faster than it took for the Spanish flu.

“We hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, adding that it should be possible to tame the coronavirus faster than the deadly 1918 pandemic.

Compared to back then, the world today is at a disadvantage due to its “globalisation, closeness, connectedness”, which has allowed the novel coronavirus to spread around the world at lightning speed, Tedros acknowledged.

But the world also now has the advantage of far better technology, he added.

By “utilising the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines, I think we can finish it in a shorter time than the 1918 flu.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has to date killed nearly 800,000 people and infected close to 23 million worldwide, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

But the deadliest pandemic in modern history, Spanish flu, killed as many as 50 million victims and infected around 500 million around the world between February 1918 and April 2020.

That pandemic came in three waves, with the deadliest second wave beginning in the latter half of 1918.

“It took three waves for the disease to infect most of the susceptible individuals,” WHO emergencies Chief, Michael Ryan, told journalists.

After that, the flu virus behind the pandemic evolved into a far less deadly seasonal bug, which returned for decades.

“Very often, a pandemic virus settles into a seasonal pattern over time,” Ryan said.

He warned though that so far, “this virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern. Clearly, when the disease is not under control, it jumps straight back up.”

 

FG Moves To Revive Abandoned $470m CCTV Project [Leadership]

In a bid to tackle the growing insecurity challenges in the country, the federal government has concluded plans to resuscitate the abandoned $470million national public security communication system.

Already, technicians are currently inspecting the vandalised Abuja and Lagos closed-circuit television cameras for repairs and are expected to present a report on their assessment soon.

The federal government noted yesterday that security forces were already deploying technology such as CCTV, drones and other security gadgets to track down criminals, just as it said the nationwide CCTV project was being reactivated to further enhance the efficiency of the security agencies.

Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Dingyadi, disclosed this during a briefing on his stewardship in his one year in office and to mark the one-year anniversary of the reestablishment of the ministry.

LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that he contract for the CCTV project was awarded in 2010 to a Chinese firm , ZTE Nigeria Ltd, to provide audio, video and data information for use by the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.

The contract which provides for installation of five components, including the video surveillance system as well as comprehensive, reliable, and robust public security communication technology, was abandoned in 2011, just as the installations were vandalised.

Dingyadi also said community policing was driven by the need to take policing closer to communities.

He stated: “The idea is to improve on existing police/community partnership to guarantee community ownership of policing efforts, for better intelligence gathering, insulate manpower gaps, resolve communal clashes in affected areas and build goodwill trust and confidence for sound policing.

“State and local government implementation committees have been set up in all the states of the federation, while recruitment of constabularies in local government is in progress”.

The minister further stated that in the past year, the ministry had recorded a lot of successes in efforts to match the increasing crime rate across the country with actions to drastically reduce the problem.

Also speaking, the Inspector-general of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, gave an insight into how the N13billion approved by the federal government for the implementation of the community policing programme would be spent.

Adamu said the money would be used to organize town hall meetings for sensitization, trainings for the community police officers, as well as the purchase of equipment required for the initiative, among others.

The IGP who said they had already gone far in the implementation of the community policing initiative explained that at the moment, they were in the process of recruiting community police officers.

Adamu issued a stern warning to vigilante and neighborhood watch groups across the country againsy the possession of arms.

He said, “If you are caught with an illegal weapon you will be prosecuted and you will go to jail. For the benefit of doubt, anybody seen with any prohibited firearms will be arrested and prosecuted.

“Even if you are a recognised vigilante group called by any name that is given to you by the state government that created you as a vigilante group or neighbourhood watch created to help law enforcement agencies in fighting crime, if you carry firearms that you are not licensed, you will be prosecuted and you will go to jail.”

On how community policing would work, he said, “Community policing is a strategy. It is not a new police structure that is being created but within the police we restrategize and then bring in community based initiatives.

“The idea and what we are implementing is that the community should take responsibility for policing. The implementation has gone far. So far we have inaugurated state community policing advisory committees in all the states. And that advisory committee comprises the community leaders, representatives of faith-based organizations, representatives of market women, representatives of National Union of Transport Workers, students etc.

“At the local government level we also have the same strategy represented by the same group of community leaders. At the local government level again we have community policing committee which will have the same people from the wards and villages. This committee is the one that would help us identify within the wards and the villages their own citizens and natives who are able bodied.

“We would select them and train them as community policing officers and send them back to their communities where they come from. We have reached this stage already. Now we are at the stage of recruitment.”

Again, NAF Fighter Jets, Helicopter Gunships Bomb Terrorists Camp In Borno

Meanwhile, airstrikes of the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole have destroyed Boko Haram structures and killed several fighters at Warshale in the Northern part of Borno State.

The coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said the mission was executed on Wednesday under subsidiary operation HAIL STORM, after credible intelligence reports and series of aerial surveillance missions had established that the settlement was one of those being used by the terrorists as a staging area to launch attacks.

He said the air task force accordingly dispatched Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jets and attack helicopters that engaged the location, recording devastating hits, resulting in the obliteration of several structures, as well as the neutralisation of some of the terrorists.

He restated that the Armed Forces of Nigeria, operating in concert with other security agencies and stakeholders, will sustain its efforts to rid the North-east of all terrorists and other criminal elements.

Community Policing Will Argument Force’s Capacity – Ortom

Meanwhile, Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday declared that community policing will augment the capacity and the strength of the Nigeria police Force.

Ortom who stated this while speaking journalists in Abuja said the N13.5billion that was approved for community policing will support the logistics of training the recruits whom he said will report to the police but will also work hand in hand with vigilante groups.

He also reiterated his suggestion that licence for sophisticated guns should be issued to responsible Nigerians, noting that it is genuine and reflective of his passion for Benue and Nigerians.

Noting that it was left for the federal government to look at his suggestion, the governor stressed that the call was for an update of an existing law which grants license for Dane guns which are no match for what bandits and killer herdsmen use when they attack.

He said, “On community policing, this is a policy that all the North-central Governors and the Inspector General of Police met some time ago and we jointly agreed to augment the capacity and the strength of the Nigeria police. We need to do something that will arise from the community to support the police.

“So, it is a policy that we engaged the rural people and government is told to find ways of giving them stipends but the police will train these recruits. Already, we have done the recruitment from all the 276 wards. So, I think the next thing is for the training to take place. I believe that the N13.5billion that was approved will support the logistics of training these people, otherwise we had undertaken that the local governments and states will jointly see how they can provide stipends so that these people will report to the police and support the police but they will work hand in hand with vigilante groups.

“We have arrested about 400 herdsmen and some are not even Fulanis but majority of them are Fulanis and we have prosecuted them. Today, we have convicted more than 130 herdsmen who are already serving various jail terms and some have paid fines. We have arrested over 9000 cattle but as the law stipulates, once you pay fine we release them to you and you transport them. You no longer go on foot with those cattle within Benue State.

“The issue of foreign herdsmen coming; I am happy that the Inspector General of Police some few days ago did say that these herdsmen are not Nigerians. That is what I said about two to three years ago. I knew it. I am not a security expert but as governor I receive briefing and I was able to do my independent investigation and know that these people are coming for an agenda, Nigerians must wake up. If we don’t wake up we will all be consumed.”

On the issuance of gun licence to responsible Nigerians, the governor said, “I heard people complaining that Ortom called for Nigerians to be allowed to carry sophisticated weapons and that it would bring about anarchy. What about the Fulani herdsmen who are carrying AK-47 rifles and kidnapping innocent Nigerians, raping our women and destroying our villages and towns and becoming a terror to us. How about them? Why can’t we collect these sophisticated weapons from them?

“How many of them have been arrested? I am aware that some have been apprehended but majority of them are still there with those AK-47. This is a suggestion that the federal government should take up seriously because in America people are licensed to carry sophisticated weapons but life is still going on. It is left for the federal government to look at it if my suggestion can be carried but for me. I still stand with my suggestion”.

 

Coup: Jonathan Leads West African Leaders To Mali Today [Leadership]

ECOWAS special envoy to Mali and former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, will today lead West African leaders to coup-torn Mali to find lasting solution to the insurrection in that country.

Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Keita, was on Tuesday overthrown by mutinying troops, who took him and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other senior officials into custody.

Jonathan had that same Tuesday briefed Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, on the crisis in that country.

Jonathan told Buhari that calls by the main opposition in Mali, M5-RFP, for President Keita to resign cannot be acceptable to African Union (AU), United Nations (UN) and others.

He said the group was adamant on its call for the resignation of Keita.

The coup sent shockwaves around West Africa, sparking fears that one of the region’s most volatile states, and a front line in the fight against jihadism, could collapse.

Keita, who later appeared in a state television broadcast on Wednesday, declared the dissolution of the government and National Assembly and said he had no choice but to resign with immediate effect.

He announced his resignation and dissolved parliament, saying his decision to quit became necessary to avoid bloodshed.

But according to an AFP, Jonathan, who is ECOWAS Special Envoy to Mali, alongside 14 other leaders in the regional bloc, will be in the Malian capital of Bamako today for peace talks with the junta leaders, including Assimi Goita who has declared himself head of the junta.

Reacting to the request for a meeting with the leaders, a junta official told AFP that they were ready to receive the West African leaders.

“We will receive the ECOWAS delegation with pleasure… it is important to talk to our brothers”, he stated.

The world and regional leaders had condemned in strong terms the coup attempt in Mali by the mutinying soldiers.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Mali from the regional body following the military coup that culminated in the ouster of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Miffed by the coup d’état, ECOWAS in a statement asked all its members to close land and air borders to Mali.

It said sanctions will be meted out against “all the putschists as well as their partners and collaborators”.

But the mutinying troops troops remained adamant, with Assimi Goita, a Colonel in the Malian Army, declaring himself head of the “National Committee for the salvation of the People”, a group created by rebels in that country.

Goita who is one of the five soldiers who announced the formation of the salvation committee announced his new position after a meeting with top civil servants.

Amid condemnation from the international community, the rebel soldiers, who overthrew Keita in a coup d’etat that drew, pledged yesterday to restore stability and oversee a transition to elections within a “reasonable” period.

Colonel-Major Ismael Wague, a spokesman for the coup plotters calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, said they acted to prevent Mali from falling further into chaos.

 

Senate Asks DPR To Account For N2.35trn [Leadership]

The Senate yesterday ordered the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to reappear before the Red Chamber on Tuesday and explain why N2.3trillion generated as revenue in the 2019 fiscal year was not remitted to government coffers.

DPR only remitted a meagre N44.5billion into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) out of N2.4trillion generated.

The revelation was made at the ongoing interactive session on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) organized by the joint Senate committee on Finance and National Planning. Trouble started when the joint committee chairman, Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Lagos West), demanded for records of the agency’s internally generated revenues in 2019 and projections for 2021.

DPR’s Head of Planning, Mr Johnson Ajewole, who represented the director, Engr Sarki Auwalu, said a total of N2.4trillion was generated by DPR in 2019 but only N44.5billion was remitted into the consolidated revenue fund.

Dissatisfied with the wide gap in what was realised and remitted, the committee members described the development as unacceptable.

Efforts made by the Head of Finance and Accounts of the agency, Mrs Lilian Ufondu, to explain the wide gap in revenue and remittance further angered the committee members.

According to her, out of the N2.4trillion generated by DPR in 2019, N88billion was removed as 4 per cent collection fee out of which N5.72billion was also remitted, while the balance was used for overhead cost of the agency.

Ufondu couldn’t provide the details of the overhead costs despite probing questions from the lawmakers.

She added that as at July this year, DPR generated N1.13trillion and projecting N3.4trillion as revenues generation for 2021, out of which N139billion will be taken out as 4 per cent collection fee.

Angered by the submissions and the apparent disjointed presentations, the committee consequently ordered that the agency should reappear before it unfailingly on Tuesday next week and must be led by its Director, Sarki Auwalu, who was said to have traveled abroad.

The committee chairman said, “Information and records presented to us by both directors and heads of departments that have spoken are not clear and insufficient as regards budget performance of DPR within the last three years and revenue projection for 2021.

“For this committee to do proper and thorough job, comprehensive records of such budget performances must be made available latest by Monday next week, upon which your director and other top management staff will appear before us again on Tuesday next week.

“Also, well detailed proposals for revenue generation by the agency for 2021-2022 must be included in the expected comprehensive records”.

Efforts by journalists to make the agency’s head of Finance and Accounts, Mrs Ufondu, explain her inability and that of her counterpart on Planning, Ajewole, to make satisfactory submissions before the committee, proved abortive, as she lamented that the day was a bad one for her and DPR.

“I’m sad and it is a bad day for us. We are told to come back and we shall return on Tuesday next week “, she lamented.

Like DPR, heads of other revenue-generating agencies like Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Bank of Industry (BOI) and Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) were absent at the interactive session and were accordingly ordered by the committee to reappear on Monday next week.

While NIWA’s boss was said to have traveled abroad, those of BOI and SON were said to be either indisposed or hospitalized.

When the Senate committee chairman asked of the hospital the Director-General of SON, Osita Aboloma, was being attended to, from the director  of Budget, David Okon, who represented him, he simply said, “I don’t know,” throwing everybody in the meeting hall into feat of laughter.

LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that the interactive session is being organized to find ways of shoring up revenue-generating capabilities of agencies of government in order to fund the proposed 2021 budget deficit, as well as reduce deficit.

…To Move Revenue Agencies Into Consolidated Account

Also, in a bid to block wastages of revenue generated for the Federal Government, the Senate has begun steps to move revenue generating agencies into a Consolidated Revenue Fund Account.

The chairman, Senate committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola, gave the hint yesterday at the public hearing on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), in Abuja.

He spoke after the presentation of the director-general of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mallam Yakubu Muhammed.  At the hearing, the Nigeria Inland Waterways Agency disclosed that it collected N1.4bn, N1.7bn but returned N364m and N428m for 2018 and 2019, respectively.

For 2020, the agency said only N798m had been generated with N128m remitted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Adeola, representing Lagos West, lamented that revenue generating agencies were collecting so much but remitting little to the federal government.

“Our mood is to move all revenue generating agencies to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Government will take the revenue and pay for cost of collection,” he said.

The panel was angry that the NTA only remitted a paltry sum of N1.6bn into the federal government purse for 2019 despite government paying its staff salaries and overhead cost.

Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi (APC Ekiti North) said it made no sense to give an organisation more money when it was supposed to be generating revenue for the government.

“The share of advertising declared for 2019 was N79bn, how could NTA remit only N1.6bn?” He queried.

The panel also quizzed NTA for not declaring profits made from its partnership with StarTimes, a satellite TV service provider.

“If you are operating a below the line account, it is unknown to government. Any expenditure not declared in the document is fraud,” Adeola added.

The panel ordered NTA to supply names of all its debtors, amounts and who gave the approval at the next sitting, just as it threatened to publish the lists.

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