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We Are Tired Of Failed Promises, ASUU Tells FG [LEADERSHIP]

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said it is tired of being cajoled by the federal government’s consistent failure to honour agreements reached with the union.

The union stated that the plan of the federal government to use hunger by withholding salaries of lecturers as a weapon to weaken its agitation and demands would not work.

ASUU stated that Nigerian university lecturers earn least salaries when compared with, “Chief Lecturers in some tertiary institutions, who were not required to supervise post graduate students or conduct research, earn more than professors in our lopsided education system.

Ibadan Zonal Coordinator, Prof. Ade Adejumo, made the disclosures on Wednesday during a press conference to give an update on the strike action.

Adejumo who spoke through Prof Moyo Ajao, Chairperson, Unilorin ASUU urged well-meaning Nigerians to compel government to release the withheld salaries of its members, remit the check-off dues of the

union to the rightful owner and speed up the process of testing thev integrity of UTAS so that it may be deployed for payment beginning from January 2021.

Describing the ongoing disagreement on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as a distraction to the demands of the Union, Adejumo noted that apart from the IPPIS being a cesspool

of corruption, it is strange that the government would lump the payment of lecturers together with that of civil servants as such is not done anywhere in the world.

He said, “Government against international labour laws opted to use hunger as a weapon against us. Our members have been battered by the suspension of our salaries for several months but rather than

capitulate and throw our universities to the dogs to suit the interest of the politicians, we have decided to weather the storm until the needful is done.

“Just as our able President, Comrade Biodun Ogunyemi, said recently, the issue of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) is a distraction to the union. Apart from IPPIS being a

cesspool of corruption as many Nigerians who are at its receiving end have attested to, there is no serious-minded country in the world where university lecturers and intellectual assets of the country are

lumped together in payment with the civil service.

“Nigerians and the international community should be aware that despite the ongoing negotiations, the Government has refused to pay our salaries and allowances. It has also callously withheld the

check-off dues of some of our members, who were selectively paid amputated salaries, in order to starve the union of the energy needed to sustain the negotiations.

“Government appears to be keen about making lecturers commit suicide, as some have been doing, due to economic hardship, though no society progresses beyond its education. It is a rough road but we continue to trudge on because when the going gets tough, only the tough get going.

“We can only appeal to our members to continue to persevere the same way we persevered during the inglorious days of military misrule.

“At this stage of the struggle, Nigerians are urged to compel the government to release the withheld salaries of our members, remit the check-off dues of the union to the rightful owner, pay us the same way

it had paid our arbitrarily handpicked members without subjecting them to IPPIS registration and speed up the process of testing the integrity of UTAS so that it may be deployed for payment beginning from January 2021.

“We are ready to suspend the strike as our children too are tired of staying at home but we cannot work on empty stomachs while politician’s homes and warehouses are filled with palliative materials that they don’t even need.

“Let the politicians note that the interest of Nigeria and the future generations is more paramount to ASUU than the immediate gains of its members. That is what ASUU has been consistent in challenging the rots in the system through sustained engagements with powers that be since the time of the military.

“The gains of ASUU struggles are in the changes that TETFund has been able to bring to the tertiary education sector in the country and ASUU will not relent in pushing for a better university system in the country.

“The road may be tough, the burden is huge but ASUU remains committed in saving our public universities and not making them suffer a lot of our public schools.”

 

30 Persons Die Of Mysterious Disease In Delta [LEADERSHIP]

About 30 persons have been confirmed following a mysterious disease ravaging Ute Okpu and Idumusa communities in Ika North East LGA of Delta State.

The state government which last weekend raised the alarm of the death of 15 youths within the age bracket of 18 to 25 years old in the two communities suspected hemorrhagic fever, or substance abuse as

likely cause of the death.

Investigation, however, revealed that some of the victims vomited blood before giving up the ghost while others complained of general fatigue, headache and feverish condition before passing out.

A mother, Mrs Monica Emeke who lost two of his children ,(a boy26 and girl 22) to the unidentified ailment at Ute Okpu expressed worry over the rate at which death was occurring as five persons died in one day in the community.

Other persons who spoke to journalists said several deaths have been recorded in neighbouring villages including Ute Erunu.

The state government has however assured residents in the area that everything possible was being done to curb the disease.

Nigeria To Acquire Multi-Purpose Research Reactor – NAEC Boss

The acting Chairman/CEO of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), Engr Mukhtar S Ali has disclosed that the country is set to acquire a Multi-Purpose Research Reactor (MPRR) that will produce

enough radioisotopes to meet local and regional demand for applications in medicine, industry and agriculture.

Speaking in Abuja when he declared open a national workshop on ‘Stakeholders’ Needs and Requirement for deployment of Multi-Purpose Research Reactor,’ Engr Ali further explained that the MPRR “will

also compliment the efforts of the MNSR for training of personnel for the nation’s nuclear power programme, especially training of power plant operators and regulatory staff, and also offer Nigerian

scientists the opportunity to carry out research in other areas of

peaceful applications of nuclear technology.”

According to the NAEC boss, “Nigeria currently has only one research reactor in operation. This is a 30kW miniature neutron source research reactor (MNSR), located at the Centre for Energy Research and Training

(CERT), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. CERT is under the administration of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC). He argued that the present reactor “is neither suitable for neutron beam

experiments nor other advanced applications.”

When completed, the NAEC boss said the MPRR will be the only one in this region of the African continent capable of large-scale radioisotopes production.

The MPRR is expected to have a huge market share in the supply of radioisotopes in the West-African sub-region, especially medical radioisotopes, and the RR may for some time to come remain the only monopoly of its kind in the region. It is therefore envisaged that funds arising from sale of radioisotope and other services will form a reasonable percentage of the running costs of the reactor.”

 

Budget Shortfall: INEC To Source N5.2bn From Special Fund [LEADERSHIP]

Against the backdrop of a shortfall of N4billion in the 2020 budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, the electoral umpire has decided to access N5.2billion from its Special Fund to meet its needs.

INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made the disclosure yesterday at the 2021 budget defense exercise of the Commission before the Senate Committee on INEC chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South).

LEADERSHIP reports that INEC Fund was established in 2010 as a contingency fund by virtue of Section 3 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and it currently has about N10billion in its kitty.

Yakubu recalled that INEC was given a budget size of N45.5 billion in 2019 but it was reduced to N40 billion in the 2020 fiscal year, and later slashed to N36 billion in the revised 2020 budget in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was simply impossible to operate within the revised 2020 budget,” Yakubu told the lawmakers, adding that there was the need to draw funds from the INEC Fund for the first time in order to augment the Commission’s 2020 budget.

He continued: “The Commission cannot be independent unless it is financially independent. There are some activities that happen that are time-bound or bound by some specific provisions of the constitution that the Commission has to undertake.

“But what has happened now is that our budget for 2020 dropped to N40 billion from N45.5 billion in 2019. And as a result of the 10 per cent COVID-19 cut, it further dropped to N36 billion in the middle of the year when we had already made preparation for expenditure.

“Since that Fund is made for the rainy days, I informed the (Senate) committee that the rainy day has come”.

According to the INEC chairman, part of the tasks before the commission for which funds are required include continuous voter registration (CVR) for which over N1 billion has been earmarked to kickstart the exercise.

On the proposed N40 billion 2021 budget of INEC, the chairman said the budgetary provision was inadequate, adding that “there are issues but we have proposed how to get out of the issues.”

The proposed budget has a personnel cost component of N23.218 billion, and a consolidated salary allocation of N19.296 billion among other subheads.

The chairman also informed the committee that out of the N36 billion approved budget of 2020, the commission only received about N28.3 billion, leaving an outstanding balance of about N12 billion.

Yakubu noted that with over 16,000 workforce, the Commission’s personnel cost in the 2021 budget increased because of the new minimum wage with concurrent increase in contributory pension remittances, among other obligations.

Yakubu also said that litigation fees being paid to lawyers who are defending INEC at various courts in election disputes was another challenge, adding that the commission was involved in about 1,700 election cases nationwide.

“Each time anyone goes to court, INEC is joined, but we have to hire lawyers to defend us. We are not playing fantastic fees; we are applying Federal Ministry of Justice scale of fees. If for instance you have a case for governorship election before the Supreme Court, it’s a maximum of N4.5 million.

“But because of the number of cases, we are almost getting close to 1,700 pre-election and post-election cases in 2019 alone, and every day you hear people going to court and joining INEC, but we will continue to do what we can within available resources,” he said.

On continuous voter registration, he revealed that the Commission will resume the exercise in the first quarter of 2021 and it will last for 18 months until six months to the next general election of 2023.

In an interview after the budget defense exercise, Yakubu also told journalists that INEC was contemplating Diaspora Voting once the necessary legal frameworks are approved by the National Assembly.

“The Commission is desirous of giving Nigerians living abroad the right to vote. After all, all our neighbouring countries do so. But it requires the amendment to the constitution and the Electoral Act for that to happen.

“We have already worked out the document. Once the law is amended today, we can roll out. We are ready. We have had several meetings with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) but we can’t go beyond what the law provides,” he added.

The INEC chairman also said that the Commission may test run electronic voting with the coming governorship election in Anambra State.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives Committee on INEC, has disagreed with chairman of the Committee, Aisha Dukku, over the 2020 budget performance of the commission.

Dukku, after her opening remarks, at the budget defence session invited the INEC chairman to present the 2020 budget performance of the commission, as a prelude to the defence of the 2021 budget proposals.

However, a member of the committee, Solomon Bob, interjected, stating that the members were just receiving copies of Yakubu’s presentation.

Bob who said there was discontent among lawmakers pointed out that since the passage of the 2020 budget last year, there had not been oversight duties to access the level of implementation of the appropriation.

He said, “I want to draw the chairman and the visitors by way of point of order. This committee met with the INEC team and approved the 2010 budget. As we speak, we just got copies of the 2021 budget. In law we called this dumping.

“But before that we have had no opportunity to oversee the 2020 budget, no oversight of any kind to gauge or access the level of implementation or performance of that budget.

“We are now being called upon to oversee another one. To me, I think that things need to be done properly and I’m saying this because there is a lot of a discontent amongst my colleagues. I can see even the vice chairman is not here.”

 

FG, ASUU talks deadlocked again, parties clash on N30bn allowance [PUNCH]

The meeting between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government ended in a stalemate for the third time on Wednesday, as the parties again failed to resolve the issues around the payment platform for salaries and other benefits.

Besides, ASUU was insisting that the N30bn Earned Academic Allowances offered by the Federal Government would be for its members alone, a demand the government team said was not feasible.

The government had offered N30b to all the unions in the universities and another N20b as revitalization fund, totalling N50b during their meeting on October 15.

Recall that ASUU had on March 23 begun an indefinite strike over the Federal Government’s insistence on implementing the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, which the government said all its employees must adopt for their salaries to be paid.

Besides opposing the IPPIS,  the union also accused the FG of not abiding by agreements both sides signed a few years ago.

At their resumed meeting in Abuja on Wednesday which lasted for over two hours, the parties could not resolve the contentious issues around the payment system to be deployed.

It was gathered that ASUU was still insisting on the University Transparency and Accountability Solution which it developed as an alternative to the IPPIS.

However, the union submitted a document on UTAS for onward submission to the National Information Technology Development Agency for evaluation and testing of the software.

Briefing journalists after the parley, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said the university lecturers had earlier demanded N110b for the revitalisation of the university system, adding that the Federal Goverment offered N20b and N30b for earned academic allowances.

He noted that the N20b was offered to ASUU as a sign of good faith based on the Memorandum of Understanding entered into in 2013 as a result of the renegotiation they had with the government in 2009.

Ngige explained that the government was committed to the revitalization of the university system but added that it was constrained by the dire economic situation occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister said, “This government is not against revitalization but this government says that because of the dire economic situation occasioned by COVID-19, we cannot really pay in the N110b which they are demanding for revitalisation.

“We offered N20b as revitalisation fund. On Earned Academic Allowances, the government offered N30b to all the unions in the universities, making it N50b altogether.

“ASUU is saying that the N30b should be for lecturers alone, irrespective of the fact that there are three other unions. So there is a little problem there. We don’t have any money to offer apart from this N30b.”

Ngige disclosed that the meeting made relative progress on the UTAS as the union submitted their document on the software for evaluation by the NITDA.

 

2021 proposed N6tn loans: PDP, APC clash over FG’s fresh plans, MAN demands caution [PUNCH]

The Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress on Wednesday criticised each other over the Federal Government’s 2021 proposed N6.17tn loans.

The PDP’s spokesman, Kola Ologbodiyan, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu (retd.), had an insatiable appetite for loans.

In his response, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, told The PUNCH on the telephone that the PDP was confused.

But the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria called for caution, saying the National Assembly should ensure due diligence before   approving loans for  the Federal Government.

Recall that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, while defending the 2021 budget  proposals at the sitting of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Loans on Tuesday, said Nigeria’s  public debt would hit N38tn by December 2021.

She disclosed that the total public  debt stock comprising external and domestic debts of states and the Federal Government as well as the Federal Capital Territory stood at N31.01tn ( $85.90bn) as  of June 30, 2020.

According to her, it will rise to N32.51tn by December 2020 and N38.68tn by December 31, 2021.This means Nigeria will borrow N6.17tn in 2021.

Also on Tuesday, the minister said the Federal Government would borrow $2.1bn from Brazil to finance agriculture.

Commenting on the Federal Government’s plan to raise Nigeria’s debt profile by N6.17tn in 2021, the PDP berated the President.

The opposition party’s spokesman, Ologbodiyan, advised the National Assembly not to  be Buhari’s rubber stamp.

Buhari has insatiable appetite for loans, we will soon start borrowing from Togo – PDP

He said, “It ( the plan to get more loans) is the  height of insensitivity. The Buhari regime’s insatiable appetite for loans is unequalled in our national history.

“Nigerians have yet to recover from the news of the mortgaging of our sovereignty to the Chinese in exchange for loans, now, we are looking for loans from Brazil.

“At the rate this regime is going, we may soon be borrowing money from Togo. What has the Buhari regime done with all the money it has borrowed since 2015? The other day, they told Nigerians they want to borrow money to construct railway lines to Niger Republic.

“We expect the National Assembly to demand that the regime account for all the loans it has collected in the name of this country since 2015 before entertaining any such request.

“We also expect the National Assembly leadership to look beyond partisan politics and consider the future of this country in taking decisions. Acting as a rubber stamp to the executive in such matters, is certainly not in Nigeria’s best interest,” the party said.

Loan: The PDP is disturbed we’re succeeding where they failed, says APC

The APC said the PDP was worried that the APC had within just five years succeeded in areas where successive PDP administrations failed in 16 years.

The APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary said, “The PDP is simply confused that we are succeeding where it failed. The PDP governments collected all sorts of loans with nothing to show.

“But since 2015, all of the loans this government has collected there is evidence for all to see. Is it the loans for rail lines ? What about our ongoing road projects across all the six-geopolitical zones?

“The PDP should go and settle their quarrels and see whether they can build a party. Right now, we don’t have an opposition.”

 

Grieving mother cries for justice as police shoot journalist dead [PUNCH]

The family of a journalist with an online television station, Gboah TV, Pelumi Onifade, has demanded justice after he was allegedly shot dead by a policeman in the Agege/Gegetu area of the Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State.

PUNCH Metro gathered that the 20-year-old and one of his colleagues were covering a story about a warehouse, where COVID-19 palliatives were stored in the area, when one of the policemen, who came to prevent the items from being looted, allegedly shot him dead.

It was learnt that the policemen, some of who are attached to the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency (Task Force), invaded the area based on information that hoodlums were about to break into the warehouse to loot the palliatives and thereafter burn down the Abattoir Police Division.

Footage in PUNCH Metro’s possession showed Pelumi interviewing a resident when the policemen invaded the area.

“We are here to collect our food; the food is for COVID-19 and not for this crisis. So, they should allow us to go inside to carry our food. Nigerians are dying. This thing is happening in Oko-Oba and riot policemen are at the gate. Tell them to open the gate so that we can pick what belongs to us,” a resident being interviewed by Pelumi said before the crowd was dispersed.

Speaking with PUNCH Metro on Wednesday, Pelumi’s mother, Bose, who demanded justice for her son, said a policeman shot him dead.

She said, “My son and his colleague were interviewing a woman when the policemen invaded the premises; so, they both ran for safety but because there was nowhere for him to hide, the policemen caught up with him and shot him despite wearing a press uniform. No one knew he was dead when about three policemen dumped him inside a Black Maria.

“We had been searching for him since then; we went to the Abattoir Police Station, Area ‘F’ Division, and the police headquarters, but he was not there. So, when we could not find him, his boss had to post the story online and it was at that point that we knew that a policeman attached to the task force in Oshodi shot him dead.

“A policeman attached to the task force has confessed to shooting him dead and I want justice. The police told us on Friday and it was the following day that they found his corpse at the Ikorodu General Hospital morgue, where he was tagged unknown.”

The co-owner of Gboah TV, he said when Pelumi’s colleague said the 20-year-old was a journalist, he was threatened by the policemen, adding that after frantic efforts to locate his whereabouts proved abortive, a missing person post about him prompted the head of the task force, Olayinka Egbeyemi, to contact the family.

 

Benue declares Fridays work-free day for crop harvest [PUNCH]

BENUE State Government has again declared Fridays as work-free days for civil servants in the state.

The work-free day, according to the state government, begins on November 6 till January 29, 2021, while normal weekly work schedule will resume on February 5, 2021.

The development, it was gathered, was to allow civil servants the opportunity to harvest their farm produce.

According to the state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mrs Ngunan Addingi, “the declaration of Fridays as work-free days is to improve food security in the state.”

The governor always declared Fridays for the state workers during plant and harvest seasons.

 

Biden close to victory [THE NATION]

Democratic candidate Joe Biden is set to win the bitterly-contested United States President election.

With results in six states still being counted this morning, Biden had won 264 Electoral College Votes – six short of the needed 270. There are 538 Electoral College votes.

Votes were still being counted in Georgia with 16 Electoral College Votes, Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Alaska (3) and Nevada (6).

Biden was leading in Nevada where 8.5 per cent of the votes had been counted.

He is projected to win the state which Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate in 2014, won by 2.4 points.

President Donald Trump has challenged the votes count in Michigan and Wisconsin which all major news media called for Biden.

Trump earlier yesterday said he would head for the Supreme Court to challenge the results. He declared himself winner and alleged irregularities. Nevada, which holds the ace to Biden’s victory, suspended the final tally till later today. A win for Biden in Nevada will seal his victory.

Trump’s initial large lead in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina were significantly narrow and  and more votes were counted giving an indication that Biden could win and extend his Electoral College Votes margin.

The Trump campaign said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities in several Wisconsin counties”.

Incomplete results indicate the margin between Mr Trump and Mr Biden in Wisconsin is less than one percentage point, which allows a candidate to seek a recount.

The campaign also filed a lawsuit in Michigan to stop counting of ballots there because it contended it was denied “meaningful access” to observe the opening of ballots and the counting.

n Detroit, Michigan, police were called on Wednesday afternoon to guard the doors to a vote-counting facility as some protesters outside demanded access to monitor the process. According to the Detroit Free-Press, there were already some 200 people observing the vote inside the building.

Officials were seen covering up the windows to the TCF Center, where postal ballots were being tallied.

The Trump campaign also filed two lawsuits in Pennsylvania to halt all vote counting “until there is meaningful transparency”.

The Associated Press news agency reports that the Trump campaign is also suing Georgia to halt the vote count there.

Mr Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in his 2016 election victory.

In the early hours of Wednesday, he announced from the White House that he had won and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court.

The Trump campaign is asking Republican donors to help fund legal challenges.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said: “The fight’s not over. We’re in it.”

Mr Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, tweeted asking supporters to contribute $5 to help pay for a fight that could “stretch on for weeks”.

Biden campaign senior legal adviser Bob Bauer said there were no grounds for Mr Trump to invalidate lawfully cast ballots.

Mr Biden’s hopes of a decisive early victory on election night were thwarted as Mr Trump defied pollsters predictions by outperforming in key battlegrounds.

Mr Trump held several important states, including Texas, Ohio and Iowa, fending off a strong Biden play.

The president also comfortably won his adopted home state of Florida, the most hotly fought battleground of the night, despite two visits there by Mr Biden’s ally and former boss, ex-President Barack Obama.

 

INEC plans e-voting take-off with Anambra poll [THE NATION]

There are plans by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to kick-start electronic voting with next year’s governorship election in Anambra State, Commission Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said on Wednesday.

The poll is scheduled for November next year.

However, the adoption of electronic voting will be conditional on the amendment of the Electoral Act to permit its use.

The INEC boss also proposed N1 billion for the Anambra poll and the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).

Yakubu, who spoke with reporters after a budget defence session before the Aisha Dukku-led House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, said about 40 companies had submitted proposals on the deployment of technology for voting.

He said: “They have demonstrated. The next stage is for the commission to decide. So, it’s too early to tell you the cost or when the process will be concluded.

“But, we have determined we were going to deploy electronic voting machines, or electronic ballot machines in elections, possibly in Anambra governorship elections next year.”

Yakubu declined to speak on public expectations about INEC during his second tenure, saying: “I have not been confirmed by the Senate yet. Wait till I’m confirmed. Then, I will tell you what to expect from the commission.”

The budgetary defence was not devoid of bickering. As Yakubu was about to commence the defence after Dukku’s opening address, that House of Representative member Solomon Bob, (Rivers), under a point of order, raised an objection.

He pointed out that the 2020 Budget performance was the real kernel of the matter, recalling that throughout the year, the House could not exercise its oversight powers over INEC due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bob said it was important to know how the electoral agency utilised the budget before considering the new appropriation.

But, Dukku ruled him out of order, saying that as the Chairperson of the committee, she has the prerogative to structure the order of events.

After the presentation of the 2021 proposals, Rep. Uzoma Abonta (Abia PDP) and Rep. Yusuf Tajudeen (Kogi PDP) insisted on asking questions on the 2020 budget performance.

They said if the INEC was not comfortable with an open discussion, the issues can be discussed behind the camera.

However, following the law makers’ resistance, Dukku capitulated and at the commissioners, directors, the Permanent Secretary, other aides and reporters to were asked to leave, to allow Yakubu and the lawmakers to discuss behind camera.

Also, at the Senate, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, urged the electoral body to urgently work out a special remuneration package for its staff, in view of their enormous responsibilities.

Yakubu said that the CVR will commence in the first quarter of next year, adding that the exercise will last for 18 months, which is six months to the 2023 general elections.

He also said the commission may make provisions for early and diaspora voting, subject to amendments of the Electoral Act and other relevant sections of the Constitution.

Yakubu said early voting will enable essential service provides, including the police, members of the armed forces, INEC’s adhoc staff, and journalists to exercise their franchise, either before or during the elections.

He said that diplomatic staff in foreign missions and members of the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) will also be able to vote when the relevant legal instruments are in place.

Yakubu said the commission has resolved to draw N6.2 billion from its N10billion INEC Fund, which was established in 2010 to augment its 2020 budget shortfall.

He said: “The commission cannot be independent unless it is financially independent. There are some activities that happen that are time bound or bound by some specific provisions of the constitution that the Commission has to undertake.

“So, the fund was established to allow the Commission to discharge those responsibilities. It was established in 2010 but there was no cause to spend from it, and from the last five years this Commission did not spend from it.

“But, what has happened now is our budget for 2020 dropped to N40 billion from N45.5 billion in 2019. And as a result of the 10 per cent COVID-19 cut, it further dropped to N36 billion in the middle of the year when we had already made preparation for expenditure.

“Therefore, since that fund is made for the rainy days, I informed the committee that the rainy day has come. So we are taking part of the fund to balance our budget for this year.”

He added: “For the Continuous Voter Registration, the Commission intends to resume voter registration in the first quarter of 2021.

“And once we resume, it will be continuous for one and half years, at least until six months to the next general election.

“In other words, the Commission is not going to resume voter registration for a week, two weeks or a month, but we are working out the details.”

On the necessity for INEC to make provision for Diaspora voting, Yakubu expressed the agency’s eargerness to have Nigerians living in foreign countries participate in the electoral process.

He said: “The commission is desirous of giving Nigerians living abroad the right to vote, after all, all our neighboring countries do so.

“But it requires the amendment to the Constitution and the Electoral Act for that to happen.

“And we have already worked out the document. Once the law is amended today, we can roll out.

“We are ready. We have had several meetings with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) but we can’t go beyond what the law provides.”

 

Southwest ministers seek compensation for victims of #EndSARS attack [THE NATION]

Minsters from states in the West, have recommended Federal Government’s support for those who lost properties in the violence that followed the #EndSARS protests.

They also advised a thorough probe of the Lekki Toll Gate shooting incident.

The ministers made the recommendations in a report to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday in Abuja.

The ministers visited Lagos, the epicentre of the protests and its violent outcome to assess the massive damage to public and private facilities in the state.

Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, who presented the report to FEC, gave reporters an insight into the report.

The ministers also recommended aggressive re-orientation of Nigerians, especially through the media and through the introduction of teaching of cultural values, etiquettes and other societal inculcation, going through formal educational institutions.

They also recommended the adoption of templates that would help in creating more jobs. Making reference to an earlier resolution of the FEC, the minister said the proposed maintenance of Facility Management Policy would help the federal and state governments to create immediate employment for various categories of labour.

“We also urged that federal government should undertake a thorough investigation into what happened at the Lekki Toll Plaza, particularly the role of the military and ensure that the outcome is made public with a view to achieving closure on the matter.

Fashola said: “We recommended that the Federal Government re-mobilize critical organs and agencies such as National Orientation Agency and formal educational institutions to focus on ethical re-orientation, inculcation of family values into the school curriculum.

“We recommended focus on etiquette, local reasoning, critical thinking, solution seeking, empathy, self-respect, civic duty and human rights.

“We also recommended the Federal Government to actively seek and support the process of justice for all by ensuring that any of those apprehended and identified to be involved in the perpetration of this carnage be speedily brought to justice and fairly tried.

“We also urged the Federal Government to implement the Maintenance of Facility Management Policy approved by FEC in 2019 for federal ministries, department and agencies and to encourage states to do the same. We do this because we see this as a usual vehicle to help absorb and create immediate employment of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled Labour, in order to address huge unemployment and poverty related part of the problem.

“This is important because people have skills but we need to provide the economic environment in which those skills can become income earning and self rewarding.

“We urged government to also restore confidence in the police and their morale among the officers of men and women and to improve their welfare, whiles tracking the ongoing reforms being undertaken in the police force.

“We also urged the Federal Government to consider, through the Federal Ministry of Health, issues of substance abuse amongst the populace and propose solutions because, this potentially affects mental health.

“We made this recommendation mindful of the global opium and substance abuse crisis and the impact on our country as well. We think this is a matter that requires some attention and focus”, he said.

 

Rising global COVID-19 cases put Nigeria at risk [THE NATION]

Government on Tuesday cautioned Nigerians against travelling to Europe and the Americas to prevent importation of COVID-19 virus to the country.

It expressed fears that the country is at risk with the second wave of the virus ravaging Europe and other parts of the world.

Because of the return of the virus, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, have re-introduced restrictions and shut-downs.

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 issued an advisory to Nigerians against making trips that are unnecessary to Europe, at this time.

The Lagos State government has also cautioned against unnecessary movement and social gathering, unless it is absolutely necessary. It said travelling outside the country should be discouraged except when absolutely necessary.

Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire also said the PTF is worried by a likely rise in cases as a result of recent reopening of air travel, imminent reopening of schools, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps, and the recent social agitation and unrest.

The PTF added that asides the disregard for COVID-19 safety, prevention and control measures, preliminary reports show that contact tracing and case finding have declined in states, with a consequent reduction in the number of persons tested.

Ehanire said: “We are concerned about the decline in the testing rate in several states of the Federation. Records show that only Lagos and the FCT have met the testing target of at least one per cent of the population. Plateau, Rivers and Gombe have reached over 50 per cent of target, while 25 states are yet to reach 25 per cent of their population. We do not have the confidence to draw firm conclusions on our status, till this situation improves.

“Our concern is heightened by several emerging factors that challenge whatever gains we may have made in recent months: the inevitable need to reopen air travel, to stimulate economic activities, the imminent reopening of schools and Youth Service, again necessary for restoration of social order, but which global experience links with spikes in covid infection rates in most countries.

“Others are the effect of recent social agitation and unrest, with attendant disruption of services and widespread breach of all infection prevention protocols, and the growing lackadaisical attitude to covid19 and disregard for safety and simple infection prevention and control measures, which I must admit, is not peculiar to our country.

“Preliminary reports show that contact tracing and case finding have declined in states with a consequent reduction in the number of persons tested. I therefore renew my call on states and stakeholders to step up testing capacity, to help identify positive cases for isolation or treatment and protect the rest of the population, which is the duty of government.

“I wish to particularly emphasize the need to protect the elderly and vulnerable, who are the most affected in fatalities. In this connection, the Ministry of Health will next week launch an advocacy campaign in which a representative of the Hon. Minister of Health will visit hotspot States that require encouragement, to discuss their specific needs and challenges and find ways of stepping up sample collection for testing.”

Ehanire added, “The evolving global situation of COVID-19 gives us much reason for concern. Over 2.8 million cases were reported last one week, with half of the cases in Europe. The UK, France, Germany, Spain and others in Europe have resorted to lockdown and other measures, to control the pandemic.

“With the high volume of air traffic between Nigeria and Europe, we are examining the associated risk factors for Nigeria. The PTF has set up stringent criteria and measures so far, to limit COVID-19 importation: nevertheless, 18 travelers out of over 78,000 arrivals, were found to be COVID-19 positive at the second testing in Nigeria.

“This is a relatively small number, but it could increase with rising volume of flights. Moreover, NCDC estimated traveler compliance with second testing after arrival to be about 60 per cent, which is a challenge we are responding to in innovative ways, as we work constantly to improve the arrival processes for better protection of citizens.

“To improve function at international air and sea Points of Entry, the Division of Port Health Services has been directed to work with NCDC, Ministry of Health Planning Department and relevant Agencies of the Ministries of Aviation and Interior and Transportation, to bring up a new design of structures and protocols that will enhance its ability to function more efficiently and effectively and ensure reduction in the risk of importing Infectious disease, especially covid19, by promptly identifying, isolating and processing suspected cases before they enter the country.

“While we still evaluate the impact of recent unguarded mass gatherings in various parts of the country as a risk factor for spreading COVID-19, my concern is that we may find a spike in confirmed cases, with the widespread disregard for preventive measures at the large gatherings and movements.

“We must take collective responsibility for each other’s actions, if we are not to experience the upsurges in new cases experienced in many other countries, and a throwback to conditions worse than the present. An appraisal of Nigeria’s position in the global COVID-19 space has been prepared by the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and will be discussed at PTF, before release to the public.

“In this regard, citizens are again also strongly advised to postpone all travel to high burden countries of the world, including Europe and the Americas, except absolutely necessary.  The better we are able to control importation of fresh covid-19 cases to our country, the easier we can control in-country spread and return to our normal life.”

Chairman of PTF Mr. Boss Mustapha, added that more reasons for the concern of a likely resurgence of the virus include  the fact that as at Monday, 2/11/2020, global statistics showed the following:

  • Global cumulative cases: – 47,387,837;

  • Global number of deaths: – 1,212,479;

“In the midst of all these, the nation has experienced several large gathering events during which the non-pharmaceutical Interventions were not really observed. The situation in Europe and the reports from the USA showing the consequences of non-adherence, are quite vivid.

“The PTF is highlighting these issues repeatedly because we remain at risk of importation, having opened our airspace and massive spread as a result of the protests. The next week or two remain critical”, he said.

 

Biden bats away Trump’s false victory claim [SUN]

Donald Trump, 74, yesterday appeared in the White House to falsely claim victory and made unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud.

“We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election,” he said, before launching an extraordinary attack on the electoral process by a sitting president. “This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”

“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare the winner of this election. It’s the voters’ place,” Biden said on Twitter in response to the president. Trump provided no evidence to back up his claim of fraud and did not explain how he would fight the results at the Supreme Court, which does not hear direct challenges. Voting concluded as scheduled on Tuesday night, but many states routinely take days to finish counting ballots.

Meanwhile, Trump Campaign has said Trump will seek a recount in Wisconsin. “Despite ridiculous public polling used as a voter suppression tactic, Wisconsin has been a razor thin race as we always knew that it would be,” Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 campaign manager said in a statement. “There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results. The President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so.”

Biden’s hopes of a decisive early victory were dashed on Tuesday evening when Trump won the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Texas. But the former vice president said he was confident he could win by taking the three key Rust Belt states.

“We feel good about where we are,” Biden said in his home state of Delaware. “We believe we’re on track to win this election.” Biden is making his third attempt to win the presidency after a five-decade political career including eight years as vice president under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

During the final days of the campaign, Trump had suggested he would claim victory ahead on election night and seek to halt the count of additional ballots. “The president’s statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect,” Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement.

Before his White House appearance, Trump slammed his opponent, saying in a tweet, “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” Twitter swiftly tagged the tweet as possibly misleading.

It was not clear what Trump meant by saying he would ask the Supreme Court to halt “voting.” The high court does not hear direct challenges but instead reviews cases that have worked their way up from lower courts.

However, legal experts have said the election outcome could get bogged down in state-by-state litigation over a host of issues, including whether states can include late-arriving ballots that were mailed by Election Day.

 

Embattled Magu claims Salami-led panel bias, out to nail him [SUN]

Embattled suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has accused Ayo Salami-led panel of being bias and out to nail him.

Wahab Shittu, lawyer to Magu, in a statement claimed that the panel was still calling witnesses to testify against Magu, almost six weeks after his defence was concluded.

Magu was suspended in July by President Muhammadu Buhari over claims that he diverted recovered assets the anti-graft agency secured between 2015-2020.

He was detained, released after some days and made to face a probe headed by Justice Salami, where  he has denied all allegations made against him.

Shittu said: “We are particularly alarmed about recent developments. About six weeks ago, our client (Magu) concluded his defence. Between that time and now, a lot has happened.

“First, the panel embarked on verification of assets nationwide in the absence of our client. Verification of assets is part of evidence gathering and can be likened to a visit to locus-in-quo.

“Section 207(2) of the CPA provides that ‘the accused shall be present at the view’ and at the locus. If an inspection of the locus is undertaken and the accused person is absent, this is an irregularity.

“There are also reports that the panel continues to call witnesses and take evidence even when our client had concluded his defence and in the absence of our client without being given the opportunity to confront and challenge the veracity of such evidence.

“Based on the foregoing, the fundamental principle of fair hearing to which our client is entitled to has been crassly and fundamentally violated. The foregoing are for the attention of the appointing authority and the Nigerian public.”

Magu’s lawyer is also raising the alarm that the panel was trying to put an end to existing arrangement in the EFCC, where a police officer usually heads the agency.

“As counsel of choice to Magu, our immediate reaction is one of shock that the panel could contemplate what is clearly outside its mandate for undisclosed reasons. Clearly, we are unable to understand how a Judicial Commission of Enquiry constituted by law will arrogate to itself powers outside its statutory mandate, including taking over the functions of the National Assembly to amend the EFCC Act 2004.

“Our client, who is incorruptible and remains innocent of all the allegations levelled against him by his accusers, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in line with the EFCC Act,” he added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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