Constitution review: NASS to vote on report, Oct 14

The Senate and the House of Representatives are to vote on the final report on proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution after the Eid-el Kabir‎ celebrations.

The National Assembly proceeded on a combined two-week break for the country’s 54th independence anniversary and Eid-el Kabir on Tuesday.

The House of Representatives in particular, will reconvene on October 14.

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, who doubles as the Chairman, AdHoc Committee on Constitution Review, announced on Tuesday that the two chambers had harmonised their differences on the proposed amendments.

He said, “The harmonised conference report is ready and we shall begin voting after the Sallah break.

“We will take a date after resumption to vote to pass the report.

“Please, all members should be aware of this and come prepared for the‎ voting when we resume.”

The House had earlier passed 77 new clauses to the constitution, while the Senate passed its own recommendations as well.

Among the highlights of the recommendations passed by the House were the removal of immunity (against criminal prosecution) for the President and Governors, the rejection of state police and the approval of independent candidature during elections.

It also approved to split the offices of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General of the Federation, while the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation was placed on First Line Charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

However, the‎ Senate and the House had disagreed on granting financial autonomy to local government councils.

While the ‎House endorsed autonomy for the councils by scrapping the controversial local government/state joint account, the Senate rejected autonomy for the councils.

Under Section 9 of the constitution, two-thirds of all members of each arm of the National Assembly will madatorily ‎ vote to endorse a proposal before it can pass an amendment to the constitution.

This implies that 240 out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives must endorse every proposal before it can be included in the new constitution.

Similarly, 73 out of 109 senators must vote to endorse all new proposals to the constitution.

In addition, two-thirds (24) out of the 36 state Houses of Assembly must also approve the amendments passed by the National Assembly as the final phase of the amendment process.

Meanwhile, the House on Tuesday approved the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission to request security personnel, including the armed forces, for election purposes.

The proposal was contained in the fresh amendments to the Electoral Act, 2010.

Members began the consideration of the report a bill to amend the Act on Tuesday, passing the controversial power it conferred on INEC as the sole authority to request the deployment of security personnel whenever it deemed necessary.

The amendment passed after a heated argument between Peoples Democratic Party members and their All Progressives Congress colleagues.

The PDP members, led by the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, made efforts to dilute the recommendation, but the opposition party members ensured that the recommendation stayed the way the Committee on Electoral Matters proposed it.

It turned out that there were more APC members in the chambers while Ihedioha presided over the report, giving the opposition party members the upper hand when voting took place.

However, further consideration of the report was later deferred to allow the Committee on Electoral Matters, which is chaired by Mr. Jerry Manwe, some time to clean up observable errors in the report.

The House later adjourned sitting till October 14.

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Traditional rulers instrumental to restoring peace -Rep

The Chairman, Committee on Media, House of Representatives, Mr. Zakari Mohammed,  has said traditional rulers are strategic partners to
maintenance of national peace and unity.

He stated that traditional rulers, as the custodians of the socio-cultural heritages of their people, could play significant roles in restoring normalcy and security in the country especially in the troubled North East part of Nigeria.

He canvassed greater respect for the traditional rulers.

He spoke on Tuesday at  his empowerment programme at Kosubosu, Baruten Local Government area of Kwara State where he donated a car to
each of the  five top traditional rulers in his constituency.

Mohammed said, “Traditional rulers deserve utmost respect and their interests should ordinarily be uppermost in the mind of political and elective office holders. Though, they are not having clearly spelt out constitutionals roles, their roles in maintaining peace and order in the various communities can not be over emphasized.

“They are closer to the people, they feel the people’s pulse directly and they know their yearnings, problems and aspirations, indeed, at a
time like this, we need their help greatly in addressing major socio-political and security challenges currently bedeviling the country.”

The federal legislator who represents Baruten/Kaiama federal constituency urged the youths in the country to promote African
culture and be vanguards of peace, unity and development of the country.

Jonathan bags Anglican primate’s award

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Nicholas Okoh, on Tuesday conferred on President Goodluck Jonathan the Primatial Award of Excellence in Christian Stewardship.

Okoh led some bishops of the church to decorate Jonathan at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The award was initially meant to be conferred on him at the just-concluded 11th session of the church’s synod held in Enugu State, but he was absent at the event.

Okoh, in his short remarks, described every leader as a steward under God to dispense service to those he leads.

He said the church, by the award, affirmed that Jonathan has so far shared and allocated the nation’s resources to all Nigerians fairly.

Jonathan was presented with a medal, a plaque and a copy of the Bible.

Buhari to mark independence day in Ekiti

A former Head of State, General Muhamadu Buhari, is set to mark the independence day in Ekiti State, it was learnt on Tuesday.

He is to inaugurate a 12,000 Seater Ekiti Parapo Square as part of activities marking the fourth anniversary of the administration of Governor Kayode Fayemi, which coincides with the celebration.

The square is one of the legacy projects of the Fayemi administration.

According to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Olayinka Oyebode,  the 2014 edition of the State Merit Award would hold at the arena shortly after.

Among those shortlisted for the award is Mr. Moses Owolabi, a physically challenged newspaper vendor in Ekiti State.

Meanwhile, the Governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, has urged Nigerians not to lose faith in the country by continually seeking God’s intervention in the nation’s affairs.

In a message in Ado-Ekiti on Tuesday on the 54th independence anniversary of the country, made available to journalists through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, Fayose prayed God to shame those fomenting trouble and planning evil for the nation.

While felicitating with the people of Ekiti State and Nigeria as a whole on the remarkable occasion, he said despite all odds, Nigerians could still count their blessings and thank God.

He said, “Nigerians should not lose hope or give up on the country because of the challenges we are facing, especially, in the area of security. We should be appreciative that steps taken by the Federal Government and the Armed Forces in recent times are yielding good results.

“We must continue to support President Goodluck Jonathan and pray for the success of the administration as we are all stakeholders in the enterprise called Nigeria. Just as the President said some days ago, if we work as a team like we did in tackling the Ebola Virus Disease issue, insecurity and other vices in the nation would be a thing of the past,”he said.

Fayose promised to provide quality leadership that will better the lives of the people.

He, however, appealed to those yet to get over their loss in the June 21 governorship poll to note that it is God who install people in positions, urging them to remember the saying that, ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God’.

Ogbulafor: Court orders co-accused person’s arrest for delaying judgment

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, Abuja, on Tuesday ordered the arrest of Emeka Ebila, who is being jointly prosecuted along with a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Vincent Ogbulafor, in a N170m fraud case.

Justice Isaq Bello made the order of arrest after Ebila’s consecutive absence in court prevented the court from delivering its judgment in the case for the second time on Tuesday.

The judge, in a ruling on whether or not to deliver the judgment in the absence of Ebila, held that no medical report had been presented to back the claim that the accused was critically ill to attend court and had remained on admission at the National Hospital since September 22.

The judge, after listening to parties in the suit and also entertained submissions from four other lawyers as “friends of court,” held that there was no justifiable grounds for Ebila’s continued absence from court.

Only the accused person’s counsel, Mrs. Eghwere Osiaje, and the the prosecuting counsel, Mrs. Olayemi Akanmode, who is of the law firm of Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), argued that the judgment be adjourned till when Ebila would be fit to attend court. Ogbulafor’s counsel, J. N Egwuonu, with his client in attendance, maintained that an accused person was not necessarily required to be in court while judgment was being delivered.

Though the judge in his ruling adjourned the delivery of the judgment, he revoked the bail earlier granted to the accused and ordered that he be produced in court on October 2.

The court held, “The various have submitted that the court should proceed to deliver judgment, with the exception of the learned counsel for the second accused and the prosecution.

“In the alternative, bench warrant be issued to compel attendance in the absence of medical record to formally convince the court that the accused is incapacitated from movement even when illness exists. I shall take the alternative.

“Accordingly, the bail of the second accused is hereby revoked and bench warrant is issued to have him arrested and brought to this court on Thursday.”

The judge had accused counsel for the prosecution, Akanmode, for “lazily adopting” the submission of the accused person’s lawyer.

He also disclosed that his clerk had informed him that he met Ebila, who was said to be critically ill at the hospital, at the prosecution lawyer’s firm when he was there to serve the hearing notice for the Tuesday’s proceedings.

The judge said he would have asked the clerk to enter the witness box o testify on oath what he saw if not that judges were not permitted to make use of information at their personal disposal.

Ogbulafor and Ebila, who is a former Secretary of the National Economic Intelligence Committee, are being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission on 16 counts of about N170m fraud.

The ICPC had arraigned them on May 10, 2010, alleging that Ogbulafor, while serving as Minister of State for Special Duties in 2001, conspired with the others to float three fictitious companies, with which they perpetrated the fraud.

Bayelsa, NUT face-off ends, teachers begin Ebola training

The face-off between the National Union of Teachers, Bayelsa State chapter, and the state government over resumption date appears to have been resolved.

The teachers’ umbrella body in the state had vowed not to resume schools until the teachers were equipped and trained about measures to tackle the dreaded Ebola virus.

On Tuesday, teachers resumed schools after the government commenced training of no fewer than 484 teachers on preventive measures against the dreaded EVD.

Commissioner for Education, Mr. Salo Adikumo, on Tuesday began a two-day training workshop on Ebola Virus Disease control measures for Head Teachers in the state.

Teachers in the state were initially excluded in the training organised by the state Ministry of Health against the virus leading to NUT’s confrontation with the authorities.

NUT had maintained that the teachers were critical in the efforts to prevent the dreaded diseases as they were the closest custodians to pupils and students.

Adikum said the state government had put a task force in place to curtail the disease, in partnership with the Ministry of Health.

He applauded the Federal and State Government who made it possible for teachers to undergo the training workshop.

Adikumo explained that the Bayelsa State Government had already put Ebola task force under the auspices of the State Ministry of Health since the outbreak of the disease in the country.

The commissioner also urged the participants to pay keen attention to the lectures and ask questions where necessary to clarify issues.

A resource person from the Health Ministry, Dr Ebiye Soya, said the task was to train the teachers on the preventive measures to curtail the outbreak of Ebola in schools.

Soya said that the training would be followed by a written test which the participants must pass, stressing that the test would certify the teachers as a trained teacher on handling Ebola cases. Tracing the history of the disease, he said Ebola Virus was first discovered in Congo in 1976 in River Ebola, which affected and killed an 18-year-old boy.

Soya mentioned that the essence of the training was to prevent  human to human transmission of Ebola should there be a case in Bayelsa.

Commissioner for Health Ayibatonye Owei commended the teachers for their willingness to embrace the workshop without minding the distance from their rural communities.He said that ministries of education and health were collaborating with government to ensure that EVD does not spread to Bayelsa. Owei presented 240 handheld thermometers, washing hand basins, detergents to  the Ministry of Education for distribution to the trained teachers, assuring them that all participants would get the materials before the training comes to an end.

Don’t shun voters registration, Jonathan’s aide urges rural dwellers

Ahead of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, youths living in rural communities in Edo State have been urged to participate actively in the forthcoming voters registration organised by the National Independent Electoral Commission in the state.

The Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan, on Youths and Student Matters, Mr. Jude Imagwe, made the appeal in Agenebode, the administrative headquarters of Etsako East Local Government area of Edo State.

Imagwe explained that the exercise was a medium through which the masses could to criticise and demand accountability from their political leaders and determine what their country’s political future would be.

While donating items such as bags of fertilisers, sowing machines, clippers and hair dryers to youths in Agenebode, he urged them to take advantage of the registration exercise.

The presidential aide advised the youth to ignore politicians who take pleasure in fuelling political violence, urging them not allow themselves to be used as political thugs before, during and after 2015 elections.

He also expressed optimism that the federal government would surmount the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in the northern part of the country and called for support in the re-election bid of the president.

Imagwe said, “I want to appeal to every one of us that the voter’s registration exercise will soon start. Our strength is our voting right.

“If we cannot vote tomorrow, we cannot equally measure or criticise the performance of government and the only reason that make us to vote is when we are registered.

“As we are approaching election, we should know that it is just an election for a day. We should not see ourselves as enemies. For everyday, there is a man and for every man there is a day, so if you lose today you may win tomorrow.”

Responding, one of the beneficiaries of the gesture, a farmer, Mr. Momoh Sule, assured that the material would be put to good use.