FG pays N6.5m to victims of Rivers community shooting

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said the ECOWAS Court has entered judgment in favour of some residents of Bundu Ama, in Port Harcourt, who were brutalised by security forces while protesting the demolition of their settlement by the government in 2009.

According to SERAP, following the judgment of the ECOWAS Court, the Federal Government of Nigeria had paid the victims N6.5m as compensation.

The plaintiffs – Israel Okari, Joy Williams, Austin Onwe, Tamno Ama, Victor Opium, Mark Bomowe, Napoleon Tokubiye, Napoleon Tokubiye, Jonathan Bokoko, Williams Tamuno and Linus John, had with the support of SERAP instituted the suit numbered ECW/CCJ/APP/10/10 against the government.

The plaintiffs, who were represented by Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had joined as the respondents in the suit the Attorney General of the Federation and former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi.Also joined as respondents were the Rivers State Commissioner for Justice and the state’s Commissioner for Urban Development.

They had, in their statement of claims, averred that armed security forces on 12 October 2009 “opened fire on unarmed protesters in Bundu Ama, an informal settlement in Port Harcourt, leaving at least one person dead and 12 seriously injured.

”The plaintiffs also accused the Rivers State government of aiding “the Federal government’s planned large-scale demolitions of the city’s waterfront settlements, home to at least 200,000 people.”They further claimed, “The planned large-scale demotions were developed without adequate consultation with affected communities.

“Njemanze waterfront, a community close to Bundu Ama, was demolished in August 2009 and an estimated 13,800 to 19,000 people were forcibly evicted from their homes. Thousands of people, including children, women and the elderly,  were left homeless and vulnerable to other human rights violations.

”According to SERAP, the court in its judgment, “ruled that there was no justification for the shootings and that the Nigerian government had breached its obligation to protect and respect the right to peaceful association and assembly.

”The court was said to have berated the Federal Government for “its failure to investigate and prosecute members of the security forces who killed and injured protesters, violated the right to protest.” And “awarded a total of N11m – nearly $70,000 USD – in damages” in favour of the plaintiffs.

Reacting to the judgment, the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, lauded the government for complying with the court’s judgment and paying the victims the compensation awarded to them. “We welcome the payment of compensation by the government.

This shows that there is penalty for the government when it allows its security forces to use excessive force against peaceful protesters, and unlawfully drive them away from their homes, with tragic consequences for citizens and communities.

That was the case here.”Mumuni, however, urged President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to implement the outstanding orders of the ECOWAS Court in the case.

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Ebola: Remain vigilant, experts warn Nigerians

Public health physicians have called for more vigilance at the border posts in order to prevent a recurrence of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

The appeal is coming on the heels of the reported return of the disease in two West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, last week.

According to a member of the Ebola Prevention Committee in Nigeria, Dr. Oladoyin Odubanjo, the Federal Government needs to strengthen the precautionary and screening methods in order to forestall a return of the disease.

Odubanjo noted that proper screening of passengers for the viral disease was a major precautionary measure to prevent a similar scenario whereby a Liberian-American diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, imported the disease into Nigeria in 2014.

He said, “We must watch out and learn from our neighbours. Liberia and Sierra Leone reportedly free of EVD are at present recording new cases. We must act now because we have abandoned the strict measures we put in place at the height of the outbreak. Nigeria must know that we cannot let our guards down until every single case of EVD in West Africa is over.”

Another public health physician, Dr. Segun Agbaje, urged the authorities to be on watch out for symptoms of the disease.

He said, “The country’s health authorities need to be on the alert and take regular precautionary measures to avoid an outbreak. We had an outbreak in the first place because we did not act on time. The new cases are the red flag, signifying that it is not yet over for Nigeria and the world.”

Agbaje also stressed the need for hand washing and other hygienic practices, stating that they were key to getting rid of germs, bacteria and other viruses.

According to him, hand-washing practice particularly reduces the risk of getting infections by more than 60 per cent.

Hoodlums attack APC witnesses, supporters at Ekiti tribunal

Thugs loyal to the Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday beat up witnesses who testified for the All Progressives Congress before the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Ekiti State to stupor.

The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by the APC senatorial candidate for Ekiti Central, Gbenga Olofin, against the return of Senator Fatimat Rasaki of the PDP.

Olofin had closed his case at the tribunal after calling eight witnesses while his opponent, Mrs. Rasaki, opened her defence by being the first witness to testify in support of her election.

The Tribunal Chairman, Justice A. N. Erabor, on Tuesday admitted the voter register as an evidence after listening to a counter-argument between the petitioner’s counsel, Yemi George and Respondent’s lawyer, Jude Ogodi.

But the suspected hoodlums believed to be loyal to the respondent who had waited outside the courtroom as the proceedings were going on unleashed terror on the petitioner’s witnesses and supporters.

The suspected thugs also laid ambush at the gate of the complex looking for APC members and supporters who fled in different direction.

Justice Erabor, expressed the dismay of the panel with the violence warning parties that the tribunal would no longer tolerate such in the future.

Olofin expressed happiness on the admissibility of the voter register and other documents saying that would serve the cause of justice for the two contending parties.

He, however, regretted the attacks on his witnesses and supporters describing it as barbaric, adding that it could scare other witnesses from giving evidence at the tribunal.

Rivers Assembly okays Wike’s request for N20b loan

The Rivers State House of Assembly has approved a loan request by the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to the tune of N20 billion from Access Bank Plc.
 
The House had acted on a a letter titled ‘Request for approval to borrow N20 billion loan facility from Access Bank Plc to finance major ongoing road projects.’

Wike had sent the letter to the House through the Speaker, Ikuiyi-Owaji Ibani, saying the loan facility is intended to complete some uncompleted road projects embarked upon by the previous administration and also for some new road projects to be executed by his administration.

The governor had earlier sought approval from the House for a N10 billion loan that was granted by the House.
 
“Pursuant to our resolve to continue viable ongoing projects, government has met with contractors handling major roads construction in the state with a view to mobilising them back to site.

“The contractors handling road projects awarded by the previous administration have indicated their willingness to mobilise to site and continue with construction work as soon as funds are released to them.
 
“As a result, we have considered it expedient to mobilise the contractors of the following ongoing road projects subject to availability of funds; Abuloma-Woji road, Woji Akpajo road, Rumuepirikom-Whimpey-Rumuolumeni road, Ozuoba-Ogbogoro-Rumuolumeni road, Rumuepirikom-Eleproanwa road and Igwuruta-Eneka-Elimgbu-Rumukwurushi road.
 
“In addition, we have also concluded plans to embark on the construction of the following new roads and other projects; Elelenwo-Akpajo road, Oroigwe road, Igwuruta-Chokocho road, the rehabilitation, fencing and construction of internal roads in Government Girls Secondary School, GGSS, Rumuokwuta.
 
“Mr Speaker, it is important to reiterate that these projects, when completed, will accelerate economic development in the state and improve the social well-being of our people. However, since the state government has no funds in its coffers we will be unable to mobilise any contractor to site without first finding the funds on willing development partners. Accordingly, we approached Access Bank Plc, which has graciously agreed to advance the state government with a loan facility of twenty billion Naira only for the purpose of funding these projects.”

All the 29 lawmakers that were present during the sitting voted for the approval of the request after a debate on the matter.
 
The House also resolved to recognise Sir Celestine Omehia as a former governor of the state, instructing that his portrait should be hanged at the Government House, Port Harcourt.

Aregbesola pays workers December salary 

The Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress in Osun State, Mr. Jacob Adekomi,  said on Tuesday, that Governor Rauf Aregbesola has approved the payment of December, 2014 salary for workers in the state.

Adekomi, who said this at a press conference he addressed after a meeting with the government delegation led by Chief of Staff, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, added that the governor also approved the payment of the 30 per cent balanceof November salaries of some workers who were yet to be paid in full.

The NLC boss, however, said workers would not suspend their strike despite the payment of their one month salary out of seven months.The Head of Service, Mr. Sunday Owoeye, also confirmed that workers had started receiving alerts for balance of November and December 2014 salaries.

He said this in response to an inquiry earlier sent to him by our corespondent through text message.Owoeye’s text read, ” They are already receiving alerts for balance of November, and part of December, 2014. A journey of 1000km starts with one step. 

The man who removes a mountain starts by carrying stones away.”But Adekomi explained that most workers would not get anything from the one month salary paid because their banks would use the meager money for loan repayment and interest.

According to Adekomi, most workers will not have anything left to feed themselves let alone transport themselves to their places of work and because of this, he stressed that the strike would continue.The NLC chairman said, ”We appreciate the efforts of the government to see that salary and pension arrears are settled without further delay .

Our negation with government is that out of eight months owed us, the minimum we can take is give months to resume work.“As it  is now, the strike continues while negotiations also continue. I appeal to all workers in the state to continue to stay at home until further notice.

“This payment is as good as no payment, because all deductions must have been made by our various banks. Because of this , there won’t be money for us to transport ourselves to work and feed our families.“Until we have enough money to feed and for our transportation to work, we will not resume work. The strike continues.

”The governor had on June 14 promised to pay workers salaries  in a statement made available to our correspondent by his media aide, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon.Most workers were  being owed seven months salaries but the statement was silent on whether the governor would pay all outstanding salaries  or he would pay part.

The statement read in part, Before  the end of June, workers would be paid their salaries.”The governor stated that he had a great dream for the state and that was why he was in a hurry to begin many programmes which had earned him applause even outside the country.

He said further, “The dream has not gone awry and it is a clear vision that Osun must be on its feet, self-reliant and be a reference point in Nigeria. The race to ensure development within the first term of Aregbesola was informed by the fear of what is happening now.

“Aregbesola wanted an Osun that is self-reliant. That Osun, almost two decades after its creation, could not boast of tax-paying companies speaks volume about the magnitude of the works that awaited the Aregbesola administration.

“But he did not shy away from this task of industrialisation. Within his first term, his government had caused investors to bring up companies such as the Omoluabi Garment Factory, Osogbo, Adulawo/RLG Technology company in Ilesa.”

NUJ commends Buhari for recalling expelled journalist

The Nigeria Union of Journalists on Tuesday commended President Muhammadu Buhari for restoring the accreditation of the State House Correspondent of the German Radio, Deutsche Welle, Mr. Ubale Musa, who was expelled from the Presidential Villa, Abuja, by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. 

Musa was expelled in the last days of Jonathan’s administration for asking visiting Chadian President, Idris Derby, a question the Ex-President and his handlers considered to be embarrassing.

His accreditation was however restored on Monday on the orders of Buhari. 

In a statement by its National Secretary, Shuaibu Leman, the NUJ described the restoration of Musa’s accreditation as a commitment of the present administration towards press freedom and openness in government’s affairs. 

The union said the development would avail the citizens the opportunity to understand the efforts of government on national issues and would clear doubt and speculation. 

“The media will support the Buhari administration’s commitment to sustainable growth of the Nigerian economy through fair and unbiased decisions on key economic policies and the fight against corruption and insecurity. We commend this heart-warming decision,” the statement read. 

While presenting the re-issued Villa Press Pass to Musa on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had said the re-accreditation of the correspondent was in keeping with Buhari’s commitment to correcting the wrongs of the past.

“Part of the change promised by President Buhari is correcting things that were wrongly done before. 

“Mr. Ubale Musa’s accreditation was wrongly withdrawn. To redress the wrong done to him by the withdrawal, we have returned his Villa Press Pass to him so that he can continue his work without hindrance,” Adesina had said.

CBN seeks out-of-court settlement over FG’s $3.2bn judgment debt

The Central Bank of Nigeria told a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday that it had initiated settlement talks with the beneficiaries of a $3.2bn judgment obtained against the Federal Government on December 3, 2013.

‎The plaintiffs, who won the case against the Federal Government, comprised 234 local governments of various states of the federation, the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria and their consultant, Linas International Limited.

Key government officials who were sued as defendants, comprising the Federal Government, the Attorney-General of the Federation (then Mr. Mohammed Adoke), the Minister of Finance (who was then Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) and the Accountant-General of the Federation, failed to defend the suit.

They also refused to appeal the judgment up till when the judgment creditors commenced garnishee proceedings for the enforcement of the judgment. The CBN, being the bank holding custody of the Federal Government’s account, is the only respondent in the garnishee proceedings.

The case is now at the last stage of garnishee proceedings (garnishee absolute), the court having earlier granted ‘garnishee nisi’ order summoning the CBN to show cause why it should not be ordered to pay the sum of $3.2bn to the judgment creditors.

At the resumed hearing of the garnishee proceedings on Tuesday, CBN’s lawyer, Ms. Ozeigbe Omo-Egharevba, told the presiding judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, that representatives of the CBN, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the judgment creditors met on Monday.

“Representatives of the CBN and the Accountant-General of the Federation met with the representatives of the plaintiff yesterday (Monday) to see how we can explore an out of court settlement of the case,” the lawyer said.

She did not give details of the meeting.

Counsel for the plaintiffs, Chief A. Akunebu, however said he could not confirm if the development was true.

According to him, the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Joe Agi (SAN), who would have been in the position to confirm it was just on his way to court in anticipation that the proceedings would take place later.

The court then asked the parties to meet at 2pm, the time which the matter was originally fixed, so that they could agree on when they would return to court to report the true position of the settlement talks.

The case was subsequently adjourned till July 6.

The judgment creditor had filed their suit through an amended originating summons on June 11, 2013 asking the court to interpret section 162(1), (3) and (5) of the Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) regarding the use of money in the Federation Account by the Federal Government for servicing debt without first obtaining the authorisation of the various tiers of government including the local governments.

Specifically, the plaintiffs were dissatisfied with the Federal Government’s use of money in the Federation Account for servicing debt by way of first line charges between June 1995 and March 2002 without first obtaining the authorisation of the other tiers of government including the local governments.

They were also dissatisfied with the use of the money for buy- back of London Club debt in 1992 and 2002 as well for the exit payment of London Club debt in 2006.