Rivers gov election free, credible – Wike’s witnesses

The Justice Ambrosa Suleiman-led Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja was on Wednesday told by witnesses of Governor Nyesom Wike that the April 11 2015 governorship election in the state was free, fair and without violence.

Wike opened his defence after the Independent National Electoral Commission closed its case on Tuesday in the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress and its governorship candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, in which they are challenging Wike’s election as governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.

At the resumed hearing in the petition, Wike, through his counsel, Mr. Okey Wali (SAN), led a total of eight witnesses in evidence.They corroborated the submissions of INEC that the Rivers State governorship election was peaceful, successful and devoid of any form of violence.

The witnesses, most of whom were retired civil servants, who voted during the election, told the three-member panel tribunal that the election materials arrived at their various polling units in good times, while card readers and voters register were used for accreditation of voters for the election.

The witnesses told the tribunal that the election, as conducted by INEC, was devoid of any form of violence, intimidation, adding that it was peaceful and with no diversion of ballot papers as alleged by the petitioners.

INEC, had, in its efforts to prove to the tribunal that it conducted a free and fair election in Rivers State, called a total of 16 witnesses and said it was satisfied with the weight of the evidence given by the witnesses before the tribunal.

Counsel for INEC, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), told the three-member panel that INEC did not intend calling more witnesses and as such, applied to close its case.His application to close INEC’s case was not opposed by counsel for the petitioners.


Delta tribunal: INEC closes case, fails to call witness

The Independent National Electoral Commission closed its defence on Wednesday without calling any witness to back its defence at the Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Asaba, the state capital.

The All Progressives Congress and its governorship candidate in the state, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, are challenging the declaration of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of the Peoples Democratic Party as the winner of the April 11 governorship election at the tribunal.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, counsel for INEC,  Mr D.D. Dodo (SAN),  who was represented by Mr. Onyinye Anumonye, tendered from the bar the card reader accreditation status, unit by unit report, as uploaded as of April 16, 2015, which had earlier been tendered by Okowa but was rejected by the tribunal due to improper certification.

No witness deposed to the document.

Counsel to the petitioners, Mr. Thompson Okpoko(SAN), in objecting to the admissibility of the documents, relied on a Supreme Court ruling to the effect that a document once tendered and rejected during a tribunal proceeding, stays rejected since its defects could not be cured during the said trial.

The INEC’s counsel, however, argued that the documents were slightly different from the rejected documents sought to be tendered.

In a brief ruling, the tribunal admitted the documents as exhibits R30, R30A with the certification marked as R32 and R32A respectively.

Though the INEC’s counsel had scheduled five witnesses to testify before the tribunal, he said the commission would not call any witness but would only rely on the testimonies of other witnesses called by the Okowa and PDP.

Anumonye added that from the evidence and document so far tendered before the tribunal, his client was convinced that it had conducted a free and fair election in the state.

The Justice Nasiru Gunmi-led tribunal  adjourned to October 13 for parties to submit and adopt all written addresses, allotting two weeks for the panel to prepare and deliver judgment.

DHQ inaugurates panel on amnesty for Boko Haram 

The Defence Headquarters has inaugurated a committee to midwife the process of granting amnesty to willing members of the Boko Haram sect.

A Defence Headquarters statement by Group Captain Wap Maigida, on behalf of the Acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Rabe Abubakar, on Wednesday stated that the planned re-integration would involve three categories of Boko Haram members.

According to him, those to benefit from the government’s gesture are those who were forcibly conscripted into the sect; those who had surrendered and renounced membership of the deadly sect and those willing to do so.

Maigida said the membership of the committee were drawn from agencies involved in the ongoing campaign against the insurgents, which are representatives from Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba states in the North-East and Jigawa State in the North-West.

Details later…

Boko Haram killed 3,500 in nine months – AI

The global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, said Boko Haram had killed at least 3,500 people since the beginning of 2015.

The group said despite advances by the military, attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger had claimed the lives of at least 1,600 people since the start of June.

A statement on Wednesday by AI said the United Nations Human Rights Council was discussing a report on the conflict.

“The number of people killed so far this year is truly shocking with more than 3,500 civilian fatalities in less than 300 days,” said  Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy, Netsanet Belay.

“Governments in affected countries must take all necessary legal measures to ensure the security of civilians in affected areas,” the statement added.

As the UNHRC discusses violations and abuses allegedly committed in the course of the conflict, AI renewed its calls for adequate protection of civilians from Boko Haram attacks.

The group also called for urgent and thorough investigations of serious human rights violations allegedly committed by the security forces, insisting that the Federal Government had yet to investigate incidences of alleged human rights violations by the military.

“Following the publication of an Amnesty International report on June 3, President Buhari pledged to investigate evidence that Nigerian military forces have committed serious human rights violations, war crimes and acts which may constitute crimes against humanity. To date, no investigation has begun.

“It is nearly four months to the day since President Buhari vowed to investigate the serious crimes under international law which Amnesty International highlighted in its report,”  Belay stated, adding that thousands of victims were still waiting for justice.

Kashamu: Court awards N20,000 against NDLEA

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday awarded cost in the sum of N20,000 against the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency for stalling proceedings in a fresh case filed against the agency by Senator Buruji Kashamu.

The sanction imposed by Justice Ibrahim Buba followed request for adjournment by the NDLEA to enable it to regularise a blunder in the defence it filed against Kashamu’s claims in the said suit.Kashamu is seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the NDLEA and the Attorney-General of the Federation from seizing his property. 

He filed the suit following the failed effort by the NDLEA to extradite Kashamu to the United States of America, where he is said to be wanted for alleged drug-trafficking offences. At the resumed proceedings on Wednesday, Kashamu’s counsel, Ifeoma Esom, said the suit was ripe for hearing and that she was ready to go on.

But the NDLEA, which is challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case and seeking the disqualification of Justice Buba from the suit for fear of bias, told the court that it had discovered a flaw in its defence, which needed to be amended before the case could go one. 

Counsel for the NDLEA said though he did not intend to delay hearing of the case but he needed a short adjournment to enable him to regularise the processes.“The applicant has already tied our hands with the order.

We have no reason to delay this matter,” he said.But in granting the requested adjournment till October 22, 2015, the judge awarded a cost of N20,000 against the agency “to rectify the blunders in its processes.

”The judge, however, said he observed that the NDLEA seemed to be seeking for two contradictory reliefs, by asking him to vacate an earlier interim injunction granted Kashamu and also asking the judge to disqualify himself.

“The two cannot go together. I cannot vacate the order and at the same disqualify myself,” Justice Buba said. 

 Kashamu had headed for court claiming to have got winds of the moves by the NDLEA and the AGF to seize or take over his properties, including a 24-flat housing estate at Egbe and several hectares of land on Lekki Peninsular, Lagos, worth over N20bn.

He claimed to have acquired the properties by dint of hard work and legitimate business as opposed to the respondents’ allegation that the properties were acquired with proceeds of drug-trafficking.

 His lawyer, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, claimed that allowing the respondents to seize Kashamu’s property would occasion a breach of his fundamental right to own property as provided under section 43 and 44 of the Constitution. 

Justice Buba had, by an interim injunction dated June 29, 2015, restrained the respondents and their privies from interfering with Kashamu’s right to own property either in Nigeria or anywhere else, pending the determination of the main suit.

But the NDLEA is contending that the restraining injunction was granted against public policy, adding that it amounted to tying the hands of Federal Government agencies from discharging their legitimate mandate.

The anti-narcotics agency also asked Buba to disqualify himself from the case, saying it was afraid that since Buba had adjudicated over Kashamu’s previous cases and gave judgment, it might be impossible for him to reach a different conclusion in the fresh case,  which stemmed from the earlier case.

On his own part,  the AGF also filed a preliminary objection, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear Kashamu’s suit.

Flood displaces 2,000 Benue residents

Following the overflow of River Benue, over 2,000 residents are said to have been displaced in Makurdi the Benue state capital.

The state Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Mr. Nicholas Wende, said this in an interview our correspondent in Makurdi on Wednesday.

According to him, government has made adequate provision to accommodate the Internally Displaced Persons, who are dislodged by the flood in the state.

Wende added, “We have registered over 2,000 IDPs and they are camped in camps that has met requirements.

“The place is the supposed to be an international market built by the past administration but I suggested that it should be made a permanent IDP camp because we have a befitting and standard market already.”

Police, NBA shun Rivers public hearing on criminal justice

The Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Bar Association were among stakeholders that shunned the ongoing public hearing on the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, 2015, in Port Harcourt.

The event was organised by the Rivers State House of Assembly to amend the bill.

Also absent on the occasion were the International Federation of Female Lawyers and the Dean, Faculty of Law in the Rivers State University of Science and Technology.

The Chairman on the occasion and Deputy Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Loolo Dinebari, expressed regret at the inability of some of the major stakeholders to be present on the occasion.

Dinebari explained that though invitation was extended to the stakeholders, it was disappointing that the invitees shunned the public hearing.

Making his contribution, the Attorney-General of the state and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Emma Aguma(SAN, advised that plea bargain should not be applicable in kidnap and sexual abuse offences.

Aguma, who was represented by the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Ibikiri Otorubio, said refusal to grant plea bargain in the above offences would serve the common good.

He also cautioned against plea bargain in murder cases, pointing out that in situations involving relatives, it could be allowed to save the family from losing more than one relative.

“Outside this, plea bargain should not be entertained,” he stated.