- Police Panel Hunts for N238m Bribe Cash Balance
The police panel, which investigated the violence that characterised the December 10, 2016, legislative rerun polls in Rivers State, has intensified its efforts to recover the balance of the N350m bribe, which the panel alleged was given to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The committee alleged that the cash was given to about 23 officials of INEC by officials of the Rivers State Government in order to ensure that the election was rigged.
But while the police have tendered the N111.3m, reportedly recovered from some officials of the electoral umpire, the panel has been unable to trace the balance of N238.7m.
The panel, which presented its findings at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, last Tuesday, had indicted six dismissed police operatives for misconduct and misuse of arms during the poll, contrary to the provisions of Force Order 237.
They are Eyong Victor, Peter Ekpo, Oguni Goodluck, Orji Nwoke, Okpe Ezekiel and Tanko Akor.
The panel, headed by Damian Okoro, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, said in its report, “Out of N350m, N15m was given to each of the electoral officers and N5m was added by the government of Rivers to the EOs who were in charge.
“Consequently, the sum of N111.3m was recovered by the panel from the 23 electoral officers.”
It was learnt that initial efforts to recover the outstanding N238m had failed to yield the desired results as some of the indicted officials had refused to cooperate with the police to trace the alleged loot.
“The panel could not establish who got the balance of N248.7m bribe as the EOs (Electoral Officers) admitted to getting just N111.3m out of the N350m bribe,” a source told one of our correspondents on Saturday.
The source, however, refused to outline the steps being taken by the panel to recover the balance, vowing that the panel was sure of getting the money “soon” owing to the strategies to be taken to recover the bribe.
The police have released the indicted 23 electoral officials on administrative bail to INEC for appropriate sanctions in line with the civil service rules.
Sources said that the police expected INEC to mete out appropriate sanctions to the indicted officials after which the officials would be arraigned in court.
A senior official, however, said the arraignment of the EOs was not dependent on the electoral commission’s action, noting that the prosecution of the officials would be determined by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The source added, “After their interrogation and the money was recovered from them, the EOs were released to INEC to be dealt with in accordance with the civil service rules. Both the givers and takers are culpable, but it is only the electoral officials that would be prosecuted because the governor enjoys immunity from prosecution.
“INEC would be allowed to carry out its internal disciplinary exercise against the errant officials, but this would not stop or delay the arraignment of the suspects once the authorities have drawn up the charges against them.”
He stated that the suspects were not paraded before newsmen when the panel submitted its findings last week because they had yet to face INEC internal disciplinary committee.
“It is because of the need for INEC to implement its internal mechanism on the officers that the electoral officers were not paraded when the panel submitted its report last week, but their files are being studied and would be submitted to the AGF as soon as possible,” the source stated.
When asked the reasons for the delay in the arraignment of the suspects, the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, said there was no delay, adding that the panel report would be implemented.
“We are going to fully implement the report; Like the IG has stated, the report will be forwarded to the AGF and implemented. There is no delay, we are simply following the due process,” the police spokesman stated on Saturday.
The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had inaugurated the panel on December 22, 2016, following the violence that rocked the poll in which DSP Mohammed Alkali and his driver were beheaded and their heads thrown into a river.
We are awaiting our internal panel report — INEC
Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary to Chairman of INEC, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission was expecting the outcome of its internal panel of investigation and the police report on the Rivers rerun elections.
Oyekanmi stated that it was appropriate for the police team, which visited the commission at the beginning of its work, to oblige the agency with its findings to keep INEC abreast of further developments on the rerun probe.
He added that the affected personnel were not Abuja-based and might have been released in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
He said, “I don’t know when and how they (suspects) were released; you know they are not Abuja-based people. Probably, they were released in Port Harcourt. It is our local spokesperson there or the Resident Electoral Commissioner who would have the information.
“They (the police) are supposed to oblige us with their own report because they came to us at the beginning and we expect them to let us know what they have discovered which they have not done.
“If you came to INEC and you brought a letter that you needed some things, which were granted and when you now conclude your investigation, at least, you should let us know what you discovered. So they have not given us the report. We are waiting for them.”
Oyekanmi also denied the claim that the Legal Department of INEC had received the police report on the rerun elections.
He stressed that such a report would not be sent to a department in the commission but would emanate from the office of the Inspector-General of Police to the office of the chairman of the commission.
Oyekanmi said, “The Independent National Electoral Commission has not received such a report either at the Legal Department or anywhere.
“And in fact, there is no way a police report will go to a department. It will come from the Inspector-General of Police to the Chairman of the commission. I have cross-checked in all the necessary places and they say it is not true.”
However, a top official of the commission, who confided in one of our correspondents, on Saturday, said the police did not need the input of INEC to prosecute the personnel indicted by the panel.
Lagos- Ibadan Rail Project Delayed Due To Technical Issues- Amaechi
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday attributed the delay in inaugurating the Lagos-Ibadan rail project to infrastructural and technical issues within the seaport in Apapa.
This, according to him, would be resolved at a meeting involving all stakeholders and experts to proffer solutions to the problem.
Amaechi, during an inspection tour of the project within the seaport axis yesterday in Lagos, said he could not say exactly when the project would now be launched.
He said: “This project is very technical. If I have given you a timeline, how would I have found a solution to the customs building, so we are working hard to find these solutions; it is only after when the engineers have come up with proper solutions and time-based solutions that I can speak on time. Now I cannot speak on time until when that happens.
“You know, you can actually commission this project without that because it is not just one track, there are several tracks; that is one of the tracks we are going to fix. I am not an engineer, am just a policymaker; I am the head of the ministry.”
Amaechi, however, expressed the determination of the government to complete the project despite the challenges.
“All I am doing is to make sure that out of the three tracks one or two can get to the quays so that we can commission, pending when the other ones are completed as a result of challenges we are meeting inside the seaport. It means this is the difficulty we are having and we want to face them. The fact that we have not gone to other places means other places are functioning. But this one we have this crisis and we have to find a solution to it.
“We are going to have a meeting now, and in that meeting, everybody will be there both the experts and once we make a decision, then we can convey it to the public. We have about three tracks coming into here, is only one that we are having problems with.”
Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fridet Okhiria, expressed the need to have the rail fully operational at the seaside of the port.
”The essence of the rail is to move freight, passengers and to provide service and we have to get to the port meaningfully, not just getting to the port. We have to get to the seaside so that the ship can load directly to reduce multiple handling of goods and by doing so it will reduce the cost of the movement because presently we now get ourselves in multiple handling.
“You have to pay for a truck to take it to the railway head that is why the minister is insisting that we must get to the seaside and which is the best way to go for Nigeria. We should earn more revenue and reduce cost and the goods will get to the market and eliminate double handling of goods,” he said.
INEC Plans Expansion Of Polling Units For 2023 General Election
Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to make polling units accessible to the electorate to remove voter apathy during elections.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara, Malam Garba Attahiru-Madami, made this known on Monday in Ilorin while declaring open two-day training on “Implementation of expansion of voters’ access to polling units”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training was for Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) in charge of Administration, Operations and Cluster Registration areas drawn from the 16 local government areas of Kwara.
He noted that many eligible voters refused to vote on election day because of the distance of polling units to their residences.
The REC told the participants that the training was very important to INEC, just as election was important, adding that without polling unit, there would be no election.
“Election start from polling unit, if there is no polling unit, there would be no election and collation, that is how important polling unit is,” he added.
He therefore charged the participants to take the training very serious as the outcome of the training would offer opportunity on what they would do on the field.
“I don’t need to re-emphasise why access to polling unit is very important. We already know that this exercise was carried out in 1996 and it was to serve 50 million voters.
“In 2019 election, we have greater voters of 84 million; you can see that the polling units now are grossly inadequate.
“By the time general election will take place in 2023, our projection is to have over 120 million voters.
“The number of polling units we have now cannot serve the 120 million voters, so the training is very important,” he said.
According to the REC, one of the reasons for voter apathy is because the polling unit was not accessible to them.
He said that some polling units have over 1,000 to 5,000 voters that were spread to polling points.
“So, we want to see how we can convert some of these voting points to polling units to meet the need of the people on election day.
“In some communities with communal clash, having their own polling unit would solve such conflict, because you will see a villager that will say, I will not go to that village to vote,” he added.
He said the idea of expansion of polling units was to remove voter apathy and reduce distance from home to the polling unit. (NAN)
African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.
The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.
Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.
The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.
The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.
Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”
The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.
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