- Senate Says Democracy Under Threat as SGF Shuns Invitation
The Senate on Wednesday raised the alarm that the failure of the executive to answer legislative summons would end democracy in the country.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, stated this in an interview, while reacting to a letter written by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.
The SGF, in the letter to the upper chamber on Wednesday, said he had dragged the Senate to court over a probe into the alleged management of funds meant for the rehabilitation of the North-East.
Lawal, in the letter to the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, said he would not appear before the probe panel on Thursday (today) as he had filed processes in court. The letter was sighted on Wednesday by our correspondent.
The SGF’s letter came the same day the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), failed to honour the Senate invitation.
The upper chamber had ordered Ali to appear before it on Wednesday (yesterday), in the NCS uniform.
But the Customs boss shunned the invitation, citing a suit filed by a lawyer, Mohammed Ibrahim and advice of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, as reasons.
Some senators were irked on Wednesday when the Senate received a letter from another member of the executive (the SGF).
When contacted, the Senate spokesman told our correspondent he was not aware of the letter written by the SGF.
He, however, stated that the trend of public officials refusing to answer legislative summons was becoming a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
Abdullahi said, “I am not aware of that. But we are waiting to see what happens. That is exactly what we are saying; that if this continues to happen, then, bye bye to democracy. It means I can even go to court to stop you (our correspondent) from doing your work.
“We will see how that will continue to play out and I think this is the end of democracy in Nigeria if that continues to play out. We are performing our constitutional mandate and if anybody is going to court to stop us, then, what it means is that we should all go to court and stop the entire government from working.”
The letter written by the SGF read, “Your letter of invitation to appear before the above committee refers.
“I wish to kindly request that you draw the attention of the other members of the committee (to the fact) that I will not be able to appear before the committee primarily because I have gone to court to challenge the invitation, among others.
“Please, find attached the court documents.”
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Shehu Sani, while confirming the receipt of the letter, declined to disclose what the lawmakers would do to the SGF.
When asked if he had received the letter, he said, “Yes. If you have the letter, that is it. Go and write your story.”
When also asked how he felt about the development, Sani replied, “As far as I am concerned, we are going ahead with the sitting (investigative hearing).”
When further asked if the Senate would react to Lawal’s move as it did to the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), Sani said the decision would be taken after the hearing.
“I don’t want to comment on that for now. Report what he has done and wait to see what we will do tomorrow (today),” he said.
The committee had invited Lawal to appear before it on Thursday in a letter signed by Sani, dated March 15, 2017, and addressed to Lawal’s Kaduna address.
It read, “The Senate at its sitting on 4th October, 2016, debated on a motion on “mounting humanitarian crisis in the North-East” after which an ad hoc committee was constituted to, among other things, conduct a public hearing in order to ascertain how much has been released to the Presidential Initiative on the North-East; ascertain how these funds have been utilised from inception to date; and investigate the diversion of grains and other food items from the Strategic Grain Reserves, NEMA and other sources for the IDPs.
“Consequently, the committee held a three-day public hearing between 6th and 8th December, 2016, even though some of the invited stakeholders refused to attend. In order to give them a fair hearing, the committee has resolved to conduct another public hearing.
“You are hereby invited once more to the public hearing.”
Sani had told our correspondent that the panel intended to give the SGF a second chance.
Based on the interim report of the committee, the Senate had on December 14, 2016, called for the resignation, probe and prosecution of the SGF over alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the North-East rehabilitation under his watch.
The lawmakers specifically called on security and anti-graft agencies to arrest and prosecute Lawal, who is overseeing the Presidential Initiative on North-East, for allegedly owning one of the companies awarded contracts in the rehabilitation of the North-East.
Lawal was alleged to have resigned his directorship of the company after becoming the SGF and after the company had executed the contract.
One of the companies linked to the SGF was said to have been awarded the contract for the removal of invasive plants along river channels and 115 hectares of simplified village irrigation operation in Yobe State for the sum of N272,524,356.
But Lawal claimed that the panel did not invite him for his defence, saying that the lawmakers were out to malign him.
The punch had exclusively reported that the committee on February 1, 2017, had requested the Bank Verification Numbers of some companies linked to the SGF, who were contracted for various projects on the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons.
It was also reported that the lawmakers might re-invite Lawal for questioning.
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.
The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.
In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.
SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.
“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”
COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.
In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.
“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.
“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom
Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.
The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.
He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.
The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.
The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.
“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.
“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.
“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.
“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.
Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.
“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”
He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.
“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.
“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.
“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.
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