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Senate Suspends Ndume, Clears Saraki, Melaye

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  • Senate Suspends Ndume, Clears Saraki, Melaye

Former Senate majority leader, Muhammed Ali Ndume, has been placed on a six-month suspension with effect from yesterday. But the upper chamber absolved its President, Bukola Saraki and Dino Melaye of allegations of purchase of vehicle with fake documents and certificate forgery.

When it was time to consider the report of the Sam Anyanwu-led committee, Saraki, who had been presiding over the session suddenly stepped down from his seat to allow his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, preside over the consideration of the report. The Senate president said he could not preside over the matter because it was his fate that was about to be decided.

The sanction against Ndume is an indication of disharmony among the lawmakers which could hamper the making of laws for good governance of the country. The upper chamber said it suspended Ndume “for bringing Melaye, his colleague and the institution of the Senate to unbearable disrepute at this time of our national life, when caution, patriotism, careful consideration and diligence should be our watchword.”

The Senate also stated that it reached its conclusion because having failed to cross-check facts before presentation at plenary, Ndume could not be said to be a patriotic representative of the Senate, and should be penalized to serve as deterrent.

Ndume’s suspension followed the adoption of the report of the Ethics Committee of the Senate which investigated the alleged purchase of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with inaccurate customs duty payments by Saraki. The Anyanwu-led committee also investigated the alleged certificate forgery against Melaye.

The sanction against Ndume was arrived at after an amendment was proposed and adopted by the Senate that the initial recommendation of 181 days suspension be reduced. The report reads in part: “After carefully examining the documents available and hearing out the matter, the committee observed that ‘the name of the Senate President, Saraki was not mentioned anywhere in the Bill of lading or any document whatsoever connected with the importation or purchase of the SUV Range Rover vehicle; that he did not import any SUV Range Rover as corroborated by all respondents.”

The panel also said it found out “that this story was cooked up with intent to embarrass the Senate President, the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly. “The complainant (Ndume) did not conduct due diligence before bringing the matter to the floor of the Senate. As a former Senate leader and a ranking senator, he (Ndume) was expected to have weighed the consequences of the allegation, carefully, investigated it before presenting it.”

Clearing Melaye, the committee submitted that he obtained a first degree in Geography from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Ekweremadu said: “I believe that lessons have been learnt from this and that going forward, we should try as much as possible to investigate matters before we make allegations or before we call the attention of the Senate of the country to those allegations. I do believe that the committee has done a good job.”

Attempts to save Ndume from being suspended were earlier defeated on the floor. Joshua Ledani (PDP, Gombe South) moved a motion that Ndume should simply be warned and made to apologise publicly to Saraki and Melaye. The motion was seconded by Ahmed Abubakar Moallayidi (APC, Adamawa Central) who said there was no reason to suspend him in the first place.

When the question was put to vote, the motion failed. Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo) then rose to propose an amendment to the original prayer of the report which recommended 181- day suspension. He suggested that it should be reduced to six months.

The motion was seconded by Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta North) and it was approved by the Senate. Nwaoboshi in seconding the motion explained that “Ndume is not just a first offender. We took a decision on the secretary to the government, he went outside and maligned the Senate.

“When the report of the Department of State Services (DSS) was read, he rose and started begging that we should send Magu back to the president to take a decision on him.

“Out of respect for him as a leader at that time, this Senate obliged him. After that, he went out to malign the Senate but he did not tell the public that he was the person who begged us. He even went further and said we should invite him and tell him why we cannot. He’s moving as a saint.”

Also yesterday, the lawmakers resolved to investigate the alleged derogatory comments made against them by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, in his reaction to the Senate’s insistence that President Muhammadu Buhari should act on its decision to disqualify the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

The Senate had on Tuesday suspended consideration of Buhari’s nomination of 27 persons for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs). It hinged its action on the President’s failure to respect its decision not to confirm the nomination of Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, as substantive chairman of the commission

In his reaction to the decision of the Senate, Sagay was reported by a national daily to have described the call on Buhari to sack Magu as “childish and irresponsible.” He was also reported to have stated that the Senate was filled with people of questionable character, who put their personal interest ahead of that of the nation.

Adopting a motion by Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Na’Allah, yesterday, the chamber referred the matter to its committee on Ethics, Privileges and Code of Conduct to investigate the matter and report back within four weeks

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.

The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.

But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.

Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”

Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.

The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.

INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.

INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.

Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.

“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.

“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”

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No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari

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The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.

The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.

The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.

Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.

Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.

Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.

“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.

“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.

“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”

However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.

According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.

In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.

This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.

King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.

She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.

“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”

It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador

Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.

He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.

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China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week

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China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.

“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”

China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”

“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”

The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.

The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.

Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.

Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.

“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.

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