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2019: Senate approves N242bn poll budget today

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2019: Senate approves N242bn poll budget today

…summons NSA, IGP, other security chiefs

 

The Senate, yesterday, resolved to treat with dispatch President Muhammadu Buhari’s fresh request for its consideration and approval of the sum of N242,445,322,600, being the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies, for the conduct of the 2019 general elections. Consequently, it quickly referred President Buhari’s letter to that effect to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, mandating it to expeditiously work on the request and submit its report to the chamber today for consideration and passage.

 

In line with the directive, members of the Appropriations Committee immediately left the plenary session to hold a meeting on the request in order to finish their assignment and submit the report to the Senate today. Buhari had earlier presented a budget proposal of N143.51 billion to the National Assembly for approval for the conduct of the 2019 polls, while noting that additional sum of N46 billion contained in the total package of N189 billion be reflected in the 2019 budget.

 

Consequent upon this initial request, which came in the week the National Assembly embarked on its annual recess, a joint Senate and House of Representatives’ committee on INEC met and approved the sum of N143.51 billion request by Buhari for the conduct of 2019 general elections.

 

However, the President forwarded a fresh letter yesterday, asking the National Assembly to approve both the INEC and the security agencies budgets for the conduct of the 2019 polls, totalling N242,445,322,600.00.

 

In the letter, Buhari said: “When the Hon. Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, appeared before the joint Committee of the National Assembly, set up to consider my request, he was informed that the National Assembly would be willing to consider accommodating the total amount required for funding of the 2019 elections as part of the virement of the 2018 Appropriation Act, provided there was a specific request made by me.

 

“In the light of the current realities, and in order to ensure that the 2019 general elections are not affected by any delays in the passage into law of the 2019 Budget, I accept this kind suggestion. I, therefore, wish to formally request that the total amount of N242,445,322,600 requested by INEC, and the security agencies, be considered for inclusion in my virement request under the 2018 Appropriation Act.”

 

At the meeting of the Appropriations Committee, to consider the new request yesterday, the Chairman, Senator Danjuma Goje, stressed that the focus of the members should be to consider Buhari’s fresh request for approval of the INEC budget and that of security agencies at the same time, noting that INEC was already running out of time in preparing for the 2019 elections. He also used the opportunity to summon the heads of security agencies to come and meet with the committee today and defend their budgets so that everything would be treated expeditiously.

 

Those to appear before the committee include: National Security Adviser; Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS); Commandant, Civil Defence Corps; the Inspector-General of Police and the Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service. While addressing the committee, Goje said: “In line with our rules, we can go ahead and finalise action on the issue of INEC, but as for other allocations given to security agencies such as the Office of the National Security Adviser, DSS, Civil Defence, Nigeria Police and Nigeria Immigration Service, we have to invite the heads of these agencies tomorrow (today) together with the chairmen of these security committees.”

 

The breakdown of the cost of 2019 elections, shows that the INEC will take N189,207,544,893; Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), N4,281,500,000; DSS, N12,213,282,455; Civil Defence, N3,573,534,500; Nigeria Police Force, N30,541,317,432, and the Nigeria Immigration Service, N2,628,143,320.00.

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Attacks on Nigerian businesses in S’Africa criminal, not xenophobic – Mission

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Attacks on Nigerian businesses in S’Africa criminal, not xenophobic – Mission

The Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg has declared that the October 22 attack on businesses owned by Nigerians in Witbank in the Mpumalamga district of South Africa was a criminal act and not xenophobic.

The Nigerian Consul General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, made the clarification in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The consul general said that the attack, which occurred at about 9 a.m. on Tuesday, October 22, was masterminded by taxi drivers under the guise of fighting crime.

Adama said that with the cooperation of the police, the matter was resolved in less than an hour.

“We held a meeting with the police authorities and they led us to the place where the attack occurred.

“Although it happened in a different locality (from the previous one), we agreed to meet often to prevent reoccurrence.

“The police promised to invite the taxi drivers association and Nigerian Citizens Association in South Africa (NICASA) to a meeting to discuss and resolve issues amicably.

“There is no problem at the moment and we are monitoring the situation keenly and we have been able to reach a reasonable stage of agreement and help out.

“The government is doing everything here to fight crime. The locals take laws into their hands thinking that the police were not doing enough, which is what mostly leads to attack.

“People feel there is drug or human trafficking and security operatives are not meeting expectations, and so they take laws into their hands in order to fight crime, but it does not work that way.”

He commended the security agencies for cooperating with the Nigerian mission “in tackling issues that affect foreign nationals, particularly Nigerians living in that country.”

He said efforts would be made to pre-empt and stop any form of attack in future, rather than wait for it to happen.

He said that modalities had been put in place to ensure effective implementation of agreements reached by Nigeria and South Africa to prevent all forms of conflict between citizens of the two countries.

“There was nothing like xenophobia; this attack was crime-related and it is just that some criminals took advantage of the opportunity to carry out crime.

“We have draft rules and agreements in place; it is a people-to-people relationship we want to concentrate on.

“If it is government-to-government, we do not have much problem at all. It is not a one-day matter to resolve, but such modality requires constant discussion platforms to enable people to be able to interact.

“To be able to arrest crime, it is better to take issues related to crime to the police station, rather than take laws into your hands,” he added.

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Fulani herdsmen to sue Oyo over Anti-Grazing Bill

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Fulani herdsmen to sue Oyo over Anti-Grazing Bill

Hundreds of Fulani herdsmen from various parts of Oyo State yesterday converged on Igangan, an agrarian community in Ibarapa North Local Government area, resolving to employ legal means to stop the State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Bill 2019 which already scaled second reading at the State House of Assembly.

The bill which was jointly sponsored by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin and his deputy, Hon. Abiodun Fadeyi, was criticised by the Fulani, being led by the National Chairman of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Sale Bayari, who in an 18-page position paper presented at that forum, stated that “it is impossible in our country for any peasant small scale herdsman to go into ranching.”

According to Bayari, the bill if passed into law would punish poor herders.

At their Igangan meeting held at the popular Kara Market in Igangan, presided over by the Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State, Alhaji Saliu Abduk-Kadir, it described the Oyo State Anti-Open Grazing Bill as “too draconian” and targeted at crippling Fulani herdsmen from practising their age-long cattle rearing activities across the state.

The group said: “We will go to court. We will seek legal redress if Oyo State Government insists on imposing this Bill on us. The implementation of the Bill as it is will cause commotion. If we are pushed to the wall, we know the next level.  Our next level is to seek legal option. We will go to the court of law over the matter.

“It is also a matter of fact that we Fulani dominate large percentage of voters in Oyo State.  Government only recognises us during electioneering and voting periods.  Government is not giving us any facility or loan to boost our cattle rearing business while the farmers on the other hand, get agric loans, fertilizers, etc.

Is this the only way government is now repaying us for our patriotism?”

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Sanwo-Olu lauds $629m China deals on Lekki Sea Port

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Sanwo-Olu lauds $629m China deals on Lekki Sea Port

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State yesterday commended the signing of four agreements with China Development Bank (CDB) in $629 million financing facility deal to accelerate the completion of the Lekki Deep Seaport project.

New Telegraph gathered that the loan was secured from the Chinese bank after China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which owned majority shares in the project, signed a 45-year concessionary agreement with Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited (LPLTZ) to complete the Phase 1 of the deep seaport project.

With the deal, the deep seaport would have two container berths of 680-metre long and 16.5-metre water depth, after completion.

Besides, it would have the capacity to be berthed by fifth generation container ships, which had a capacity of 18,000 TEU ship.

Sanwo-Olu described the development as “another milestone” for the State in infrastructural development and commerce, saying the signing of the agreements ended period of uncertainty that had trailed the delivery of the project. He noted that the completion of the project would invigorate the Lagos economy and push it up in the index of largest economy in the world.

He said: “This is a new beginning for us in Lagos. We have achieved another milestone in our efforts to transform the State and accomplish the 21st century economy ambition. As a Government, we are fully in support of the project. We will do all we can to ensure the terms of the agreements signed today are delivered within 30 months as agreed and we expect the outcome would crystallise Lagos’ fifth largest economy and take it up more in the index of largest economies in years to come.”

In the coming weeks, the governor said more trade agreements would be signed with foreign investors, adding that his administration would continue to explore investments and partnerships that would accelerate growth and benefit residents of the State.

Chairman of Lekki Port Board of Director, Mr. Biodun Dabiri, noted that the development of the seaport was strategic for the growth of Lekki Free Trade Zone, pointing out that it would make “immense impact” on the nation’s economy by creating more than 200,000 jobs and generating about $350 billion in revenue for the State over the period of the concession.

He said: “The loan facility represents a significant milestone, which when combined with foreign direct investment of $230 million through equity injection by CHEC, will ensure a successful delivery of the seaport and reposition Nigeria as the transshipment hub in sub-Saharan Africa upon the conclusion of the second phase.

“The project is strategic for the economic growth of Lekki Free Zone, as it would support the massive industrial and petrochemical complex being embarked on in the Northern and Southern quadrant of the zone with investment over the next three years peaking at over $20 billion.

With Lekki Airport in view, there will be an emergence of a Harbour City which would be internationally connected by air and also with world-class integrated transport network of roads, rail and bridges.”

Dabiri said the concessionary agreements had the support of both the Federal and the Lagos governments, observing that the investors agreed with the terms and conditions laid down by the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) and Lekki Worldwide Investment.

CHEC Chairman, Mr. Lin Yichong, said the Chinese engineering firm took interest to invest in the deep seaport to enable Nigeria strengthen its maritime infrastructure and business by building the first deep seaport that would ease of pressure at Tin Can Island and Apapa ports.

The Phase 1 of the project, Yichong said, will be built with annual handling capacity of 1.2 million TEU, adding that the capacity would be increased to 2.5 million TEU upon the completion of the second phase.

He said: “After the completion of the Lekki port, it would become the first deep seaport in Nigeria and the container transportation hub in Africa. It would also release big pressure off Apapa and Tin Can Island ports. In the course of the construction of the project, it is expected that a huge number of employment opportunities would be generated for residents of Lagos.”

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Edo bronze, iron casters lament low revenue over border closure

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Edo bronze, iron casters lament low revenue over border closure

Bronze and iron casters in Benin, Edo State, are lamenting what they described as low patronage and dwindling revenue, threatening the once booming industry due to the problems of insecurity and closure of nation’s borders by the Federal Government.

This was as they stated that the problems had adversely affected the business as foreigners, who used to come to the state for purchase of art works no longer come due to the challenge of insecurity.

Similarly, they also said that they could not travel to countries such as Togo, Ghana and Cameroon, where there is high demand for traditional arts and cultural artefacts of the rich Benin Kingdom.

However, New Telegraph visit to Igun depot, home of the traditional items, history and arts, revealed that the once busy activities of the casters had slowed down, while there are finished art works hanged on the walls and shelves in the various shops ready for purchase.

Faced with this development, the casters yesterday appealed to the state and federal government to assist them with funds in order to enhance the viable tourism potentials available for the growth and development of the nation’s economic index.

This was as the Director-General, Ekiti State Council of Arts and Culture, Mr. Wale Ojo-Lanre, called on the Federal Government to take tourism as a special project in order to enhance its revenue generating capacity.

Ojo-Lanre told newsmen at the ongoing National Festival for Arts and Culture that government must divert interest from oil and gas to other sectors of the economy, especially tourism industry if it plans to shore up its revenue base.

While noting that the tourism sector had a huge potential to boost revenue generation, he said government should be able to come out with a strong political will to support the sector.

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Fashola: Insufficient funding, bane of housing sector

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Fashola: Insufficient funding, bane of housing sector

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, yesterday, decried the insufficient annual budgetary provisions to the housing sector, saying that the trend was inimical to timely completion of projects on schedule. Fashola stated this at the National Assemblycomplex, Abuja, when he led the management team of the housing sector of the Ministry to defend the budget of the sector with the Senate Committee on Housing. “Major factor affecting this Sector of the Ministry and over all issues of timely completion of projects on schedule or ahead of schedule is insufficient budgetary provision to sustain annual cash flow requirement to meet desired targets as stipulated in the planning stages of all projects”, he said. On the 2020 budget proposal for the housing sector, he noted that the sum of N60, 877,799,984.00 (Sixty billion, eight hundred and seventy seven million, seven hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty four naira) only was proposed for the Housing Sector of the Ministry as the total capital allocation for the fiscal year. The Minister also noted that the sum of N118, 881,182.99 was the proposed overhead cost for the housing sector in 2020. Similarly, Fashola pointed out that the Personnel cost proposal for the Housing Sector in 2020 financial year was N4, 418,829,837.00. Other estimates he gave on the housing budget are Public Building and Housing Development, N31,618,696,939.49; Urban and Regional Development N1,981,023,680.87, and Lands and Housing development, N1,603,995,467.48. According to him, Engineering Services will gulp N4,019,612,974.39; Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Slum upgrading progammes, Construction of classroom blocks, Primary healthcare centres, constructionof Skills Acquisition Centres and motorized/ solar bore holes – N19,940,879,993.83, among others.

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NASS wants FERMA to audit all federal roads

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NASS wants FERMA to audit all federal roads

The National Assembly yesterday directed the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to undertake a holistic assessment of all the roads in the country.

FERMA is expected to furnish both the Senate and House Committees on FERMA with the outcome of the assessment,  to enable the National Assembly take appropriate actions.

Chairman of the House Committee on FERMA, Hon. Olufemi Bamisele, who gave the directive at a joint budget defence session of the Senate and House committee on FERMA, said this has become necessary owing to the deplorable state of roads across the country.

He noted that most of the roads across the country were in very poor state and as such presently constitute nightmares for various travellers.

The lawmaker recalled that in 2017, the Enugu-Awka-Onitsha Road, Abuja -Lokoja-Okene Road,  Kaduna -Abuja, Okigwe -Umuahia Road,  Otukpo -Otukpa Road, Lagos -Sagamu -Ore -Benin Road, Lagos -Ibadan Expressway,as well as Lokoja -Ajaokuta Road amongst others were  listed as the worse roads in the country.

“As  at today,  I do not know the nature or status of these roads.  If they had moved from bad to good or worst to better due to rehabilitation work etc.

“However, in order to know the current status of these roads and other roads in the country, there is need to have a large scale assessment of the current state of Nigerian roads.

“In this regard, I urge FERMA to collate the list of all the roads in the country, stating their current status and furnish same to the committee within two weeks after the conclusion of the budget defence. This effort will help the committee to know which road needs urgent attention and necessary action,” Bamisele stated.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing, Senator Sam Egwu, had earlier asked the Minister to furnish the Committee with the detailed performance of the 2019 budget before presenting that of 2020, to guide the decisions of the Panel on the 2020 budgetary provisions for the Ministry.

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Bayelsa: DSS places politicians, youths under security surveillance

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Bayelsa: DSS places politicians, youths under security surveillance

The Department of State Security (DSS) has confirmed that it has placed some chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State under security watch and surveillance over possible involvement in the recruitment of youths and movement arms ahead of the November 16 governorship election in the state.

The State Director of the DSS, Ishaku Yusuf, who made this known yesterday in Yenagoa during an election seminar organised for chairmen of political parties and other stakeholders by the Nigerian Police Force, said those under security watch are politicians that have been identified as having the capacity of instigate violence during elections.

Yusuf, however, observed that the poor attitude and attendance of representatives of political parties to the security seminar showed their poor readiness for the election.

The Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 5, Mr. D.P. Yakadi, in his lecture, identified various factors that could lead to violence during the poll and advised critical stakeholders to step up preparations and work against corrupt tendencies before, during and after the election.

Yakadi assured the stakeholders on the preparedness of the police for the election.

In his speech, the Administrative secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Bayelsa State, Mr. Edwin Enabor, called on the security agencies to assist in offering needed security of materials and personnel.

He disclosed that sensitive election materials would be moved from Yenagoa to the various centres and that boats to be used have been engaged through the Maritime Workers Association with the boat drivers being profiled by the Nigerian Navy to avoid materials getting into wrong hands.

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Oct 29 deadline for budget defence by MDAs sacrosanct –Gbajabiamila

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Oct 29 deadline for budget defence by MDAs sacrosanct –Gbajabiamila

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday assured that the deadline for submission and presentation of budget by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) will not be extended beyond October 29.

He also denied reports that standing committees of the House were shielding MDAs and holding budget defence sessions in secret.

Gbajabiamila, who clarified this while fielding questions from the media at the National Assembly after partaking in the budget defence of the House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions, said they would beat the 29th October deadline for completion of all budget defence.

According to him, “I have absolute confidence in the chairmen of the committees; they were carefully selected based on their experience and backgrounds, their knowledge and passion. So, as far as I am concerned, if you have 100 committees and one or two committees are doing closed door session, I can bet you, there is a genuine reason for that.

“We are trying to meet a deadline without sacrificing thoroughness of the budget defence. We can do both; we can get back to the January to December cycle and, at the same time, have a thorough comprehensive budget defence process.”

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33 states can’t survive without federal allocation –BudgiT report

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33 states can’t survive without federal allocation –BudgiT report

Thirty-three state governments cannot shoulder their recurrent expenditure in the absence of monthly allocation from federation account, a latest report released yesterday in Abuja by BudgiT has revealed.

It added that only three states – Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom – are capable of funding its recurrent finances in the absence of disbursement from federation account, adding that all 33 FAAC-depended states would be in jeopardy if federal allocation from the centre were to reduce owing to oil price fluctuations.

BudgiT report titled, “State of states 2019,” dissected fiscal sustainability position of states in various spheres, health, IGR and recurrent expenditure status.

In the report, Lagos leads the fiscal sustainability index, followed by Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Kano states.

“Access to audited statements brought out some facts on the true state of recurrent expenditure in focus states. We discovered states, such as Delta, running huge recurrent expenditure reaching N200 billion. Bayelsa, despite its size and population, has a high recurrent bill as high as N137 billion, compared with Ebonyi with a recurrent bill of N30 billion, Sokoto (N38 billion), Jigawa (N43 billion), Yobe (N35 billion), etc. It is a recurring theme to see states in South-South Nigeria running high recurrent bills, mainly driven by the high revenues earned due to the 13% derivation.

“In our analysis, it was also interesting to see states like Cross River with a bogus budget of N1.04 trillion spend less than N93 billion on an annual basis which brings them up the rank as well as Imo with its recurrent spending of N43 billion,” the report stated.

“However, we notice that Kogi lags behind due to its huge recurrent bill as at 2017, when it was still paying salaries for workers and also had high repayment bills for loans. While we would have liked to use the 2018 audited statements for the report, less than 15 states have published the document, making it largely unrepresentative for the states. We are not unmindful that the 2017 audited statement might include huge recurrent bills due to the payment of backlog of salaries sourced from the Paris Club refund,” BudgiT noted.

In her presentation, BudgiT Lead Researcher, Orji Uche said only 19 states could meet their expenditure with internally generated revenue and federal allocation.

She counselled authorities at sub-national level of government to look beyond federal allocation, citing the uncertainties associated with the oil price at global market.

“The implications of looking at this index is to enable us understand without federal allocation, how many states can sustain themselves. And by sustaining themselves, we are looking only at recurrent expenditure. Are you going to meet your operating obligations, are you able to pay salaries so that anything coming from broad federal allocation would go to investments in human capital and key sectors of the economy.

“When we look at the index, we can see that those states that can meet their expenditure only with IGR are only three states out of 36 states. What this means is that if there were to be oil price fluctuations and production allocation from the centre were to reduce, then many states would be in jeopardy,” the report stated.

Also speaking on the report, the Senior Economist, World Bank, Yue Man Lee, said the implications of having low revenue was that the amount Nigeria could spend on human development would be restricted.

She said over the years, the fiscal capacity of states to generate the needed revenue to finance their operations had reduced.

She said: “The broader fiscal challenge that Nigeria faces is low revenue that constrains the budget envelop.

“Nigeria is spending and government spending as a percentage to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is way lower than other countries at similar income per capital level. And the reason behind this is because of the exceptionally low revenues that Nigeria collects.”

Lee said with the country having revenue to GDP ratio of about eight per cent, there was need to come up with measures to boost revenue.

She said the low level of government spending on capital projects contributes to low level of development outcomes.

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Court bars police from interfering with medical doctor’s rights in Enugu

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Court bars police from interfering with medical doctor’s rights in Enugu

An Enugu State High Court presided over by Justice N. Nebo has restrained the police from infringing on the fundamental human rights of an Enugu-based medical doctor, Dr. Izuchukwu Okam.

Nebo, while ruling on an motion ex-parte brought pursuant to Order 4 Rule 3 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, ordered the police not to interfere with the personal liberty of the applicant.

The judge ruled that the decision was hinged on Sections 35 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution as amended which guaranteed the applicant’s freedom of movement and personal liberty.

He, therefore, restrained the police, their privies or agents from interfering with Okam’s freedom pending the determination of the substantive suit.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the applicant had approached the court through his counsel, Mr. Nnamdi Eluwa in suit No E/869/2019 against Dr. Ossai Uzoma, Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police, Enugu as first, second and third respondents respectively.

The matter was adjourned until 21st January, 2020 for argument of the application for the enforcement of the applicant’s fundamental rights.

NAN further reported that the applicant and the first respondent and staff of University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu were enmeshed in a legal tussle bordering on an alleged libel.

However, while the matter was still pending in court, the police had continued to hunt for the applicant which necessitated the application.

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