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2019 Polls: EU scores INEC low on transparency

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2019 Polls: EU scores INEC low on transparency

•Says Nigeria needs fundamental electoral reforms

 

•Report dodgy, not definitive, says Keyamo

 

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) has scored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) low on the conduct of the 2019 General Elections, saying there were insufficient checks and lack of transparency in the result process.

 

The verdict came yesterday as the Chief Election Observer of the EUEOM, Ms Maria Arena, unveiled the final report of the mission on the election in Abuja.

 

Arena, who presented the 106-page report at a news conference, said that the elections were characterised by severe operational and transparency shortcomings as well as security challenges. She said the challenges were such that Nigeria should embark on fundamental reforms of her electoral process ahead of the 2023 General Elections. She acknowledged that while INEC worked in a difficult environment and made some improvements, such as simplifying voting procedures, there were still a lot of operational deficiencies.

 

“There were insufficient checks and transparency in the result process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information.

 

“While the legal framework broadly provides for democratic elections and some improvements were made in the Constitution, various legal shortcomings remained in relation to the use of smart card readers. “There was abuse of the power of incumbency at the federal and state levels in terms of the use of the media for campaign messages. Except for the federal radio, state media served primarily the interest of the president or governor at the state level,” she said.

 

The election monitoring group said that though the elections were competitive as the political parties were able to campaign freely, the leading political parties failed in not reining in their members and supporters who were engaged in acts of violence and intimidation. According to her the security challenges were so severe that it did not just result in poor voter turnout in some locations but claimed the lives of no fewer than 150 people.

 

“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed. This damaged the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation.

 

“Journalists were subjected to harassment and scrutiny of the electoral process was   at times compromised with some independent observers being obstructed in their work even by security agencies. During collation of the federal results, EU Observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states,” she said.

 

The EUEOM also frowned at the controversial suspension of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by the President a few weeks before the election, adding that the action appeared to have undermined judicial independence in the country. Other issues highlighted in the report include the series of conflicting orders dished out by the courts on electoral disputes and the late rulings on pre-election issues which undermined opportunity for remedy and created uncertainty; the dysfunctional regulation of political campaign finances; low level of prosecution of electoral offenders and the declining number of women in elective positions.

 

The EUEOM made a total of 30 recommendations on how Nigeria can improve her electoral system.

 

Among these recommendations are the need to: strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in the electoral outcomes; establishment of the required law to ensure full results transparency, with data easily accessible to the public; strengthening organisational and operational  capacity as well as its internal communication and reform the licensing system for the broadcast media to provide for media pluralism and diversity in all states of Nigeria.

 

Meanwhile, Director of Strategic Communications of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr Festus Keyamo has faulted the EUEOM report on the grounds that it made insinuations that the result process was shrouded in secrecy. Keyamo, who spoke on the side-lines of the report’s presentation, said the process of result collation was in line with the Electoral Act, adding that the law made provision for the pasting of the results at every polling unit.

 

“There are aspects of the report that are not definitive enough. For instance, if they say the result collation process is not transparent enough, I expect them to be very clear as to what they expect to happen over and above or beyond what we have in the Electoral Act presently. I can see that they expect that result from each unit is made known and published; however, you can see that the Electoral Act allows for the Form EC8A from each of the polling units to be given to agents of the political parties. “They did agree that those results came from agents of the political parties; they did not see any place where party agents were denied copies of Form EC8As.

 

Again, the Electoral Act allows for the Form EC8A to be pasted at each polling unit. Pasting is publication if you don’t know. So this Form EC8A was published in each of the polling units, so I don’t want Nigerians to go away with the impression that those results from each polling unit were not published.

 

“The only thing that I may agree with their report is that they want it to be centrally published on INEC website. I do agree but there is no mechanism to automatically publish it now because there is no provision for automatic electronic transmission of results and this is the crux of this election.

 

“There is no provision for that and I expected them to talk about that a lot on their recommendation. They should have dwelt on the crux of our election now which is electronic transmission.

 

They know that that system collapsed in Kenya so we should not be quick to jump and follow the world when we know that technologically we are not ripe for that yet. “As for us, we knew that the opposition was only banking on that; we knew they were just banking on waiting in Abuja, hacking into a server if it is available, planting a result and declaring a winner.

 

“But it didn’t work out that way because there must be state by state collation of results,” he said. Keyamo also accused the EUEOM of not being definitive in its criticism of the 2019 Elections. He said that the report ought to have been clear about the issue of more of result transmission as that was the crux of the matter. “Secondly and most importantly, the EUEOM failed to discuss the report of other observers.

 

These were local observers, regional and continental observers, who came to the conclusion that despite these hiccups here and there, the results reflected the wishes of the generality of Nigerians. “If you are an observer, you must be definitive in your report. There is no need being dodgy about it because we have 120,000 polling units across the country.

 

In all the reports, I don’t think they discussed more than too polling units,” Keyamo said.

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Viral video: Aisha Buhari apologises to Nigerians

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Viral video: Aisha Buhari apologises to Nigerians

Wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari, on Wednesday apologised to Nigerians over the video of her altercations with Fatima that had gone viral on social media.
Apart from the public, the First Lady also apologised to her children for the embar­rassment the video​ might have caused to the institution of the office of the First Lady.
This is just as Mrs Buhari said the approval for the appointments of senior special assistants and special assistants for her office would enable her to concentrate more on the home front.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mrs Buhari made the disclosure while receiving wives of state go­vernors who paid her a welcome visit at the Presidential Vil­la, Abuja.
It will be recalled that the video showing the First Lady during an argument with Fatima the daughter of the Chief of Staff (COS) to the president, Mamman Daura, had gone viral on the social media since the return of the First Lady from the United Kingdom.
Fatima was said to have accepted responsibility for the video in which the First Lady was shown shouting over an apartment in the Presidential Villa.
The development has, however, elicited reactions from Nigerians with many of them condemning the recording and the release of the video to the public by Fatima.
Mrs Buhari, however, told the visiting wives of the state governors that she was sorry for any embarrassment that the video might have caused.
She also expressed her des­ire to reinvigorate the African First Ladies Peace Mission to foster peace and sustainable development of women and children.
She informed the vis­iting first ladies from the states that she had already secured 2.7 hectares of land in Abuja for the construction of permanent secretariat of the mission.
”I have successfully secured 2.7 hectares of land in Abuja for the construction of the permanent secretariat,” she said.
​The First Lady thanked the governors’ wi­ves for their continued support and pa­rtnership with her NGO, the Future Assur­ed Programme, in providing support to women and children, especially in the ar­eas of health, education and women and youths empowerment.
​Apart from this, she also thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the governors’ wives for supporting the advocacy to improve maternal and child health in Nigeria.
The First Lady lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the appointment of some Special Assistants and Senior Special Assistants to assist in carrying out activities of her office.
According to her, the gesture would assist her to concentrate more in the home front.
The representative of Northern Governors Wives Forum and Wife of Borno State Governor, Dr Falmata Zulum, declared their loyalty and support to the first lady towar­ds uplifting the lives of women and ch­ildren in Nigeria.
”I want to assure you of our loyalty and support to all your initiative towards uplifting the well­being of women and children in Nigeria.
”We are ever ready to take on any assign­ment in seeing that women and children are in good health, especially with your Future Assured Programme.
“We are going to give you all the necess­ary support you require because we bel­ieve any decision you take will be in the best interest of women and children in Nigeria,” Zulum said.
Also speaking,​ the Chairperson of Sout­hern Governors Wives Forum, Mrs Betsy Obaseki, said they were at the State House to welcome the first lady from her visit to the United kingdom and thanked God for her safe return in good health.
​Obaseki prayed the Almighty God to guide and protect the first lady to achieve her purpose of being there for the well being of women and children in Nigeria.
The meeting was atte­attended by the wife of Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Women Affairs, Dr Hajo Sani, wife of former Governor of Nasarawa State Mrs Mairo Al-Makura among others

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FG deports 7 Korean nationals ‘for life’

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FG deports 7 Korean nationals ‘for life’

The Federal Government has carried out the deportation of seven Korean nationals “for life”.
The deportation was executed  by the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mr. Muhammad Babandede, on the orders of the Minister of Interior, Ogbenu Rauf Aregbesola.
Spokesperson for the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. Sunday James, a Deputy Comptroller of Immigration, who made the announcement in a statement Wednesday, gave the names of the deportees as follows:Jo Sun Phil,
Jang Sung Chol,
Che Chun Hyok,
Pak Yong Gon,
Ri Yong IL,
Ri Hak Su
Ri Tong Nam.
He said the minister exercised the power  conferred on him by the Immigration Act 2015.
“The Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service Muhammad Babandede, MFR, has carried out the deportation of the following seven (7) Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nationals from Nigeria for life,” James said.
According to him: “They were deported by the order of the Honourable Minister Of Interior based on the powers conferred on him by the Immigration Act 2015.
“They were deported to their country of origin on the available flight on the 15th October, 2019 through Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.”

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Asuku takes over as COS from Onoja

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Asuku takes over as COS from Onoja

Former Director General Protocol to Governor Yahaya Bello has been appointed Chief of Staff, taking over Chief Edward David Onoja, who resign his position.
In a press statement signed by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mohammed Onogwu, Dr Gabriel Ottah as been appointed as Director General (Protocol).
The appointment letter was signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr (Mrs) Folashade Arike Ayoade.
Dr Ayoade said these appointments took effect from Monday.
Chief Edward Onoja is the Deputy Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the November 16 Governorship election in Kogi State.

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PDP to Buhari: N5000 ID card fee repressive, offensive 

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PDP to Buhari: N5000 ID card fee repressive, offensive 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the imposition of N5, 000 fee on Nigerians, for the national identity card, by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Governments, describing it as repressive and offensive to the sensibility of the people.
The party said in a statement Wednesday by the National Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan that the fee was unwarranted and unjustified levy on Nigerians.
PDP added the action amounts to fleecing and stripping Nigerians of their constitutional rights in their own nation.
“Our party holds that issuance of national identity card to citizens, as an obligation of the state to its citizenry, must remain free as established by the PDP.
“The N5, 000 levy must be immediately rescinded before it triggers restiveness in the nation.
“Already, the fee is generating tension in the country as Nigerians have continued to register their rejection in the public space,” the the party stated.
It noted what it described as “the increasing penchant of the APC administration to impose all sorts of taxes on suffering Nigerians.”

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FEC okays N5.4b for oil, gas parks, indoor shooting range

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FEC okays N5.4b for oil, gas parks, indoor shooting range

At its meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N5.4 billion for the construction of oil and gas parks and an indoor shooting range.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who briefed State House correspondents at the end of FEC meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, disclosed these.
Sylva said FEC approved N3 billion for oil and gas parks in the Niger Delta region.
According to him, the parks are to support the development of oil and gas tools.
He said that the parks will create additional 1000 jobs and improve security in the region.
Sirika said that FEC approved N2.4 billion for the construction of indoor shooting range for aviation security.
This, he said, is in line with the approval for airport officials to bear arms towards boosting security at Nigerian airports.
The Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemi Saraki, also said FEC approved 300 buoys for River Niger, between Lokoja and Onitsha.
The contract, she said, will cost N581 million.

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Kwara Assembly approves N130bn revised budget 

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Kwara Assembly approves N130bn revised budget 

The Kwara State House of Assembly has approved N130,380,403,956 as the new revised total budget size of the state as against the initial N157,802,032,561 with a decrease of N27,421,628,605, representing 17.4 per cent.
This is sequel to the report of the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation on the Year 2019 Revised Appropriation Bill presented to the House by the Chairman of the Committee, Hon Ambali Olatunji Ibrahim.
The Committee arrived at the sum after perusing and scrutinizing the 2019 Budget of the Kwara State Government.
According to the Chairman of the Committee, the reduction of the budget size became necessary in order to enhance the state’s chances of benefitting maximally from the benefit derivable by the state from “The State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme for Result (SFTAS) open to all states with high/appreciable Budget implementation/performance, accountability, transparency and sustainability of their budgets”.
A breakdown shows that the total revenue estimate of the 2019 budget now stands at N130,380,403,956 down from N157,802,032,561, while the Approved Budget Surplus of N43, 638,537,362 was scaled down to N27,187,810,159, a decrease of N16,450,737,203, representing 37.70 per cent.
On the capital receipts, the House revised the capital allocation to N57,117,155,413 as against N79,594,046,011, a decrease of N22,476,890,598.
However, considering the fact that there is little time left to the end of the year, a term loan of about N1.67billion was granted as against the initial N6.221billion proposed by Governor Abdulrahman Abdurazaq.

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Turkey to retaliate against US sanctions over Syria offensive

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Turkey to retaliate against US sanctions over Syria offensive

Turkey will retaliate against U.S. sanctions over Ankara’s military operation into northeast Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, adding that all threats and sanctions against Turkey were unacceptable, reports Reuters.
Speaking in parliament, Cavusoglu also said Turkey expected the U.S. Congress to turn back from its “damaging approach”, and added that ties between Ankara and Washington were at a critical juncture. He said he would convey this to a U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence coming to Ankara.

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Buhari slashes estacode for ministers

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Buhari slashes estacode for ministers

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved a directive for ministers, director-generals and other top government officials to submit travel plans for clearance.
This was announced on Wednesday in a statement signed by Willie Bassey, director of information to Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Bassey also announced that henceforth, “travel days will no longer attract payment of Estacode Allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding”.
The highlights in the statement are:
*Without approval from the president, ministers, permanent secretaries, chief executive officers and directors in the ministry are restricted to not more than two (2) foreign travels in a quarter.
*When a minister is head of a delegation, the size of such delegation should not exceed four,
*Submission of travel plans by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)
*All public funded travels (local and foreign) must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence.
The statement said the development is to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of resources.
The Auditor-General of the Federation has also been directed to treat all expenditures that contravene these guidelines as ineligible, reports online news portal, TheCable.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved for immediate implementation, additional cost saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly, in the area of official travels,” the statement read:
“Henceforth, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are required to submit their Yearly Travel Plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.
“They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan, from the appropriate quarters.
“On the Nature and Frequency of Travels, all public funded travels (local and foreign), must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence. In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of the country. Except with the express approval of Mr. President, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Chief Executive Officers and Directors are restricted to not more than two (2) foreign travels in a quarter.”
He said when a minister is head of a delegation, the size of such delegation should not exceed four, including the relevant director, schedule officer and one aide of the minister.”
The president also approved for ministers, permanent secretaries, special advisers, senior special assistants to the president, chairmen of extra-ministerial departments and chief executive officers of parastatals who are entitled, to continue to fly business class while other categories of public officers are to travel on economy class.
Earlier, Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour, had said the government would review the salaries and allowances of political office holders across the country.

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PAN takes one egg per day campaign to schools

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PAN takes one egg per day campaign to schools

The Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), on Wednesday, took its one egg per day campaign to government schools in Mararaba, Nasarawa State to sensitise children on the need to consume egg instead of snacks.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that more than 3,000 eggs were distributed to the students and pupils during the campaign.

This is coming against the backdrop of the world egg day marked on October 11.

Mr Lawson Okafor, the Chairman, PAN of the state chapter, called on the students to inform their parents on the need to give them one egg per day.

According to him, most parents are ignorant of the value of egg and instead they buy junks as snacks for them to eat.

He stated that egg was most valuable than meat pie, adding that parents should learn the significance of egg for their children in order to help them grow well.

Dr Boje Egboja, the PAN Coordinator, said that the distribution of eggs to the student was part of the activities to mark the world egg day.

She said that it was to tell the children the importance of egg in their system, adding that egg consumption would help their growth and also boost their immunity.

She added that it would also help to aid their intelligence quotient and save the children the hurdle of having to visit the hospital often, as it would improve their health status.

Also, Mr Peter Angbashim, the Principal of GSS, one of the schools, lauded the gesture, adding that egg consumption was imperative to the children’s growth.

He noted that though, the school was yet to benefit from the social intervention programme of the Federal Government through school feeding, he had no doubt that the school would soon benefit.

The principal said that the state was involved in the school feeding programme but it had been in batches and the school hoped to be part of the next batch.

Some of the students, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria, lauded PAN, stating that such move would encourage them to consume egg.

Abdulqudus Sodiq, a primary six pupil, said that he had learnt that egg was valuable to health to aid their growth, keep them fresh and make them strong.

Also, according to one of the students, Gloria, egg contains some vital nutrients that can boost immunity.

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Delta proposes N389bn budget for 2020

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Delta proposes N389bn budget for 2020

The Delta State government has proposed a N389 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

The state Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, disclosed this while briefing journalists on Wednesday in Asaba.

Aniagwu said the budget approval was part of the decisions reached at the state’s Executive Council meeting of Tuesday which was presided over by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa at the Government House, Asaba.

Giving details on the proposed budget, the Commissioner for Economic Planning, Barry Gbe, said the approval for the budget followed a rigorous process.

Gbe said that during the process the inputs of Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the state were scrutinised and aligned to ensure compliance and realisation.

Gbe said the state government Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) adopted the crude oil production figure of 2.18 billion barrel per day and $57 per barrel bench mark in arriving at the budget figure.

“The budget for 2020 is N389 billion which dropped with about N1billion from that of 2019 of N390.3 billion.

“The Capital Expenditure is about N217 billion and the Recurrent Expenditure is N171 billion. This means that we will do more projects than spend more money on recurrent.

“The personnel cost actually moved up because we put into consideration the payment of the new minimum wage by 2020,” Gbe said.

Aniagwu further announced that the council also approved the recognition of Beneku community as a clan and that the recognition was subject to the approval of the State Assembly.

According to him, getting the assembly’s approval is a preparation for the appointment of a traditional ruler for the community which in Patani Local Government Area (LGA).

“The council also approved the appointment of Obi Ifeachukwude Chukwuka-Okonjo ll as the traditional ruler of Ogwashi-Uku.

“Approval was also given for the appointment of HRM Johnbull Kolokoiwe, Ongolo l, as Pere of Ogbolubiri Mein Kingdom of Burutu LGA.

“It approved the appointment of Obi Christopher Uzu as the traditional ruler of Onicha-Olona,” Aniagwu said.

He also said that an approval was given for the construction of Queens Street, Agbor, Ika South LGA, at the cost of about N600 million, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

“That of Owa-Alero-Owa-Nta- Aliseme Road was approved for construction at a total cost of N1.3 billion,” he added.

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