Delectable, curvaceous and blunt starlet, Olive Isioma Utalor, spoke about her humble beginnings, romance and plans to join the league of filmmakers in this interview with LANRE ODUKOYA.
Could you reveal more about your background?
I’m Olive Isioma Utalor from Agbor, Ika North East, Delta State. I studied History and International Relations in Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki. Currently I’m doing my master’s degree in Asaba; Msc in Peace Keeping and Conflict Resolution. I was born on October 28, 1993.
How long have you been acting?
I’m still an up-and-coming act, although I have done some good movies. I came into the industry four years ago, and I started acting when I was in school. I was traveling for auditions in Enugu and Asaba, but two years ago, I decided to move to Asaba, that was when I entered Nollywood fully. It has not been easy, but God has always been faithful.
Which are some of the movies you’ve done?
Wasted Authority, Moment of Madness, Charity, Hope of Glory, Cursed, Blood Enemies, Loving Soul, Yahoo King, My Pregnant Daughter, Our Heritage and more.
Why did you choose acting as a career?
Due to the fact that I used to partake in church dramas back at my local church when I was a bit younger, and it was actually fun how people would refer to you by your stage name after the drama.
That drew my mind to the fact that while being yourself you could still be someone else on the screen. So, gradually I would display some acts in the front of the mirror for at least two hours daily during my early teens.
Then I started eating and dreaming about movies; that was why I chose this line of career. How was it like in those very early days of your career? Way back in the university, I would go for auditions with my friends, sometimes it was very hard to cope with studies.
I missed a few lectures only to get to the audition at times and I would not be selected for the movie.
So, I can say the early days of my acting was rough but the love and passion for the job brought me here. I also had discouragement from a lot of people but the passion was strong enough.
Any embarrassing encounter?
There’s no human without embarrassing moments in life. I get a whole lot of daily reactions from fans.
I played a wicked role in the movie, “Moment of Madness” and I was at the market, the lady whom I went to her shop to get few items from treated me badly. I was so ashamed as people gathered, she said a lot of bad things because of how I treated someone in the movie. I got really sad; her action spoilt my week entirely.
Did you also have any sexual harassment encounter? For now, I have not had any sexual harassment in the industry.
You’re beautiful and curvy, how do you deal with male fans lusting after your body? I love my fans and I can’t chase them away.
I know I am beautiful with nice curves in the right places, so, they will always come around me.
But I can’t be at two different places at the same time. So diplomatic handling of such fans is not a major problem
. Aside acting, what else do you do?
I’m still in school doing my master’s degree. But aside acting, my best moment is in the kitchen.
Are you planning to open an eatery?
Someday by God’s grace. Are you in a serious relationship at the moment? I have always been a low-key person in terms of my relationship. I broke up with my guy because he couldn’t take very good care of me.
Though he loves me, I need a perfect man.
Could you explain your idea of a perfect man?
Like I always say, any lady that walks away when you have nothing loves you. Just that poverty won’t let you understand. I left my boyfriend for him to level up and I know he will later come back to me because he loves me so much.
What gives you the confidence that he would come back to you?
Because I know he loves me and I am special to him. Nobody has my smile, I’m special, I’m rare in everything. But you left him already…
Please don’t laugh at me. I don’t know. I don’t know what to answer. I am not denying my love for him.
The very start was magical and everything went on well as he supported my dreams and was a solid financial backbone to me. Every woman would dream of such kind of man.
But the tides of life changed, I had to change with it as well.
Since you love him this much and you know he loves you just as much, why didn’t you stick with him and help me succeed?
Sometimes love needs to be appreciated and groomed so it can give its benefits in return. He is a good man, but I need to be treated royally because I am a queen.
Mind you, I supported him with my prayers, what kind of support is bigger than that?
Sometimes I fast seven days at a stretch for him, so what other kind of support do someone need to be successful?
Will you go into any other relationship before he comes back for you?
Of course, I can. We are not married yet.
All I’m saying is that he won’t be comfortable with any lady just like he was with me.
So, what kind of man would you call a ‘husband material’?
A God-fearing man, hardworking, you know, he needs to have everything that a woman wants.
So, in essence, you still want a man like him but with deeper pocket?
The most important, is a good God-fearing man. Everybody wants to draw closer to their creator. Maybe money will come later. Love with too much talk and lesser deeds is a sin.
That is just the best answer to the question.
You need a richer man to take good care of you and your needs?
I need someone who’s able to provide and defend me and not someone who hears news on social media and he’s been moved by critics, but most importantly, he must be rich, might not be famous, he must be caring and a bit polite with a good sense of humor.
Do you have plans to produce your own movie?
Definitely! All the stories I used to create when I was in secondary school at the very right time, I will tell them through a movie.
And it’s really going to be inspiring and educating more like a real-life story. So, with that, I am definitely going to produce my movie. The stories are up to three, so, at the very right time probably.
At God’s perfect time, I will produce the movies.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are really lined up in a to-do list for the next 10 years. I’m not going to wait for that time before I start working towards them. According to my pastor there is nothing like future. It starts now.
So, just from the list, one of them is opening a holiday movie school like a movie academy in my state (Delta State) just for beginners, it will only run on holidays.
The only academies we have are in bigger cities like Abuja and Lagos. So, I intend to open a good one in Delta State, probably my home town, Agbor.
Many feared trapped as multi-storey building collapses in Nairobi
A multi-storey residential building has collapsed in a suburb of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
It is feared that people may be trapped inside.
Meanwhile, a Kenyan journalist on the scene at the collapse of a multi-storey building in the capital Nairobi has told the BBC he witnessed three people being rescued from the rubble and taken to hospital.
Habib Mate, who works for Kenya Television Network, said that people were living in the building before it fell down but that the ground floor had already been abandoned.
It is unclear how many people are still trapped and if anybody has died.
The reason why the building fell down is not yet known, but it is common for buildings to be constructed with substandard building materials which crumble after heavy rain.
Speaker asks House to draft articles of impeachment against Trump
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she has instructed House Democrats to draw up articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying he had abused his power.
“Sadly, but with confidence and humility … today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said.
“The facts are uncontested,” she said. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival.”
“His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution,” she added. “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act.”
“If we allow a president to be above the law, we do so at the peril of our republic,” she said.
The announcement tees up a House floor vote in the coming weeks that would make Trump just the fourth president in American history to face an impeachment vote, and the third to be impeached by the House of Representatives, reports ABC News.
“In America, no one is above the law,” Pelosi said.
“The president has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our Founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States,” she said.
About an hour later, Trump tweeted his first reaction, saying that Democrats are focused on impeachmentafter they “gave up on the ridiculous Mueller ‘stuff.'” He said that impeachment is rarely used and suggested impeaching him will set a bad precedent for future presidents.
She declined to say whether any aspects of the Mueller investigation should be included in the articles of impeachment, saying she would wait for the recommendations from the chairs of the six committee chairs who have investigated Trump. “I’m not going to talk about that,” she said.
She added, “This isn’t about Ukraine. This is about Russia,” asking “Who benefits … from that withholding of military assistance?”
“All roads lead to Putin. Understand that,” she said, as she has previously.
And she pushed back on criticism that Democrats are rushing to judgment — that a decision on impeachment should wait until all potential witnesses are subpoenaed and court challenges resolved.
She said the White House blocking key witnesses from testifying amounted to obstruction of justice and Congress.
Asked about whether there was a timetable to have a House floor vote on impeachment before Christmas, she said, “We are proceeding in a manner worthy of the Constitution.”
And when asked whether she was concerned such a vote would divide the country, Pelosi answered, “We don’t take any glee in this. It’s heartbreaking.”
Referring to Trump, she said, “He’s the one dividing the country. We are honoring the Constitution.”
As Pelosi spoke, the Judiciary Committee announced it would meet Monday to “receive counsel presentations of evidence” from the House Intelligence Committee.
Pelosi’s announcement comes after several constitutional law experts told lawmakers that the president had abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to open investigations that could benefit him politically.
Economic crimes: Kenya public prosecutor orders arrest of Nairobi governor
Kenya’s public prosecutor on Friday ordered the arrest of the Nairobi County governor and a number of county government officials on suspicion of economic crimes.
Noordin Haji, the country’s top prosecutor, told a news conference that he had sufficient evidence to arrest Mike Mbuvi Sonko, reports Reuters.
He also named county government officials whom he said he had evidence to prosecute for various economic crimes as well as a number of businesspeople on charges of money laundering related to Sonko’s alleged crimes.
Indian police kill four men suspected of gang rape, murder; draw cheers
Indian police shot dead four men on Friday who were suspected of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian in the city of Hyderabad, a police official told Reuters, drawing applause from her family and citizens outraged over crimes against women.
The men had been in police custody and were shot dead near the scene of last week’s crime where they tried to snatch the weapons of accompanying policemen, said N. Prakash Reddy, a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Shamshabad, near Hyderabad.
Reddy said that the four men – two truck drivers and two truck cleaners, aged between 20 and 26 years – had been taken to the spot to re-construct the crime around 6 a.m. (0030 GMT), reports Reuters.
“And there was a cross-fire. In this, all the four accused have died,” Reddy said. “Two policemen have been injured.”
No details were immediately available about how many police had escorted the four accused and whether they were handcuffed or roped together as is usually the case.
Earlier a local police official had put the time of the deaths at around 3:30 a.m. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Indian police have frequently been accused of extra-judicial killings, called “encounters”, especially in gangland wars in Mumbai and insurrections in the state of Punjab and in disputed Kashmir. Police officers involved in such killings were called “encounter specialists” and were the subject of several movies.
During the past week, thousands of Indians have protested in several cities following the alleged rape and murder of the veterinarian.
The woman had left home for an appointment on her motor-scooter and later called her sister to say she had a flat tire. She said a lorry driver had offered to help and that she was waiting near a toll plaza.
Police said she was abducted, raped and asphyxiated and her dead body then set alight on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Her family welcomed the news of the killings of the alleged perpetrators.
“It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude towards the police & govt for this. My daughter’s soul must be at peace now,” Reuters partner ANI quoted her father as saying.
A crowd gathered at the site of the shooting and threw flower petals at police vans in support of the action. Some shouted “Long live police”; others hoisted police officials onto their shoulders.
Crimes against women have been unabated in India despite tough new laws that were enacted following the 2012 gang rape and murder of a woman in a Delhi bus that led to an outpouring of anger across the country.
Despite the setting up of fast track courts, cases have moved slowly, for lack of witnesses and the inability of many families to go through the long legal process. Some victims and their families have ended up being attacked for pursuing cases against powerful men, often local politicians.
Many Indians applauded the killings on Friday, taking to Twitter to support the police.
“Great work #hyderabadpolice ..we salute u,” wrote Indian badminton star and former world No. 1 Saina Nehwal.
On Twitter, #encounter was the top-trending hashtag in India and No. 4 worldwide.
In Uttar Pradesh state, where a rape victim was set ablaze on Thursday while she was on her way to court, opposition politician Mayawati said the police there should take “inspiration” from what happened in Hyderabad.
Indian police registered more than 32,500 cases of rape in 2017, according to the most recent government data. But courts disposed of only about 18,300 cases related to rape that year, leaving more than 127,800 cases pending at the end of 2017.
But some people said the lack of progress in the courts did not mean the police had a free hand to dispense justice.
“This isn’t instant justice – this is the absence of justice. We’re not going to make women safer by abandoning the rule of law – is that so hard to understand?,” said Rukmini S., an Indian columnist in a tweet.
Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover said the police who were involved in Friday’s incident should face an inquiry, but in all likelihood would be rewarded with medals. “Killing accused like this is a short cut, but in the long run this won’t work, it will carry its own consequences.”
There was no immediate word from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on the incident, but Maneka Gandhi a lawmaker from his Bharatiya Janata Party said the police appeared to have over-reached.
“You can’t take law in your hands, they (accused) would’ve been hanged by Court anyhow. If you’re going to shoot them before due process of law has been followed, then what’s the point of having courts, law & police?”
Cellphone-related head and neck injuries on the rise, study says
People distracted by their cellphones are tripping, falling and hurting their heads and necks more often, with such injuries increasing “steeply” over a 20-year period, a new analysis has found.
According to NBC News, most cases were mild, but some involved facial lacerations and traumatic brain injuries that could lead to long-term consequences, the authors warned.
The study, published Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, is believed to be the first to investigate the role smartphones play in injuries to these parts of the body. Previous studies have found that all types of “distracted walking” injuries have been on the rise.
Dr. Boris Paskhover, a reconstructive surgeon and the lead author of the new paper, started looking into the statistics after seeing patients with broken jaws or facial wounds who would tell him they fell while staring at their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings.
“I don’t think people are aware of how fragile we are as humans. We’re resilient, but we’re also fragile. You fall and you can get a pretty bad injury,” Paskhover, an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told NBC News.
“You walk in the city and you see everyone just looking at their phones,” he said. “Be aware that you can hurt yourself.”
The study looked for cellphone-related injuries to the head and neck listed in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a database that collects information about emergency room visits from about 100 U.S. hospitals.
From January 1998 to December 2017, there were 2,501 patients who sought help for such issues. If translated onto a national scale, the number of cases would amount to more than 76,000 people, the authors estimated.
Head and neck injuries related to cellphone use were relatively rare until the rate began to increase sharply in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released, followed by a much steeper increase that peaked in 2016.
Cellphone users aged 13 to 29 made up almost 40 percent of the patients, and most of the injuries caused by distraction happened in this age group.
A third of the cases involved the head; another third affected the face, including the eyelids, eye area and nose; and about 12 percent involved the neck.
Many of the injuries were caused by falls when people were looking at their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings — like texting while walking, for example, Paskhover said.
Children younger than 13 were more likely to be directly hurt by the phone — accidentally hit by a device that was in their parent’s hand, for example. Paskhover has also had patients who were playing a game on their phone when it slipped, hit them on the face and broke their nose. “It happens,” he noted.
The most common injuries included lacerations, which accounted for 26 percent of the cases. Scarring from facial lacerations can lead to anxiety and lower self-esteem, the study noted.
Another quarter of patients suffered bruises and abrasions.
Internal organ injuries made up almost a fifth of the cases, or 18 percent. When referring to the head, this diagnosis most commonly indicated traumatic brain injuries — “those are the scary ones,” Paskhover said.
“We have a skull that protects our brain, but it doesn’t mean it’s impervious. Your brain is soft,” he noted. “I see patients who die just from falling. A fall from upright — you fall, you hit your head the wrong way, you get a traumatic brain injury.”
Still, most patients in the study were treated and released from the hospital, or released without any treatment required.
The findings suggest there’s a need for public education about the risks of being distracted by cellphones beyond texting and driving, the authors noted.
The takeaway is “don’t be distracted — period,” Paskhover said. “Be self-aware. Answer a text message, fine, but you shouldn’t be walking around reading articles on your phone.”
Earlier this year, New York lawmakers proposed a ban on texting while crossing the street.
4 killed in shootout following theft of UPS truck in Florida
Two suspects and two civilians died in Florida on Thursday after an attempted robbery led to the theft of a UPS truck and a shootout with police.
The incident began at a jewelry store in Coral Gables, police said.
At least one store employee was injured. That person’s status is unknown, reports ABC News.
The two suspects, police said, then carjacked a UPS truck, holding the driver hostage during police pursuit.
The driver was among those killed, along with an innocent bystander at the scene of the shootout.
The attempted theft began around 4:15 p.m. local time, FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro told reporters later Thursday night.
As the suspects fled Regent Jewelers, shots were fired, and the two men carjacked the UPS truck before leading authorities on a high-speed pursuit, Piro said.
The two suspects died in a firefight with police. It’s unclear how the truck driver and bystander were killed — whether it was gunfire from the suspects or if they were caught in the crossfire with police.
UPS released a statement, saying, “We are deeply saddened to learn a UPS service provider was a victim of this senseless act of violence. We extend our condolences to the family and friends of our employee and the other innocent victims involved in this incident. We appreciate law enforcement’s service and will cooperate with the authorities as they continue the investigation.”
The FBI is leading the investigation.
Kalu vows to appeal conviction for N7.1bn fraud
A former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has vowed to appeal his conviction by Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos for N7.1 billion fraud.
Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Charles Ewelunta, while speaking with journalists shortly after the judge delivered his verdict, said an appeal will soon be lodged.
“We are trying to get the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgement to afford us the opportunity of studying it. Definitely, we will appeal the judgement,” Ewelunta said.
Delivering judgement in the 12-year-old case yesterday, Justice Idris held that the prosecution has proved its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Idris said: “The case was conclusively investigated, as the prosecution conducted thorough investigations. No gaps were left unfilled; this is the acceptable practice.
“I hold the view that the prosecution has established its case against the defendants. It did not fall short of the standard required by law in money laundering offences.
“It is clear upon the facts before this court that the prosecution had this case conclusively investigated before opting to bring this charge against the defendants. In other words, the prosecution did an in-depth and conclusive investigation.
“In totality, I, sincerely, cannot find my way clear in finding these defendants not guilty of the offences charged.
“Having reviewed all that has been provided by the prosecution in terms of oral and documentary evidence; I am inclined to resolve the singular issue for determination in favour of the prosecution herein.”
The Judge had earlier discountenanced the oral evidence given by the former governor in his quest to prove his innocence of the allegations, saying it was not enough to exonerate him.
“The 1st defendant (Kalu) did not give his evidence from the box, but chose to make statement from the dock. I agreed that the defendant reserves the right to make statement from the dock.
“However, the question is whether any probative value should be attached to the statement? It is the duty of the court to attach probative value to the evidence before it.
“The unsworn statement of the 1st defendant cannot be given any probative value. It is certainly not enough for the 1st defendant to give an oral evidence from the dock to counter the prosecution’s claims.
“The court cannot give the same probative value to oral evidence as the one made in the witness box through which the defendant was cross-examined,” Justice Idris held.
Subsequently, Kalu was convicted by the judge on 28 out of the 39 counts that made up the charge.
On each of counts 1-11 and 39, he was sentenced to five years in prison. On each of counts 23-33, he was sentenced to three years; and on each of counts 34-38, he was sentenced to 12 years. The sentences were, however, to run concurrently.
The second defendant, Udeh Jones Udeogu, was also found guilty on 11 out of the 16 counts in which his name featured.
On each of counts 23-25 and 27-32, Udeogu was sentenced to three years in prison; on each of counts 34-38, he was sentenced to 10 years; while on count 39, he was sentenced to four years. The sentences were also to run concurrently.
In respect of the 3rd defendant, Slok Nigeria Limited, Justice Idris ordered its winding up.
“An order is hereby made that the third convict shall, without further assurances but from this order, be wound up and all the assets and property forfeited to the Federal Government,” he said.
It will be recalled that ex-Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba was convicted by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to serve a jail term of 14 years for diverting N1.64 billion.
Also, ex-Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau was also convicted to serve a jail term of 14 years for misappropriating N1.16 billion ecological funds while he governed the state from 1999-2007.
A former governor of Adamawa State, James Bala Ngilari, was sentenced to five years’ jail term without an option of fine for defrauding his state of N167 million.
Former Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for laundering N25 billion, but he got a plea bargain that made him to pay fine of N3.5 million.
Ex-Governor James Ibori of Delta was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment by a London court for laundering $250 million.
The late Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa got two years’ jail term based on a plea bargain after he was found guilty of money laundering.
Senate passes N10.59trn 2020 budget
…returns budget cycle to January-December
The Senate, yesterday, passed N10.594 trillion 2020 budget, which is N264 billion higher than the N10.33 trillion presented to the joint session of the National Assembly on October 8, 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate passed the Appropriation Bill following the consideration and adoption of the report of its Committee on Appropriations, laid before the Chamber on Wednesday.
The Senate, by this action, broke the record of passing the country’s annual budget in less than two months of its presentation by the President, being the first of its kind since the nation’s return to civil rule in 1999.
While presenting the report for approval, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, explained that the increase of N264 billion was made for interventions in critical areas such as national security, road infrastructure, mines and steel development, and health among others.
Based on the recommendations of the Committee, the Senate approved N10,594,362,364,830 as total budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
The breakdown shows that N560,470,827,235 is for statutory transfers, N2,725,498,930,000 for Debt Service; N4,842,974,600,640 for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure; and N2,465,418,006,955 for Contribution to the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on December 31, 2020.
The apex legislative chamber further approved a fiscal deficit of N2.2 trillion and Deficit/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 1.52 per cent for the 2020 financial year.
Senator Jibrin also noted that the daily oil production stood at 2.18 million barrels per day while the oil benchmark was increased from $55 proposed by the Executive to $57 per barrel, and that the exchange rate remained N305 per dollar.
The Red Chamber also approved Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and inflation rate of 2.93 per cent and 10.81 per cent respectively as recommended by the Appropriations Committee.
The expeditious passage of the money bill was the outcome of the resolve of the National Assembly to return the country’s budget cycle to January – December, for effective implementation.
According to the passed Bill, Capital Expenditure for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) for the 2020 fiscal year are: Ministry of Defence N116,181,290,730; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N7,608,141,474; Ministry of Information and Culture, N7,555,803,233; Ministry of Interior, N34,035,825,302; Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, N1,722,796,040;Ministry of Police Affairs, N15,959,986,864; Ministry of Communication Technology, N5,919,002,554; and Office of the National Security Adviser, N27,418,469,323.
Others are: Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, N25,188,940,930; Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, N2,158,620,395; Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, N124,395,096,917; Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, N4,976,199,925; Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, N38,583,331,761; Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, N24,445,756,678; Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, N62,882,531,566; Federal Ministry of Transport, N121,366,932,571; and Federal Ministry of Aviation, N52,061,533,122.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Power has an allocation of N129,082,499,363; Ministry of Petroleum Resources, N3,337,444,887; Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, N10,431,563,177; Ministry of Works and Housing, N315,563,564,269; Ministry of Water Resources, N91,679,927,042; Ministry of Justice, N3,853,600,220; Federal Capital Territory Administration, N62,407,154,360; and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, N23,120,350,399.
Others include: Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, N3,735,486,210; Military of Women Affairs, N6,650,300,966; Federal Ministry of Education, N84,728,529,572; Ministry of Health, N59,909,430,837; Federal Ministry of Environment, N12,350,140,731; and Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, N61,085,146,003.
In his comment on the budget, Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom) said that the executive arm would have no reason not to implement the 2020 budget in full since the bill was passed expeditiously by the National Assembly.
In his remarks after the passage of the budget, Senate President Lawan noted that one of the issues resolved in the legislative agenda of the Ninth Senate, was return the budget cycle to January to December.
He expressed satisfaction that the Senate was able to achieve that objective, commending his colleagues for their cooperation in ensuring the accomplishment of the set goal.
He said: “When we came in, all of us approved our legislative agenda, and one of the key pillars of this agenda is to take back our budget cycle from the very undesirable cycle that cannot be defined to something that can be defined and bought into by our country and business partners living in and outside the country.
“Today, we have been able to achieve this. It means where there is will, there is always a way. This is something that we have been able to achieve together with the House of Representatives.
“I must give members of the Ninth National Assembly the credit, because we thought it was going to be impossible.”
Lawan also expressed optimism that, with the recent passage of landmark legislations such as the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Act, Finance Bills and Public Procurement Bills by the National Assembly, the Executive arm of government had been sufficiently empowered to ensure the successful implementation of the 2020 budget.
Senators, Reps increase own budget by N3bn
The House of Representatives, yesterday, raised the National Assembly budget by N3 billion, increasing it from N125 billion to N128 billion.
This is the earliest budget to pass by the National Assembly since 1999.
The 2020 budget was presented to the National Assembly on October 8, 2019 and passed on December 5, 2019. It took one month and 27 days to be passed.
In the 2017, 2018 and 2019, the National Assembly budget was kept at N125 billion from the N150 billion, which had existed for years.
Explaining the reasons for the increase in the budget, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on media and public affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) said with the increment, “it is now clear that we are not a rubber stamp legislature as many people thought.”
Briefing House correspondents, Kalu said: “You wouldn’t expect the budget to come and go the way it came. I am sure what the president presented had a, b, and c; but what is going out may have d, e and f,” adding that “the addition was to cater for critical areas of the economy.”
He said: “Beginning from now, Nigerians will believe that the 9th Assembly is walking the talk. The 9th Assembly has broken the jinx and it is not for self-glorification, but it is targeted at meeting national goals.”
The lawmaker noted that the “ball is now in the court of the executive to do the needful.
Kalu promised that in line with the amendment of section 56 of the 1999 constitution, which provides that bills passed by the National Assembly should be transmitted not later than seven days from the time of passage, the appropriation bill will be sent to the president in a few days.
The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives after clause by clause consideration of the report of the appropriation committee at the committee of supply chaired by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
Chairman of the appropriation committee, Hon. Muktar Betera (APC, Borno), while presenting the report, stated that the National Assembly of Nigeria has authorized the issue and appropriation of N10,594,362,364,830 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for 2020.
He said the 2020 Appropriation Act authorised: “The Accountant-General of the Federation shall, when authorized to do so by warrants signed by the minister charged with responsibility for finance, pay out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation during the year ending on the 31st day of December 2020, the sums specified by the warrants, not exceeding in the aggregate N10,594,362,364,830 only.”
The N10.59 trillion budget has total recurrent expenditure (non-debt) of N4.84 trillion, total capital expenditure of N2.46 trillion and N560.470 billion for statutory transfers as well debt service allocation of N2.72 trillion.
DSS frees Sowore, pays N100,000 fine as women protest nude
The Department of State Services (DSS) has released the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, after spending 124 days in their custody.
Sowore and Bakare were let off the hook of the DSS at 7:15p.m. yesterday.
They were released to their lead counsel, Femi Falana (SAN).
Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, was arrested alongside an activist, Bakare on August 3, for alleged treasonable felony, among other related charges.
Confirming Sowore’s release last night, spokesperson for the DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, said: “Yes, Sowore has been released.”
Asked if the sum of N100,000 was paid as fine, he said: “Yes, we paid the N100,000.”
They were released after Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, gave the DSS 24 hours to release the activists.
Justice Ojukwu had expressed displeasure over the act of the security agency.
Sowore and his co-defendant are facing a seven-count charge bordering on conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, money laundering and cybercrimes, amongst others.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail on October 4, in the sum of N100 million and N50 million respectively with two sureties in like sum.
For Sowore, one of the sureties, according to the judge, must deposit the sum of N50 million cash as security for the bail.
However, the court had, two weeks later, varied the bail conditions following a request to that effect.
Justice Ojukwu had signed the release of the bail of the defendants after they met the bail conditions.
But the DSS had refused to release the defendants even after evidence that they have met the conditions attached to the bail.
However, at the resumed hearing yesterday, Justice Ojukwu was infuriated that her order on the release of the defendants was yet to be obeyed.
Counsel to the defendants, Falana, had complained to the court that its order as regards release of documents and the defendants who have been granted bail and have met the attached conditions has not been complied with by the prosecution.
Falana, who told Justice Ojukwu that one month after the court ordered service of documents to be tendered on the defence, the prosecution only served the defence the documents yesterday and hence would be needing time to study the documents as well as watch the attached videos with the defendants.
He also prayed the court to direct the prosecution to serve the full statements of all listed witnesses instead of a summary statement to aid their defence.
The defendants’ counsel further told the court that he was having difficulty gaining access to his client who is still in custody of the prosecution despite meeting his bail conditions.
At this instant, Justice Ojukwu called on the prosecution counsel to explain why Sowore and Bakare were still in their custody.
Responding, prosecution counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), admitted that the order was served on the prosecution, but the defendants were yet to be released because the DSS had asked their sureties to come for identification.
Interjecting, Justice Ojukwu asked the prosecution counsel whether that request was part of the court’s order.
“Is that part of the order? Is there a parallel court here, who is directing that? Is there another court elsewhere?” the court queried.
Justice Ojukwu expressed pain that the DSS could flout her orders even after she took time to ensure that the bail conditions were met.
In a short ruling, the judge ordered that the defendants be released within the next 24 hours and adjourned to Friday, December 6 for report of compliance.
On the request for adjournment by Sowore’s counsel for time to study the documents and videos tendered as evidence against Sowore, Justice Ojukwu held that because the adjournment was created by the prosecution, she was inclined to award cost against the prosecution.
She recalled that while adjourning the matter in November, she had ordered that the prosecution serves all necessary documents it intends to tender on the defence before the commencement of trial yesterday.
“Since the last time, you did not deem it necessary to serve,” she said while refusing Liman’s claim that the late service was due to administrative bottleneck.
Justice Ojukwu subsequently awarded a cost of N100,000 against the prosecution, adding that trial would only go on upon payment of the N100,000 fine.
Meanwhile, there was a protest by some old women numbering up to about 50.
The women, who protested nude, came with different inscriptions, such as “Free Sowore”, “Enough of injustice”, among others.
There were also chanting different songs in their local dialect.
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