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We’re hungry, Nigerians cry out

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We’re hungry, Nigerians cry out

D

espite series of federal and state governments’ poverty alleviating intervention programs aimed at tackling hunger in the land, many Nigerians can still hardly get food to eat, let alone meet the human-designed three meals per day.

From Kano to Port Harcourt to Ibadan, the story is the same. There is massive hunger in the land, which clearly flies in the face of claims by the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, to the contrary.

Sunday Telegraph survey carried out in Ibadan, Kano, Port Harcourt and Lagos, clearly showed that prices of goods and services are beyond the average Nigerian.

In Kano, because of the influx of migrants from  villages, towns and even outside the shores of Nigeria, it has become difficult if not impossible for many residents to enjoy the poverty alleviation programmes as many go to bed on empty stomachs.

The price of commodities heading northwards in Kano markets with paucity of funds have combined in making many hungry.

A retired civil servant, Sani Tijjani, who now lives from hand to mouth, even though he receives a monthly pension, says he is finding it difficult to feed his family.

“The situation we are in is so desperate, the alarming hunger in the land is so glaring. You could directly feel how I’m stinking, to show you that even to wash my clothes is a big deal, talk much less of what I would eat,” he told Sunday Telegraph.

Asked to compare the situation to that of the  Civil War and post war times, Sani said presently, the condition has not reached that of the Civil War time, but he stressed that there is hunger in the land and many homes have fallen victims of the situation.

An officer working with one of the banks in Kano, but who pleaded anonymity, told our Correspondent that he used to attend to one or two persons, but now, on a daily basis, more than 10 to 15 people come to solicit for one form of assistance or the other, which he is unable to meet.

In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the situation is not different. The prices of foodstuff are going through the roof.

A community leader in Olorunsogo, Ibadan, Mr Kehinde Ayelaagbe,72, bemoaned the current state of the economy, which he attributed  to the closure of borders by the Federal Government.

He said: “The costs of goods are now too high in Nigeria. The closure of borders at this austere period is so excruciating especially to the poor masses. Our local production has not reached the level being envisaged by our leaders. But I will not blame them because many of them do not know where the shoe pinches the common man since they live in comfort zone.”

For Alhaja Sekina Bayewumi, a rice merchant at Bodija Market, Ibadan, “The closure of borders has its positive and negative effects. If Nigeria must grow, we have to strive to attain economic independence. It is only that Rome was not built in a day. We need to endure a bit, though the cost of goods is now getting very high. The Federal Government should find some means of palliatives to cushion the effects. Though it is what we buy that we sell, reasonably, things are hard these days.”

In parts of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, many are not happy with the rising cost of foodstuff. Not quite long ago in this expensive city, it was possible for some residents to arm themselves with N200 and manage to buy cooked rice, beans and a piece of beef. But currently, it is difficult to feed with N200.

A tailor in Port Harcourt, who specializes in traditional outfits, Alake Ephraim, said that the country is going down very fast and that the Federal Government should take immediate action.

Ehpraim, who also works as an estate agent, said that rice which he used to buy in bags is now bought in paint buckets because “it is too expensive.”

For one-time head, Training Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Nigerian Army, Major General Ishola Williams (rtd), there is a lot wastage in the food chain.

“Go to the markets, there is a lot of rotten food and fruits,” he said in an interview with Sunday Telegraph.

He continued: “Upper class journalists like you eat and throw away the leftovers. It is the same with leftovers from bukas, restaurants and hotels etc. How do you transfer these leftovers to the hungry or stop the waste in the food chain?

“There is always the problem of storage and keeping food from getting bad. There are greedy traders who hoard or create artificial scarcity to make illegitimate and immoral gains.”

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Reps move to abolish payment of acceptance fees in tertiary institutions

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Reps move to abolish payment of acceptance fees in tertiary institutions

The House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to “immediately” abolish the payment of acceptance fees into Tertiary Institutions in the country.
This followed a unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Rep. Chinedu Martins (PDP-Imo) during the plenary presided over by the Speaker of the house, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday.
The motion is titled “Call for Abolishment of Acceptance Fees into Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria”.
Moving the motion, Martins said that recent data from the National Universities Commission showed that only about two million people were enrolled into the universities nationwide out of a population of over 180 million.
He said that the estimates represented one per cent of the population which was an indication of the low attendance in tertiary institutions compared to other advanced countries.
The lawmaker also said additional data from the National Bureau of Statistics and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board showed that out of the 10 million applicants that sought admissions into tertiary institutions, only 26 per cent gained admissions between 2010 and 2015.
He said it was an indication that about 75 per cent of the applicants failed to gain admissions every year and also reinforced that access to tertiary education in the country was low.
“The house is concerned that one of the factors contributing to poor access to tertiary education is the predatory admission policies being enforced by tertiary institutions, particularly the requirement for payment of non-refundable acceptance fees as condition precedent for admissions.
“The house is also concerned that many federally-operated tertiary institutions charge as much as N30, 000 per student, while some states and private institutions charge significantly more, as evidenced in the following:
“University of Ibadan, N35,000; University of Lagos, N20,000;  Ahmadu Bello University, N30,000;  Imo State University, N70,000; and Lagos State University, N20,000.
“The house is further concerned that applicants are expected to pay the acceptance fees within a short deadline despite having gone through the tortuous process of paying and sitting for the Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) and making the cut off mark.
“If they are unable to meet the deadline, the applicants are surcharged for late payment with the risk of losing the offer of admissions.”
The lawmakers also said that the aspirations of prospective students would be cut short if the “exploitative admission practices of tertiary institutions in the country are left unchecked”.
The reps directed the House Committee on Tertiary Education and Services to investigate the admission policies and practices of tertiary institutions in the country.
The investigation would relate to the charge of acceptance fees and would also be in order to remove all obstacles to accessing tertiary education in the country, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

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Buhari signs Executive Order 009 ending open defecation by 2025

President Muhammadu Buhari has just signed Executive Order 009 to end open defecation in the country by 2025.
The new order, states among others, “That by this Order, Nigeria is committed to being open defecation free by 2025.
“That the National Open Defecation Free (ODF) Roadmap developed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources with support from other key sector players across Nigeria be put into effect.
“There is established in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources a National Secretariat called ‘Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat’.
“The Secretariat is authorised on behalf of the President to implement this Order by ensuring that all public places including schools, hotels, fuel stations, places of worship, market places, hospitals and offices have accessible toilets and latrines within their premises.
“All Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government shall cooperate with the Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat.
“The National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly shall enact legislation on the practice of open defecation with appropriate sanctions and penalties.”

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Customs raises fresh alarm over activities of smugglers

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Customs raises fresh alarm over activities of smugglers
  • Impounds 2.1m bottles of killer Analgin injection,1,920 bags of foreign rice

 

 

Less than five months after the closure of the nation’s borders by the Federal Government, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has raised fresh alarm over the sudden upsurge in the smuggling of contraband products  into the country.
Comptroller Kayode Olusemire in charge of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU)  Zone C of the NCS, Wednesday made the disclosure to newsmen.
The zonal controller said his men have impounded a container load of 2,127,600 bottles of Analgin injection and 1,920 bags of foreign rice and other items with a total Duty Paid Value (DPV) of over N492 million between October and November this year.
Olusemire, who took journalists round to see the seizures, also said that the Service equally seized 521 bales of second-hand clothings and 233 foreign furniture falsely declared as generators and house hold wares.
Six persons he said were arrested in connection with the importation of the the banned products.
Olusemire expressed concern that  analgin injection, said to be deadlier than tramadol and which had been banned by most advanced nations of the world including Switzerland and America, is still being imported by some Nigerians into the country in their quest to make quick money.
The Customs controller said the drug was banned in Nigeria by the Federal Government after it was discovered to have caused the death of two students of the Delta State University in 2005 and disfigured many others.

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S’African Airways running out of cash as unions seek to expand strike

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S’African Airways running out of cash as unions seek to expand strike

South African Airways (SAA) is running out of cash and could be liquidated if the government doesn’t give it additional guarantees soon, a board member said on Wednesday, as trade unions threatened to escalate a crippling strike.

State-owned SAA has racked up losses of more than 28 billion rand ($1.9 billion) over the past 13 years and wants to cut jobs as part of a turnaround plan, reports Reuters.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) called a strike at SAA last week after wage talks turned acrimonious and the airline said it planned to cut almost 20% of its staff.

On Wednesday the unions threatened to follow through with a plan to shut down South Africa’s entire aviation sector via a secondary strike.

SAA board member Martin Kingston told Reuters the strike was costing the airline around 50 million rand a day and that banks weren’t willing to lend the company more money without the government approving more state guarantees.

“We may not have enough cash to pay salaries at the end of the month, we are still investigating how we can do that,” he said. “This is a real-time discussion we are having with National Treasury and the Department of Public Enterprises. We need help imminently.”

The financial crisis at SAA is a key test of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pledge to fix bloated state firms. He needs to balance the need for cost-cutting and job cuts with deep-seated anger at the country’s 29% unemployment rate and the weak state of the economy.

A broad cross-section of society also vocally opposes any moves that could weaken the role of state firms.

SAA’s last permanent Chief Executive Vuyani Jarana resigned in June after less than two years in the job, saying his turnaround strategy was being undermined by a lack of state funding and too much bureaucracy.

The striking unions held talks with the government and SAA on Tuesday, which ended without any agreement.

NUMSA spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said there would be “no surrender”. The union had issued aviation catering firm Air Chefs with a letter of intent for a secondary strike and had secured a strike certificate for a separate issue at British Airways franchise partner Comair, she said.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said in a statement on Tuesday he was committed to saving SAA but the government was not able to offer more financial help.

Over the last three years, the government has given more than 20 billion rand of bailouts to SAA to keep it afloat.

Ramaphosa needs to halt a steep run-up in government debt if he is to preserve the country’s last investment-grade credit rating from Moody’s, which has a negative outlook.

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N1trn constituency project: Reps accuse ICPC of misleading Buhari

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N1trn constituency project: Reps accuse ICPC of misleading Buhari

The House of Representatives has accused the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) of providing misleading statistics, upon which President Muhammadu Buhari relied on to say about N1 trillion was expended on National Assembly members’ constituency projects in 10 years.

Recall that President Buhari had on Tuesday, at an event organised by office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in conjunction with the ICPC, declared that about N1 trillion was wasted during that period on National Assembly members in the form of constituency projects.

He said that data collected from Nigerians in rural communities pointed to the fact that they had not felt the impact of the said projects, as there was no commensurate result with the funds spent.

But at Wednesday’s plenary of the House, the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) raised a point of order, in which he argued that the said figures were incorrect, and breached his privileges as a member of the National Assembly.

He submitted that the budgeted figures in annual budgets do not equate to actual release of funds.

“Last year, there was release of about only 40 percent, and we are not sure if releases will be up to 50 percent this year,” he noted.

Supporting the motion, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) argued that the biggest problem with such projects was poor release of funds for their execution, adding that those who informed the president failed to take such into consideration.

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Social media bill scales second reading in Senate

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Social media bill scales second reading in Senate

A Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and for related matters 2019 passed second reading in the Senate.

This followed the presentation of the lead debate on the bill by the sponsor; Sen. Musa Sani (APC-Niger east) during Tuesday’s plenary.

Leading the debate, Sani said that the bill was a 36-clause legislative proposal to provide for the prevention of broadcast of falsehood and manipulative contents using the internet and its intermediaries for transmission.

“It prescribes sanctions to offenders with a view to deterrence and the penalty for defaulters ranges from fine of up to N300, 000.”

Sani added that the bill also provided for the issuance of regulations dealing with the transmission of false statements of facts in Nigeria upon declaration, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

“It also issues guidelines for internet intermediaries and providers of mass media services and sanctions for offenders.”

The lawmaker further said that the internet had its drawbacks one of which was the spread of falsehood and manipulation of unsuspecting users including malicious contents such as confrontational propaganda among others.

“Today, motivated by geopolitical interest and identity politics, state and non-state actors use falsehood to discredit governments and misinform people against each other.

“Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries use internet falsehood to promote their course as we have seen in Nigeria with the insurgency of Boko Haram.

“Elections around the world have seen domestic groups use misinformation to support their preferred candidates and disparage the opposition.

“In Nigeria it is particularly disconcerting given our plurality and low literacy level.

“The hoax about the demise of President Muhammadu Buhari in London and his purported replacement by one Jibril of Sudan among others are things that threaten the peace, security and harmony of our people.”

While supporting the bill, Sen. Ibrahim Gobir (APC- Sokoto East) said that there was need to regulate the internet and punish offenders.

“It is an issue we have to support,” he said.

Sen. Abba Moro (PDP-Benue South) said that the bill was one with a good intention and would protect the society.

“One way or the other we have been victims of the spread of falsehood and the manipulation of the internet has caused a lot of havoc to some of us.

“I believe it is intended to protect society against unscrupulous elements within the society.

“In this jet age, if we allow an unbridled manipulation of the internet and the spread of falsehood, society will be at the mercy of these elements.

“If we leave this to continue the way it is spreading, to take root in Nigeria, at a certain point, we may find it difficult to come to terms with the damage that it will do to society, ” he said.

He urged the senators to support the bill to be passed into law, “at least to regulate one aspect of our lives that is negative.”

Sen. Elisha Abbo (PDP- Adamawa North) said that if fake news was not regulated, “it is a cancer waiting to consume all of us.

“Even conventional media that are regulated by government are suffering from falsehood. I am supporting this bill holistically. This bill is good and if we cannot regulate the spread of falsehood, it will consume all of us,” he said.

Opposing the bill, Sen. Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP- Enugu East) said that “In principle, I not only oppose the bill, I condemn it in its entirety.

“Section 39(1) of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of information and speech, there is a cybercrime act that deals with this issue and there are also laws that have to deal with false information; libel, slander.”

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan referred the bill to the Senate Committee in Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative action and report back to the Senate in four weeks.

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White House attacks military witness in Trump impeachment probe

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White House attacks military witness in Trump impeachment probe

Inside the hearing room, U.S. Republican lawmakers repeatedly thanked Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman for his military service on Tuesday before challenging his testimony about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

But outside the ornate chamber in the House of Representatives, it was a different story, with the White House and its backers unleashing on social media a full-throated attack on the uniformed officer’s credibility and loyalty, reports Reuters.

Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran serving as the White House National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, testified before lawmakers in an ongoing impeachment inquiry led by House Democrats.

His family left the Soviet Union for the United Stateswhen he was three years old. Vindman testified that Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival was an improper demand.

“Lt. Col. Vindman was offered the position of Defense Minister for the Ukrainian Government THREE times!” Trump aide Dan Scavino wrote on Twitter.

While factually correct, Vindman told the lawmakers that as a loyal American, he would not consider such an offer. He called it “comical.”

Trump himself was dismissive when asked about Vindman on Tuesday. “I never saw the man, I understand now he wears his uniform when he goes in,” Trump said.

Vindman usually wears a suit, not his uniform, while working at the White House, one Republican lawmaker, Representative Chris Stewart, observed. It is standard practice for military officers to wear their uniforms when testifying on Capitol Hill.

Last month Trump described Vindman as a “Never Trumper,” using a term for Republicans who oppose Trump.

Republican lawmakers at the televised hearing appeared keen not to cross a line that would upset constituents with a background in military service.

“Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, I think all of us would agree that your father made the right move to come here, and we’re glad that he did,” Representative Will Hurd told Vindman in one of the warmer accolades from Intelligence Committee Republicans.

Tensions emerged, however. At one point Vindman instructed the senior committee Republican, Representative Devin Nunes, not to call him Mr. Vindman. “It’s Lieutenant Colonel Vindman please,” Vindman said.

Stewart asked: “Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?”

“I just thought it was appropriate,” Vindman replied.

Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican ally of Trump’s, said critics can question Vindman’s judgment, but should respect his service to the country.

“Every person who serves needs to be applauded for their service. But it doesn’t mean their judgment is 100% above reproach,” Meadows said outside the hearing.

Others saw the attacks on Vindman differently.

“We have never questioned the patriotism of Republicans, but today’s vile attacks on Lt. Col. Vindman, for simply doing his duty as he saw fit, leaves us truly shaken,” Will Goodwin, the Director of Government Relations for VoteVets.org, wrote on Twitter.

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Dasuki’s lawyer counters DSS over custody claim

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Dasuki’s lawyer counters DSS over custody claim

C

ounsel to the detained former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Ahmed Raji (SAN) said that his client has never wished or prayed that he be kept in the detention camp of the Department of State Services (DSS) for whatever reason.

Raji stated this contrary to the position of the DSS that Dasuki and others in its custody preferred to be kept there than in prison custody.

He, however, stressed that Dasuki is bent on pursuing his release from DSS custody.

 

 

Dasuki has been in custody of the DSS since 2015 despite being granted bail by four different courts in the country, including the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

He is standing trial on alleged diversion of funds meant for procurement of arms to fight insurgency and illegal possession of firearms.

 

 

Though he pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been granted bail, the Federal Government has refused to release him on bail even after meeting the attached bail conditions.

However, in a statement last week, spokesman of the department, Peter Afunanya told Nigerians that many of those in their custody, including Dasuki, have opted to remain in their custody, adding that they appealed to courts to be left in the custody of the Service and not the prison.

 

The reason, according to the agency, is the quality of the holding facilities provided by the DSS, all of which are purportedly good and within international standards.

 

But in a swift reaction, Raji said: “This statement, as alluring as it sounds, is a contradiction of the events that have taken place since 2015, when charges were first preferred against Col. Dasuki.”

 

Raji, whose position was contained in a statement, queried why an individual will choose to remain in custody, contrary to his constitutional and internationally enshrined fundamental human rights, and still continuously, challenge his unlawful detention at both national and international fora?

“It is, therefore, most incorrect and inaccurate to claim that Col. Dasuki prayed the Court to be kept in DSS facility.

 

 

“This is far from the truth. Perhaps, there is no synergy between the counsel appearing for the government in Dasuki matters and the DSS hierarchy.

“Consequently, we appeal to all authorities and principally – DSS, to comply with the various extant orders of the court, by immediately releasing Col. Dasuki (rtd).

 

 

Raji gave account of how Dasuki was arraigned before the various courts and consequently granted bail on all occasions.

“On 3rd November 2015, the Federal High Court – Abuja, after admitting Col. Dasuki (rtd.) to bail on self-recognizance, granted him leave to travel abroad for a three-week medical consultation, on account of failing health.

“As expected of an individual seeking to enjoy the bail terms granted by the court and the constitutionally protected presumption of innocence in his favour, Col. Dasuki (rtd.) attempted to seek the necessary medical attention, but DSS officers laid siege to his house in Asokoro, in brazen defiance of the order of court; and thereby deliberately disallowed him from accomplishing the terms of the order.

 

 

“The Federal Government, while confirming the continued detention of Col. Dasuki, explained that such actions were due to the severity of the alleged offences…

“Bail was subsequently granted on the charges on December 21, 2015 and December 18, 2015, terms of which were duly complied with.

 

 

“Consequently, he was released by the Kuje Prison authorities where he was remanded, but on stepping out of the gate of the prison, he was seized by the men of DSS and he has been kept by them since.”

Raji stressed that since the re-arrest of Col. Dasuki in December 2015, no further investigation was carried out and no new charges were preferred against him.

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Convicted fraudster pulls $1m scam from Kirikiri Prison

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Convicted fraudster pulls $1m scam from Kirikiri Prison

EFCC probes how prisoner sleeps in hotels, attends social functions

 

 

T

he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused a convict of masterminding a mega scam to the tune of over $1 million from the Kirikiri Maximum Prison in Lagos.

 

According to the commission, the convict, one  Hope Olusegun Aroke, who is serving a 24-year jail term, was one of two Malaysia-based Nigerian undergraduate internet fraud suspects arrested in 2012 at the 1004 Housing Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos following a tip- off.

 

The EFCC, in a statement by its  spokesperson, Mr. Wilson Uwujarem, said Aroke, who is an indigene of Okene, Kogi State had claimed to be a student of  Computer Science at the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University, Malaysia.

 

 

The EFCC expressed worries that the convict was able to use a network of accomplices, some of whom it insisted, were targets of fraud and money laundering investigation.

 

 

“A convicted internet fraudster, Hope Olusegun Aroke, who is serving a 24-year jail term at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison in Lagos, is again the subject of investigation by the commission for being the alleged mastermind of a mega scam to the tune of over $1 million.

“He allegedly pulled the heist right from prison using a network of accomplices, some of them targets of fraud and money laundering investigation.

 

 

“The lid on his latest fraud exploits from the bowels of the Maximum Correctional Centre was blown following intelligence received by the EFCC.

 

 

“The immediate riddle that confronted the EFCC was how it was possible for the convict to continue to ply his ignoble trade of Internet fraud from prison,” Uwujarem said.

 

 

According to the anti-graft agency, “Preliminary investigation revealed that the convict, against established standard practice, had access to Internet and mobile phone in the Correctional Centre where he is supposed to be serving his jail term.

 

 

“Even more puzzling was the finding that Aroke got himself admitted to the Nigeria Police Hospital, Falomo, Lagos for an undisclosed ailment. And from the hospital, he would move out to lodge in hotels, meet with his wife and two children and attend other social functions.

 

 

“The circumstance of his admission into the hospital and those who aided his movement from the hospital to hotels and other social engagements is already being investigated by the EFCC.”

 

 

The commission further stated that the suspect, while serving a jail term, used a fictitious name, Akinwunmi Sorinmade, to open two accounts with two banks. He also bought a property at Fountain Spring Estate, Lekki Lagos in 2018 for N22 million and a Lexus RX 350 2018 model registered in his wife’s name, Maria Jennifer Aroke.

 

 

“The convict was also in possession of his wife’s bank account token in prison, which he used to freely transfer funds.

 

 

“Further investigation revealed that, while his trial was ongoing in 2015, Aroke bought a four bedroom duplex at Plot 12, Deji Fadoju Street, Megamounds Estate Lekki County Homes, Lekki for N48 million.”

 

 

EFCC further disclosed that the commission’s investigation revealed that he was the leader of an intricate web of Internet fraud scheme that traversed two continents.

 

 

“When Aroke was arrested, a search conducted by EFCC operatives on his apartment led to the recovery of several items such as laptops, iPad, travelling documents, cheque books, flash drives, Internet modem, and three exotic cars – a Mercedes Benz Jeep, One 4Matic Mercedes Benz Car and a Range Rover Sport SUV.

 

 

“He was eventually convicted by Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court on two counts of obtaining money by false pretence, cheque cloning, wire transfer and forgery. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on each of the two counts,” Uwujarem said.

 

 

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PDP NWC splits over extension of Reps’ suspension

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PDP NWC splits over extension of Reps’ suspension

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embers of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have disagreed over the extension of the one-month suspension of seven of its members in the House of Representatives over the minority leadership of the parliament.

 

 

PDP had, in July this year, suspended Reps Ndudi Elumelu, Wole Oke, Lynda Ikpeazu, Anayo Edwin, Gideon Gwadi, Toby Okechukwu and Adekoya Abdul-Majid, for going against the decisions of the party by presenting themselves to the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as minority leaders.

 

 

The party had earlier chosen Kingsley Chinda as Minority Leader; Chukwuka Onyema, Deputy Minority Leader; Yakubu Barde, Minority Whip and Muraina Ajibola, Deputy Minority Whip.

 

 

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said the action of Elumelu and other suspended members bordered on “indiscipline, insubordination and disobedience of party directives contrary to Section 58 (1)(b)(c)(f)(h) of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017).”

 

 

He said the provision of the constitution gives the NWC the power “to discipline any member who says or does anything likely to bring the party into disrepute, hatred or contempt; disobeys or neglects to carry out lawful directives of the party or any organ or officer of the party; engages in anti-party activities; or engages in any conduct likely to cause disaffection among members of the party or is likely to disrupt the peaceful, lawful and efficient conduct of the business of the party.”

 

 

Ologbondiyan further disclosed that the suspended members had been referred to the party’s disciplinary committee headed by Chief Tom Ikimi.

The committee is yet to submit its report.

 

 

The Board of Trustees (BoT) also set up the Iyorchia Ayu Committee to intervene in the matter.

The committee submitted its report, which was deliberated upon by the board two months ago and forwarded to the NWC.

 

 

But in a recent advertorial, Ologbondiyan said the NWC has extended the suspension of Elumelu and others.

 

 

A party source, however, said this action has not gone down well with some members of NWC who argued that there is no such provision in the PDP constitution.

 

 

The source, who pleaded anonymity, said their argument was that before such extension could be effected, it must be based on the report of the disciplinary committee.

 

 

According to him, two members of NWC, in separate interviews, dissociated themselves and the NWC from the extension.

One of the members from South-West said he was not aware of the extension. “I do not remember any occasion where it was elongated.

“I am only aware that they were suspended only one month. After that, I am not aware of any further action.

 

 

“I am an integral part of NWC, but I am telling you that to the best of my knowledge, I am aware that they were suspended for one month and that was about six months ago,” he was quoted to have said, adding that the suspension ought to have elapsed after the first one month.

Another NWC member from South-East said the party’s constitution says recommendation of the disciplinary committee would be the basis for the next line of action.

 

 

“If you recommend that they will be expelled, they will be expelled. If they say suspend, you suspend them. If they say fine, you fine them. You do not just elongate, the constitution did not say elongate after the one month.

“And anybody who is saying that we elongated, you can ask the person where lies the report of the committee set up,” he advised.

 

 

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N1trn wasted on constituency projects in 10 years –Buhari

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N1trn wasted on constituency projects in 10 years –Buhari

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resident Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, disclosed that the Federal Government, in the last 10 years, spent a total of N1 trillion on constituency projects across the country without any impact on the lives and welfare of ordinary citizens.

This was as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) gave insight into how politicians use empowerment and capacity building projects to steal public funds.

 

 

The President, who spoke at a National Summit on “Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service” in Abuja, lamented that corruption remains the major cause of many problems being faced by the country.

“It is a catalyst for poverty, insecurity, weak educational system, poor health facilities and services and many other ills of our society,” he stressed.

 

 

The event was organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

Buhari urged the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Special Crimes Court Bill and the judiciary to embrace and support the creation of Special Crimes Court.

 

 

He noted that the passage of the Bill was a specific priority of his administration’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan 2017-2020.

“It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1 trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects, yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen.

“The first phase report of tracking these projects by ICPC confirms our worst fears that people at the grassroots have not benefited in terms of commensurate huge sums appropriated for constituency projects since inception,” the President added.

Buhari commended the ICPC for successfully blocking over N9 billion from being diverted in 2019 personnel budget.

 

 

The commission had recently conducted System Studies and Review of many MDAs to evaluate systems and processes relating to transparency and accountability in personnel and capital spending during which the diversion of the amount was blocked.

According to the President, the fight against corruption is not only for government and anti-corruption agencies alone since there is need for all arms and tiers of government to develop and implement the anti-corruption measures.

 

 

He said: “I invite the legislative and judicial arms of government to embrace and support the creation of Special Crimes Court that Nigerians have been agitating for to handle corruption cases.”

While recalling his recent directive to all agencies of government to enroll into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the President directed ICPC to beam its searchlight on public institutions that are yet to comply.

He noted that the new directive on IPPIS was intended to halt the padding of personnel budgets and the diversion or misappropriation of capital budgets.

 

 

“I am aware that the commission recently conducted System Studies and Review of many MDAs to evaluate systems and processes relating to transparency and accountability in personnel and capital spending through which you successfully blocked over N9 billion from being diverted from 2019 personnel budget.

 

 

“That was a proactive prevention measure. I have directed that all agencies of government must get on the IPPIS in order to eliminate the padding of personnel budgets,” he said.

The President also used the occasion, which marked the launch of the Constituency Projects Transparency Group (CPTG) Report Phase One, to reiterate his appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians to join in the fight against corruption.

Buhari further expressed delight that through the effort of ICPC, some contractors are returning to site to execute projects hitherto abandoned and that project sponsors are being held to account.

On asset recovery, the President reaffirmed that his administration will continue to support anti-corruption agencies to recover all ill-gotten wealth and prosecute offenders, adding that all fully recovered physical assets will be sold and the proceeds remitted to the treasury.

 

 

In his remarks, Chairman of the ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said empowerment and capacity building projects were very popular among the people, yet vulnerable to abuse and very difficult to track.

“We find that almost 50 per cent of budgetary allocations to zonal intervention projects go to these opaque activities. Empowerment items are sometimes stashed away by sponsors and not distributed till following budget cycle.

 

 

“In some cases, same items are re-budgeted and duplicated. The subsequent budget release is then diverted.

“These anomalies are why the effort of government in creating jobs is not showing because the money for empowerment and capacity building simply disappears,” he said.

 

 

According to him, the findings emerged from the ICPC’s constituency projects tracking exercise covering the period from 2015 to 2018.

The ICPC boss said it was also discovered that some lawmakers or project sponsors hid project sites from contractors in cases where the contracts were not awarded to their preferred companies.

“In other cases, constituency projects were sited on private property of sponsors without transferring title to the community,” he stated.

Owasanoye added that in yet other cases, some project sponsors directly converted procured items to private use.

 

 

“Community awareness is very low, thus communities distance themselves from projects designed for their benefit through public funds.

 

 

“Many community members believe that sponsors pay for projects from their personal funds   rather than from public treasury. Thus, they are beholden to the sponsor rather than claim their rights,” he said.

The ICPC chairman said based on the findings, the commission observed that N3.9 billion was provided for zonal intervention projects in 2019, but not tied to particular projects or sectors.

Also, the ICPC identified two agencies it alleged are mostly used to pad the budget.

 

 

They are the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

“We discovered that some agencies of government are favourites for embedding of constituency projects irrespective of their core mandate and capacity to deliver or supervise projects.

“The attraction appears to be either corrupt tendencies within such agencies or the inherent weaknesses within them.

“Most notorious in this regard are BCDA and SMEDAN,” he said.

 

 

According to him, it was discovered that MDAs duplicate contracts for projects using the same description, narrative, amount and location of award.

He said the aim was to ensure that either the amounts allocated for the projects remained within the approval threshold of the executing agency or allocations were diverted to sponsors of the projects.

Owasanoye said the Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIPS) from 2015-2018 enjoyed annual captive budgetary vote of N100 billion.

 

 

He said the CPTG initiative comprised representatives of the Budget Office, Accountant General, BPP, Auditor-General, members of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, representatives of the civil society and the media.

 

 

Owasanoye said: “By this initiative, we have tracked and seen to completion in the pilot phase 255 projects out of 424 projects in 12 states spread across the six geo-political zones.

 

 

“The total appropriation for the selected projects was N24.32 billion, out of which N22.27 billion was awarded in contracts. By monitoring the projects and enforcing completion, we saved government about N2 billion in recovery of diverted assets, such as equipment for schools, hospitals, farms, water or energy projects, marginal improvement from use or supply of substandard materials, recovery of money from over valuation, identification of vulnerabilities and preventive measure for future projects.

“We forced 34 contractors back to site in the selected states and a cumulative number of 200 contractors back to site across the country in states where we have not commenced enforcement activities.”

 

A highpoint of the event was President Buhari’s presentation of Integrity Award to Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Abubakar and Mrs. Josephine Ugwu of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

Abubakar rejected $412,000 (N150 million) per container bribe offered to him by drug traffickers to import 40 containers laden with Tramadol.

 

Ugwu, a former cleaner at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos had, on different occasions, returned millions of naira found in the course of her duty, including the sum of $12 million forgotten in the toilet by an airport user.

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