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COVID-19: Presidency, Ndume fight over fraud allegations

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COVID-19: Presidency, Ndume fight over fraud allegations

The presidency and the Senator representing Borno South Senatorial Distinct, Ali Ndume, exchanged hot words on Friday over the latter’s allegations of fraud in the Federal Government’s handling of funds meant to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on poor Nigerians.

In a statement signed by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the Presidency took a swipe at the lawmaker for alluding that some unnamed functionaries in the government had been involved in sundry transgressions and also for launching an unbridled attack on the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq.

Ndume had during a recent media briefing in Borno State upbraided the Federal Government’s Relief Committee on Coronavirus (COVID-19), headed by Farouq, describing the processes adopted by the panel as less than transparent. He went ahead to call on President Buhari to disband it.

However, the Presidency took exceptions to Ndume’s verbal attack on Federal Government’s efforts, pointing out that blank accusations, without convincing evidence, was not a way to help a government that is fighting to stay above a global pandemic.

But Ndume has insisted that federal authorities were abusing palliatives meant to cushion the harsh economic effects of the lockdown in parts of the country as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that his call for the immediate sack of the present COVID-19 Palliatives Committee headed by Farouq remained very valid and imperative.

In the statement, titled ‘Senator Ali Ndume should figure out his mentioned ‘kleptocrats’ around the President or be quiet’, the Presidency charged Ndume, as well as other citizens, to join hands with the government in the fight to halt the ravaging coronavirus.

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The statement read in part:

“When he was first elected President in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari said that he belonged to everybody and belonged to nobody. What was true then remains true today.

“He believes in public service, as a servant of the people – and he expects the exact same commitment from members of his government and, of course, his closest aides.

“The President has made it clear times without number that anyone who will not, cannot or does not pull his weight – nor meet these exacting standards – is not welcomed in his administration. A number of ranking officials have been shown the way out at various times simply on account of this.

“Similarly, he believes in loyalty and truthfulness. Should any individual be found to be serving themselves and not the people, then it is right and proper to call them out. But this must be done on the basis of evidence and proof – not on conjecture.

“It is therefore disappointing to hear a politician call out unnamed individuals in the administration and accuse them of unnamed transgressions.

“If this politician has evidence, then he should make public their identities as well as his proof. Innuendo is not proof.

“Similarly, simply claiming that the COVID-19 Palliative Measures Committee is not functioning as it should is not the same as presenting proof for such a claim. No one replaces an institutional government body in the midst of the global pandemic without clear and irrefutable evidence that it needs replacing.

“A press briefing from a discontented politician is rarely the source of such evidence. At this difficult time of the battle by Nigeria against Coronavirus, everyone should help the fight and not seek to make political capital out of it, whatever his or her grievances.”

In an interview in response to the reaction from the Presidency to his earlier criticisms, Ndume said he stood by his observations and recommendations as far as palliatives distribution arising from COVID-19 was concerned.

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But the lawmaker noted that he was not ready to join issues with anybody having made his observations known.

“I’m not ready to join issues with anybody on palliatives distribution, having made my observations known based on information I got from the grassroots as a grassroots person. I have made my position known on the programme and I stand by it,” Ndume said.

Ndume had last Thursday in Maiduguri picked holes in the way and manner the distribution of palliatives to indigent Nigerians was being handled by the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry.

He said the emergency national assignment should be taken away from the ministry and given to a fresh committee that would use governors of the 36 states as links of distribution across the federation.

Ndume had said: “My concern is the manner and the way the COVID-19 palliative measures provided by the president is being handled or executed. We have received numerous complaints and it is actually very unfortunate.

“In fact, left to me, I am strongly calling for the humanitarian committee headed by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs to be dissolved with immediate effect and the President should as a matter of urgency form a task force that would deal with the issue of palliatives, headed by the military, police, civil defence, voluntary organisations and the NYSC among others.”

According to Ndume, the

“taskforce should be formed as taskforce committee headed by the governor of each state, and those materials or cash be allocated and distributed house to house, instead of the fake or dubious way they have been handling the matter by just going to Television House or Government House to demonstrate.

“If you see a minister or big person in anywhere going personally to do something, then know that there is something wrong. If not, what has the minister got to do with going from state to state to distribute palliatives. They should be in the ministry monitoring the activities.”

He had equally lamented that “while the pitiable situation of the poor is visible to everyone, few individuals are rushing to squander the money meant for the poor.”

“We have reliable information that the names they generated are fake and that they connived with some of the banks to defraud the poor. It is better to stop the exercise because it is full of lies and if the President doesn’t do something to stop it now, we will end up investigating and later on going back and forward to the court.”

 

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Nigeria Update

Cancellation of WASSCE will truncate future of Nigerian children – Reps

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The House of Representatives on Friday said the cancellation of the West African Senior Secondary School Examinations [WASSCE] will truncate the future of Nigerian children.

WuzupNigeria reports that the examination, administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and held yearly in May, was postponed indefinitely in April after schools were shut down across the country in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, announced during a media briefing on July 6 that the examination will now take place between August 4 and September 5.

But the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, on Wednesday 8 July 2020 at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled examination, saying he would prefer that “Nigerian students lose an academic year than to expose them to dangers” of COVID-19.

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He added that the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) cannot determine the resumption date of schools for Nigeria.

But the Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education, Prof Julius Ihonbvare, who made the position of the House known in a statement in Abuja said the announcement by the minister was done without due consultation with relevant stakeholders in the education sector.

He said the Education Minister did not inform the country if his decision was in agreement with other West African leaders or in consultation with the examination bodies, the state governments and other stakeholders in the education sector.

He said:

“The minister also did not also inform the public, if the decision was the outcome of a meeting with all state governments that are in charge of all, but the unity secondary schools that are owned by the federal government.

“The Minister of State, in his usually consultative and participatory approach, had briefed the nation at the COVID 19 Presidential Committee briefing over the airwaves and in an appearance before the House Committee on Basic Education where he assured Nigerians that all steps had or were being taken to ensure full compliance with all COVID 19 protocols.

“This sudden policy reversal is not good for the country. It is bound to create further confusion in the education sector, create disappointment and suspicion among parents, frustrate the students and show to our development partners and Nigerians that the distortions and disarticulations in the sector are only getting worse.

“The reversal also shows that our policymakers may just be adopting a laid-back approach to the need to confront the novel coronavirus rather than taking proactive and creative steps to manage and contain it.

“The House Committee disagrees with the minister and believes that a reconsideration is urgently needed to save our educational system on the following grounds that Nigeria is not the only country expected to write the examination in the midst of Covid-19.

“Nigeria should insist that the examination be based exclusively on the already covered syllabus of schools; the Federal Ministry should not chicken out of its responsibilities but take charge, provide policy direction, engage the states and other stakeholders, while the WAEC should quadruple its invigilators and use all classrooms and event centres to conduct the examination and comply with Covid-19 protocols.”

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Ondo deputy gov asks court to jail 26 lawmakers for contempt

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BREAKING: Ondo Deputy gov, Agboola dumps APC for PDP

The Ondo State Deputy Governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi, has asked the Federal High Court in Akure to jail the 26 members of the state House of Assembly for contempt.

Ajayi, in his suit filed on Friday, specifically asked the court to impose one-year imprisonment on the 26 lawmakers for “deliberately plotting and executing plans to impeach him” despite his suit filed at the Abuja division of the court challenging the impeachment process.

The deputy governor also asked the court to set aside all the actions so far taken by the lawmakers, including the impeachment notice issued against him on July 7, 2020, since he filed his suit on June 26, 2020.

Members of the state House of Assembly loyal to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu were said to have started plotting on impeachment process after Ajayi left the All Progressives Congress, the platform on which he was elected along with the governor, in 2016, for the Peoples Democratic Party.

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Fourteen of the lawmakers had on July 7, 2020, signed the notice of impeachment of the deputy governor while nine others opposed it.

But the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, rejected the formal request by the 14 lawmakers for her to set up an impeachment panel to investigate the deputy governor.

But Ajayi, through his lawyers, Dr Joshua Olatoke (SAN) and Babs Akinwumi, on Friday, contended that the legislators’ action of continuing with the impeachment process despite his pending suit was aimed at bringing the court to disrepute.

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He stated in an affidavit filed in support of the suit:

“On July 7, 2020, at the sitting of the Ondo State House of Assembly, the alleged contemners issued an impeachment notice against me, despite the pendency of suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/684/2020 and have vowed to continue with the illegality.

“Copies of newspaper reportage of the illegality of issuance of the notice are hereto attached and marked as Exhibit DG4.

“I verily believe that the action/conduct of the alleged contemners is to foist a fait accompli on the court, to render the outcome of suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/684/2020 nugatory and bring the court to disrepute.

He, therefore, sought among others;

“An order of this honourable court committing the 1st to 26th alleged contemners (the 26 lawmakers) to prison for a term of 1 (one) year or as the court may otherwise determine for the reason of the criminal contempt committed by the alleged contemner by deliberately plotting and executing plans to impeach the applicant despite the pendency of suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/684/2020 and despite having notice of the said suit.”

He also sought an order “nullifying and/or setting aside all the actions taken so far by the 1st to 26th alleged contemners in their attempt to impeach the applicant, starting from July 7, 2020.”

He sought another order restraining the lawmakers “from proceeding with the impeachment proceedings against the applicant.”

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Amaechi celebrates old Rivers’ governor, Ada-George at 80

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Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has described Rufus Ada-George, a former Governor of old Rivers, comprising Bayelsa and Rivers states, as an exemplary leader and a father to all.

Amaechi, the immediate past Governor of Rivers said this in a statement, on Friday in Abuja, to commemorate the 80th birthday anniversary of Ada-George, the Peripelebo 1 of Okrika.

“As governor of Rivers state, you raised leaders, you created opportunities for growth in politics for many of us.

“You are a father figure to many of us who served in the government of Rivers state.

“You left indelible footprints in the state and opened up a path for us to follow.

“On this occasion of your 80th birthday, I pray God to grant you more life, good health, grace, peace and joy.

“I wish you a very happy birthday,’’ Amaechi said.

NAN

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