HUMAN rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday, expressed worry that the 2023 general elections could be jeopardised because some parts of the country are experiencing what he described as a civil war.
Also, former president of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, has advocated true federalism and immediate reform in the judicial system, among others.
The duo said this at the final sitting of the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution South-West Zonal Public Hearing, Lagos Center, held in Ikeja.
In his presentation, Falana condemned the rate of impunity in the country.
This, however, came on a day the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, described the ongoing process of amending the 1999 Constitution as an exercise in futility that cannot achieve any meaningful result.
But Falana, in his presentation, said: “Our country is ruled by the rule of the rulers, and not rule of law. People commit all manner of crime and get away with it because there are no sanctions. This must change. The Social Security Bill must also work, so that jobless people can get stipends, pending when they get full employment.
“What can we do very quickly to save this country which is on the verge of collapse? If you don’t want people to break away from Nigeria, we must give them confidence and a sense of belonging, don’t declare war.
“Therefore, for the constitutional amendment to be fruitful, for us to have genuine outputs from this meeting, peace must reign. We must address Nigeria’s problem frontally. We must also give people the confidence of peace and inclusion if we must kill the cries for secession. Don’t declare war.
“In fact, in some parts of the country, the 2023 elections are already threatened.
“INEC offices are being burnt, police stations are being burnt. In that kind of atmosphere, we cannot pretend that there is political stability in our country.
“Essentially, I am making a case for the poor, the masses of our people who are generally not represented in fora of this nature which are most times for the elites and privileged among our people.
“Unless we are prepared to make these provisions justiciable and enforceable, this country will know no peace.
“Whatever constitution will come forth after now must make justiciable the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state without which there will be no political stability in Nigeria.”
Also speaking, Mr. Olanipekun, represented by his son, Oladapo, said the Electoral Act should be amended to allow governorship election cases to terminate at the Supreme Court.
This, he said, is important to stem the tide of conflicting judgments arising from Appeal Courts.
Constitution Review waste of public funds —Afenifere
Meanwhile, Afenifere’s Secretary-General, Mr. Sola Ebiseni, who addressed newsmen in Akure, said an amendment of the constitution will not cure the anomalies in the country.
Ebiseni said: “Afenifere believes in and advocates fundamental restructuring of Nigeria for the reinvention of a constitution as the agreed principles of governing Nigeria and its diverse ethnic nationalities by our founding fathers, which will ultimately replace the imposed 1999 unitary constitution.
“Amending the constitution is an exercise in futility and a waste of time and public fund.”
Besides, he said: “We cannot claim to be the Federal Republic and be governed by a unitary constitution. We cannot claim to be in a democracy and be governed by a constitution that does not emanate from the people.
“Amendment will not cure the anomalies. You cannot put something on anything and expect it to stand.
“Every session of the two arms of the National Assembly, since 2007, has embarked on the same jamboree of constitutional amendment spending public funds on public hearings, without any result.
“The National Assembly is part of the issue to be determined in the process of restructuring and cannot legitimately be the judge in such exercise.
Lagos Assembly moves to end open grazing, considers VAT bill
The Lagos State House of Assembly says the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill, when passed will ensure harmonious relationships between herders and farmers in the state.
The assembly made this known after the bill was read on the floor of the house for the second time, by the Acting Clerk, Olalekan Onafeko, at plenary on Monday.
It said the bill would also protect the environment of the state and the South-west zone.
The House also read for the first and second time, the state’s Value Added Tax (VAT) bill, and asked the Committee on Finance, which was handling it to report back on Thursday.
The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, who described the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill’ as timely, thereafter, committed the bill to the committee on agriculture for public hearing.
The speaker also suggested that the bill should make provision for the registration of herders, and prepare them for ranching.
“Allocating parcel of land is not enough, but there should also be training for those who will go into ranching, as ranching is expensive and requires adequate preparation,” he added.
Concerning the VAT bill, the speaker said it would further lead to an increase in revenue and infrastructural development.
”This is in line with fiscal federalism that we have been talking about,” he said.
Mr Obasa said the VAT law, when passed, would help the state meet challenges in its various sectors.
He also urged the Lagos State government to do everything legally possible, to ensure the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, was sustained even up to the Supreme Court.
The speaker lamented a situation where about N500 billion would be generated from the state, while N300 billion was generated from other South-west states, but paltry amounts would be disbursed to Lagos State in return.
Mr Obasa said it was an opportunity for the state to emphasise again, the need for the consideration of true federalism.
Speaking earlier on the bill on open grazing, Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) lamented that farmers had continuously become afraid to visit their farms, thus causing shortage of food.
Mr Yusuff also said many farmers had become indebted, as they now found it difficult to pay back loans they secured.
His position was supported by Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2) who noted that the bill would ensure peaceful coexistence, reduce crime and help to guide the activities of herders.
Olumoh Lukeman (Ajeromi-Ifelodun 1) suggested that the high court should be made to handle cases from enforcement of the bill when passed, or that the state should establish special courts for such purpose.
Also, Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti-Osa 1) expressed support for the bill, noting that it would give a level of security to the state and help reduce economic losses.
He added that Lagos had 250 hectares of land in Ikorodu and another 750 hectares in Epe for ranching.
David Setonji (Badagry II), said: “There was a time we went on oversight function in a school here in Lagos. We were embarrassed by cattle. We had to wait for the herder to move the cattle before we embarked on our oversight function.”
Mr Setonji suggested a collaboration between the Neighbourhood Safety Corps and the police, in the implementation of the law when passed and assented to.
Other lawmakers who contributed during the plenary were Adedamola Kasunmu (Ikeja II), Rasheed Makinde Ifako Ijaiye II), and Sanni Okanlawon (Kosofe I).
Ngige: FG to recover millions wrongly paid to 588 doctors
The federal government says it is planning to recover “millions of naira wrongly paid to 588 medical doctors” across the country.
While fielding questions from state house correspondents, Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, said the affected doctors wrongly benefitted from the medical residency training fund meant for a particular category of doctors.
The minister said the names of the doctors were uncovered after a scrutinisation of the 8000 names submitted by chief medical directors of federal government health institutions for the training programme.
Ngige said a substantial amount of the money has been refunded by some of the affected doctors while efforts are being intensified to recover the remaining balance.
He said the delay in making the refund by the affected doctors is holding back the residency fund payment by the government.
“Ministry of health has gotten the list of doctors who supposedly are to benefit from the medical residency training fund,” he said.
“Total submission of about 8000 names were gotten and the ministry of health is scrutinising them.
“We have done the first round of scrutinisation and they will now compare what they have with the Post-Graduate Medical College and the chief medical directors who submitted the names.
“The Association of Resident Doctors, in each of the tertiary centres, worked with the CMDs to produce those names, but now that the names are being verified.
“We discovered that about 2000 names shouldn’t be there because they don’t have what is called Postgraduate Reference Numbers of National Postgraduate Medical College and (or) that of the West African Postgraduate Medical College.
“So, this is it and that is the only thing holding back the residency fund payment because it is there already for incurred expenditure has been done by the finance minister and it’s in the accountant-general’s office.”
“So, once they verify the authenticity of those they are submitting, the Accountant-General will pay.
“We are doing that verification because we do not want what happened last time in 2020 to reoccur.
“In 2020, the submitted names didn’t come through the appropriate source, which is the Postgraduate Medical College and payment was affected and it was discovered that about 588 persons, who were not resident doctors benefited from such money.
“They are now finding it difficult to make the full refund. But they have to refund that money. Some are refunding, but there is no full consideration of the account.
“That account has to be reconciled to enable the accountants pay the next round of funding for 2021.”
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on strike for a month over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.
Efforts by stakeholders, including the national assembly, to mediate between the federal government and the resident doctors have not yielded results.
Insecurity: Kaduna suspends weekly market, bans livestock transportation
The Kaduna State government has suspended trading at the popular weekly Kawo market.
The order on Thursday came days after the government suspended similar markets in five other local government areas of the state.
Kawo market is one of the largest weekly markets in Kaduna North.
It is located in the same area as the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the Hassan Usman Katsina House popularly know as State House and the Legislative Quarters.
According to a statement by the state commissioner of Internal Security and Homeland Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, on Thursday, “the Kawo weekly market which usually holds every Tuesday in Kaduna North LGA has been suspended with immediate effect”.
“The Government of Kaduna State wishes to highlight that the previous directives suspending weekly markets, and selling of petrol in jerrycans in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kajuru LGAs, as well as banning the felling of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal and other commercial purposes in Birnin Gwari, Kachia, Kajuru, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru LGAs, are still in force.
“Citizens are hereby informed that all these directives will be vigorously enforced by security agencies.”
Also, the statement said the state government banned the transportation of livestock.
“The ban also prohibits the transportation of livestock into Kaduna state from other states. Both bans take effect immediately, from today 2nd September 2021.
“The government also wishes to reiterate that the transportation of donkeys into the state is a criminal offence and anyone found engaging in this will be prosecuted accordingly.”
Kawo Market ban
Many traders who spoke with news men in Kaduna welcomed the suspension of the weekly Kawo market.
Apart from the larger weekly trading, trading also takes place daily among residents of the neighbourhood.
Danladi Bala, a grain transporter, said the state government’s decision to suspend weekly trading in the market is right.
“Yes, we are traders here, but the recent suspension of weekly markets in other local government areas will make the Kawo market the target for criminal activities. They will all come here. It is a wise decision from the government,” he said.
Hajiya Mama, a trader, also said she was not suprised by the announcement.
“I trade in the market, but in the last two weeks we have been witnessing the influx of traders with large commodities.
“With the closure of weekly markets in Zamfara and other part of the state, this market will be an option for good or bad traders,” she said.
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