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Senate Rules Out Calls For New Constitution

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The Senate said yesterday it cannot give Nigeria a brand new constitution, as demanded by some socio-political and cultural organisations in the country, saying the best it could do was to amend the existing one as it was currently doing.

It will be recalled that the Southern and Middle Belt Forum had repeatedly argued that the National Assembly was wasting its time amending the present constitution, contending that what the country needs is a new constitution written by the people.

‘NASS has no powers to issue new constitution’But speaking yesterday at the opening of a two- day National Public Hearing on the further Alteration to the Provisions of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, in Abuja yesterday, Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman, Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Ovie Omo- Agege (APC, Delta Central), said though the Senate respects the opinion of some persons who want a new constitution, a section of the constitution does not give the National Assembly the powers to produce a brand new constitution.

Omo-Agege, who assured Nigerians that the committee would be guided strictly by best legislative practices, highest ethical standards, integrity, open mindedness, and patriotism, however, implored every one, irrespective of political leanings and other affiliations, to abide by the same standards in their contributions.

Omo-Agege said he is of the strong conviction that it is the desire of every Nigerian that the ongoing process produce positive transformations to our country, adding that all hands should be on deck to enable the 9th National Assembly bequeath to the country a constitution that speaks to every citizen’s yearnings and aspirations.

He said: “Now, some of our compatriots have urged that rather than amend the constitution, we should make a new constitution all together.

We respect this opinion, and we believe it is a most desirable proposition. “However, we are conducting this exercise in accordance with the extant legal order, which is the 1999 Constitution. Specifically, Section 9 of the constitution empowers the National Assembly to alter the provisions of the constitution and prescribes the manner in which it is to be done.

“Unfortunately, it does not make similar provision or provide mechanism for replacing or re-writing an entirely new constitution.

To embark on any process without prior alteration of Section 9 of the constitution to provide the mode through which an entirely new constitution could be made, will amount to gross violation of our oath of allegiance to the constitution.

‘Fresh amendment needed for new constitution’ In other words, it will take a new constitutional amendment to be able to give Nigerians a most desired new constitution. It would be unconstitutional to do otherwise.

“Cognisant of the truth that the will of the people is the foundation of any democratic and open society, the Senate places high value on public participation in the law-making process.

And I assure you, this committee is strongly committed to its obligations to facilitate public involvement in the constitution review process. “That is why we have, from the commencement of the process, invited written submissions from citizens, governmental organizations, interest groups, socio-cultural organizations and civil society organisations and subsequently held zonal public hearings.

“Today, this national public hearing is testament to that commitment, and provides another opportunity for citizens to be actively involved by contributing to decisions that will undoubtedly have impact on their lives.

“So far, the committee is immensely impressed with the public response to the constitution amendment exercise, and we are eager to repay the confidence of Nigerians by ensuring that the final product reflects the inputs citizens have made to the process.

“As I have stated repeatedly since inception of this committee, Nigerian citizens are the pillar upon which the committee’s work is anchored, and the success of the amendment process will largely depend on their beneficent support and partnership.

“In addition to the memoranda the committee has received on a broad range of issues, we have also studied and engaged a select group of competent and non-partisan consultants to further examine specific recommendations from the reports of the 2014 National Conference and the All-Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism requiring constitution amendment for implementation.

“The committee has also revisited some of the bills in past constitution amendment exercises which did not pass the hurdles of concurrence with the House of Representatives, ratification by State Houses of Assembly and Presidential assent.

“We have painstakingly re-examined those bills and reintroduced some of the proposals we deem beneficial to our people. We are looking at them to determine at what stage of the process they fell off the list and the reasons thereof, with a view to improving on them to suit the demands of our time and ensuring that they do not suffer the same fate.

“As we work towards an inclusive amendment process underpinned by the public good, free from manipulations by self-interested or partisan actors and not dominated by destructive or short-term motives, I encourage you all to make your inputs with candour and guided very importantly by national interest. We are ready to listen closely to every view and reflect on every proposal and give due consideration to every contribution.”

Abuja’s status triggers strong reactions

At yesterday’s public hearing at the Africa Hall, International Conference Centre, Abuja, the very serious issue of land ownership and stateless status of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, reared its head strongly as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Musa Mohammed Bello, and original inhabitants of Abuja disagreed on fundamental issues with regard to the future of Abuja.When it was the turn of the FCTA minister to speak, he was more concerned about having new provisions in the constitution that will clearly demarcate the Federal Capital City for effective administration and prevent constant frictions in its functions and powers with that of the larger Abuja Municipal Councils, especially in the area of tax collection.But the original inhabitants of Abuja in their presentation, called for more access to political power at the centre, with a provision that will guarantee them a ministerial slot.
Abuja indigenes demand own stateLed by their chairman, Dalhatu Ezekiel Musa, the original settlers of Abuja noted that anything short of having their own state would amount to gross injustice against them, adding that while some sections of the country are currently agitating to exit Nigeria, they are pleading to be included.

NLC wants removal of immunity clauses

In its presentation to the committee, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, which made a strong case for removal of immunity clause for elected public office holders on criminal cases, said the minimum wage should be retained on exclusive list.

The NLC, which threw its weight behind calls for full local government autonomy, independence of the judiciary, and financial autonomy for state legislature, said it was in support of electronic and diaspora voting, as well as pension on the exclusive legislative list.

CAN lists demands

On its part, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, called for proper definition of an indigene and residency, creation of new states like Sourthern Kaduna/ Kataf/ Gurara, Adada State from present Enugu State, Cross River North State, Okun State, Okigwe State, Oke- Ogun, among others, for administrative impartment and governmental dividends, independence of the Judiciary.

According to CAN, the secularity of Nigeria must be maintained and there must be the removal of any religious provisions or if need be, insert also constitutional provisions for Ecclesiastical Courts.It added that there should be devolution and decentralisation of power and governance system through formal introduction of geo-political zones and regions with clearly assigned roles.

No of appeals to S-Court rising — CJN

In his goodwill message, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed, noted that the number of cases on appeal to the Supreme Court had kept rising, stressing that there was the need for outdated laws to be amended in order to reflect the present day reality.

He said: “The National Assembly has successfully reviewed/amended the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) (the Constitution) vide the First, Second, Third and Fourth Alteration Acts. I am happy that the National Assembly is embarking on another round of review of the constitution.“All public and private institutions and well-meaning Nigerians should contribute to this important national assignment.

I understand that the public hearing already took place at various zones across the country.

“The exercise is, therefore, being rounded up with this national public hearing in the nation’s capital. To us in the judiciary, charged with the constitutional duty of interpreting the constitution and giving effect to its provisions and other laws of the land.

‘’We see this exercise as a golden opportunity. The Judiciary, as a mechanism for resolution of dispute, is an essential and indispensable institution in any human society.

The indispensability of courts manifests even in regimes that are not democratic (such as military regimes).

“In Nigeria, the Court system has made immense contribution in stabilizing not only democratic governance but also political, economic, social and all important human endeavors.

“In the course of discharging its duties, the Judiciary is faced with daunting challenges. The position of the Judiciary as one of the institutions that serve as pillars on which democracy and good governance rest, underscores the need for all stake holders in the sphere of governance to ensure that we have a robust system of administration of justice.

“The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Sections 232 and 233 of the Constitution is very wide. Our population also keeps on growing.

Moreover, Nigerians guard and protect their rights jealously. The implication of all these is that the number of cases in our courts, which go on appeal to the Supreme Court keeps on rising.

“This situation makes the workload on the Justices too much and accounts for cases pending for fairly long time. There is an instance where a case lasted for over 30 years from the trial court to the Supreme Court. It is only a litigant that God has given long life that can survive such a protracted litigation.’’

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Lagos Assembly moves to end open grazing, considers VAT bill

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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.

VAT

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).

(NAN)

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Ngige: FG to recover millions wrongly paid to 588 doctors

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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.

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Insecurity: Kaduna suspends weekly market, bans livestock transportation

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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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