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Defection suit: I didn’t decamp from PDP, Akpabio begs court to suspend judgment

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ABUJA – Former Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, on Monday, persuaded the court to suspend its judgment on a suit seeking to declare vacant, seats of 54 federal lawmakers that decamped from their respective political parties prior to the 2019 general election.

Akpabio who is one of the lawmakers affected by the suit, through his lawyer, Mr. S. I. Ameh, SAN, contended that he was not served with the court processes before the matter was fixed for judgement.

He prayed the court to allow him to respond to the suit that was filed by an advocacy group under the aegis of Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP.

The Plaintiff had among other things, prayed the court to order the affected lawmakers to refund all salaries and emoluments they received after they dumped political parties that sponsored their election.

Among those the Plaintiff is asking the court to declare their seats vacant, include the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.

The lawmakers, comprising of 17 Senators and 37 House of Reps members, had earlier briefed two lawyers to represent each of the groups. The lawyers who also approached the court after the matter was earlier fixed for judgement on April 11,queried the locus-standi of the Plaintiff to declare their continued stay in the National Assembly as illegal and unconstitutional.

The plaintiff had through its lawyer, Mr. Jubril Okutekpa, SAN, argued that the only way to curb gale of defections that herald major elections in the country, was for the court to make Sakari and his co-defendants to pay for what it termed as their “political and constitutional iniquities”.

Among Senators the Plaintiff is asking the court to declare their seats vacant for defecting from political parties that sponsored their election, contrary to section 68 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, included Senators Dino Melaye, Rabiu Kankwaso, Lanre Tejuoso, Shaaba Lafiagi, Rafiu Ibrahim, Barnabas Gemade, Abdulazeez Nyako, Monsurat Sunmonu, Usman Nafada, Suleiman Hunkuyi, Ibrahim Danbaba, Ubale Shittu, lsah Misau, Suleiman Nafif. While the House of Reps members included Hon. Zakari Mohammed, Hon. Aminu Shagari, Hon Ooker-Jev, Hon. Rufai Chanchangi, Hon. Abdulsamad Dasuki, Hon. Sani Zoro, Hon. Benjamin Okolo, Hon. Bode Ayorinde, Hon. Sani Rank, Hon. Dickson Tarkighir, among others Meanwhile, few days to the new judgment date, Akpabio, filed a separate application, insisting he was not consulted before any lawyer was appointed to appear for the matter.

Akpabio said his attention was not drawn to the suit by the Clerk of the National Assembly, neither was he personally served with the suit. He told the court that he read about the case in the Newspapers. Akpabio contended that the suit was not a class action, hence he was at liberty to use a counsel of his choice and to personally defend himself. Despite stiff opposition from the Plaintiff’s counsel, Justice Okon Abang, said he was minded to accede to Akpabio’s request.

Justice Abang based his decision on section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, stressing that since the matter was not a class action, Akpabio’s right to fair hearing would be affected if the matter was decided without his input. Meanwhile, in his reaction after the proceeding, Akpabio who was joined as the 3rd Defendant, maintained that contrary to position of the Plaintiff, he said he never defected from the People Democratic Party. He said he only moved into the All Progressives Congress, APC, after the PDP “was flooded”.

Before the matter was adjourned till Tuesday for parties to exchange their addresses, Justice Abang, said he could still deliver judgment on the matter as earlier slated. Even though the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were cited as 1st and 56th Defendants, respectively, however, none of them entered appearance nor filed any process either in support or against the suit.

Specifically, the Plaintiff, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/996/2018, applied for an order of mandamus to compel the Deputy Senate President and his counterpart at the House of Reps, to declare their seats vacant to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct bye-elections to fill the positions.

Assets Declaration Charge: Onnoghen asks A-Court to set-aside CCT’s decision to conduct day-to-day hearing It is seeking: “A declaration that by virtue of Section 68 (I) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), any member of the National Assembly who resigns from the political party that sponsored his election into the National Assembly, before the expiration of the term for which he was elected, automatically loses his seat in the Assembly, unless saved by the exception under that section.

“A declaration that the 1st to 52nd defendants are no longer members of the National Assembly and as such are no longer entitled to receive remunerations due to a member of the National Assembly and that any or such remunerations received by the 1st to 52nd defendants after the date of defection must be refunded to the Federal Government.

“A declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 57 of the Constitution and Section 8 (2) (d) of the Legislative Houses (Powers And Privileges) Act 2018, it is unconstitutional and a punishable offence for the 1st to 52nd defendants to continue sitting as Senators and Honorable members of the National Assembly after defecting from the parties that sponsored their elections into the National Assembly.

Atiku: INEC denies arrest of ICT Staff by DSS “A declaration that effective from the date of defection, any debate or motion before the National Assembly that any of the 151 to 52nd defendants participates in or votes on, is null and void.

“An order of mandamus, compelling the Deputy Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to declare the seats of 1st to 52nd defendants in their respective chambers vacant.

Likewise, “An order directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct bye-elections in the federal constituencies and senatorial zones of the defendants within the time frame allowed under the Electoral Act”.

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We’ll Treat Anyone Associated With IPOB As A Terrorist – Abia CP

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The Abia State Police Command has warned the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) against any activity capable of truncating the peace and safety of the residents.

The Commissioner of Police in the state, Ene Okon, gave the warning in an interview on Channels Television.

He said that anyone or group of persons associated with IPOB will be termed as a terrorist and dealt with severely.

“The Nigeria Police Force In Abia will treat any person associated with IPOB as a terrorist and such a person or group of persons will be dealt with according to the law”.

The commissioner’s comment comes in reaction to the sit-at-home-order issued by the proscribed movement, scheduled to come into effect on May 30, 2019.

He noted that security personnel have been put in strategic places, thereby assuring residents to go about their activities without fear.

“I am assuring the good people of Abia to disregard the illegal order and go about their normal businesses as there is every assurance of protection of lives and properties”, he added.

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EFCC arrests Kwara Assembly clerk over alleged N400m severance pay

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently investigating alleged illegal payment of about N400 million to some members of the Kwara state House of Assembly, it was gathered.

Accordingly, the anti-graft body is quizzing Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Sola Gold and the Clerk of the state House of Assembly, Kperogi Halimat Jummai over the alleged payment.

EFCC source maintained that the payment did not follow due process.

It was gathered that all the 24 lawmakers were two weeks ago paid the sum of N400 million severance package, when their tenure is yet to expire.

The petitioner said even though the lawmakers and members of the state executive council are entitled to severance package, it is the next administration that is supposed to pay the money, a source at the EFCC has said.

“More worrisome is the issue of furniture allowance running to hundreds of millions of naira according to the petitioner which they wanted it pay along with severance package,” the petitioner added.

Speaker of the Assembly Dr Ali Ahmed had in a letter with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, confirmed that the lawmakers are entitled to severance package at the end of their tenure on June 7th this year.

The letter reads that “in accordance with the provisions of the revenue mobilization, allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) honourable members are entitled to 200 percent of their annual basic salaries as their severance gratuity allowance at the end of their tenure of office.”

The clerk of the house, Halimat Jummai Kperogi confirmed that the lawmakers had received their severance package.

She was said to have told the operatives of the EFCC that Governor Ahmed approved the payment of the package.

Kperogi said “in a meeting of the principal officers of the Kwara House of Assembly wherein I was scheduled to be the secretary, held on May 8th, 2019, issue of severance gratuity to the honourable members was raised, the principal officers were informed that the state government has approved the payment of the severance gratuity.”

“At the meeting, I informed the house that the governor had approved the payment. I added that members were expected to be paid after the expiration of their tenure of office. The house debated it and they overruled me.”

Alhaji Gold on the other hand wrote and sought for the approval of the severance gratuity and furniture allowances amounting to about N300 million for some members of the state executive council.

Gold, in a letter to the governor dated May 8th, 2019 said “your Excellency, by virtue of the provisions of Kwara state remuneration of political and public office holders laws, certain category of political and public office holders are entitled to severance and furniture allowances of their basic salaries respectively upon
successful completion of tenure.”

Alhaji Gold said that while the lawmakers had received their monies, members of the state executive council are yet to receive their gratuity.

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FG approves N25bn earned academic allowances for ASUU members

….Minister: We spent N1.338tn on education in four years

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The Federal Government on Tuesday said it has approved additional N25 billion payment for Earned Academic Allowances for members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

It was learnt that the money is a part payment contained in the Memorandum of Action the Union signed with the government.

The government said the N25 billion was aside the N20 billion that was released last year to public universities in the country.

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu broke the news at his valedictory press conference as a minister on Tuesday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Adamu was joined by Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah and Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed at the briefing.

The minister said all universities in the country have benefitted from the N20 billion released last year by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.

He said the Buhari administration inherited an unimplementable agreement of N1.3 trillion when it assumed office in 2015.

Adamu said: “Let me inform you that the federal government has just approved an additional N25 billion to be shared to beneficiary institutions directly. Last year, the federal government released N20 billion directly to universities. As I speak, all universities have got their share of the N20 billion.

“The sad news is that the N200 billion that was released to the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2013 for the universities has not been fully accessed. In specific terms, all the 73 public varsities have accessed the 1st tranche of 50 percent of the N200 billion.

“For the second tranche of 40 percent, only 56 institutions have been able to access their funds. The last 10 percent representing the third tranche of the N200 billion has not been accessed at all.

Adamu, in his Education for Change: Our stewardship in the last four years, address, said the government invested N1.338 trillion on the sector in the last four years.

Adamu said: “In spite of the economic downturn, we have done well in terms of investment in capital expenditure. The UBEC interventions in states have recorded a total of N350 billion, while TETFund and NEED Assessment interventions have recorded N857 billion with the main ministry and other agencies recording N86 billion, totalling N1.338 trillion in the last four years.

“This is aside from the N25 billion just approved for public universities. These figures have nothing to do with personnel and overhead cost in the education sector, which are also well over a trillion naira.

“Private sector investment in the education sector from the basic, secondary and tertiary levels far outweigh government investment. Our aggregate expenditure in the education sector (public and private) therefore exceeds the much touted 20 percent of our national budget. We are poised to do more.

He said the administration has laid a good foundation for dealing with the challenges posed by the out-of-school children phenomenon and the huge number of adult illiterates.

“If we continue on this path, in the next ten years, Nigeria’s challenges in this twin direction I’ll be confined to the dust in of history.

“On basic, secondary and tertiary education, we shall continue on the path of infrastructural and manpower development, increasing carrying capacity and creating unfettered access to all levels of our education for our young people.,” the minister added.

ASUU president. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the N25 billion was supposed to be released by government to its members in March this year as part of the MoA it signed with the union.

He said he could not confirm if members of the union had received the funds or not.

The. ASUU president said the N20 billion that has been fully accessed by its members was for revitalisation of universities in the country.

“I can’t confirm if the money has been released to our members. We still have issues with the money.

“The N25 billion is part of the Earned Academic Allowances for our members. It is a part payment. We have been chasing that money to be released to us. The money was supposed to be released in March 28 this year but the government released only N20 billion leaving a balance of N5 billion.

“The balance is supposed to be mainstreamed into 2019 budget,” he added.

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