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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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NUC, NYSC to block ‘fake’ foreign-trained graduates from service

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The National Universities Commission (NUC), in collaboration with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), on Tuesday said it had put measures in place to block fake foreign-trained graduates from partaking in the compulsory one-year national service.

The NUC said it would continue to ensure the credibility of certificates issued by Nigerian universities and block fake foreign-trained graduates coming into the country.

Its Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, spoke when the NYSC Director General, Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, visited him at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

A statement in Abuja by the NYSC Director of Press and Public Relations, Adenike Adeyemi, regretted the challenges in vetting the certificates obtained from universities established by Nigerians outside the country.

The NUC chief said many universities produce quality graduates while some produce graduates who cannot defend their certificates.

He said the commission had not approved the degrees of some online universities operating in the country.

Rasheed added that the commission had approached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to shut down some illegal universities operating in Nigeria.

“NUC and NYSC must work together to help the country in producing quality graduates. The NUC will continue to certify the credibility of certificates obtained from Nigerian universities,” he said.

The NYSC DG said the scheme will not issue Certificate of National Service to unqualified graduates.

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Eid-el-kabir: FG declares Monday, Tuesday public holidays

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The Federal Government has declared Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th August as Public Holidays to mark the 2019 Eid-Al-Kabir celebrations.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Barr. Georgina Ehuriah, who made the declaration on behalf of the Federal Government, congratulated the Muslim faithful on the occasion .

She called on all Nigerians, at home and in diaspora, to use the period of this year’s Eid-Al-Kabir celebration to embrace the virtues of love, humility, peace and sacrifice as exemplified by the Holy Prophet Mohammed.

She urged Nigerians to shun any form of disruptive tendencies and join hands with the Federal Government to build a peaceful, strong and united Nigeria so as to achieve an enviable Next Level of growth and development.

According to a statement by Director (Press & Public Relations), Mohammed Manga, the Permanent Secretary reaffirmed the determination of the President Muhammadu Buhari led-administration to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians, adding that Security Agencies under the Ministry have been directed to ensure the provision of adequate security, before, during and after the Eid-Al-Kabir celebrations.

She restated government’s desire for all Nigerians to live a life of sacrifice, charity and love for one another.

Bar. Ehuriah wished Nigerians a happy, peaceful and fulfilling Eid-Al-Kabir celebrations.

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N9.9b fraud: Court freezes Lagos accounts

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THE Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the freezing of three accounts belonging to the Lagos State Government over an alleged N9.9 billion fraud.

Justice Chuka Obiozor made the order following an ex-parte application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He ordered the accounts’ “suspension” pending conclusion of investigation and possible prosecution of the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Adewale Adesanya.

The accounts are domiciled in First City Monument Bank (numbered 5617984012), Access Bank (0060949275) and Zenith Bank (1011691254).

In a supporting affidavit, an EFCC investigator, Kungmi Daniel, said the commission discovered huge inflow of N9,927,714,443.29 from the state accounts into the FCMB account.

He said the account, operated by Adesanya, was opened last September 17 during the Akinwunmi Ambode administration.

According to the deponent, investigators found that Adesanya and other signatories made fraudulent transfers from the state’s accounts and dissipated the funds.

“The trend is that the account always witnessed huge inflow from Lagos State Government in the above scheduled accounts managed by the respondent (Adesanya).

“There have been concerted efforts and attempts to dissipate the contents of the accounts listed in the schedule to this application.

“Without freezing the nominated accounts and temporarily forfeiting the money to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no way the fraud being perpetrated using the scheduled accounts can be stopped,” the EFCC said.

EFCC counsel Mohammed Abbas urged the court to grant the order temporarily attaching the accounts to enable it to conclude its investigations.

Justice Obiozor granted the prayers and adjourned till Friday.

Some legal sources wondered last night why the victim, the state government, is being made to suffer while those suspected to be involved in the matter are left untouched.

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