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Constitution amendment: NASS splits Minister of Justice from AGF

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Femi Gbajabiamila and Ahmed Lawan

The Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review has approved the separation of the office of the Minister of Justice from that of the Attorney-General of the Federation as part of the recommended amendments to the 1999 Constitution.

The matter and about 54 other proposed amendments are expected to be tabled before the legislative arm by the end of this month.

If it is passed by the two chambers and endorsed by at least two-thirds of 36 State Houses of Assembly, Nigeria will join the league of countries with a similar practice.

The Nation learnt on good authority in Abuja yesterday that the joint committee similarly proposed that independent candidates be allowed to contest elective posts.

Such candidates will not need to go through the rigour of consensus or direct/ indirect primaries.

For more representation in elective offices, special seat concessions were recommended for allocation to women at all levels.

Besides, the lawmakers resolved to effect a change in the constitution to outlaw parading of suspects by the police, Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other agencies before arraigning them in court.

They were of the view that Nigeria should not subscribe to such an “act of torture” of its citizens.

It was learnt that some of the amendments were considered by the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review on Friday.

A source, who was privy to the deliberation at the session, said: “The National Assembly Constitution Review Committee opted to separate the Office of the Minister of Justice from the Attorney-General of the Federation because the present structure is being politicised. We need to get our justice system right from the top.

“While the Minister of Justice deals with policy and administrative issues, the AGF as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation will oversee dispensation of justice without fear or favour.

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“We don’t have anyone in mind, but combining the two offices in Nigeria is becoming complex. We need a drastic reform in this respect.”

On independent candidacy, the source said: “This will enable the system to produce leaders on merit. The prevalent direct, indirect and consensus clauses promote mediocrity and imposition of candidates by state governors.

“Outside of party structure, a good candidate should be able to emerge and win elections.

“But the National Assembly is adding a proviso that at least 20 per cent of voters in a constituency or district must endorse the nomination of an independent candidate.”

The source said the constitutional provision for special allocation of seats for some elective offices is to” promote gender balance and Affirmative Action. ”

On the fate of criminal suspects or those with cases, the proposed amendment “seeks to outlaw parade of suspects before their arraignment in court. But once a suspect is put on trial, he can be paraded.

“This alteration is in line with international best practices. The law says a suspect is innocent until proven guilty.

“Look at some of those arrested and paraded for economic and financial crimes; they have been set free. They have however lost their reputation.

“This amendment will affect the police, EFCC, ICPC, NDLEA, NSCDC and other agencies. It will also guarantee citizens’ access to fair hearing.”

All the proposals have to be considered and approved by the two chambers of the National Assembly and the 36 state Houses of Assembly before the constitution can be amended.

A member of the House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review said: “All these are proposals by the Joint Committee. The two chambers would have to ratify before we pass the amendments to the State Houses of Assembly.

“Going by Section 9(2 and 3) of the 1999 Constitution, the Joint Committee, the National Assembly cannot alter the 1999 Constitution without the backing of the State Houses of Assembly.

“So, we need to build consensus with the executive at the federal and state levels and the Conference of Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly.

Section 9(2) of the 1999 Constitution says: “An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution, not being an act to which Section 8 of this Constitution applies, shall not be passed by either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by the resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states.

Section 9(3) reads: “An Act of the National Assembly for the purposes of altering the provisions of this section, Section 8 or Chapter IV of this Constitution shall not be passed by either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by the resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states.”

Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege announced on Friday that the report of the National Assembly Joint Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution would be presented to both chambers for consideration by the end of this month.

Omo-Agege, who doubles as co-chairman of the panel, spoke during the joint retreat of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Constitution review.

He said the recommendations for 55 amendments stemmed from hearings and memos submitted by the public.

The Nation

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$418m Paris Club Refund: Govs Tackle Malami, Say Action Fraudulent, Self-Serving

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Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Wednesday described the positions of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on the controversial $418 million Paris Club contractors’ fee as “fraudulent and self-serving.”

The NGF Chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, disclosed the position of the forum in a communique issued at the end of its meeting, held at the Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Fayemi, while reading the communique to journalists, said the governors had resolved to pursue the issue, which is before the law court, to a logical conclusion so as to know the next steps to take on the matter.

The governors, who insisted that the deductions for the payment of said consultancy were illegal, especially as the matter is before the courts, said Malami was not acting in public interest.

“The forum extensively reviewed the purported attempt by the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance to circumvent the law and a recent judgment of the Supreme Court, to secure the approval of the Federal Executive Council, to effect illegal payment of the sum of $418 million to contractors who allegedly executed consultancies in respect to the Paris Club Refunds to state and local governments.

“The forum set up a committee comprising the Chairman, the governor of Ekiti State, the Vice Chairman, the governor of Ondo State, the governor of Plateau State, the governor of Nasarawa State and the governor of Ebonyi State, to interface with the committee set up by Mr. President to review the matter.

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“But the position of the Governors’ Forum is clear and unequivocal. Although this matter is sub-judice and we are very reluctant to get in the way of a matter that is still being pursued in the courts, we are constrained by the manner in which the Honorable Attorney-General has been going around various media houses and purporting to create the impression that this is a liability to which governors have committed themselves to and agreed to, even though he is very much aware that that’s not the case.

“We reject all of the claims that he has made on these issues and we also insist that states will not give up on insisting that these purported claims are fraudulent and will not stand, as far as governors are concerned, and we will take every constitutional and legal means to ensure that these purported consultancies are fully litigated upon by the highest courts in the land.

“If the courts now find governors and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and states liable, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. As far as we are concerned, this is a matter that governors feel very strongly about and we do not believe that the Attorney-General of the Federation is acting in the public interest. We believe he’s acting in personal, selfish interest, that would ultimately become clear when this matter is fully addressed in the law courts,” he said.

The governors, who also deliberated on the prevailing economic and security situation in the country, agreed to intervene by engaging with the federal government and other stakeholders to deliberate, suggest immediate action plans on ameliorate the current situations.

“The Forum extensively discussed the state of the Nigerian economy and security, following a presentation by Mr. Bismarck Rewani, member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council, the Forum resolved to immediately engage with the federal government and other critical stakeholders; Labour, the presidential candidates of political parties, and corporate actors on finding resolutions and suggestions to implement a set of immediate actions to ameliorate the worsening economic conditions in the country”, he said.

On the industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the communique said “on the prolonged strike by Nigerian universities, the forum encourages the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities to find meaningful resolutions to the lingering impasse and as proposed to engage with both parties, just as we have done in the past, in a bid to ending the strike”.

The communique further revealed that the Forum discussed several other issues, ranging from resolve to increase funding for the health care sector to encouraging fiscal transparency in states.

Daily Trust
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Ex-IBB spokesman, Duro Onabule, dies at 83

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Duro Onabule, former Chief Press Secretary of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, has died at the age of 83.

The veteran journalist reportedly died on Tuesday evening.

A close associate of Onabule’s family, Chief Eric Teniola, broke the news of the foremost journalist’s death, saying, “Chief Duro Onabule died this evening”.

He Onabule was presidential spokesman for the greater part of Babangida nine-year administration when the government shut down many newspapers and magazines and slammed their publishers with temporary proscription to make them comply with the code of conduct set up by the administration.

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He was born in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, on September 27, 1939 and graduated from CMS Grammar School and School of Journalism, London.

He started his first media work as a reporter at the Daily Express in 1961. Three years later, he joined the Daily Sketch and spent some time there before going back to his previous employer, Daily Express.

In 1969, he served as the London correspondent of the Express. In the mid-1970s, he worked for the Daily Times and later became a deputy editor of the Headlines magazine.

Onabule was appointed features editor when the late MKO Abiola started Concord Press and in 1984, he became the editor of Concord newspaper.

He was a columnist at the Sun newspapers until his death.

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Insecurity: Lagos considers total ban on okada

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The Lagos State Government says it is considering a total ban on commercial motorcycles in all local government areas of the state.

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, said this at a stakeholders forum organised to review the ban on commercial motorcycles in parts of the state.

The forum, held in Lagos on Tuesday, had the theme: “Okada Ban, What Next: Review of Enforcement and Compliance, Two Months After.”

The Lagos State Governor, Bababjide Sanwo-Olu, on June 1 banned the operation of commercial motorcycles, popularly called okada, in six local government areas and nine LCDAs.

The six local governments are Ikeja, Surulere, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island and Apapa.

Omotosho said after seeing the results of the ban in the six local government areas, the people of Lagos had been calling on the government to expand the ban.

“Some people have suggested that the ban should be statewide, considering the present anxiety over security,” he added.

According to him, the forum is to take stock of the government decision on the ban and agree on the next step to take.

He recalled the criticisms that initially trailed the ban, “based largely on sentiments of those who had not witnessed the havoc some of the Okada riders caused in the areas of health and security.

“Residents were being robbed of their belongings by robbers who used motorcycles to flee scenes of crimes.

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“Our public hospitals were being filled with victims of Okada accidents, doctors had their hands full at Emergency wards, and hoodlums who rode unregistered motorbikes posed great security risks.”

The commissioner said all stakeholders now have the opportunity to make suggestions on what steps the government should take on the matter.

In his remark, the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde said that the ban had recorded significant successes and compliance.

Oladeinde said in the affected areas within the period under review, available records’ showed that crime and accidents had reduced drastically.

“In the affected areas within the period under review, available records’ show that crime and accident rate reduced astronomically by 86 per cent and 63.7 per cent, respectively.

“While a total of 7,500 motorcycles were impounded and crushed accordingly,” he added.

He said that the rise in the level of insecurity nationwide has made it imperative to review the impact on the ban on motorcycles in parts of the state and further steps to protect the people.

“The Federal Government is presently considering the total ban of motorcycle operations across the federation as most of these underground activities are been enhanced with the use of motorcycles.

“Also, the attention of the state government has been drawn to the security threat parading the news across all socio-media platforms that some unscrupulous individuals are planning to attack the state.”

Oladeinde said the government was already working round the clock to secure the state.

The commissioner said the focus on Okada operation was due to their non-compliance to traffic rules and regulations, and its being used for robbery, kidnapping, arms supply and attack on citizens.

He said the forum was expected to re-ignite the state’s commitment to tackling traffic rules violations and criminals operating as commercial riders.

The Special Adviser to the governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa said the forum should come up with suggestions to guide the government on decisions to take on the operation of Okada riders.

Eagle

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