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South-South leaders angry over botched security meeting

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Governors and leaders of the South-South geopolitical region have expressed displeasure over the decision by the presidency to cancel a security meeting of the region planned for Port Harcourt on Tuesday after many of them had gathered at the forum.

They have therefore demanded an apology from the presidency for abruptly aborting the crucial stakeholders’ meeting.

The presidency had fixed the meeting with the governors and other leaders of the region to discuss burning national issues affecting the region and the aftermath effects of the #EndSARS protest.

The FG’s delegation was supposed to include all the ministers from the geopolitical zone.

Addressing South-South leaders at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Port Harcourt, Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who presided over the session, expressed regret at the botched meeting.

The meeting was called through the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.

He explained that the meeting time was adjusted twice from 11 am to 1pm, on the excuse that President Muhammadu Buhari was meeting with Director-General of Department of State Services (DSS) and the Inspector-General of Police, who were supposed to be part of the presidential delegation for the South-South meeting.

Okowa, who is also the chairman of South-South Governors Forum, said he later got a call from the Chief of Staff to the President to eventual call off the meeting.

According to him, he felt really disappointed that the region could be treated with such disdain.

Okowa said the people of the region had been embarrassed, disgraced and disrespected.

He noted that the South-South geopolitical zone remained a very important component part of the nation and that the governors felt insulted because the traditional rulers who had gathered for the meeting deserved to be revered.

He said, “As governors, we feel very touched and very sad about what has happened. And having also listened to our youths, we can feel the anger. As a mark of respect for our people, because you are actually the stakeholders of our region, we felt it was necessary for us to consult with you before taking any decision, if we take our decision without consulting with you, then we would have added to the disrespect that has just been meted on you.

“We call for a public apology, not for the governors alone. We call for a public apology because this meeting was not called at our instance. It was called at the instance of the presidency. The time was changed last night. We understood and we talked to our people. Some of us did not sleep in trying to put things together. We have got to a very bad start. So we are going to convey this message to the chief of staff to the president.”

He also said, “We deserve as a region unreserved public apology to the region, particularly to our traditional rulers and the leaders in this zone, which include our Christian leaders, opinion leaders, our women and our youths, and also the governors of the zone who were voted into office and that is the least that we expect for us to accept the reconvene of this meeting.”

Former president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Ledum Mitee, said the abrupt cancellation of the meeting was an insult on the people of the South-South zone.

A member of the 2014 National Conference, Ms. Ann-Kio Briggs, also said the action of the Federal Government demonstrated the value it placed on the South-South geopolitical zone.

Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Ben Ayade (Cross River), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), and Godwin Obaseki (Edo) were at the forum.

Other eminent persons present are the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd.); and former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Onueze Okocha (SAN).

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Buhari promises to sign forensics, fraud examiners’ institute bill

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday promised to sign a bill seeking formal establishment of the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria (CIFCFEN).

He spoke at the State House in Abuja after being honoured with Global Integrity and Anti-Corruption Award of Excellence by CIFCFEN.

He was presented with the highest honour of the institute reserved for only African heads of states with impeccable character and unimpeachable ideals by the chairman of the Governing Council CIFCFEN Board of Trustees, Dr Iliyasu Gashinbaki.

Buhari was the first African leader to be bestowed with the award in recognition of his lifetime outstanding commitment to the fight against corruption and selfless service with exceptional integrity.

He directed the anti-corruption agencies to continue partnering with the institute for the benefit of the country.

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He also directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to work with the Institute in areas of providing technical assistance and capacity building to all revenue generating agencies and regulators in the public sector.

He said: ‘’The need for forensic experts arises in educating, preventing, detecting and prosecuting fraudsters, while fraud examination helps mitigate vices like embezzlement, money laundering, misuse and mismanagement of public resources.

‘’Many Nigerians, who are serious about eliminating corruption in our country, will welcome this review of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy midwifed by the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption in 2017 and supported by our International friends.

‘’This effort by the institute to undertake the review of the national anti-corruption strategy is highly commendable and it has shown the usefulness of partnerships with professional bodies and my administration will continue to partner with the Institute and as well as other private institutions, the academia and other stakeholders in the fight to stop sleaze and mitigate corruption.’’

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We will restore peace, stability before leaving office, Buhari vows

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration will not relent in its quest to restore peace and stability in the country.

Buhari said this on Monday during the 58th anniversary of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) in Kano.

He said his administration’s investment in the air force had helped to “turn the tide” against terrorists.

He promised that he would continue to give necessary and sufficient support to the NAF in the battle against insecurity from non-state actors.

“The huge investment in the Nigeria Air Force has helped to turn the tide against terrorist and non-state actors in our nation,” he said.

“In furtherance of our drive to continue to do more to support the air force. Rest assured that our government is willing to do even more to ensure the provision of requisite support and the encouragement to overcome various security challenges.

“This government will not rest until peace and stability is fully restored in the nation. I, therefore, urge you all to remain steadfast, committed and resolute.

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States lose battle over LG funds’ management

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The 36 Governors lost on Monday in their opposition to Federal Government’s efforts to monitor their handling of Local governments’ funds.

 Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed a suit filed to that effect by the 36 states, through their Attorneys General and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).

The States, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2019, challenged the legality of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Guidelines, which came into effect on June 1, 2019.

The NFIU 2019 guidelines required among others,  that the States/Local Governments Joint Accounts should be used only for receiving funds and subsequently transferring them to Local government accounts only.

The NFIU claimed that the guidelines, which also limit daily cash withdrawal from the State/LG joint account to N500,000 are intended  to reduce “crime vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawal from local government funds throughout Nigeria effective from June 1, 2019.”

Listed as defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the NFIU and the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE).

They argued among others that  the NFIU guidelines: known as “the  NFIU Enforcement and Guidelines to Reduce Crime Vulnerabilities Crafted by Cash Withdrawal From Local Government Funds Throughout Nigeria,” particularly provisions 1 to 6  and the penalties prescribed  are ultra vires the power of the NFIU under Sections 3 (1) and 23(2) (a) of the Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit Act, 2018 and therefore unconstitutional.

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In the judgement on Monday, Justice Ekwo held that he is unable to see where the guidelines contradict the provisions of sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b) of the Constitution.

The judge added that the guidelines also did not conflict with the provision of Section 162(6) of the Constitution, which creates the State Joint Local Government Account,  into which allocations to the Local Government Councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the government of the state are paid.

He said that the guidelines did not contradict Section 162(8) of the constitution which prescribed that the amount standing to the credit of the local government council of the state shall be distributed among the local government councils of that state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the state.

Justice Ekwo added that the provisions of the NFIU guidelines also do not contradict the provisions of the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution which prescribes the functions of a Local Government Council.

Noting that “ duty of the court is limited to expounding the law and not expanding it,” the judge said: “On the whole, I see the provisions of the guidelines of the 2nd defendant as seeking to direct the monitoring of accounts, transfers and any other means of payment or transfer of funds of local government councils as provided for in Section 3 (1) (r) of the Act of the NFIU.

“It only limits cash withdrawal made from any Local Government Account anywhere in the country to amount not exceeding N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) per day.

“Any amount higher than that can be done using other methods of banking transaction save cash.

“Unless it can be shown that there is any provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which these provisions of the 2nd defendant’s guidelines have contradicted or conflicted directly and practically, then the issue of unconstitutionality cannot be said to arise.”

Justice Ekwo said he found that there was no provision in the NFIU’s guidelines that has contravened the provisions of Sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b), 162 (6), (7) and (8), and the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“I also find that the case of the plaintiffs has not been established and I so hold.

“I find, in the end, that the case of the plaintiffs lacks merit and ought to be dismissed and it is hereby dismissed,” the judge said.

Earlier, Justice Ekwo struck out the name of the NGF as a co-plaintiff in the suit on the grounds that it lacked the locus standi to file the suit.

THE NATION

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