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Soyinka faults 24-hour curfew, recommends town hall meetings, immediate soldiers withdrawal

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Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has condemned the use of armed soldiers to quell protests by #EndSARS agitators which has led to violent clashes in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country.

He has therefore called on governors in states where protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad forced declaration of curfews to immediately demand the withdrawal of soldiers deployed by the Federal Government.

The playwright, in a message on Wednesday from his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, titled, ‘DÉJÀ VU– In tragic vein,’ spoke on the backdrop of the reported killing of unarmed protesters by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos on Tuesday night after a 24-hour curfew imposed on the state by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

There have been peaceful protests across many states in the country against police brutality and the F-SARS, a unit in the Nigeria Police Force.

Soyinka said, “To the affected governors all over the nation, there is one immediate step to take: demand the withdrawal of those soldiers. Convoke town hall meetings as a matter of urgency. 24-hour curfews are not the solution. Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage. Substitute community self-policing based on local councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism. We commiserate with the bereaved and urge state governments to compensate material losses, wherever.

“To commence any process of healing at all – dare one assume that this is the ultimate destination of desire? – the Army must apologise, not merely to the nation but to the global community – the facts are indisputable – you, the military, opened fire on unarmed civilians. There has to be structured restitution and assurance that such aberrations will not again be recorded. Then both governance and its security arms can commence a meaningful, lamentably overdue dialogue with society. Do not attempt to dictate — Dialogue!”

The playwright also said it was bliss indeed to be alive to watch youths finally beginning to take the future into their own hands, adding that with the protesters’ roadblocks in Ogun State and elsewhere, it was all déjà vu– the uprisings in the former Western Region of Nigeria and the anti-Abacha movement among others.

He added that it was absolutely essential to let the Federal Government know that the army had now replaced the SARS in the demonic album of the protesters.

He said, “My enquiry so far indicates that the Lagos governor did not invite in the Army, did not complain of a ‘breakdown in law and order. Nevertheless, the centre has chosen to act in an authoritarian manner and has inflicted a near incurable wound on the community psyche. Need I add that, on arrival in Abeokuta, my hometown, I again had to negotiate a road block? That went smoothly enough. I expected it, and have no doubt that more are being erected as this is being written.

“It is pathetic and unimaginative to claim, as some have done, that the continued protest is hurting the nation’s economy etc. COVID-19 has battered the Nigerian economy – such as it is – for over eight months. Of course it is not easy to bring down COVID under a hail of bullets – human lives are easier target, and there are even trophies to flaunt as evidence of victory– such as the blood-soaked Nigerian flag that one of the victims was waving at the time of his murder.”

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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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Falana to Minister of Finance: You lack powers to suspend AGF

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Femi Falana

Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has told the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, that she lacks the power to suspend the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over allegations of fraud.

Falana spoke amid allegations Idris was under probe for N80 billion fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

He said it was only President Muhammadu Buhari that has such powers to suspend the AGF.

He said: “In exercise of his powers under section 171 of the Constitution, President Buhari appointed Ahmed Idris as the Accountant-General of the Federation on June 25, 2015. Upon the expiration of 4-year tenure, Mr Idris was reappointed as the Accountant-General of the Federation by the President on June 19, 2019.

“It is submitted that by the combined effect of section 320 of the Constitution and section 11 of the Interpretation Act, it is the exclusive constitutional responsibility of President Buhari to suspend Mr Idris as the Accountant-General of the Federation.

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“Specifically, section 11(1) (b) of the Interpretation Act provides that ‘Where an enactment confers a power to appoint a person either to an office or to exercise any functions, whether for a specified period or not, the power includes the power to remove or suspend him.’

“From the foregoing, it is undoubtedly clear that it is only the President who appointed Mr Idris as the Accountant-General of the Federation and reappointed him to the office that is constitutionally empowered to suspend him or interdict him pending his investigation and prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“I believe that the Minister of Finance knows or ought to know that she lacks the power to suspend Mr Idris from duty since did not appoint or reappoint him as the Accountant-General of the Federation.

“It is hoped that the Federal Government has not deliberately played into the hands of Mr Idris to provide a legal escape route for him as he may soon challenge his suspension in the National Industrial Court. Since the action of the Minister is illegal and unconstitutional Mr Idris will win the case and an order will be made for his reinstatement.

“We are therefore compelled to call on President Buhari to suspend Mr Idris as the Accountant-General of the Federation until further notice under section 11(1)(b) of the Interpretation Act. In the same vein, the President should appoint the Acting Accountant-General of the Federation in line with the law since the Finance Minister lacks the vires to make the appointment.”

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