The Rivers State High Court of Nigeria has declared that the State House of Assembly lacks the powers to constitute or appoint an investigative panel to investigate allegations of mis- conduct levelled against any local government chairman in the state.
In a landmark judgement delivered by Justice B.A. Georgewill, presiding judge of court 12 in Port Harcourt last Monday in a case brought before him by Hon Ochije Chris Okey, chairman Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area against the state house of Assembly as well as Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni legislative council.
Justice Georgewill while ruling in favour of the chairman, Hon Ochije Chris Okey against the 1st defendant, state House of Assembly, declared that it was exclusively and exercisable powers of the state Chief Judge in accordance with section 13 (6) of the state local government law No 3 of 1999 to appoint, inaugurate or constitute investigation panel to investigate allegations of misconduct levelled against any local government chairman in the state as it is applicable also to the Onelga boss.
He declared that the power of the 1st respondent (RVHA) to suspend the applicant (claimant) was only exercisable during the presidency of a valid investigation panel of three judges duly constituted by the state Chief Judge in accordance with section 13 of the state local government law of 1999.
He further declared that the 1st respondent, State House of Assembly acted ultra vires on its powers by suspending the applicant, Hon Chris Okey Ochije from office as chairman of Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni local government area without due compliance with section 13 of the state local government law 1999.
The presiding judge of the state High Court of Nigeria therefore ordered that every step taken by any person or authority against the applicant in pursuant to the purported suspension of Hon Chris Okey Ochijie or report of the 1st respondent, the state House of Assembly is hereby nullified.
He averred that the report of the 3rd respondent, state House of Assembly Committee on Local Government upon which the resolution of the 1st respondent to suspend the applicant was predicated and was hereby nullified and ordered that the suspension of the applicant from office on 3rd June, 2009 by the state legislature had been nullified. Justice Georgewill ruled that Hon Chris Ochijie still remains the elected chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government council and ordered that his position should be reinstated to him forthwith as chairman of ONELGA.
The Judge further ordered that all entitlements due to Hon Chris Ochijie be paid to him from the period he was unlawfully and unconstitutionally suspended from office by the State House of Assembly.
Effort to reach the state chairman of House Committee on Local Governments, Hon Ibani Ikuinye for comments was unsuccessful as he was said to have travelled out of the state for official assignments.
INEC Fixes February 26 For Six By-Elections
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed the conduct of six outstanding constituencies’ by-elections in four States for February 26.
The commission announced this in a statement issued by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee Festus Okoye, on Friday evening in Abuja.
Mr Okoye said that the decision was taken at the INEC regular weekly meeting held on Thursday and an extra-ordinary meeting of Friday, where issues that led to the vacancies and the rescheduling of some of the elections, as well as the security situation in some of the states, were discussed.
He said that the decision followed the declaration of vacancies by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the speakers of some state Houses of Assembly.
The vacancies according to Mr Okoye are Akure North/Akure South Federal Constituency, Ondo State; Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency, Plateau and Pankshin South State Constituency, Plateau.
Others are Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, Cross River; Akpabuyo State Constituency, Cross River and Ngor-Okpala State Constituency, Imo.
Mr Okoye said that the by-elections would hold on February 26 immediately after the FCT Area Council elections.
“This will enable the commission to clear most of the by-elections, focus on the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections and ongoing preparations for the 2023 general election,” Mr Okoye said.
The national commissioner said that some of the vacancies arose as a result of the death of the previous occupants; substantial disruption of the electoral process and fulfilment of constitutional and legal requirements in the electoral process.
He said that INEC had decided to combine the Ekiti East 1 State Constituency election with the governorship election in Ekiti, which would hold on June 18.
Mr Okoye also said that the commission was consulting with security agencies and the critical stakeholders relating to the vacancy in Shinkafi State Constituency of Zamfara.
He added that the Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly had not declared a vacancy in relation to Giwa State Constituency of Kaduna State.
Mr Okoye said that the official notification for the elections would be published on January 24.
“Political Parties shall conduct their primaries, including resolution of disputes arising from the primaries, between Jan. 26 and Feb. 5,” he said.
He added that the last day for submission of the list of nominated candidates is on February 9 at 6 p.m. and that must be done through the commission’s online nomination portal.
“Political parties shall submit the names of their polling agents for the election to the electoral officer of the local government on or before Feb. 12 and campaigns by political parties shall stop on Feb. 24.
“The access code for the nomination forms shall be available for collection from Feb. 5 at the commission’s headquarters,” he explained.
He advised parties to comply with INEC timelines and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) in conducting transparent and valid direct or indirect primaries.
He warned that any party that presents a candidate who does not meet the qualifications stipulated in the constitution and the Electoral Act shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500,000.
Mr Okoye said that INEC at the meetings also reviewed its preparations for the area council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) holding on February 12.
He said that INEC was finalising all arrangements for the election.
He appealed to citizens who applied for fresh registration as well as transfers and replacement of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to immediately collect them and avoid a last-minute rush for those cards.
He said that PVC for all new registrants as well as requests for transfers and replacement of damaged cards had been printed and were available in all the six area councils of FCT for collection.
Ex-Chief Judge Declares For Presidency
A former Chief Judge of Anambra State, Professor Peter Nnanna Umeadi, has announced his intention to contest the office of President of Nigeria on the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
Umeadi in his declaration speech pledged to administer Nigeria with firmness and fairness and reposition the country to the path of progress, harmony and prosperity.
He announced this in a statement addressed to the National Chairman of APGA, Ozonkpu Victor Oye and issued on Friday.
The APGA chieftain also said that he would initiate genuine reconciliation across the length and breadth of the country, if elected the President.
He said, “the governing class, that is men and women who find themselves entrusted with the power to govern should learn to remove their personal interest from the picture.
“Governance should be seen for what it is, holding forth for the masses of Nigerian citizens, showing that the natural and human resources of our richly endowed country would be applied to and for the benefit of the greatest number of our citizens.
“I say that Nigeria could only be repositioned from within. We all need to roll up our sleeves and go to work in all facets of our national life and we should be able to reposition Nigeria in 4 years from 2023”.
He pledged to usher in patriotism, collective reconstruction of the nation’s economy, upliftment of all segments of the society, promoting probity, accountability and dedication in public and private lives.
Umeadi said having served under the government of former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi as Chief Judge for three years and same position under the incumbent Governor, Willie Obiano for five years, he has the capacity, sense of history, humility and self-effacement to reconcile and weld ethnic groups together.
He assured that his efforts would be geared towards a Nigeria where justice would reign for all citizens equally, irrespective of tribe or status.
“We should arrive for a sound education, affordable health care, food on the table, security of lives and property and people’s ability to achieve their life ambitions in a setting presenting a level playing field and predetermined standards.
“Nigeria requires change which only good leadership could provide. We need to change the way we think so we could change the way we do things. If I get the ticket of APGA then we stand a good chance to win the presidential election in 2023”, he added.
PGF-DG Fumes Over APC National Convention
Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), SalihuLukman, has again slammed the Governor. Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for making excuses as to why it cannot conduct its national convention as scheduled until certain conditions are met.
Citing media reports which alleged that the convention could be shifted to June, Lukman, in a statement, yesterday, picked holes in the CECPC’s statement that it would conduct the convention after addressing some critical issues.
He faulted claims that the CECPC was waiting for APC governors to decide on convention date, and lamented that failure to conduct the convention was hurting the party’s preparation for the 2023 general polls.
He said: “Shortly following the news of the alleged postponement, the Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe issued a statement of rebuttal, calling on the general public to ‘completely disregard fake news on the reported suspension of the planned National Convention’.
“The statement further informed the public that the CECPC ‘is already embarking on consultations with party stakeholders to prepare the ground for a rancour-free National Convention.’ Sadly, the statement, like previous ones from the CECPC didn’t announce any date and venue for the National Convention. Very disappointingly, the statement said ‘sub-committee on budgeting and other substructures will be set up in due course.’
“This is a slap on the faces of Nigerians and an insult on party members. How can a statement from ‘a focus-driven, process-oriented political party’, make such a scandalous statement allegedly assuring that a convention is scheduled to hold in February without indicating the date and venue for the convention? If subcommittees, whether for budget or anything are to be set up, to perhaps mobilise funds for the convention, why are they not set up with just about two weeks to the end of January?” he queried.
According to Lukman, it is now somehow difficult not to conclude that the CECPC is intentionally promoting speculations around the APC National Convention by claiming to embark on ‘consultations with party stakeholders to prepare the ground for a rancour-free National Convention.’
He recalled that on November 22, 2021, the Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) AbubakarAtikuBagudu led a delegation, which includes the CECPC Chairman, Mai Mala Buni, to President MuhammaduBuhari to finalise consultations on the date of the Convention. Immediately after the meeting with President Buhari, Bagudu announced the agreement reached with President Buhari to the effect that the Convention would hold in February 2022.
“With such an agreement, the responsibility of the CECPC is to go ahead and start organising the Convention. Almost two months after, the CECPC has not issued any notice of the Convention to anyone. Not even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which by the provision of the Electoral Act as amended is required to be given at least 21 days’ notice.
“It is very difficult not to conclude that both the Chairman and all members of the CECPC have no respect for President Buhari, which is responsible for why they are doing everything possible to sabotage decisions validly taken to hold the APC National Convention in February after consultation with the President.
“For whatever reasons, it would appear that the leadership of CECPC are enjoying all the public speculations maligning Governors and some other senior leaders of the party as working to stop the APC National Convention from holding in February 2022.
“This is most unfortunate. The truth must be told, the responsibility of organising the February 2022 APC National Convention rests squarely with the CECPC.
“At this point, it will be necessary to remind all members of the CECPC and by extension, all leaders of APC that part of the reasons that made it very necessary to dissolve the AdamsOshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) was the disrespect for leaders and members of the party, especially by Oshiomhole, the former National Chairman of the party. It was on record that during the tenure of Oshiomhole as National Chairman, the recommendations of party leaders and members were hardly considered.
“The CECPC leadership has returned the party back to the mode of open disrespect for any recommendation given. It is even worse now given that the CECPC is ready to sacrifice the future of the party. Clearly, what is steering us in the face is that all the bad leadership record under Oshiomhole-led NWC is about to be met and outstripped by the present CECPC.
“However, the first challenge now is to ensure that the CECPC has no option but to organise the APC National Convention in February 2022 as decided based on all the consultations that have taken place. The CECPC must be told that all consultations about organising the Convention ended with the meeting with President Buhari on November 22, 2021, and therefore the CECPC leadership should stop lying to Nigerians and APC members.
“The CECPC should also stop claiming that it is waiting for the meeting of Progressive Governors before it takes all the necessary decisions to commence the process of organising the Convention. Such a claim is not only dishonest but also taking the support of Progressive Governors for granted, which is why Progressive Governors have been reduced to punching bags of all party members regarding all the challenges facing the party.
“Largely on account of delaying the implementation of decisions to organise the February APC National Convention, there is hardly any internal party preparation for the 2023 electoral contest beyond individual leaders declaring their personal aspirations for offices.
“Without any prejudice to the aspirations of leaders, it is important that the party is able to set some minimum standards for the 2023 campaigns so that individual aspirants can orient their internal party mobilisation around those minimum standards. APC must not make the mistake of orientating its internal party mobilisation for the emergence of candidates for 2023 elections, especially Presidential Candidate only based on personality contest”.
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