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INEC To Extend Deadline For Voters Registration

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Barring any changes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may anytime from now announced an extension in the on going registration of voters.

Chairman of the commission, Prof Attahiru Jega who made the disclosure when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters said the possibility of extending the time frame for the ongoing voters registration exercise would be announced next week.

“If it is absolutely necessary for us to extend the time, we will not hesitate to do so. But we have to do an assessment on whether such extension should be nationwide, or only in the areas where the exercise is starting late.”

He noted the progress so far made on the hitches-ridden exercise, and efforts to address the challenges, however, agreeing that as much as 2,273 polling units were yet to get the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines as at yesterday.

According to him, there have been significant improvement in the speed of per capita registration in the last few days, as according to him, adjustments had been made to the fingerprints scanners, which he said were initially set at a high sensitive aperture, specifically meant for forensic analysis in criminal investigation, and was slowing the process down due to multiple rejections, but that such was not necessary for voters registration.

“Over eighty per cent of the machines in the field have already been reached and they are being re-configured and that is why in the last two days many are saying there is a remarkable improvement in the registration,” Jega stated.

He disclosed that out of the 132,000 DDCs ordered by the commission through three firms; Messrs Zinox Technologies Ltd, Haier Electrical Appliances Corp Ltd (a Chinese company) and Avante International Technology (an American firm), only 115,000 were delivered as last Monday, but quickly pointed out that the only defaulting firm (Avante) was expected to deliver 5,000 units last night, and the balance of 11,000 units today.

Zinox was contracted to supply 80,000 units of the DDCs, while Haier was offered to supply 30,000 units, and Avante 22,000. Jega explained that some polling units could not get the DDCs because while Messrs Zinox Technologies Ltd and Haier Electrical Appliances Corp. Ltd, delivered on promise, Avante delivered only 5,500 units as at last Saturday when the exercise commenced.

While enumerating the various hitches faced by the exercise, Jega admitted that the ad-hoc staff did not get the requisite training as there were no enough funds to provide the comprehensive training required for the exercise.

“We wish we had more money for more days of training including hands on the machines. I know when I say more money every Nigerian now laugh because people say that we have already being given too much money, but frankly we could have done with more time of training because the more people are trained, then the better,” he said.

He insisted that any would be voter who has obtained a voter’s card without fingerprints being captured risked disenfranchisement, and advising that such persons to bear the inconveniencies of repeating the process, he warned all offenders by way of multiple registration and all other related offences would be prosecuted.

“One of the major challenges we have on the field is that our officers when confronted with long queues took decisions to register without finger prints and that is wrong. We have devised guidelines now and have informed all our officials on the field, whoever has been registered has to go back and re-register again and all the ten fingers must be registered.

“It’s unfortunate that they have done this and are causing additional inconveniences to the people but what is worth doing is worth doing well. The reason for capturing ten fingers is to make it near impossible for double registration, only the possibility of one duplication in five million voters. So we have to go back to that otherwise the moment we register people without fingerprint, it creates additional problem of checking double registration.

“People have also discovered that there is no way they can do multiple registration on one machine, they now go to another polling unit to register but we have mechanism in place to check double registration at the state level. We do it local government by local government across the state. Whoever does double registration will be caught, we will remove it and we will have evidence to prosecute them subsequently because even if you do registration with different names it will still be your photograph.

“We are using this opportunity to also warn Nigerians because we have information from some states that some politicians are using vehicles to move people from place to place to do double registration. The security agencies are already helping us to apprehend these people and we will prosecute them because clearly, it is electoral offence that they have committed,” Jega said.

Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Hon. Musa Sarki explained that the invitation of Jega was necessitated by the several concerns expressed by Nigerians on the technical hitches experienced from the takeoff point of the exercise.

Adar said Nigerians were greatly disappointed owing to the huge expectation on INEC, saying that the committee wanted to know the possibility of registering all eligible Nigerians within the two weeks stipulated by the commission.

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Nigeria, US Sign Pact To Reduce Illicit Trafficking Of Ancient Arts

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The Federal Government and the United States, yesterday, signed the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) Agreement.
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the CPIA would reduce the pillage of Nigeria’s ancient arts which are mostly smuggled to Europe, the US and other places for the benefit of art collectors.
Mohammed said the signing of the MoU became necessary because, despite all efforts by the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies, to prevent illicit export of the nation’s archaeological and ethnological materials, widespread looting and illicit excavation of these materials still continue.
He said this when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the CPIA with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja.
Special Assistant to the President on Media, Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi, disclosed this in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria, US Sign Pact To Reduce Illicit Trafficking of Ancient Arts.’
Mohammed was quoted as saying, “This legislation was enacted by the United States to restrict the importation into the US of archaeological materials ranging in date from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1770 as well as ethnological materials, including those associated with royal activity, religious activity, etc from nations that have entered into the kind of bilateral initiative that we are signing here with the United States today.”
The minister said on the basis of the agreement, Nigerian antiquities being imported into the US without the requisite export permit will be seized at the border of the US and returned to Nigeria without the arduous and costly task of going through the labyrinth of judicial and diplomatic processes.
“We are optimistic that this agreement will reduce the pillage of our irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological materials, as the market for these materials is being shut in the United States against illicit traffickers.
“The agreement will last for an initial period of five years. If it works well, as we anticipate it will, it shall be renewed for a longer term. We implore other friendly nations to take a cue from the United States of America and join us in finding means to prevent the illegal importation of our antiquities into their countries,” he said.
The minister, who thanked the US Government, in particular the US Embassy in Nigeria, for making the MoU possible, said the Nigerian Government looks forward to a diligent implementation of the landmark agreement, so it can become a game-changer in the nation’s efforts to prevent the looting of its priceless ancient works of art.
In her remarks, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Beth Leonard, said the agreement was aimed at preserving, restoring and protecting Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
“In Nigeria, over the past decade, the US Mission has partnered with the Nigerian government and state institutions to preserve cultural landmarks and sites through projects worth over one million dollars and funded by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
“Just last November, I signed a grant award to digitally survey the Busanyin Shrine located within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove. That $125,000 grant will help document a series of shrines within the Grove and provide training to local professionals in digital tools and cultural heritage management,” she said.
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Three Out Of 10 Nigerians Are Mentally Sick -Reps

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The House of Representatives has said that three out of every 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or another.
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, the House added that over 20,000,000 Nigerians were currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
To this end, the House mandated its Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities around the country and further carry out serious sensitization of Nigerians on this issue.
It also asked the Committee on Health Institution to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health.
The resolution, however, followed a motion titled “Need to Address the Rising Cases of Mental Health in Nigeria” presented by Hon. Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State and considered by the House at yesterday’s plenary.
Presenting his motion, Nnam-Obi noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mental health as a state of well-being in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community.
According to him, mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.
He said: “According to the World Health Organisation statistics, over twenty million Nigerians are currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
“Three out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other, presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatisation against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalised standards for Psychiatric practice.
“The increase in cases of depression is traceable to multifactorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention.
“Nigeria has only 130 Psychiatrists with over 20million citizens suffering from mental disorders.
“With the few functional Mental Health Facilities and inadequate mental health practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.
“The statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the country will simply cause the situation to degenerate”
Adopting the motion, the House gave six weeks to the committees within which to carry out the assignment and report back to it for further legislative action.

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Wike, PDP Govs Commiserate With Tambuwal Over Brother’s Death

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Representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, yesterday, paid a condolence visit to the Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal over the death of his elder brother, Alhaji Muhammed Bello.
Bello, who is also the Waziri of Tambuwal, passed on in Sokoto, last Tuesday night at the age 87.
He was the head of the Tambuwal family.
On the PDP governors’ delegation were, Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Oluseyi Makinde (Oyo); and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.
The Vice Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who led the delegation, said they were in Sokoto to commiserate with Tambuwal and his entire family over the sudden death of his elder brother.
“We feel your pain, and we understand that a great vacuum has been created, not only within the caliphate, but across Nigeria and other places where Daddy had sphere of influence. We believe that God Almighty will grant you the fortitude to bear this great loss.
“We are, however, consoled by the fact that Daddy left legacies that will remain indelible; one of them is your very good self and your impact and contributions to our dear country.”
The governors urged the Tambuwal family, particularly the Sokoto State governor, to remain strong, steadfast and uphold those virtues which the late Waziri of Tambuwal, cherished so much.
In his response, Sokoto StateGovernor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who is the PDP Governors’ Forum chairman, said the entire Tambuwal family was gladdened by the condolence visit.
According to him, his late elder brother, who lived his life in the service of community, held the family title, Waziri of Tambuwal for 37 years after the demise of their father.
“We are, indeed, very highly consoled not only by your presence, but your words of consolation. For you to have left behind whatever you are doing in your respective states to come all the way to Sokoto this afternoon, shows clearly how you sympathise with us and how close you are to us. I assure you that we appreciate this.”

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