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RVHA, RSSDA And Overseas Medical Students

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In the exercise of its over

sight
function, the Rivers State House of Assembly recently summoned the executive
Director of the State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), Mr. Noble Pepple
to appear before the lawmakers on its overseas scholarship programme.

The invitation was sequel to a petition by the students of
Rivers oversea medical programme in the united Kingdom through their parents,
alleging that the RSSDA took the 2008 batch of foreign medical students to
Britain and abandoned them to their fate.

Upon the presentation of the petition on the floor of the
Assembly, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Amachree, directed the House
Committee on public complaints and petition to investigate the allegations
contained in the petition. Titled “The plight of Rivers State Government
sponsored medical students in the United Kingdom (2008 batch) to complete their
MBBS programme”.

Based on the issues canvassed in the said petition, the
committee was given two weeks to investigate the matter and report their
finding to the House for necessary intervention.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Michael Okey-Chinda and his
members went to work immediately and submitted their report in record time.

The findings of the Committee raised a lot of questions during
debate and that precipitated the resolution of the Assembly to invite the RSSDA
Executive Director via a unanimous voice vote by members.

The date was Wednesday, August 22, 2012, the Chamber created
an atmosphere of a tensed situation, suspense laced with mixed expectations as
the scenario and the gallery looked as if prospective commissioners were
undergoing screening. And to set the tone for the day’s business, the clerk of
the Assembly read out only two items in the order paper, namely the presentation
of Education Committee report on the outcome of its public hearing on the
Rivers State Education Quality Assurance Agency Bill, and the appearance of the
RSSDA Executive Director over the plight of State Government-sponsored medical
students in the United Kingdom.

The House Committee Chairman on education, Hon. Augustine
Ngo, delivered his report and debate was deferred to Monday August 27, 2012.
meanwhile, the bill has been passed by the lawmakers to give credence to
government vision of improving the standard of education to justify the huge
investment in the sector.

To set the stage for the item, the Leader of the House, Hon.
Chidi Lloyd, moved a motion to allow the RSSDA boss and his officials access
the hallowed Chamber as well as parents of the embattled students.

In the report submitted and adopted as working document of
the Assembly, Chairman of the House Committee on public complaints and
Petition, Hon. Michael Okey-Chinda, held that the petitioners were the first
batch of 2008 set of students sent to United Kingdom under the RSSDA’s overseas
medical programe.

Unfortunately, they were denied direct admission to study
medicine due to non-possession of A’level certificates.

As a result of this deficiency, they were enrolled into
foundation programmes in order to prepare them for direct admission into
medical schools in UK, but the late commencement of the preparatory programme
coupled with the government’s policy of limited space for foreign students,
none of the 2008/2009 batch succeeded in gaining admission to study medicine.

The Committee noted that following the development, the
students were subsequently admitted into school of Bio-medical sciences of the
University of Newcastle, UK and they obtained Bachelor of Science (B.Sc),
degrees in Pharmacology, Physiology, Bio-Chemistry, Micro-Biology, Bio-Medical
Sciences collectively referred to as premedical degrees.

However, to achieve their dream of becoming medical doctors,
the students approached the institution for admission but were rather offered
placements in Malaysia-based Newscastle University Medical School campus.

Surprising to the students, the authorities of RSSDA failed
to recognise the admission on the ground that the institution was not
accredited and issued them notification letters for their return back home,
having completed first degree programmes abroad.

As if the trauma of the students were not enough, the Agency
disbursed only £400 (four hundred pounds) to about 50 per cent of the students
in the programme out of their normal £800 (eight hundred pounds) monthly upkeep
and accommodation allowance.

The RSSDA team on the floor of the Assembly were the
Executive Director, Coordinator of the overseas scholarship, Mr. Godwin Poi,
and a professional U.K.-based consultant, Mrs blessing Tasie.

Although, the central cooling system of the Assembly was
working at optimum capacity, those who appeared before it were visibly
perspiring profusely as they battled to give cogent answers to the issues at
stake.

Members of the House put a few questions to the officials of
the Agency: the questions included which admission letter(s) the agency used to
secure UK Visa for the students?, who screened the students and found them
qualified for UK medical schools admission? Was the Agency not aware that they possessed
O’level and not A’level certificates before inviting them for their strict
aptitude test which the students passed? And what was the role of the UK based
consultant, Mrs Blessing Tasie, to the agency on the admission procedures
stipulated for medicine and the fact that only seven per cent placement was
reserved for all foreign students in Uk as a government policy?

Mrs Tasie was tongue-lashed for her inability to discharge
the responsibility placed on her shoulders, while Mr. Godwin Poi, struggled
fruitlessly to provide satifactory answers to the issues raised.

The more he tried, the more loopholes were created.

However, Mr. Pepple explained that during the period under
discussion, he was not part of the agency but acknowledged the failures which he
noted were regrettable and hinged his defence on the fact that 2008 batch was a
test case, coupled with the pressure to immediately kick start the programme.

He explained that the agency has since acquired a lot of
experience after the first experiment and therefore, has not recorded any more
case of this nature.

The RSSDA boss told the lawmakers that if any of the
premedical graduates secures admission on their own to study medicine in Uk,
the agency may be willing to sponsor, while promising to offset the areas of
the students upkeep allowance, subject to release of funds.

The Assembly, therefore, allied itself with the fears
expressed by the students and their parents of possible abandonement on return
and resolved that RSSDA should work cooperately with the premedical graduates
to seek for admission in any other of the nine countries covered by the
scholarship programme instead of limiting it to UK medical schools, adding that
it will help the students fulfill their ambition of becoming medical doctors and
contribute to the needed manpower in the health sector.

The lawmakers accepted the recommendation of the committee
that the agency maintains its stand on the Malaysia Medical School campus of
the Newscastle Unviersity as state funds should not be spent to acquire
unaccredited medical degrees.

They equally resolved that since their Visas will expire in
December 2012, they should return home while RSSDA collaborates with them to
get another admission and fully sponsor, in view of the fact that the fault was
not from the students.

The House also expressed appreciation that all the students
performed well in the programmes they were enrolled in and urged the affected
premedical degree graudates to remain grateful to the state government for the
opportunity and seeing them through the four-year academic sponsorship in spite
of the temporary set back.

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APC: C’River LP Disowns Decampees

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The Labour Party (LP) has disowned one Mr. Maurice Ekeng, who claimed to be Chairman of the party in Cross River State, and his purported exco who defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC)
The party, in a press statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, described the action of Ekeng and others as “laughable and unfortunate for an old man who parades himself as an elder of the church”.
The statement signed by Comrade Dr. Ofem Lekam, State Publicity Secretary of the party said, “The attention of the leadership of Labour Party in Cross River State led by Ambassador Ogar Osim as Chairman and Comrade Asuquo Etim as State Secretary has been drawn to publications claiming that the State Chairman and members of his executive have decamped to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
“Mr Ekeng is an impostor who was never made a State Chairman at any Congress. We challenge him to publish the names of his executive, pictures taken in 2021 extra-ordinary NEC meeting in Benin City where the National Chairman, Julius Abure and the Secretary, Alhaji Farouk Ibrahim were elected, as well as that of Home Land Hotel Calabar where the National Leadership represented by the Vice Chairman South South, Prince Reuben Nuka inaugurated the current State Caretaker
“The impostor from all available evidences is a member of APC sponsored to create confusion in a peaceful party of idealists who are making sacrifices in travelling round the nooks and crannies of the state to revive the structures of the party at all level in the state which is already making monumental impact in the state ahead of 2023.
“We want to put it on record that, Labour Party is intact, and is not contemplating merging with All Progressive Congress (APC) and any other political party; rather it is a party to beat come 2023.
“We appeal to the general public to disregard any news making the rounds that the LP Chairman and his executive have decamped, it is the imagination of political jobbers and mischief-makers whose occupation is to sacrifice their integrity and ideology just for peanuts.
“It is also instructive to advise Mr. Bassey Ita serving at APC Secretariat at Marian Road Calabar not to allow the temporary excitement of the moment to cloud his sense of reasoning by accepting people claiming a platform without verification.
“It is pathetic that Mr. Bassey Ita is yet to realize that with Governor Prof. Ben Ayade now as leader of APC CRS, the days of kangaroo administration of APC CRS should have been over by now in Cross River State.”

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INEC To Deploy 5,346 Personnel For CVR

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INEC said on Monday in Abuja that it would deploy 5,346 personnel to 2,673 registration centres for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) resuming nationwide on June 28.
Its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the declaration at the presentation of INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) and online registration portal for the exercise at a meeting he held with media executives.
IVED is an Android tablet to be used in place of the existing Data Capturing Machine used for CVR in previous exercises.
Prof. Yakubu said that before now INEC had 1,446 registration centres where it registered 14. 2 million voters between 2017 and 2018.
“Learning from the experience of what happened, we have now almost doubled the number of those centres.
“Our hope is that unlike 14.2 million we registered in the previous exercise, we are targeting a minimum of 20 million registrants this time. It will take the number of registered voters to about 100 million,’’ Yakubu said.
He said that majority of the 5,346 personnel to be deployed would be INEC officials, while ad-hoc staff would be used where the Commission lacked the required number of personnel.
He said that the Commission was working with stakeholders for the security of personnel and equipment to be deployed.
Yakubu disclosed that the design for both the online portal and IVED were done by INEC engineers, taking into consideration Nigeria’s peculiarity, including weather, for its durability.
He said registrants would be able to know where machines for registration are located via the portal.
He also noted that the Commission was working on ensuring that Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for internally-displaced persons were reproduced for them so as not to be disenfranchised.
Many would have lost their cards while under siege, he said.
Prof. Yakubu also said that PVCs for newly-registered voters would be produced on quarterly basis after the registration, noting that the list of the registrants would be displayed at the registration units for claims and objections.
Presenting the online portal and IVED, INEC’s Director of ICT, Mr Chidi Nwafor, said that the online portal was designed to serve various needs of eligible Nigerians for the registration.
These, according to Nwafor, include new registration, review of registration, and review of personal details or voting centres, PVCs replacement or collection.
“As a new voter, you can pre-register online, or as a registered voter, you can revalidate your voter registration, request to update your information or transfer your voter registration to another polling unit, Nwafor said.
He said that registrants could register their details online before going to the nearest registration centre selected by them for photographs and finger prints capturing to complete the exercise.
Nwafor said that the portal was designed in a way that once an intending voter completed the online registration, an appointment for physical registration would be generated by the portal for the registrant.
He added that any registrant who could not meet up with the appointed date and time could reschedule the appointment via the same portal.
He said that the portal also made provision for people to contact the Commission in the event of challenges during online registration.
He noted that a registrant had 14 days to complete the online pre-registration and a year to complete the whole process.
He advised registered voters to make use of the portal to identify polling units or centres nearest to them.
Nwafor also assured that the Commission was putting adequate security in place to protect the device and the portal against hacks or cybercrime.
He also said that concerns about underage voter registration would be taken care of as those that registered online would still visit the registration centre before the process could be completed.
The media executives in a communiqué issued after the meeting suggested that the CVR be devolved to INEC LGA Council offices based on thorough appraisal of security situations and related factors.
They also recommended that the CVR be gradually devolved to other designated registration centres nationwide after assessments of security situations and other factors relating to safety of personnel and materials.
They tasked relevant stakeholders, especially political parties, traditional institutions, religious leaders and Civil Society Organisations to mobilise all eligible registrants to participate in the CVR.

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PDP NWC Harps On Unity Over Anambra Guber Poll

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) has called for unity among stakeholders in Anambra state, ahead the June 26 primaries for the state governorship election.
The party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, made the call during the NWC meeting with the party aspirants, leaders and other stakeholders from Anambra, held in Abuja on Monday.
Secondus said the meeting was called to enable the NWC to interact with stakeholders, as elections held off season were always very stormy and tough.
“We are here basically for us to make sure first and foremost that all our leaders and all our aspirants are in unity. It is very important for this trying period and you know the period, we are in,”he said.
Secondus said that unity was key, especially now that the country was passing through challenges including insecurity that must not be taken for granted.
He said the only way to get out of that was to make sure that things were done properly.
“Let there be fairness, equity and justice, which is in deficit in our country; and that is what the PDP stands for.
“We stand for fairness, equity and justice under the rule of law. This is a party that believes that all Nigerians are one. We must live together as brothers and sisters,” he said.
The party chairman said that Anambra was key to the mission of rescuing Nigeria and uniting the country.
“Anambra is the economic key of our country and we must conduct our affairs to show the world that PDP is different and ready to rescue this country.
“That is why we are to interact with leaders of our party, and at the end of this meeting, I think we will go home happy that on Saturday it will be the freest congresses ever that are conducted.
“So, Anambra, we want to advise, we want to call our people, the time to put down ourselves is now.
“This is the time to look at each other. We must not allow both Anambra and our country to fail. We must show that good example.
“You have been leading in several areas, you must lead politically now. Our leaders must be statesmen. They must look beyond an individual and narrow interest.
“It is time for us to look at Nigeria. If we get it wrong, the consequences will be great. It will reflect on other parts of the country,” Secondus said.
Also, PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, said the meeting was customary anytime PDP had major contests.
Akobundu said the meeting was called to ensure everybody was carried along in the primary to ensure peaceful outcome.
“It is for this reason that the NWC directed to meet with all stakeholders in Anambra.
“This is just a cross section of our quality stakeholders in Anambra that were invited to attend this meeting.
“It is simply to rub minds, have an interactive session and discuss ways and means that we can employ to have hitch-free primary with everybody on board.”

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