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Feb Polls: To Be Or Not To Be?

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The recent call by the
National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), for a postponement of the February polls has brought Nigeria to another phase of electioneering. For all the intrigues it has offered so far, one certainty it has proved is the preparedness of key stakeholders, particularly the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP,  and the main opposition, All Progressives Congress, APC, to ensure free, fair and acceptable 2015 general elections. At least going by what they say they stand for.
To an extent, the modus operandi adopted by all concerned may have ended up opening a can of worms, but all are hell bent on holding their own in their conviction of what the Nigerian populace either desire, or need. In their bid to push forth their stand, some pertinent questions are ostensibly raised. An example is the reason given by Dasuki for postponement of the elections,
Speaking at the London think-tank Chatham House, during a lecture entitled, “Nigeria’s Insecurity: Insurgency, Corruption, Elections and the Management of Multiple Threats”, Dasuki said “INEC had distributed 30 million cards in the past year but had another 30 million to hand out.”
He said INEC had assured him it would achieve this on time for the February elections, but he thought it would make more sense to take more time, as there is a 90-day window during which the election could legally take place.
“It costs you nothing; it’s still within the law”, he said.
While supporting this stand, the highly respected pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said, holding credible poll is not feasible considering that majority of voters are yet to collect their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs).
In a communiqué issued after a meeting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, chaired by the leader of the group, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, and read by the Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, the group emphasized that as far as postponing the election would still meet the May 29 handover date, the sacrifice would be worth the trouble.
“The constitution says election should hold not earlier than 150 days to handover date and not later than 30 days. INEC has chosen February 14. For us, May 29 is sacrosanct; there is no controversy over this.
“Within those days, between February 14 and 30 days to May 29, INEC has a window to make sure that most voters are not disenfranchised. If  INEC can give all registered voters their PVCs before February 14, all well and good.
Moreover, they added, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has not demonstrated enough determination to conduct free and fair elections.
“The meeting viewed with seriousness the sheer incompetence on the part of INEC. The INEC that wanted to create 30,000 polling units few weeks to the election has yet to distribute almost 30 million voter’s cards. When you look at the table INEC has given, what they tell us is that in each state, this is the PVC received, hiding the total number of registered voters.
“As at today, over 15 million voters out of the ones collected have not received their cards. This is 54 million. There are 14 million voter’s cards that have not arrived in the country. If we put them together, almost half of the total electorate is yet to collect their voter’s cards.
“The assurance by the INEC chairman that he will distribute cards a day to the election is not reassuring. If you have failed to do it before now, what is the assurance that he is going to do it now?
“We want to warn that any election conducted on the basis of disenfranchising almost half of the electorate, the outcome will not be credible or acceptable”, Odumakin said.
One argument that has been put forth against the postponement is that at no point in the history of elections the world over that all registered voters had voted in an election. In the words of the House of Representatives spokesperson, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, “there is nowhere in the world where 100 per cent of registered voters vote in an election”.
Stating the stand of the Lower House, Mohammed said “the call for postponement of the elections is a decoy for third term agenda and as a House of the Nigerian people, we will resist it”. The reason, as he puts it, is that “It will be a breach of the constitution to postpone the polls by whatever guise. This is a ploy and we know where it is coming from.”
Another strong opposition to the postponement came from the 26 registered political parties in the country. They recently met in Abuja with the electoral body and asked INEC not to postpone the elections.
Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the body of the registered parties, Yunusa Tanko, said all the registered political parties were already on the field canvassing for votes.
Speaking with journalists at the quarterly meeting of INEC with the leadership of the registered political parties ahead of the general elections, Tanko declared that all the political parties  were ready and fully prepared for the polls.
He added that a lot of human and material resources had been committed towards having successful elections in the country.
Meanwhile, Tanko noted, INEC, as the electoral umpire, has not said the February 14 and 28 dates for the general elections cannot be met “As we speak, INEC has not come out to tell us that the elections will be shifted; INEC has been carrying the registered political parties along in all the preparations for the February polls.
“Though there may be challenges in the distribution of the PVCs, this is not enough to postpone the elections. To us, it remains agitation and we are not in support of the idea.”
Noting the importance of not disenfranchising qualified voters, he urged INEC to approach the Federal Government for possible declaration of public holidays to enable all eligible voters who are yet to collect their PVCs to do so before the elections.
INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, had during the meeting with IPAC, agreed on certain salient points aimed at ensuring free and fair elections. Such points include relocation of some polling units that are located at areas where undue influence could affect voting.
The meeting, Jega said, was an opportunity not only for INEC to brief the political parties but also to listen to their concerns and observations so as to take them into account in the final preparations for the elections.
“I want to also assure you that we are committed to ensuring that the elections will be much better than the elections we conducted in 2011,” he stated.
The crux of agitations for and against the postponement is registered voters taking possession of their PVCs, which is genuine. But the opposition’s stance is based on the timing and who is calling for the postponement. They express the belief that there is more to the call for postponement than meets the eye. Accussing fingers are being pointed at the ruling PDP seeking to maneuver the polls shift to its advantage.
Moreover, the opposition reasoned that such call for postponement should come from the umpire, INEC, not a partisan in the fold of Dasuki. And since INEC had emphasized on the feasibility of the February 14 and 28 dates for the elections, based on which so much has been invested, such postponement, the opposition fear is  capable of fueling crisis.
Going by the intrigues, all stakeholders have proven to know their onions in the country’s political arena. The basic concern now is the extent to which these agitations are powered by a genuine concern to build a better and united Nigeria, noting that anything less than that could spell doom for the country.
As the former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, recently put it, “the outcome of the election would affect the fortunes of the country. Getting the election right would unlock the country’s potentials, while getting it wrong would mean hard times ahead.
“We are at crossroads: we do it right, we’ll get our country perfect, peaceful (and) united. We do it wrong, it may not be the end of Nigeria, (but) difficult times will be ahead”.
From the perspective of the spokesman of Afenifere, Odumakin, one way to get it right is not just to clamour for change, but to do so knowing that the most important change that Nigeria desires this time is one that would restructure governance.
“Most of the issues that are confronting us – insecurity and corruption – have their link with the faulty constitution that we have and to change the constitution is the most important change that we need”, hence “the change that ignores the restructuring of Nigeria is not a change”.

 

Soibi Max-Alalibo

INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega

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Buhari Approves Deployment Of Nine Perm Secs

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the deployment of nine Federal Permanent Secretaries to Federal Ministries.

In a circular, HCSF/CMO/AOD/012/IX/59 dated August3, 2021, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, disclosed the deployment takes immediate effect and handing over and taking over process should be completed on or before Friday, August 6, 2021, with the exception of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health whose take over will be on August13, 2021.

The deployed Permanent Secretaries are, Bitrus Bako Nabasu from Ministry of Petroleum Resource is deployed to the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy; Dr Evelyn Ngige, Service Welfare Office, OHCSF has been deployed to the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment; Mammam Mahmuda, Career Management Office, OHCSF is now in the Federal Ministry of Health; Dr.Nasir Sani Gwarzo, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment has been taken to Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Dr Anthonia Akpabio Ekpa, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs to Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs.

Others are the newly appointed Permanent Secretaries, Dr. Onwudiwe Maryanne Ngozi; Dr. Ogunbiyi Marcus Olaniyi; Yusuf Ibrahim Idris; and Adebiyi Olusesan Olufunso; who were deployed to Service Welfare Office, OHCSF; Career Management Office, OHCSF; Common Service Office, OHCSF and Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, respectively.

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Court Orders EFCC To Unfreeze Dokpesi’s Account

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The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, yesterday, in Abuja, issued an order unfreezing the bank account of the Chairman of Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi.

Justice Tsoho gave the order while delivering a ruling on Dokpesi’s application argued by Mr KanuAgabi, SAN.

The judge ordered that the account domiciled at one of the new generational bank be immediately ‘unfrozen’ since the criminal charges which precipitated the restriction on the account had been dismissed, and Dokpesi discharged and acquitted by the Court of Appeal.

The judge said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had no basis to put a post no debit order on the account in view of the subsisting and valid judgment of the Court of Appeal.

He held that there was no application by the EFCC for stay of execution of the appellate court’s judgment which quashed the criminal charges against Dokpesi.

Justice Tsoho said that in the absence of a stay of execution, the court was bound by law to recognise the judgment of the appellate court.

He ordered that the freeze order and post no debit on the account be immediately removed in compliance with the appellate court’s judgment.

Ruling on the claim by the EFCC that it had appealed the appellate court’s decision at the Supreme Court, the judge held that the notice of appeal filed at the apex court could not in law stay the execution of the subsisting judgment .

He added that the anti-graft agency ought to have obtained a stay of execution of the judgment.

He further ordered that all documents seized from Dokpesi should be immediately returned to him.

Agabi, while making arguments in support of the application, prayed the court to issue an order unfreezing Dokpesi’s  bank account frozen on the strength of the alleged N2.1billion fraud charge  against him.

The senior lawyer had submitted that the criminal charges in respect of N2.1billion had since been dismissed by the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division but the EFCC wanted to continue to hold his client in bondage.

Agabi had further argued that the charge which led to freezing of the account no longer existed following the decision of the appellate court on the matter.

He had tendered two judgements of the Court of Appeal to establish his claim that the criminal charges against Dokpesi had been quashed.

He held that until the judgments were set aside the EFCC could not continue to freeze his client’s account.

However, EFCC counsel, Mr Oluwaleke Atolagbe, had opposed the application on the grounds that the anti-graft agency had already filled a notice of appeal against the appellate court’s judgment at the apex court.

Atolagbe had urged the court not to unfreeze the account yet until the final decision of the Supreme Court in the matter, adding that the N2.1billion logged in the frozen account formed the basis of the charge.

He also opposed to the request for the release of Dokpesi’s document in possession of EFCC on the grounds that no specific document was mentioned in the request.

On April 1, a three-member panel of the Appeal Court in a unanimous judgment freed Dokpesi from the charges after it held that the prosecution failed to establish the ingredients of the charge.

The EFCC had in 2015 dragged Dokpesi to court, accusing him and his company of illegally receiving funds considered as proceeds of crimes from a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd).

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and went further to file a no-case submission after the prosecution closed its case in November, 2018, after calling 14 witnesses.

However, the trial judge, Justice Tsoho, rejected the no-case submission, and ordered Dokpesi and his firm to enter their defence.

Not satisfied, the defendants then approached the Court of Appeal, with a request to nullify the decision and free him from the charges on the grounds that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

In the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Elfreda Williams-Dawodu, the appellate court agreed with the appellants that the case of the respondents lacked merit having “failed woefully to establish a prima facie case against the appellant”.

According to the judgment, for any case to be established against the defendants, it is necessary to first prove the ingredients of offence in the predicate offences in counts 1 to 4 of the seven-count charge which bordered on criminal breach of trust, division of funds, money laundering and corruption.

The court further held that EFCC failed to prove that the N2.1billion allegedly received by the appellant was proceed of breach of trust, and accordingly set aside the decision of the lower court which held that the appellants had a case to answer.

“No case was made against the appellant in counts 1, 2, 3 and 4 to warrant his being called upon to open his defence.

“There is no possibility that the appellant can be convicted because the evidence are manifestly unreliable.

“I am of the view that irrespective of the ingredients stated earlier, and those by the appellant and first respondent respectively, prior proof or establishment of the predicate offences in count 1,2,3 and 4 of the amended charge is sine qua non to the proof of the offences of money laundering specified in the said counts”, the court said.

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Enugu Assembly Approves N200m Virement For Auditor-General Offices

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The Enugu State House of Assembly has approved the virement of N200 million for the offices of the State Auditor-General and Auditor-General for Local Government.
The Tide source reports that the house also passed the 2021 State Audit Amendment Bill at an emergency plenary session.
The Leader of the House, Mr Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, said the approval of the virement became necessary to provide funding for the two newly created offices, which were not envisaged during the 2021 appropriation bill.
Ezeugwu said the funding would include capital and recurrent expenditures, adding that the N200 million would be provided by the office of the governor.
According to him, the virement would give the offices the needed independence to effectively discharge their statutory responsibilities.
Also contributing, the member representing Awgu South Constituency, Mr Johnson Chukwuobasi, said the new offices would be redundant without funding.
The Speaker, Chief Edward Ubosi, said the fund was meant to perfect the Audit Amendment Bill passed by the Assembly.
Ubosi said it would be an irony to create the offices without approving funds that would make them functional.
He said such a development would amount to building something on nothing.
In another development, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has forwarded a list of nominees for the State Civil Service Commission (SCSC) and Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) to the House for confirmation.
The nominees for the SCSC included Mrs Eucharia Offiah (Chairman), Mr Nathaniel Anike, Mrs Chinenye Odike and Mrs Stella Ekweremadu (members).
Also nominated for the LGSC were Prof. Ossy Okanya (Chairman), Mr Frederick Ugwu, Mrs Florence Igboji, Mr Peter Nnaji and Mr Eugene Odoh (members).
The Speaker directed the nominees to submit 25 copies of their Curriculum Vitae on or before Monday, August 2 to the House.

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