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Rivers Probe: Commission Summons Ex-Agric Boss, 12 Others

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The Justice George O. Omereji led Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating the immediate past administration in the state has threatened to issue warrant of arrest against former Agriculture Commissioner and 12 former Care-taker Committee Chairmen (CTC) who served under the past administration to force them to appear before it today at 9am.
By the close of sitting yesterday, the commission issued fresh summons to compel the former officers to comply with its order.
The former Care-taker Committee Chairmen invited to appear at today’s sitting include, Hon. Mnaeichenbo C. Tende (Ogu/Bolo), Uche Felix Naaeke, (Oyigbo), Kadilo Kabari, (Gokana) Oji Ngofa, (Eleme), Barr. Nnamdi Wuche, (Phalga), and Nlemaa Agabe for Tai LGA.
Others are Hon. Mene Lenyie Derek (Khana) Ojukaye Flag Amachree (Asalga), Ikegbidi Cassidy Okpara (Ahoada East), Charles Anyanwu (Etche), Ibigoni Daddy Pokima (Degema), as well as Hon. Austin Ahiamadu for Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local Government Area of the state.
The invitation was part of resolutions reached by the panel at the end of yesterday’s sitting which was adjourned due to the inability of the former Agriculture Commissioner to honour an earlier invitation by the commission.
The invited persons are expected to appear before the panel and give evidence and produce relevant documents in respect to the disbursement of N4 billion Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through secured the state Ministry of Agriculture by the last administration.
Speaking during the inaugural session of the commission held at the auditorium of the state Judiciary complex in Port Harcourt, Monday, the Chairman of the Commission Justice George O. Omereji stated that the commission was a fact-finding body and was not a court of law and would not witch-hunt any body adding that that the commission’s activities would be based on the memoranda submitted by the parties.
Justice Omereji promised that the commission shall uphold the principle of fair hearing and give equal opportunities to all concerned persons to state their cases as well as tender relevant documents that shall assist the commission in its assessment.
According to him “person (s) mentioned in the memoranda shall be put on notice and granted audience to respond. The commission recognizes the right of the parties to engage legal practitioners of their choice. The commission is not bound by the strict rules of evidence but shall add procedures that will ensure fairness to all the parties”, he stated.
Justice Omereji, who is a serving Judge at the State Judiciary said that the recommendations of the commission would be advisory and would be at the discretion of the state government, even as he sued for co-operation among all.
Earlier in their separate submissions during their appearance at the commission on Monday, the Permanent Secretary, state Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs O.I. Okoye and the Director, Planning Research and Statistics Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Chijioke Grant Amadi explained that 380 mother Co-operatives across the 23 local Government of the states benefited from the Agric grant from the CBN.
They told the panel that the N4 billion Agric grant was segmented in various order adding that only N2.932 billion was paid to the beneficiaries.
Giving the break down on how the money was disbursed during the past administration, the Permanent Secretary said N2.932 billion was paid to the Co-operatives, N.1bn was paid for OMUDA Development Company and bank charges, while the balance of N989 million was outstanding in the account meant for four fish farms at Opobo/Nkoro, Andoni, Ubima and Degema and has not been paid.
They told the committee that due process was followed in the disbursement of the loan as most beneficiaries were farmers in the state adding that committee was set up to monitor the disbursement and reported to the then Commissioner for Agriculture.
They stated that they were not part of those who generated the names of the beneficiaries adding that it was the former Agric boss that gave such approval. In her own submission, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Commerce, Mrs Cordelia M. Peterside however told the panel that her Ministry could only account for 342 Cooperatives out of the 380, but promised to furnish the panel with further details within one week.
The disbursement or use by the State Ministry of Agriculture of the sum of N4 billion Agricultural Credit Guarantee scheme fund is among the areas the panel of inquiry is investigating on the activities of the past administration as empowered by Governor Nyesom Wike.

 

Akujobi Amadi

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Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion

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The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.

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FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer

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The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.

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Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media

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The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.

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