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Rivers Rerun Killings: Commission Promises Fair Hearing

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The Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the state government to investigate the killings and other violent acts and related matters that occurred during the March 19, 2016 re-run elections in the state says it will be fair to all parties involved.
The Chairman of the Commission, Justice Monima W. Danagogo gave this indication during the inaugural session of the panel at the block C wing of the state Judiciary complex in Port Harcourt, Monday.
Justice Danagogo stated that the commission was not set up to witch hunt anybody but rather to find out whether there were killings, those killed and those responsible, and make recommendations to the state government.
He promised to be fair to everybody involved, and sought the cooperation of members of the society to enable the commission deliver on its mandate.
Meanwhile, three affected Journalists, Mr. Martins Giadom, (Radio Rivers) Sotonye Jamaica, (Garden City Radio) and Leuman Barididlum, (Rhythm FM), who appeared before the panel, yesterday have appealed to the state government for assistance to enable them recover from the losses they suffered during the March 19, 2016 re-run election in the state.
They made this appeal while, giving their evidence during cross examination by the panel yesterday.
The journalists, who took over four hours to narrate their ordeals in the hands of  Bunu-Tai youth in Tai Local Government Area of the state while they were monitoring the inconclucive re-run elections in the area, added that they survived the attacks because of the mercy of God.
The Journalists were allegedly attacked at Bunu-Tai Community in Tai Local Government Area while on Election duty on March 19, 2016.
Taking the lead, Mr. Martin Giadom of Radio Rivers told the 5-Man Committee that the youth of the community attacked them on the day of the election even when they were aware that they were journalists, adding that the youth beat them, up, vandalized their vehicles, and dispossessed them of all their valuables, including undisclosed amount of money.
He disclosed that they lost over N10 million properties, and other valuables, and appealed to the state government to come to their assistance.
Corroborating the evidence of Mr. Giadom, Mr. Sotonye Jamaica of Garden City Radio described the situation as a mob attack, adding that they were beaten with dangerous objects.
Also speaking, counsel to the journalists, Barr. High Kings said that what his clients were seeking for was justice as well as compensation.
The sitting continues today.

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Senate Bars Media As MDAs Defend Budgets

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The Senate, yesterday, defended its committees’ decision to shut out the media from covering the budget defence session it is currently holding with the ministries, agencies and departments of the Federal Government.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, justified the action of his colleagues during an interactive session with journalists.
The Senate panels had last Wednesday, started the process of scrutinising details of the 2020 budgets of the MDAs, with most of the sessions held behind closed doors, contrary to the usual practice.
Adeyeye said the Senate would not deny journalists the necessary information the public needed to know about the budgets of the MDAs.
He said the committees’ decision to shut out the media was actually to avoid unnecessary distractions.
He explained that the various committees would still brief the journalists after the budget defence sessions.
He said, “On secret meetings with MDAs, I have said that we shall liaise with relevant committees of the Senate to make sure that they allow proper coverage of their activities.
“I just finished a meeting of another committee on budget defence and honestly we held that meeting but the venue couldn’t accommodate all of us, even a lot of the staff have nowhere to seat.
“It isn’t that they want to conduct budget defence in secrecy but serious issues of budget defence, looking at figures, ratify them, adjusting them don’t necessarily have to be open to the media.
“What I am saying is that there is no secrecy but they need to do serious work.
“If I want to write a paper now, I want to do serious intellectual work; will I be doing it in the full glare of camera? No!
“I want us to believe that it is a serious matter. We want to discuss the issues seriously, genuinely, factually.
“The press can be called in but sometimes the Committee needs their privacies to do their jobs.
“They can at the end of the day call the press to say, “This is what we have done.” If they can do their job without the searchlight of the cameras, they can get the job done.
“This is what they have done, it isn’t secrecy. Do you want the committees to do everything in your presence? I don’t think it is proper.
“Were you there when the Executive was preparing the budget, but the president came here to present it.
“The budget defence can be done behind closed door but then whatever has be done, the best thing is to release it to the public and I think that’s if fair enough.”
He assured the media that his committee would liaise with the other Senate committees to make their findings available to the public.
Adeyeye said, “There is nothing secret about this thing, they are looking at it item by item they couldn’t have released it to the press.
“I am going to pass information to chairmen of the various committees to do the same on their report.

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Wike Tasks Advisory Council On Safer Roads

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To reduce the menace of road crashes across Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike has inaugurated the Rivers State Road Safety Advisory Council (RSRSAC) to drive the implementation of the Nigerian Road Safety Strategy in the state.
Wike said the inauguration of the advisory council was apt, having recently sworn in the Rivers State Road Maintenance Agency to ensure safe and drive-able roads for the good people of the state.
The governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo, in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday, said, the council was to advise the state government and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) on measures to improve road safety management, safer vehicles, safe road users, post-crash care, amongst others, according to the Nigeria Road Safety Strategy.
He advised members of the council, who are to serve as technical working group, to ensure best practices by swinging into massive awareness campaign on road safety to reduce carnage on roads, having been drawn from different ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
In his remarks, the Sector Commander of Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr David Mendie, said the advisory council was necessary to join synergy with the rest of the federation in ensuring safety of road users and proper emergency management.
The state advisory council is chaired by the Secretary to the State Government while the alternate chairman is the Sector Commander of FRSC.
Other members include representatives drawn from ministries of transport, health, justice, information and communications, education, finance, the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

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Why FG Is Borrowing Fresh $3bn From World Bank -Minister

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The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has said the $3billion loan being sought by the Federal Government from the World Bank would be deployed for reforms in the power sector.
She said this during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings holding in Washington DC, United States.
Ahmed, who is leading the Federal Government’s delegation to the meeting, said she would be holding further discussions with the management of the Bank to present how the fund would be disbursed for the project.
She said based on the plan of the Federal Government for the power sector, the loan would be used for the development of transmission and distribution networks to enhance the delivery of electricity.
Ahmed also said the loan would be used in addressing some of the challenges that the country is currently facing in the power sector.
She said, “There is a proposed $2.5billion to $3billion facility for the power sector development programme in Nigeria and this will include development of the transmission networks and the distribution networks as well as removing the challenges that we currently have now in the electricity sector.
“We are going to have a full meeting to discuss the power sector recovery programme and back home we have been working a great deal with the World Bank to design how this programme will be implemented.
“So, we have an opportunity now to have a direct meeting with the leadership of the bank and to tell them the plan we have and how much we need from one to five years.”
The finance minister explained that the government would be pushing for the disbursement of the $3billion facility in two tranches of $1.5billion each.
When asked to comment on concerns being raised by the IMF about Nigeria’s debt which stands at N25.7trillion the finance minister insists that Nigeria does not have a debt problem.
She said what the government needed to do is to increase its revenue-generating capacity in order to boost the revenue to about 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
She said with Nigeria’s current revenue to GDP ratio standing at just 19 per cent, it’s underperformance is significantly straining the government’s ability to service its debt obligation.
The minister said, “Nigeria does not have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue problem.
“Our revenue to GDP is still one of the lowest among countries that are comparable to us. It’s about 19 per cent of GDP and what the World Bank and IMF recommended is about 50 per cent of GDP for countries that are our size. We are not there yet. What we have is a revenue problem.
“The underperformance of our revenue is causing a significant strain in our ability to service debt and to service government day-to-day recurrent expenditure and that is why all the work we are doing at the ministry of finance is concentrating on driving the increase in revenue.”
When asked why the Federal Government decided to increase the revenue projection in the 2020 budget to N8.9trillion at a time when government revenue performance is less than 60 per cent, she said a lot of measures are being put in place to correct the anomaly.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government is considering introducing excise duties on carbonated drinks, according to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.
Ahmed gave the indication in an interview with newsmen, yesterday, on the sidelines of the ongoing World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington DC, United States.
She said the idea was one of other areas, besides the proposed increase in VAT, that the government was looking at to broaden its revenue base.
The minister explained that the government was working hard to ensure efficiency in existing revenue streams while searching for new ones.
She said the government would consult with all stakeholders on the proposal in line with standard policy formulation process.
“Any tax that you are introducing will involve a lot of consultations and also amendments of some laws or introduction of new regulations,” she said.
Carbonated drinks include soft drink brands such as Coca Cola, Sprite and Fanta, while excise duty is a tax levied on locally produced goods.
Ahmed said her ministry was working with all the agencies to ensure that collaboration was strengthened in revenue generation.
“The government is trying to ensure that the work of the agencies is complementing each other as opposed to the past where everybody is working in silos.
“Efforts are ongoing to improve the monitoring performance of the revenue generating agencies, especially government-owned enterprises.
“We have now in place rigorous monthly reconciliation of revenues and that is ensuring that the leakages are minimised.
“There is several cost cutting measures in the SRGI and a number of cost cutting measures initiatives such as innovation and automation as well as capacity building of our people,” she said.
The minister reiterated government’s resolve to sanction revenue generating agencies that fail to meet their targets.

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