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Senate Warns Of Imminent Air Crashes …Worries Over Decaying Infrastructure At Airports …As Whistle Blower Protection Bill Moves On

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The Senate, yesterday, warned of imminent plane crashes in the country if the aviation industry was not fixed immediately.
The alert followed a motion tagged “Disturbing Development in the Nigerian Aviation Industry” by Senator Dino Melaye.
Contributing to the motion, the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said the fear of plane crashes was real as airlines could no longer access foreign exchange to service their aircrafts.
He said some operators may resort to cutting corners as a result of their inability to access foreign exchange, thereby endangering the lives of air travellers.
Akpabio added that many airlines in the country were bankrupt ‘and dead’, stressing that other operators had either withdrawn or relocated to neighbouring countries.
“These problems are caused by policies of government. Monetary policies of government have not allowed the airlines to operate.
“Section 14(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended says that government must ensure the security and welfare of the people.
“We are likely to have a spectre of crashes because most airlines cannot access foreign exchange to service their aircrafts,” he noted.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, said withdrawal of airlines from Nigeria’s aviation industry was a bad omen which may lead to massive job losses.
“A situation whereby airlines cannot send back their money to their home countries is a disaster. Competition becomes less and the few left will charge as they want.
“It is embarrassing that airlines have to go and refuel in Ghana,” he said.
After the debate, the senate resolved to assist the Federal Government in its planned intervention in the current challenges in the aviation sector with a view to saving the travellers.
The upper legislative chamber also urged the government to ensure that all operators who would benefit from the intervention would not increase fares arbitrarily.
The lawmakers urged the Federal Government to prevail and insist that airlines used the Naira as the official currency in all transactions in the industry.
Meanwhile, a Bill for an Act to protect persons making disclosures for public interest and others from reprisals, also known as ‘Whistle-blowers Bill’ has passed through second reading on the floor of the Senate.
The bill, which was read the first time on the floor of Senate on 15th of March, 2016, seeks to protect persons making disclosure for the public interest (whistle-blowers) to be protected from the knowledge or aggression of the accused.
Leading the debate, the sponsor of the bill, Senator Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti South) argued that, “the effectiveness of Nigeria’s legal framework and fight against corruption/fraud depends on the quality of the country’s whistle blowing standards/protection.
“The absence of its inadequacies are harming the citizens, the economy and the rule of law, “ she said.
Olujimi gave an instance of a staff of the National Women Development Centre, Abuja, who was dismissed from the service in August 2011, for exposing embezzlement by top officials of N300million allocated for poverty alleviation programme.
According to Olujimi, “although the anti-corruption agencies have internal mechanism and made provisions for the protection of whistle-blowers, this protection has appeared insufficient, given the country’s poor performance in the fight against corruption.”
She was, therefore, confident that, “the enactment of a comprehensive and dedicated law as the basis for providing Whistle-blowers protections is generally considered the most effective legislative means of providing such protection. “
It could be recalled that one Mr. Aaron Akase, a staff of Police Service Commission blew the whistle to reveal serious allegations of possible fraud in the commission involving the management, last year.
Akase was not only humiliated, he was also placed under indefinite suspension from work without salaries. He also faces threats to his life and family daily.

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2023: PDP Govs Task NASS On New Electoral Law

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The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum has tasked the National Assembly to immediately set up a conference committee to harmonize the two versions of the Electoral Act Amendment passed recently by the two chambers.
In a statement, yesterday, the Chairman of the forum and Sokoto State Governor, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, said any delay in the passing and assenting of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill will hamper preparations for the conduct of the 2023 polls.
The forum also charged the National Assembly to adopt the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives, as it gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the latitude to adopt electronic transmission of election results.
“The PDP Governors’ Forum requests the Senate and House of Representatives (House) Conference Committee when set up, to adopt the House version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on the issue of electronic transmission.
“It should be noted that Section 52(2) of the House version says, ‘Voting at an election and transmission of result under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission,’ and Section 52 (2) of the Senate version provides, ‘The commission may consider electronic transmission of results provided that the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.
“The Senate version which subjects the decision of INEC to deploy electronic transmission to the decision of the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Assembly is manifestly a usurpation of the powers of INEC and offends relevant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution that guarantees INEC’s autonomy and independence,” the opposition governors.
According to them, INEC has demonstrated capacity to transmit votes electronically with the introduction and deployment of the Biomodel Voters Accreditation System (BVAs), used in the recent bye-election in Delta State.
The PDP governors further charged the National Assembly conference committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, to jettison the position of the House to compel all political parties to adopt one method of conducting primary elections.
“The forum is of the view that political parties should be allowed discretion to adopt either direct or indirect primaries in their Constitutions and in practice.
“The Senate version that retains the original provision in the Electoral Act should be adopted in the interest of the growth of our political parties and freedom of choice, the hallmark of a functional democracy.
“This intervention of the PDP governors is predicted on the need to ensure a free, fair and credible election, that strengthens Nigeria’s democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law. Only a credible election will guarantee accountability and good governance which Nigeria so desperately needs today,” the governors stated.

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Cholera: NCDC Records 46 New Deaths In One Week

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says 46 new deaths linked to suspected cholera cases were recorded in the country in the past one week.
The NCDC said this via its officially verified website, yesterday morning, stating that the situation report was published based on data sent in by the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, for the respective reporting week.
It stated that eight states accounted for the new cholera fatalities.
The public health agency, in its epidemiological report for August 30 to September 5, said a total of 2,323 people had so far died as a result of suspected cholera infections in 25 states and the federal capital territory (FCT), since the beginning of 2021.
It stated that 1,677 cholera infections were recorded in 12 states within the period of one-week, bringing the total suspected cases to 69,925 as at September 5.
“In the reporting week, 12 states reported 1,677 suspected cases – Bauchi (566), Katsina (282), Sokoto (258), Yobe (183), Borno (179), Niger (94), Kaduna (66), Adamawa (34), Gombe (8), Kano (4), Kebbi (2), and Nasarawa (1),” the report said.
“There was a 58% decrease in the number of new suspected cases in week 35 (1,667) compared with week 34 (3,992).
“Of the cases reported, there were 46 deaths from Borno (13), Sokoto (12), Katsina (8), Bauchi (6), Niger (3), Kaduna (2), Adamawa (1) and Kano (1) states with a weekly case fatality ratio (CFR) of 2.7%.
“Twenty-five states and the FCT have reported suspected cholera cases in 2021. These are Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ekiti, Enugu, FCT, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Osun, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara.
“As at September 5, 2021, a total of 69,925 suspected cases, including 2,323 deaths (CFR 3.3%) have been reported from 25 states and FCT in 2021.
“Two new states (Osun and Ekiti) reported cases, though with dates of onset in weeks prior to week 35,” it explained.
The NCDC added that the national multi-sectoral EOC activated at level 02 continued to coordinate the national response.
Cholera is a waterborne disease with a high risk of transmission where there are poor sanitation and disruption of clean water supply.
The wrong disposal of refuse and practices, such as open defecation, endanger the safety of water used for drinking and for personal use, thereby leading to the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera, and without proper WASH, Nigeria remained at risk of cholera cases and deaths.

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Buhari Seeks Senate’s Approval For $4bn, €710m External Loan

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President Muhammadu Buhari, has asked the Senate to approve a fresh loan of $4,054,476, 863.00, €710million, and a grant of $125million to finance critical projects in the 2021 budget.
Buhari’s request was contained in his letter read by Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, at plenary following the resumption of the upper chamber from its two-month annual vacation, yesterday.
According to the President, the request is an addendum to the proposed 2018–2021 Federal Government External Borrowing Rolling Plan earlier approved by the National Assembly.
He said that the projects listed in the addendum to the 2018–2021 Federal Government External Borrowing Rolling Plan are to be financed through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency, China Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Credit Suisse Group, among others.
“In view of other emerging needs and to ensure that all critical projects approved by FEC as at June, 2021 are incorporated, I hereby forward an addendum to the proposed borrowing plan,” Buhari said.
The letter titled, ‘Addendum to the request for Senate’s concurrent approval of multilateral fund projects under the 2018-2021 Federal Government external borrowing (rolling) plan’ reads, “I write in respect of the above subject and to submit the attached addendum to the proposed 2018-2021 Federal Government external borrowing (rolling) plan for the consideration and concurrent approval of the Senate for same to become effective.
“The distinguishing Senate President may wish to recall that I earlier transmitted a request on the proposed 2018-2020 Federal Government External Borrowing Plan for the concurrent approval of the Senate in May, 2021.
“However, in view of other emerging needs and to ensure that all critical projects approved by FEC as at June, 2021 are incorporated. I hereby forward an addendum to the proposed borrowing plan.
“The projects listed in the addendum to the 2018-2021 Federal Government External Borrowing Rolling Plan are to be financed through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency, China Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE), in the total sum of $4,054,476,863.00, plus €710million, and grant component of $125million.
“The Senate is kindly invited to note that the projects and programmes in the borrowing plan were selected based on positive, technical and economic evaluations and the contribution they would make to the socio-economic development of the country, including employment generation and poverty reduction as well as protection of the most vulnerable and very poor segments of the Nigerian society
“The Senate may also wish to note that all the listed projects in the addendum form part of the 2018-2021 External Borrowing Plan and covered both the Federal and States Government Projects and are geared towards the realization of the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan that cut across key sectors such as infrastructure, health, agriculture and food security, energy, education and human capital development and Covid-19 response efforts.
“I hereby wish to request for the kind consideration and concurrent approval of the Senate for projects listed in the addendum to the 2018-2021 Federal Government External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan to enable the projects become effective.”

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