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Salami’s Panel: SERAP Cautions CJN, NJC

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Justice Water Onnoghen, urging him to urgently revisit and review the composition of Justice Ayo Isa Salami’s Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) to remove the risk of apparent and potential conflicts between the work of the committee and the private practice of some of its members who are handling high-profile cases of corruption involving politically exposed persons (PEPs).
The organisation noted that for the Salami committee to perform its tasks effectively and with propriety, it should preferably be composed entirely of members of the judiciary, particularly drawn from available pool of brilliant and incorruptible retired judges.
In the letter dated October 3, 2017, and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that, “While international law does not prohibit some representation of the legal profession or academics, we urge your Lordship to select candidates from these fields to the Salami committee based on their demonstrable commitment to the fight against corruption, and after extensive consultation, and a thorough scrutiny of the candidates’ past record of legal practice, to eliminate all possibilities of bias and conflict of interest.”
The organisation said that doing this, “would ensure accountability, keeping the independence of the judiciary intact and uncompromised. SERAP believes that until the issues raised in this letter are satisfactorily addressed, Nigerians would have a doubt in their minds as to the ability of the Salami committee to discharge its mandates effectively and with propriety, and would have a right to have a doubt.”
It said, “It is important for the Salami committee to function in a way that could preserve judicial independence, provide information for judges to improve their performance, and increase the public’s confidence in the courts.”
The letter reads in part: “SERAP urges your Lordship to urgently revisit, review, and reconsider the membership of the Salami committee to ensure that members currently handling high-profile corruption cases involving PEPs are removed. This proposal aims solely to remove the risk of apparent and potential conflicts between the work of the committee and the private practice of some of its members who are handling high-profile cases of corruption involving PEPs and to ensure the independence, impartiality, integrity and accountability of the judiciary.
“SERAP believes that judicial accountability should be secured in a way that is harmonious with, and not damaging to, the essential character and functions of the judicial office. A system of fair, effective and trustworthy judicial performance evaluation promotes public confidence in the judiciary, which, in turn, is essential to judicial independence.
“SERAP also urges your Lordship to ensure that the Salami committee can manage its own budget and has enough human and financial resources to properly function with independence. The Salami committee should also be accountable for its activities, to avoid the possible public perception of bias and conflict of interest.
“SERAP welcomes the commitment by your Lordship to promote judicial accountability and combat corruption in the judiciary. We understand that accountability mechanism would encourage justice operators to behave with integrity and in line with their code of ethics and conduct.
“We share your Lordship’s vision of a judiciary that is corruption-free, and demonstrates the fundamental principles of independence, impartiality and integrity. An independent and impartial judiciary is indeed essential for the enjoyment of the right to a fair trial and effective and efficient administration of justice, as well as the credibility of the entire justice system.”
“However, SERAP is seriously concerned that rather than promoting judicial accountability, the committee as presently constituted could be used to interfere with the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. SERAP notes that the Preamble to the Bangalore Principles states that judges are accountable for their conduct to appropriate institutions established to maintain judicial standards, which must themselves independent and impartial.
“Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers has stated that bodies responsible for evaluating performance of judges should be composed either entirely or with a majority of judges, including brilliant and incorruptible retired judges.
“The OECD Guidelines for Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service provides that, “A conflict of interest involves a conflict between the public duty and private interests of a public official, in which the public official has private-capacity interests which could improperly influence the performance of [his/her] official duties and responsibilities.
“In SERAP’s view, ‘conflict of interest’ is a situation in which a person, such as a public official, employee, or a professional, has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”

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390,676 Civil Servants, 559 MDAs Captured In IPPISS, FG Confirms

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A total number of 390,676 civil servants in 559 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been captured on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPISS) platform as of January 31, 2021, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, has said.
She made the disclosure at a press briefing in Abuja as part of activities to kick-start the 2021 Nigeria Civil Service Week, yesterday.
The Federal Government had in 2006 introduced the IPPIS to weed out ghost workers from the civil service and automate salary payments for transparency and accountability in public expenditure.
In October, 2019, the Federal Government directed workers in its MDAs to enroll on IPPIS.
Recalled the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had last year gone on strike over the Federal Government insistence that its members enroll in IPPIS
Only last week, the salaries of 331 civil servants cutting across all were suspended over their failure to update their records on IPPIS despite repeated directives to do so.
According to Yemi-Esan, 390,676 staff across the 559 MDAs have now been captured on the platform.
She added that the figure excludes the army, paramilitary, police, and universities.
“As of 31st January, 2021, a total number of 559 MDAs with 390,676 employees have been captured on the IPPIS platform. This figure excludes the Army, para-military, police and universities.
“Accordingly, several activities have been initiated and carried out by the office towards driving, implementing and deployment of the Human Resource module of IPPIS.
“With full deployment of the HR Module of IPPIS, human error would be minimized through streamlined data, cost reduced based on available accurate data, financial and manpower resources efficiently and effectively utilized and planned for; while storage of data collected on employees of the Federal Public Service is secure and only accessible to authorized officers.”
Speaking further, Yemi-Esan said the civil service took advantage of Covid-19 to accelerate the digitalisation of its processes to enable it “continue to function effectively as the backbone of government within the new normal”.
Yemi-Esan also disclosed that the process of reviewing the nation’s Public Service Rules was almost completed, saying it is ready for the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
“The office, in the last one year, has finalised the review of the PSR and it has presented to the 2020 National Council on Establishment in Lagos which approved the revised document in principle.
“The office has produced the final draft for onward transmission to the Federal Executive Council for approval,” she said.
According to her the government has spent N2.4billion in settling 594 families of deceased civil servants while outstanding death benefits will be paid soon.
Yemi-Esan added, “Sometimes last year, the Ministry of Finance released N2.5billion to pay backlog of death benefits to the next of kin of deceased officers.
“As of today, out of N2.5billion, N2.468billion has been expended to settle 594 beneficiaries.
“The others that are outstanding will be completed once the office receives the requisite bank’s attestation.”
Yemi-Esan said a committee would soon be set up on the Steve Orasanye report on rationalisation of government agencies.
“As regards the Orosanye report, the SGF and I have planned to set up two committees to look into the report.
“We are going to look at what happened before the Oransanye report and after the Oransanye report,” she said.

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Nigerian Law School, PH Campus’ll Be Ready In Six Months, Wike Vows

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has received a formal letter of approval from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, for the establishment of a Nigerian Law School campus in Port Harcourt.
The letter was presented to the governor by the Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Huyatu Chiroma, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Wike said it was gratifying that the Council of Legal Education and the Attorney General of the Federation have graciously given approval to the Rivers State Government to assist in the establishment of a Law School in Port Harcourt, an offer which was initially rejected by the immediate past administration in the state.
The governor commended the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, for his statesmanship and commitment to the growth of legal education in Nigeria.
“This is devoid of any political affiliation. I must commend him for this show of sportsmanship, for this show of leadership, that at the end of the day, it is Nigerians and Rivers people that will benefit from the establishment of this campus in Port Harcourt.”
Wike explained that construction work had already commenced at the site approved by the state government for the Port Harcourt campus of the Nigerian Law School.
According to him, the campus will be ready in the next six months and the Certificate of Occupancy for the school is ready.
“The six months that we have given is not six years. Six months is six months. Even if any other project will be suspended, let it be suspended. This project must be finished within six months. And I also urged you to appoint a deputy DG who should move down to Port Harcourt immediately.”
The Rivers State governor explained that some corporate organisations, including banks, have expressed their readiness to build hostels and library in the campus, pending the approval of the authority of the Nigerian Law School.
The governor urged the Nigerian Law School management to graciously immortalise the former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice for the Federation, Justice Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas, SAN, by naming the Port Harcourt campus after him.
The Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Huyatu Chiroma, said the process for the establishment of a Law School campus in Port Harcourt started on the June 4, in Yenagoa when Governor Wike threw a challenge that if given an opportunity, Rivers State Government was ready to construct and deliver a new campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt within six months.
He explained that afterwards, the Council of Legal Education met and unanimously agreed to accede to the request of the Rivers State Government and this was also endorsed by the Attorney General of the Federation.
The Attorney General of the Federation in this letter to Governor Wike which was read by Chiroma, said immediately he received the letter from the Rivers State Government to assist in the establishment of a new campus in Port Harcourt, his office forwarded same, via Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary for consideration by the Council of Legal Education.
“I am delighted to convey to you the acceptance of your offer by the Council of Legal Education at its meeting held on June 18, 2021. A copy of the approval letter and a draft Memorandum of Understanding to guide or govern the conduct of the partnership project is hereby forwarded to you for your kind consideration and further action.
“While appreciating the kind gestures of the Rivers State Government in the promotion of legal education in Nigeria, please accept the assurances of my best regards and high esteem as always.”
In his remarks, the Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Zacchaeus Adangor, said the Law School campus in Port Harcourt will stand out as one of the most iconic achievement of the Governor Wike’s administration.
The Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Amadi, commended the Attorney General of the federation and the Council of Legal Education for the approval and assured that the state will construct a befitting campus in Port Harcourt.
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze C.J. Okocha, SAN, said though the new campus is in Port Harcourt, it will be for the benefit of all Nigerians and the legal profession.
The chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Port Harcourt branch, Prince Nyekwere applauded the approval, and urged the Federal Government to devolve some of its obligation in the Executive List to the federating States.

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Buhari Off To London For Medical Check-Up, Today

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President Muhammadu Buhari will on Friday travel to London, for a scheduled medical follow-up.
The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari, Femi Adesina, confirmed this in a statement, yesterday.
Adesina said the President is expected return to the country in the second week of next month.
“He is due back in the country during the second week of July, 2021,” the statement said.
It would be recalled that on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, Buhari had visited London to receive medical attention from his physician.

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