Ahead of the August 18 bye-election in Rivers State, the Independent National Electoral Commission and the police have assured the people of the state of a free, fair and violent-free poll.
The by-election for the seat of Port Harcourt Constituency III in the State House of Assembly became imperative as the former occupier of the position, Mr. Victor Ihunwo, left, contested and won the recent local government election in the state.
Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt yesterday, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Obo Effanga, urged political parties and their supporters to shun any act that would disrupt the exercise.
Effanga, who said measures had been put in place to ensure a hitch-free by-election, pointed out that the exercise would be a test-run for the 2019 general election, describing it as a priority for the commission.
The state REC explained that INEC was ready to work with civil society organisations and youth groups in ensuring a high level of sensitisation that would encourage a high voters’ turnout during the exercise.
“For groups that have shown interest in partnering with INEC on voters’ sensitisation and publicity, we will be part of that. I will ensure that every party, contestant is given a fair chance to register.
“I will also ensure that every party, candidate participate and vote during elections. We will talk with party agents, political parties and other stakeholders in the state,” he said.
Also, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Zaki Ahmed, assured the people that the police would provide a secure environment during the election.
Ahmed, who was represented at the event by Deputy Commissioner of Police in the State, Mr. Stephen Aso, expressed the readiness of his men for the exercise and advised that political parties should prevail on their supporters to shun violence and any other election malpractice.
He said, “Security agencies are supposed to protect you (political parties) and voters so that INEC can do their job without hitches. I want to plead with the stakeholders to play according to the rule of engagement.
“In a football match, there must be a winner or loser. If you lose, please, accept defeat. We want you to cooperate with us and ensure that the election goes on peacefully.”
RSHA Confirms Commissioner-Nominees …Swearing-In Of Special Advisers Postponed
The Rivers State House of Assembly has screened the 13 persons nominated by the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike as members of the state executive council.
Those screened and confirmed as Commissioners-designate include Paulinus Nsirim, Soni Ejekwu, Austin Ben-Chioma, Sylvanus Nwankwo, Osima Ginah, Inime Chineweno Aguma and Ifeoma Nwankpa. Others are Dr. Peter Medee, Bariere Thomas, Dr. Fred Kpakol, , Tasie Chinedu, Rodaford Long-John and Professor Kaniye Ebeku.
The screening was sequel to a letter from Chief Nyesom Wike requesting for their screening and confirmation.
During the exercise, the lawmaker representing Khana Constituency 2, Hon.Prince Ngbor Piccolo noted that the tax clearance certificate submitted by one of the nominees, Silvanus Nwankwo was not up to date.
On his part, the nominee Silvanus Nwankwo defended that the taxes were deducted from source.
However, Speaker of the House,Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani ruled that the House will only confirm the nominee if he presents an up to date tax clearance to the House.
Leader of the House, Hon. Martin Amaewhule moved the motion for deferment of debate to tomorrow to enable those whose particulars were not complete to be submitted.
Meanwhile, the State Government yesterday announced the postponement of the swearing-in of the 15 newly appointed Special Advisers whose swearing – in was earlier billed for today.
A statement from the office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, said a new date for the swearing-in ceremony will be communicated to the public.
Those appointed as Special Advisers are Sunny Wokekoro, Alabo George Kerley, Okiri Aribitonye and Erastus Awortu. Others are Sylvester Mgbor, Victor D. Ekaro, Innocent Paddy Wali, George Ariolu, Deima Iyalla, Emma I. Utchay, and Nkem Nwaribe. Also appointed are Harvey Azuka Ideozu, Andy Nwanjoku, Austin Sor and Otonye Briggs.
You’re Not Naive, Lawyer Tells UNILAG Gang Rape Survivor
Defence in the case of a University of Lagos student, Chuka Chukwu, 19, accused of serially gang-raping a fellow student (name withheld), yesterday said that the alleged victim was not naive as she claimed.
Our correspondent reports that Chukwu’s counsel, Mrs. Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN), made the submission while cross-examining the alleged victim.
Our correspondent reports that Chukwu was charged along with four other students of the university.
The other defendants are Moboluwaji Omowole, 19, Peace Nwankama, 19, James Aguedu, 20 and Josephine Osemeka, 20.
They were charged on four counts -defilement of a child, permitting defilement of a child, procuration and sexual assault.
While cross-examining the complainant who said she is an entertainer, the SAN said that she was not a “naive 17-year-old” student as she claimed in court.
Questioning her social life, Akeredolu inquired whether she had been to Oceanwaves or Eclipse nightclubs.
Responding, the student who is now 20-year-old, said, “I sang at the 2019 Felabration some months ago and I performed at the event of the musician Ycee in August 2019.”
She said that she had been an entertainer half of her life but had not been to Oceanwaves or Eclipse Nightclubs though she had heard of Oceanwaves Nightclub.
Countering the student’s submission, Akeredolu said that in 2017, she launched a music track which was the period she claimed she was seventeen and naive.
Akeredolu proceeded to read aloud some of the lyrics of the song.
Some of the excerpts of the song read aloud in court are: “I feel so lonely, so paralysed, got no guy to call my own, so when I saw the look in your eyes, I couldn’t help to fantasize.
“I feel somebody coming home, meaningful love with depth and potential is what I need all the time.
“Just want you to be mine, so grab on my waist, let’s bust up the place. Anything that you do is fine, that’s why there is no need to be shy…”
After reading aloud the lyrics, Akeredolu said that they were not written by a naive person.
She thereafter presented to the complainant, five photographs in which the complainant was partially clad to identify.
After the complainant identified herself, the photographs were admitted by the court for identification purposes.
Earlier, while being cross-examined by Mr Adebisi Ademuwagun, counsel to Omowole (first defendant), the complainant said that the first time she met Omowole was when he participated in gang-raping her.
“I got to meet him (Omowole) for the first time when he was part of the people that raped me in January 2017. He collected my telephone number by force.
“I got to see him subsequently at the Unilag Sports Center. Due to the nature of the blackmail, I had to cover up and maintain a friendship with him so that people will not know what was going on; so, I visited him at the sports center.
“I was 17 years old and very naive, I was scared of my dad, he is a disciplinarian and I was scared that he was going to overreact and I will get into a lot of trouble.
“Rumours were going around school, and it was someone, who got to know me and confronted me about the rumours, that reported to the school authorities,” she said.
The alleged victim testified that the person who reported to the school authorities was not her boyfriend.
“He initially wanted to get cultists or people to beat them up but I told him, “No, I am not that kind of person”, and he eventually reported the matter to the police,” she said.
Ademuwagun told the complainant that Omowole never had sexual intercourse with her and that the police never took her and Omowole for medical examination.
“That is not true; he admitted having sex with me in front of the school counsellor, the police took me and the first defendant to the Office of the Dean Students Affairs.
“We then went to the medical centre but it had been a long time since the incident occurred. I still went to the Mirabel Center for my own medical report,” the complainant responded.
While being cross-examined by Mr O. C. Aibangbee, counsel to Nwankama, the third defendant and the complainant’s former roommate, the complainant said that Nwankama and Yinka Adegboyega now at large, lured her to be gang-raped.
“If Peace (Nwankama) had not called me that day, I would have not known High Rise or met Yinka or James or any of the other defendants.
“Peace introduced me to Yinka; that is why I trusted her to speak to him when he and Peace told me to come to High Rise to hang out,” she said.
The complainant, however, told the court that she saw Adegboyega in school on two occasions when the case was under investigation but denied being in contact with him.
During cross-examination by Mr O. C. Fapohunda, counsel to Aguedo, the complainant said that she never saw the video recordings of her alleged gang-rape by the defendants .
“I saw them when they were videoing me, I approached Yinka and I told him that there is a video going around school and he said they had deleted it.
“Everyone who confronted me told me that there was a video but I never saw the video. The police did not tell me that they recovered the video,” she said.
Justice Abiola Soladoye adjourned the case to Jan. 13, 2020, for continuation of cross-examination.
Our correspondent reports that the complainant had on Feb. 26 testified that she was lured by Nwankama who was her roommate to High Rise, a hostel in the university.
She said she was gang-raped at High Rise by eight male students and sexually assaulted by Osemeka.
She alleged that the gang-rape and sexual assault at High Rise were video-taped.
According to the complainant, she was also blackmailed with the video and further gang-raped on other occasions by the defendants and their accomplices who are now at large.
No Plans To Open Borders Now
President Muhammadu Buhari says he has not given any date for the reopening of Nigeria’s land borders, saying that the closure would remain until the situation improved.
The Tide’s source reported how Nigeria partially closed its land borders in August, mainly to check the mass smuggling of products like rice and petrol.
In October, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, announced that “all goods for now are banned from being exported or imported through our land borders and that is to ensure we have total control over what comes in.”
This was the first official confirmation of a full border closure.
He said reopening the border depends largely on the “neighboring countries ability to comply with the rules governing cross-border trade”.
Nigeria’s neighbouring countries (Niger and Benin) that were affected economically by their inability to export into Nigeria then made demands. That led to a tripartite committee being formed.
The committee is still working to resolve contentious issues.
Critics of the border closure have highlighted the rising prices of food products, inflation, and presence of smuggled goods despite the border closure as evidence that the policy is wrong.
Undeterred by the criticism, the Nigerian government recently announced that the borders will remain shut till at least January 2020, and Buhari has now said there is no end date in sight.
Meanwhile, the president said Nigeria’s domestic fuel consumption had dropped by more than 30 per cent since the closure, thus suggesting that about a third of reported fuel consumption by Nigeria was being smuggled to neighbouring countries where petrol price is much higher.
Garba Shehu, Buhari’s spokesperson, in a statement in Abuja on Monday, said the President made the disclosure when he received a delegation of Katsina State Elders Forum in his country home in Daura, Katsina State.
According to Shehu, Buhari said his administration’s directive on the border closure was meant to curb smuggling, especially rice, and that so far, the closures had saved the country huge sums on import bills.
He said the administration was betting on same measures to rekindle the country’s agricultural rebirth.
The president lauded actions taken by the President of Niger Republic, Muhammadou Youssoufou, including the dismissal of officials and a ban on use of the country as a dumping ground for Nigeria-bound smuggled goods.
Buhari noted that the measures taken by Niger were helpful and supportive to Nigeria’s goals.
He acknowledged the hardship of border communities following the ban on sale of fuel at stations 20km to the border, a restriction that also saw to the closure of all fuel stations in his native home, Daura.
“Farmers must be protected; dishonesty is deep rooted in the country. Otherwise the border closure would not have been warranted,” he said.
He continued that the restriction was a temporary measure as the Nigeria Customs Service needed to ascertain outlets involved in real sale of products and those being used for smuggling.
The President told the delegation that he intended forging ahead with poverty alleviation schemes and the agricultural and livestock reforms started by the administration in the first term, since the election was behind him and a government now in place.
He explained that the reforms, especially those relating to the settlement of livestock farmers would take time to accomplish.
He said that his deliberate choice of tested farmers as his past and current ministers of agriculture was informed by the need to carry his vision through.
Earlier in his remark, the representative of the Chairman of the Elders Forum, Aliyu Saulawa, commended the achievements of the President and Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State in curbing the menace of bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers.
He, however, drew a long list of requests which included a special intervention fund to assist victims of attacks, completion of the 10 megawatts wind power project in the state, setting up of a North-West Development Commission and setting up of Ruga farm settlements.
According to him, farm settlements are urgently needed by herders.
The Elders Forum also made a case for numerous infrastructure projects for the state, as well as for keener federal government scrutiny of benefits of social investment schemes.
The president promised to look into their requests, adding that his constituency was the whole country, and expressed his determination to be fair to all, including those that voted him into office and those that did not.
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