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Tribunal Reserves Judgement On Rivers Guber Petition …INEC, Wike, PDP Seek Dismissal Of Case …AAC Collation Agent Confirms Wike’s Victory

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The Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has reserved judgment in the petition filed by the defeated Governorship Candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr Victor Fingesi against the re-election of Governor Nyesom Wike.
The Chairman of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal, Justice Kingsley Orjiako said that the tribunal would inform the parties when judgment would be delivered.
The tribunal reserved judgment after all the parties adopted their final written addresses following the hearing of the petition.
However, lawyers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have asked the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal to dismiss the petition filed by the Governorship Candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr Victor Fingesi because the petitioner failed to lead evidence to prove his petition.
In his final written address, INEC’s lawyer, Garba Tetengi, stressed that the electoral commission presented the accurate and authentic results.
He said that the 2019 Governorship Election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines, and noted that after the collation of results, Wike emerged victorious.
In his final written address, Counsel to Wike, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition because the ADP Governorship Candidate failed to prove the three grounds on which his petition is premised upon.
Ukala told the tribunal that the petitioner failed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.
Ukala said: ”One of the grounds requires he proves that illegal votes were credited to the winner of the election, which the petitioner is asking the court. There is nowhere that the petitioner showed that Wike obtained illegal votes. He couldn’t show that the results were not in line with the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines”.
Ukala said that the petitioner, in line with the Supreme Court judgment, ought to have called witnesses from the 4,442 polling units to prove that voting did not hold.
He said: “The allegation of non compliance in voting process needed to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court had already provided a standard of proving no voting and the petitioner would have called voters in each of the pulling units in the entire state.
“There are 4,442 polling units in the governorship election, how many witnesses did they bring before the tribunal to prove their petition as required by law? They brought only two witnesses, one from Okrika LGA and the other from Etche LGA. This means they did not comply. It falls below the standard of the law”.
The counsel said that the petitioner led no evidence to prove that there were corrupt practices during the governorship election, adding that the petitioner’s evidence was lacking in quality and quantity, and so, should be dismissed by the tribunal.
Counsel to the PDP, Chief Godwin Obla said that the ADP failed to prove during the hearing of the petition that the election was marred by irregularities.
He said as long as collation of results was carried out, the petitioner has no locus standi to challenge the victory of the governor, and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
Obla stated that the petitioner tendered certified true copies of the collated results for the 2019 governorship election and made no attempt to prove that the results were not the true reflection of the election, adding that the petitioner failed woefully to prove his case.
Similarly, the African Action Congress (AAC) State Collation Agent for the 2019 Rivers State Governorship Election, Mr Nenye Kocha has confirmed that Governor Nyesom Wike emerged victorious on the strength of the governorship collation between April 2 and 3, 2019.
Kocha, who appeared as star witness of AAC at the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal, last Monday, said all through the collation of results, there was no time that the defeated AAC governorship candidate led in the race.
Kocha, who is also the secretary of AAC, said that he was a registered member with party card registration number: AAC8016ONL, adding that he joined the AAC in August, 2018.
The AAC state collation agent told the tribunal that the party had only 418 agents across the 4,442 units in the state, emphasising that as a new party, they were able to clear only four House of Assembly candidates and one governorship candidate for the March 9, 2019 elections.
He revealed during cross examination by counsel for 2nd respondent (Wike), Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) that one Donatus Barikor from Gokana LGA and Henry Iyala from Degema LGA, who testified for Awara as the party collation agents, were imposters and not AAC members.
He further noted that there were no results collated for Gokana and Abua/Odual local government areas during the State Collation of the Rivers State Governorship Election.
The AAC witness said: “We had just four House of Assembly candidates and one governorship candidate. Out of the 32 seats in the Assembly, we only had four candidates. No candidate for National Assembly. We had collation agents in only 418 polling units across the 4,442 polling units in the state.
“No result was declared for Abua/Odual and Gokana LGAs as at the time of collation. INEC conducted the election in strict compliance of the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines”.
The AAC collation agent declared that he would not dent his integrity because of mere politics, emphasising that he was at the tribunal to declare the truth.
He said: ”Donatus Barikor for Gokana and Henry Iyala for Degema were not AAC party agents.
“This is the first time I am in politics, coming from industry I am in politics for integrity. APC adopted our governorship candidate two days to the election”.
Kocha admitted that at the party no longer has a deputy governorship candidate following the withdrawal of Chief Akpo Bomba Yeeh from the ticket.
He said that the AAC won in only two local government areas – Akuku-Toru and Oyigbo LGAs as clearly declared by INEC during the collation of results.
Nenye added that most of the witnesses presented in court by Biokpomabo Awara initially were not members of AAC, stressing that the AAC started in August, 2018 and only prepared for the election two days to the polls after it was adopted by the leadership of the APC.
Also, last Monday, a certified video clip presented by the African Action Congress through its subpoenaed witness, an African Independent Television (AIT) staff, Osademe Joseph, proved Governor Nyesom Wike as the winner of the 2019 Governorship election in Rivers State after the collation of results between April 2 and 3 of 2019.
Osademe told the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal that he was one of the producers of the live broadcast of the Rivers State Governorship election results collation held between April 2 and 3, 2019, at the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in Port Harcourt.
In the video clip played in court, INEC declared Wike winner of the poll with 888, 264 votes ahead of the AAC Gubernatorial candidate, Biokpomabo Festus Awara, who came second in the list with total of 173, 859 votes.
The video also confirmed the collation and declaration of Obio/Akpor LGA election results and non-declaration of Gokana and Abua/Odual LGAs by INEC.
Meanwhile, a serving Assistant Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, ACP Victor Onugbo, yesterday, tendered a document before the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, authenticating the electoral victory of Governor Nyesom Wike during the March 9, 2019 election.
Onugbo, who serves at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Port Harcourt, appeared before the tribunal based on the court subpoena on the state commissioner of police.
Responding to questions from counsel to African Action Congress (AAC), Henry Bello, Onugbo told the tribunal that the document he presented was the incident reports of all that occurred during election, and added that the report was sealed by the Rivers State police command.
Onugbo also told the court that the then commissioner of police, CP Usman Belel, signed the documents of the results sheets after declaration of the winner of the March 9 election.
Also responding to questions from counsel for Governor Wike, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), on whether it was a practice in the police that certified copies of the documents are kept in the custody of the command, Onugbo said all the documents were certified and kept in the custody of the Officer in Charge of Legal Matters at the command.
Onugbo also told the court that he was an observer during the election, and dismissed evidence that the police wwere indicted in the alleged electoral violence in the state.
Also, the AAC has closed cross examination of its witnesses with appearance of the ACP in court.
The tribunal adjourned till, today, for the Independent National Electoral Commission to present its witnesses.
However, speaking with newsmen outside the courtroom, the AAC counsel, Henry Bello, noted that his client has closed its case with the cross examination of the police officer who tendered evidence documents before the Tribunal.
He said: “It is not the number of witnesses you call that is important but the materiality of the evidence given by the witnesses. I am an advocate for change of a lot of things concerning the conduct of election litigation in Nigeria. Most of the things we do in election are basically documentary.
“It is my considered opinion that AAC as with these vital witnesses demonstrated a lot of things before the tribunal. We will await the decision of the tribunal on the points we have made before the tribunal.
“I had 1650 witnesses, I donated some of them to the 1st petitioner and they were able to call 20 out of the 500 we gave them”.
On his part, counsel to INEC, Woyike Livingstone, said “Today, the court has heard evidence from the PW23 in the capacity of the Assistant Inspector General of Police who was subpoenaed to come and give evidence in this regard and he has given evidence to the effect that the report which he tendered as an exhibit which was marked as Exhibit X1 were reports authenticating the victory of the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike
“He has also given evidence to the effect that the report never in anyway indicted the security agencies or even INEC as an agency.
“And so today the 2nd Petitioner has closed their case and we optimistic by tomorrow when the tribunal reconvenes, INEC which is the commission which I represent will open their case for witnesses”.
Also speaking, one of the counsels representing the second respondent, Governor Nyesom Wike, Dike Udenna, noted that: “The 2nd Petitioner, AAC, a political party, they have closed their case today after calling a total of three witnesses, which has brought the total number of witnesses called by the petitioner to 23. So, it is now for the 1st respondent (INEC) to open and conduct their own defence’.

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Southern Govs Back Wike, Insist On VAT Collection …A’Court Urges Rivers To Submit Written Application For Receiver

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Southern Governors met in Enugu, yesterday, and declared their support for Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, insisting that it is within their purview to collect the Value Added Tax (VAT).
This is coming amid row between the Rivers State Government and the Federal Government, a case that is now subject of litigation.
The governors also reaffirmed their stand on open-grazing ban, urging every state in the region to quickly pass a law to that regards.
The resolution by the Southern Governors Forum is part of the six-point communique reached at its meeting at the Government House, Enugu, Enugu State, and read by Chairman of the Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
The meeting of the Southern Governors Forum, which reviewed the state of the nation and the progress of the implementation of the decisions reached in its previous meetings, expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the states in Southern Nigeria were enacting and amending the anti-open grazing laws which allowed a uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors, and encouraged the states that were yet to enact the law to do so expeditiously.
Reading the communique after the closed door meeting to journalists, Akeredolu said that the meeting reiterated its earlier position that the next President of Nigeria most come from the southern part of Nigeria, in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
According to the communique, the Southern Governors agreed to encourage the full operationalization of already agreed regional security outfit which will meet, share intelligence and collaborate to ensure the security and safety of the region.
Akeredolu opined that the meeting also reaffirmed its earlier commitment to stick to fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the forum held on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at Asaba, Delta State, and emphasize the need for the Southern States to leverage the legislative competence of their respective state Houses of Assembly, as well as representation in the National Assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution, through the ongoing constitutional amendment.
The communiqué, according to the forum’s chairman, expressed satisfaction with the array of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of NNPC by the larger Nigerian Governors Forum.
The forum thanked the host Governor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi, and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors Forum meeting in November, 2021.
Present at the meeting were Rivers StateGovernor, Chief NyesomWike; Delta StateGovernor, Dr.IfeanyiOkowa;AkwaIbom StateGovernor, Chief Emmanuel Udom; and Osun StateGovernor, IsiakaAdegboyegaOyetola.
Others were Enugu StateGovernor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi;Bayelsa StateGovernor, Senator DuoyeDiri;Lagos State Governor,BabajideSanwo-Olu; and Ogun State Governor,EngrOluwaseyiAbiodun.
The governors of Oyo, Ekiti, Edo, Imo, Abia, and Ebonyistates were represented by their deputies.
The communiqué read in full, “The Nigerian Southern Governors’ Forum at its meeting of Thursday, September 16, 2021 held in the Government House, Enuqu, Enugu State, reviewed the state or the nation and the progress of implementation of the decisions reached in her previous meetings and further resolved as follows:
“Expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the states in the Southern Nigeria are enacting or amending the Anti-Open Grazing Laws which align with the uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors and encouraged the states that are yet to enact this law to do so expeditiously.
“Encouraged the full operationalization of already agreed regional security outfits; which would meet, share intelligence and collaborate, to ensure the security and safety of the region.
“Reaffirmed its earlier commitment to structural and fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the Forum held on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at Asaba, Delta State, and emphasized the need for the Southern States to leverage the legislative competence of their respective State Houses of Assembly as well as representation in the National assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution through the ongoing constitutional amendment.
“Following from paragraph 3 above, the meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.
“Expressed satisfaction with the handling of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the larger Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
“Reiterated their earlier position that the next President of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of Nigeria in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
“The forum thanked the host Governor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi, and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in November, 2021″.
However, the Court of Appeal, yesterday, declined to accede to the request of Rivers and Lagos states for the appointment of Receiver or Manager for the purpose of collecting and keeping Value Added Taxes (VAT) in place of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) pending the resolution of all legal disputes in the matter.
The two states separately canvassed that the order of status quo ante bellum granted on September 10 in favour of FIRS to continue the collection be put on hold given the appeal already lodged at the Supreme Court against the order.
Counsel to Rivers State, IfedayoAdedipe, SAN, in his oral application, pleaded with the appellate body to exercise its power under Order 4 Rule 6 of the Court of Appeal to appoint a Receiver or Manager to take custody of the VAT in the interest of justice to parties in the matter.
The Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr MoyosoreOnigbanjo, SAN, who stood for his state, toed the path of Rivers in canvassing that the court be fair and just in the pending appeal.
Onigbanjo specifically asked the Appeal Court to restrain FIRS from further collecting the tax and replace it with a Receiver or Manager that would act for parties that are locked in the legal battle.
The Lagos Attorney General predicated his expressed fear of unjust treatment on the fact that FIRS apart from collecting the tax has been sharing it among the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) despite the pendency of the legal tussle.
“I think it is also necessary to restrain the FIRS, because they collect the VAT, distribute to all the states and keeps their own 4 per cent.
“If, at the end of the day, the court agrees with the judgment of the Federal High Court, how do we retrieve the funds that have been shared?”,Onigbanjo added.
The appeal by the FIRS is against August 9, 2021 judgment by Justice Steven Pam of the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt, voiding the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act and holding that states could collect VAT.
Justice Haruna Simon Tsanami, who led a three-member panel, directed them to make the application formal by providing the necessary facts, including ascertaining the amount being collected as VAT.
Other members of the panel are Justices BatureGafai and Peter Affen.
Meanwhile, the court has reserved ruling on an application by Lagos State to be made a respondent in the appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The court, after listening to arguments by lawyers to parties, yesterday, said they would be informed when the ruling was ready.
In arguing Lagos’ application, Onigbanjo (SAN) said his client was a necessary party as it would be affected by the outcome of the case.
He noted that, as a federating unit/state in Nigeria, Lagos was entitled to collect VAT by virtue of the judgment of the Federal High Court that annulled VAT Act.
Onigbanjo argued that even the appellant (the FIRS) recognised that Lagos State has an interest in the case, which he said, was evident in the affidavit it filed, wherein copious reference was made to the Lagos State Government.
He further argued that since FIRS, in an affidavit supporting its application for stay of the judgment, recognised the interest of the Lagos State Government in the case, “it cannot now turn around to say the Lagos State Government has no interest in this case and should not be joined. It cannot blow hot and cold or speak from both sides of its mouth.”
Onigbanjo also contended that it was unfair for the FIRS to oppose Lagos’ request to be heard in the case after making allegations against the state.
He added that even the court recognised the interest of Lagos State in the case when it extended its order on maintenance of status quo to Lagos State, which was not yet a party in the case.
Onigbanjo prayed the court to join his client as a respondent.
Adedipe adopted Onigbaajo’s argument, and urged the court to allow the application by Lagos State.
Following the observation by Onigbanjo that the written address filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was incompetent, the lawyer representing the AGF, TijaniGazali (SAN), withdrew the address, subsequent upon which the court struck it out.
Lawyer to FIRS, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), objected to the joinder application filed by Lagos State, arguing, among others, that the state was not a necessary party.
Magaji faulted the competence of the application, and urged the court to discountenance it.
On second thought, Magaji said if the court was willing to join Lagos; it should extend such indulgence to the other states of the federation.

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Okonjo-Iweala Makes ‘TIME 100’

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Nigerian-born Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has thanked the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, for the kind words they penned about her as she makes the TIME 100 list of The World’s Most Influential People.
The magazine has noted the globally-rated economist’s activities around the efforts to ensure that everyone on the planet earth gets vaccinated against any preventable disease for which there is a vaccine.
The ex-World Bank guru has been the Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, since January 1, 2016.
Gavi has the goal of increasing access to immunization in poor countries.
Concerning the TIME entry, the Duke and the Duchess state, “What will it take to vaccinate the world? Unity, cooperation—and leaders like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala”.
“As the first African and first woman to lead the World Trade Organization, a 164-member group of nations that oversees trade across the world, Okonjo-Iweala took on the role of director-general this March at a watershed moment for our global health and well-being. Make no mistake; her job affects every person, family and community.
“As we face a constant barrage of vaccine misinformation, bureaucratic slowdowns across both government and industry, and the rise of variants that underscore the urgency of the situation, Okonjo-Iweala has shown us that to end the pandemic, we must work together to equip every nation with equitable vaccine access.
“Our conversations with her have been as informative as they are energizing. This is partly because, despite the challenges, she knows how to get things done—even between those who don’t always agree—and does so with grace and a smile that warms the coldest of rooms.
“The fragility of our world right now cannot be overstated. Just over a quarter of the nearly 8 billion global population is fully vaccinated.
“Achieving vaccine equity is a global duty of compassion for one another. Our hope is that guided by strong leaders like Ngozi, we can get there soon”, they wrote.

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Relocation Of Insurgents, Wake-Up Call, CAN Warns

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The Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, Revd Joseph Hayab, has described the alleged relocation of Boko Haram leaders to Southern Kaduna as a wake-up call on people of the area.
Hayabsaid that though the news of the alleged relocation was not new, government has not done enough to protect the people.
He claimed all the calls from voices of reason appeared not to have moved both the federal and state governments to rise to the occasion.
“The relocation of Boko Haram to Southern Kaduna is not new. Who are those that have been killing people indiscriminately in that area in the last few years? The church, SOKAPU and the people have been complaining about killings in Southern Kaduna but only fell on the deaf ear of those in authority.
“Therefore, the leaked document has simply confirmed our worries and shows that more days for killings of innocent citizens are coming unless the people take personal initiative to defend their lives and land. Our government has not done enough to convince us that they want to stop the killings going on all over the area.
“Now, we were being told that there is a leaked memo about Boko Haram when those in authority have always turned deaf ears to cries of our people when we complain about killers that people see every day. Boko Haram fleeing North-East to Southern Kaduna is simply a wake-up call for the Southern Kaduna people to rise to the occasion,” he said.
A leaked DSS memo had said insurgents were relocating from Sambisa forest in BornoState to Chikun LGA in Kaduna State.
The alert was in a leaked memo marked NSCDC/NHQ/INT&INVST/323/2021, dated September 9, 2021, and signed by the Acting Deputy Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Intelligence and Investigation, B.O. Bassey.
The DSS, therefore, asked the civil defence to be on the alert.
“It has been uncovered, plans by senior Boko Haram fighter, Ibrahim (FNU) alongside his foot soldiers relocating from ‘Sambisa Forest in Borno State to Rijana Forest in ChikunLocal Government Area of Kaduna State with a view to joining their counterpart under the leadership of one AdamuYunusu (aka Saddiqu).
“In light of the above, you are hereby directed to step up surveillance and intelligence gathering on the aforementioned areas and environs.”
Meanwhile, months after the crash involving a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) King Air 350 aircraft on May 21 at the Kaduna Civil Airport, Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, has submitted an interim report to the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Amao, at his office at NAF Headquarters, Abuja.
After the crash, the CAS directed that a joint investigative body consisting of NAF safety officers and the AIB be constituted to investigate the causes.
A joint statement by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, and General Manager, Public Affairs, AIB, TunjiOketunbi, revealed that at this interim stage, a total of 27 initial findings and eight safety recommendations were made for the convening authority as well as other aviation-related agencies for immediate implementation.
They further disclosed that it is expected that the final report would contain the flight data recorder readout, the reviewed operator’s and service provider’s standard operating procedures as well as other detailed analyses.
While receiving the report, the CAS reiterated the main essence of activating the ‘joint investigative’ clause contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the NAF and the AIB on July 1, 2020.
He said successful collaboration is a clear indication of the potency of collaboration in aircraft accident investigation, which must be encouraged.
Similarly, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has blamed Almajiri system in the North for the increasing cases of banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and armed robbery in the country.
The Chairman of CAN in Imo State, Rev. Eches Divine Eches, stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, ahead of the organisation’s 45th anniversary and Founder’s Day billed to hold today in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
According to him, banditry and kidnapping are increasing because the authorities have failed to pay more attention to the critical factors behind the widespread insecurity in the country.
Eches also expressed concern over Sheikh Ahmed Gumi’s links with the bandits terrorising the North-West region and the alleged helplessness of the government to arrest and caution him for his many ‘unguarded utterances’ about their activities.
He said, “You can’t have Almajiri system of life and government in the last 40 years in our nation bringing up people without any trace to families, hometowns or nationalities.
“They are scattered all over the street, without you knowing that someday they will leave the street and go to the bush where they will begin to do the trade of kidnapping.
“Also, you can’t, in any sane nation, have the likes of Gumi, a religious scholar, going about promoting banditry and you don’t think that this will continue. Yet, that is what we are seeing today. We are not seeing anything more than what we have planted.
“We allowed this thing (insecurity) to continue and it is now going to consume the nation, if drastic measures are not put in place to take them (Almajiri) out of the streets, give them a sense of belonging, put them in school, and help them realise their potentials.
“These bandits we find today were the Almajiri who used to be in front of our houses and begging for food.
“We are praying and that is why God is still sustaining our nation. I trust God will continue to sustain us in Jesus name.”
On CAN’s 45th anniversary of its Founder’s Day, Eches said the programme was necessary to remember the labour of past heroes, including over 250 retired church leaders and indigent youth and women who were weak.
“They retired church leaders laboured to bring to bear what we are enjoying and working on today.
“We thought it very necessary to remember the weak among us as most of them are passing through terrible times, especially in such a time as this in our nation.
“So, we thought it very important that we will use this 45th anniversary of our Founders’ Day to celebrate such a people and remember their labours, and say to them ‘you deserve to be celebrated’ both by cash and gift,” he said.

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