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Guber Tribunal: Wike Opens Defence On AAC’s Petition

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, opened defence on the election petition filed by African Action Congress (AAC) and its gubernatorial candidate, Engineer Biokpomabo Awara before the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Port Harcourt.
Appearing as a witness for Wike at the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal, yesterday, the former Nigerian Ambassador to South Korea and Director General of Rivers State PDP Campaign Council, Amb Desmond Akawor told the tribunal that the March 9, 2019 Governorship Election was conducted peacefully and in compliance with the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines across the polling units of the state.
Akawor said that Wike emerged victorious after the peaceful voting that took place across the state.
He said the Governorship Election was concluded across the polling units, results announced and collation done in the wards and local government areas.
The DG said that INEC only suspended the final collation after soldiers unleashed violence and attempted to hijack the process.
He spoke during cross examination by counsel to the Rivers State Governor, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) and counsel to PDP, Godwin Obla (SAN).
The Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal has adjourned to September 30, 2019 for adoption of written addresses by all parties involved in the matter.
Akawor tendered certified copy of Form EC8E, which is the declaration of the Governorship Election result, and also tendered the Certificate of Return issued to Wike.
The envoy also tendered certified polling units results from across Rivers State issued to polling agents during the March 9, 2019 Governorship election.
He further tendered Form EC8A containing Governorship Election Results from 16 local government areas and 129 wards.
Akawor told the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal that before INEC suspended the collation of results due to the interference by the Army, collation had been completed in 17 local government areas.
He referred the tribunal to Paragraph 12vi of the press release of INEC of 10th and 15 March, 2019.
He further tendered the affidavit of former deputy governorship candidate of AAC, Chief Akpo Bomba Yeeh denouncing the party and declaring that Nyesom Wike won the election.
Earlier, at the resumed hearing of the tribunal, last Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), tendered some documents to the court and announced its close of defence on the petition with no witness presented for cross examination.
Counsel for INEC, Steve Adeyi (SAN) had told the court that haven examined all evidence brought by the petitioner that there was no allegation made against it, hence the decision to close its case with no witness for defence.
However, after acknowledging the documents, the three man tribunal led by Justice Kingsley Ojiakor adjourned till yesterday for the 2nd respondent (Governor Wike) to open defence.
Speaking with newsmen at the court premises, INEC counsel, Steve Adeyi (SAN) noted that the commission has closed its case in the petition.
He said “What we did was not to waste the time of the court. We have examined all the evidence brought by the petitioner and our defence view that they have not made up case for us to answer.
“Like I said, not to waste the time of the court we decided to close up our case today”.
On his part, counsel for the 1st petitioner (Awara Biokpomabo), Emenike Ebete, said “This morning, the Independent National Electoral Commission was to present their witnesses to open their case. After yesterday (Tuesday) proceedings, it was their turn to open their case today (Wednesday) and we came to court, the INEC lawyer, after tendering some documents, announced to the court that he did not intend to call any witness and that they have closed their case”.
He said that, “It is his case, if he says he does not want to bring any witness to prove his case, we are okay.
Also speaking, co-counsel for Governor Wike, Dike Udenna, explained that “INEC is on top of its own game, it has looked at the evidence against it, and then come to the conclusion that there is really nothing against it, so, there is no point calling witnesses to deny when there is no allegation made against it.
“I think they are within their right to make that decision not to call witnesses, and there is nothing wrong with that, it is permissible under the law”.
He noted that, “The case has now been adjourned till Thursday for 2nd respondent that is Governor Nyesom Wike to open his own defence”.

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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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