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INEC Expresses Fears Over Bayelsa Guber Poll

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned the actions and utterances of political actors were likely to militate against peaceful conduct of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, who spoke, yesterday, when he visited the office of the Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council in Yenagoa, said unguarded actions and utterances of politicians could lead to the breach of peace during electioneering, voting and collation of results.
Mahmood, who was accompanied by senior officials of the commission and security agencies led by the Zone 5 Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Dibal Yakadi, also complained about the use of armed thugs to disrupt the voting and the collation processes.
Describing Bayelsa and Kogi as the most difficult states to conduct major elections, Mahmood further said the commission was further bothered about the ugly trend of voting buying insisting that democracy should not be on sale in the open market.
He said the commission was deploying 10,000 ad-hoc employees in different parts of Bayelsa for the exercise, adding that INEC would not allow anybody to attack them.
Addressing the council led by the Amayanabo of Twon Brass, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, the INEC boss said: “We have a few areas of concern.
“The first one is action and utterances likely to lead to the breach of the peace during electioneering campaign, during voting on the Election Day and during the collation of results.
“In 2015, up to the eight local government areas in Bayelsa State, we conducted elections conclusively and made declaration of results only in one local government area, Kolokuma-Opokuma.
“I have been asking all my friends in Bayelsa, what makes Kolokuma-Opokuma thick?
“Today, I have the opportunity finally to actually visit Kolokuma-Opokuma and I was in Kaiama and the staff assured us that just as it happened in 2015, it will happen again.
“Next is the recurrent problem where some unscrupulous actors follow voters to polling units with money on Election Day to induce them. It is called vote buying.
“Our democracy cannot be on sale in the open market. The citizens should be allowed to vote for whoever they choose in the Election Day.
“We appeal to you to continue to speak to politicians and their supporters on peaceful conduct during the campaign process and beyond”.
On why all eyes would be on Bayelsa and Kogi, Mahmood said: “First, this will be the first major election since the 2019 general election in Nigeria.
“What lessons have we learnt since the conduct of the general election that will help us to improve on the forthcoming governorship election?
“Secondly, Bayelsa and Kogi are not easy states when it comes to conducting major elections particularly governorship election.
“The challenge is particularly in terms of the terrain, and therefore, it has an impact on electoral logistics.
“But another great challenge is the attitude of the political class which has become a source of concern to the commission”.
The professor also said that the House of Assembly election would hold in Brass Constituency 2 in Brass Local Government Area on the same day scheduled for the governorship election.
Mahmood said the commission was ready to conduct peaceful, free, fair, credible and conclusive election in Bayelsa and appealed to the traditional rulers to make suggestions and contributions that would change the narrative in Bayelsa.
Ditte-Spiff commended INEC for seeking the advice of the traditional rulers in the state and appealed to the commission to prevail on security agencies to reduce military presence during the election.
Addressing Mahmood, he said: “The military presence in the last election was too much.
“They were brought here by one or two candidates. They also after the election eliminated one or two persons.
“You will need to appeal to the army in particular to try to contain their men so that they would not go off the handle and scare people away from the polling units. One or two areas are not approachable.”
Meanwhile, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad has approved the request of the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe for the transfer of his suit against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), flag bearer of the party, Senator Douye Diri over the disputed September 3 governorship primaries of the party in the state.
The presiding Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Justice Jane Inyang, while announcing her decision to accede to the directive of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, said the decision was based on the request of Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, dated September 27, 2019 and received by her Court on October 10, 2019.
According to her, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe’s letter did not question the credibility of the Federal High Court but expressed security concern in the state, “I hear by transfer the case”
The decision of the court, which came as a surprise to the defendant’s counsels elicited protest over the alleged secrecy and perceived ambush.
The National Legal Adviser of the PDP and counsel to the party, Emmanuel Enoidem (Esq), the Counsel to the 4th and 5th respondents, Chuks Oguru (Esq) kicked against the request of Chief Timi Alaibe, while the counsel to Senator Douye Diri, Barrister Chiemezie V.C. Ihekweazu declined comments.
Emmanuel Enoidem, while speaking with newsmen after the court session said, “We came in this morning only to be told that the matter has been transferred due to a letter by Chief Timi Alaibe. We are a bit taken aback at the turn of events and not because we are afraid of the case in Abuja. This is a man who wants to be governor of Bayelsa State and not the governor of the FCT or any other state in Nigeria. And if he is running from Bayelsa, I am afraid what kind of governor the person will make.”
“So, apart from the inconvenience such transfer may cause, we were told this morning. When the matter came up on the 2nd and slated for Friday, 18th, and later 15th. We were surprised. But for a man who wants to be governor of the state and running away on account of insecurity, what will happen to millions of Bayelsa people residing here? Instead of coming to confront the issue of insecurity he is alleging in his letter, he is running away. This is not how to be a good governor.”
The Counsel for the 4th and 5th defendants, Barrister Chuks Oguru, also complained that the letter of Chief Timi Alaibe, “Court matter is not done in the way of Robin Hood method is to lie in wait for innocent wayfarers. We should have been put on notice. We find the method of the plaintiff objectionable because parties are not allowed to go forum shopping.
“If you are sure of your facts, you go to court and argue your case. Anywhere they take us to, we will meet them with concrete facts for facts, jurisprudence for their law and we will match them constitutionality for their own constitutionality. Anywhere they go in Abuja or even the House of Lords, we are very prepared because we are sure of our grounds. You know the nitty-gritty of the case is that the plaintiff wants to torpedo the entire primary election that produced the 2nd defendant, Senator Douye Diri as the flag bearer of the PDP.”
But the lead Counsel of Chief Timi Alaibe, Barrister Ayodele Adedipe, said the decision for the transfer of the case to Abuja was the decision of the plaintiff and that he expressed security concern about the matter being heard in Yenagoa, “and the CJN found merit in his concern and direct the presiding Judge and acceded to the request”
Adedipe described the comments by the defense counsels as diversionary and petty.
“ The point here is that the plaintiff said he had confidence in the judge and sited an example of the incident where a Federal High Court was invaded sometime ago because of that he said. Let us have the legal battle on a neutral ground where people can come to court and lawyers can advocate without fear. And when people come and play to the gallery over the decision, I don’t have much comment on that.”
Alaibe, who approached the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa in a suit numbered FHC/YNG/CS/99/2019, also included as defendants the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Douye Diri, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Embeleakpo Alale for himself and representing the elected local government chairmen, vice-chairmen and councillors of the PDP allowed to be delegates at the elective state congress of the PDP in Bayelsa State held on September 3, 2019.
Also joined in the suit as defendant is Doubra Kumokou, for himself and on behalf of the three ad-hoc delegates allowed to be delegates at the elective state congress.
Alaibe is seeking, with an application, for cancellation of the result of the primary election based on cited procedural flaws.
The suit, which was filed in pursuant to Order 3(9) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, seeks answers to questions bordering on obvious non-adherence to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act 2010, the People’s Democratic Party Constitution and Election Guidelines, by the state chapter of the party in the conduct of the ward congresses, inclusion of local government council officials in the delegates list and the procedure for inclusion of three ad-hoc delegates.
Citing specific sections of relevant laws and guidelines, Alaibe is asking the court to examine the entire processes that resulted in the primaries and rule in his favour in the light of violations committed in a desperate move to impose a pre-determined hand-picked candidate on the people out of 21 aspirants.
It would be recalled that the Timi Alaibe’s Campaign Organisation had raised objections against what it described as crass disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines in the build-up to the conduct of the governorship primary election by the state chapter of the PDP.
The objection covered open disobedience to the party constitution and electoral guidelines and the manner in which ward congresses were conducted; among others.

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31 States Lack Insurance Cover For Workers

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Thirty-one states in the federation have no insurance cover in place for workers as of March, despite the provision of the requirement in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Figures obtained from PenCom on ‘Status of implementation of the CPS in states as at March 2021’, last Saturday, showed that only five states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have insurance in place for their workers.
Other compliant states are Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Edo, which also have pension schemes for their workers, according to PenCom.
A former President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said it was not appropriate that most states lacked insurance cover for their workers.
Esele stated, “It speaks volumes to the fact that when the private sector has not shown respect for group life insurance, they are actually borrowing a leaf from the state governments.
“Ordinarily, what you should expect is that respect for our laws should be what state governments should be all about, but what they have done now is to show lack of respect for the law and their citizens because, ordinarily, it is in the best interest of not only the workers but also the management, that is, the government.
“It is so that whatever happens, the families of the people working with them are safe. For them not to have done that is sad and discomforting.”
The Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Ivor Takor, urged state and local governments to comply fully with the regulations in the CPS.
He expressed worry that most states had yet to comply with the law.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters, Hon Darlington Nwokocha, said the lawmakers were reviewing the insurance laws which would enhance the sector’s performance and assist the implementation of the compulsory insurance laws.
The Director-General, National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said the commission was engaging states to ensure full compliance with the PRA.
She noted that it had continued to review the implementation of the scheme in the states.
Also, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr Sunday Thomas, said the National Insurance Commission was seeking compliance on the compulsory insurance schemes.
Thomas stated that NAICOM had visited some of the state governors to solicit the support for compliance with insurance laws.
Also, PenCom, in a recent circular, ordered employers of labour to comply with the Group Life Insurance Policy as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
PenCom also ordered employers to display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within the premises before the end of July 31, 2021.
It stated this in a circular to all employers and employees titled ‘Re: Compliance with PRA 2014 on Group Life Insurance Policy for employees and display of insurance certificate for 2021’.
The commission said, “In accordance with the provisions of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, every employer shall maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of all employees.
“The GLIP should be a minimum of three times the annual total emolument of the employees. Similarly, Section 5.5 of the revised guidelines on GLIP for employees provides that the employer shall display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within its premises, for the information of the employees and as evidence of having taken such policy.
“Employers that have not displayed a copy of the GLIP certificate within their premises are advised to do so on or before 31 July, 2021. Failure to provide GLIP is a violation of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.”
PenCom disclosed that only 15,418 organisations got its clearance to do the business of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between January 4 and May 10.
It said the clearance was given to them for having pension accounts and life insurance cover for their employees.
According to the commission, the clearance enables them to do the business of the Federal Government for the 2021 financial year.
PenCom said companies that had no insurance cover for their workers would no longer be allowed to do any government business.

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One In 100 Die By Suicide, WHO Alerts

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The World Health Organisation (WHO), has said, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and responsible for one in 100 deaths globally.
In its latest estimates entitled, “Suicide worldwide in 2019”, WHO noted that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide.
The latest estimates noted that in 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting the WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.
The WHO guidance is to help the world reach the target of reducing the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030.
Speaking on the new estimates, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the world cannot and must not ignore suicide.
“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide 6 job loss, financial stress and social isolation still very much present.”
He said the new guidance would provide a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.
“Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. The rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.”
The report also explained that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).
“Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up. Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 per cent, with decreases ranging from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific.
“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 per cent in the same time period. Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted.
“Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.
“A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.”
However, WHO has released comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are: limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
WHO further recommended the banning of the most dangerous pesticides given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all suicides while national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective.
Other measures recommended by WHO include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages and installing barriers at jump sites.
On responsible reporting by the media, the guide highlighted the role the media plays in relation to suicide.
“Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
“The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.”
WHO also noted that support for adolescence (10-19 years of age) was a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of the mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age.
“The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when a suicide risk is identified.
“Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up apply to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for future suicide.
“Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up.
“Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement the support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.
The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA can be used by anyone who is interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at the national or local level and in the governmental and non-governmental sectors alike.
On his part, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organisation, Alexandra Fleischmann said, “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments, starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”

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Wike, Others Grace Prof Antonia Omehia’s Thanksgiving

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Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and other eminent personalities were among personalities that graced the thanksgiving ceremony in honour of Professor Antonia Celestine Omehia, yesterday.
The thanksgiving organised by former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia was to mark the conferment of his wife, Professor Antonia with the rank of Professor of Library and Information Science by Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni.
Professor Antonia Omehia is a lecturer in the Library and Information Science Department of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers State.
Governor Wike, his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Austin Opara, former Presidents, Nigeria Bar Association ( NBA) Onueze C.J Okocha (SAN), and Okey Wali (SAN) were among other dignitaries who attended the thanksgiving ceremony at Omehia’s residence in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Former Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia said his family decided to organise the thanksgiving to honour God for his wife’s unparalleled academic excellence and passion for scholarly research.
He acknowledged that it is not an easy feat to attain the rank of an academic professor. According to him, his family will remain eternally grateful to God for granting his wife the grace of academic excellence.
Former NBA President, Okocha, who spoke on behalf of Rivers’ elders, said Professor Antonia Omehia has indisputably distinguished herself in academics, because professors are scholars that are experts in their fields and teachers of the highest rank in the university.
He heaped praises on Sir Omehia for allowing his wife to soar in her academic pursuit, because most men often feel intimidated when their wives excel in life.
The legal luminary said when women excel in academics, they should be celebrated.
He commended Professor Antonia Omehia for making her husband and children proud by virtue of her unquestionable commitment to academic excellence.
”We are proud of you for honouring our brother.”
Eminent personalities that also attended the thanksgiving included: Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Anabraba, former Minister of Transportation, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, Senator (Dr) Bennett Birabi, Davies Ikanya among several others.

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