The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 192 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain and stop Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and all members of the House from spending an estimated N5.04billion to buy 400 exotic Toyota Camry cars for principal officers and members.
SERAP is also seeking a court order to “restrain and stop the National Assembly Service Commission from releasing any public funds to the House of Representatives to buy 400 Toyota Camry 2020 model cars estimated to cost $35,130 each until an impact assessment of the spending on access to public services and goods like education, security, health and clean water, is carried out.”
It would be recalled that the House of Representatives during an executive session held on February 5, 2020, reportedly passed a resolution that 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars be purchased as official vehicles for 360 members and other persons, including top management staff, Chief of Staff to the two presiding officers, as well as some of their special advisers and assistants.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/205/2020, filed last Friday, on behalf of SERAP and the concerned Nigerians by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, stated that: “Nigerians have a right to honest and faithful performance by their public officials, including lawmakers, as public officials owe a fiduciary duty to the general citizenry. All those who hold the strings of political power and power over spending of Nigeria’s commonwealth have a duty to answer for their conduct when called upon to do so by Nigerians.”
In a statement, yesterday, by Oluwadare, who is also deputy director of SERAP, the plaintiffs also maintained that, “It is illegal and unconstitutional for members of the House of Representatives to choose to buy expensive and exotic cars while encouraging Nigerians to tighten their belts and to patronize Nigerian brands. It is also illegal for members to reject cheaper and equally reliable options.”
According to the plaintiffs, “If the members of House of Representatives take their duties to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us seriously, including their duties to judiciously spend public funds, they would not have voted to spend over $35,000 per car, especially given the current economic and financial realities of Nigeria.
“There is chronic poverty in Nigeria and many state governments are unable to pay salaries of workers and pensions. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the House of Representatives will spend over N5billion of public funds to buy the exotic cars at the expense of many Nigerians living in poverty and misery.”
The plaintiffs are asking the court to determine, “Whether the plan and resolution by the House of Representatives to buy 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members amounting to over N5billion in total, is not in breach of Section 57(4) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, the oath of office, and Paragraph 1 of Code of Conduct for Public Officers (Fifth Schedule Part 1) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).”
The suit read in part, “Members of the House of Representatives are either unaware of the constitutional and statutory provisions on their fiduciary duties and judicious use of public funds or deliberately glossing over these provisions.
“It is also apparent that, besides elevating their personal interests over and above the public interests, members of the House of Representatives have shown insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians, thereby violating Section 14 (2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999, to the effect that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government and its institutions.
“It is public knowledge that members of the House of Representatives receive huge sums of money as monthly allowances and severance pay on conclusion of their respective terms at the National Assembly. It is rational that many Nigerians are calling for a review downward of the sum proposed to buy cars for members.
“There is no better time for any government/public institution to take issues of security and welfare/wellbeing of Nigerians seriously due to rampant kidnapping, banditry and terrorism in many parts of the country than now.
“This case raises issues of public interests, national interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.
“About N3billion was voted to buy cars for members of the House of Representatives in 2016. The sum of N128billion was budgeted and allocated to the National Assembly in the approved 2019 national budget.”
However, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
RSG Warns Owner Of Proudest Hotel To Stop Blackmailing NCDC
Our attention has been drawn to a recent misleading petition, signed by one Mr. Needam Promise Gogorobari, Owner, Prodest Hotel and dated 24th May 2020,
to the effect that the convicted Manager of Prodest Hotel, Mr. Bariledum Job Azoroh, who recently tested positive for Covid-19 disease amongst 27 others, in a result released by the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, may have allegedly been infected on the instructions of the Rivers State Government.
Much as we had restrained ourselves from responding to previous similar publications by this same person, since the subject matter was still before a court of competent jurisdiction, we are now compelled to reply this obviously spurious, deliberately misleading and intentionally provocative petition with a proper response, to set the records straight and caution the sponsors of this action from further pedlling such falsehoods in the public space.
For the avoidance of doubt and for the information of the general public, let us state categorically here that the FACTS of this matter are very clear, viz:
1. A Port Harcourt Senior Magistrates’ Court on May 18th, 2020 CONVICTED Mr. Bariledum Azoro, Manager of Prodest Hotel, Eleme and sentenced him to a fine of N50,000 for contravening paragraphs 3 and 4 of Executive Order RVSG 07 2020 on closure of hotels, guest houses and related outfits and provision of manifests in the state.
2. The Senior Magistrates’ Court also ordered that th convict,Mr. Azoroh should be quarantined at the Isolation Centre in Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia for 14 days to ascertain his coronavirus status.
3. That while in the Court Ordered Quarantine, competent health officials carried out mandatory tests on all suspected Coronavirus individuals at the centre, including Mr.Bariledum Job Azoroh, to ascertain their Covid-19 status.
It is important to state here that COVID-19 tests undergo World Health Organization, (WHO) and NCDC guidelines and are conducted under strict established medical protocols.
4. That prior to the publication of the test results, the owner of PRODEST Hotel Eleme, Mr. Gogorobari Needam had published one of his misleading petitions in an attempt to preempt the outcome of the test and the question we want to ask is: ‘Why did the hotel owner try to preempt the outcome of the test. Was he trying to cover up something?
5. That on Sunday, 24th May, 2020, the NCDC announced that Rivers State had 27 recorded positive cases including Mr.Bariledum Job Azoroh, from tests carried out in the state.
6. That following the official announcement of the result and confirmation of his Manager’s Covid-19 positive status, the PRODEST Hotel owner has once again released another statement and this time is now calling for a state of emergency in Rivers State because his manager tested positive for Covid-19.
7. Rivers people will recall that on May 19, 2020, we raised an alarm intimating the world of a clandestine plot by some Abuja politicians hiding under the cover of Covid-19 to instigate a State of Emergency in the state. Today, a hotel owner in Eleme, who lives in Lagos is also now calling for a State of Emergency. Is there any wonder therefore as to who is beating the drum for him?
8. Indeed there seems to be more to this than meets the ordinary eye and we are calling on all well-meaning people to see the need to interrogate this man and know that he is acting out a script. Infact, the entire petition sounds and reads like something lifted directly from the copy book of those who have been desperately trying to run down the Rivers State Government. This is desperation taken too far.
9. We even recall vividly that Mr. Needam Promise Gogorobari had, in an interview published in the Punch Newspaper of May 15, 2020 titled: “No ill feeling towards Wike for demolishing my hotel – Gogorobari”, actually stated categorically that he holds no grudge against Governor Wike for demolishing the hotel. His words: “Who am I not to forgive him? I don’t hold any grudge against him. I just feel that God wanted it to happen that way”. So what happened to make him change his mind? Is it not obvious that the agents of evil and those who do not mean well for Rivers State have reached him and are now beating this drum of dissent for him?
10. Again, We want to state categorically here that Government doesn’t conduct Covid-19 tests. Trained Health professionals follow the relevant medical protocols set down by WHO, the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, to conduct these tests.
11. The claim therefore that the PRODEST Hotel manager, Mr. Bariledum Job Azoroh, was infected while in detention is not only laughable and preposterous, but sadly and dangerously exposes the amazing ignorance and naivety of Mr. Needam Promise Gogorobari and those sponsoring him about the deadly nature of the Covid-19 disease. How does one even carry such a deadly virus around and infect people with it?
12. Rather than commend the Rivers State Government for stemming the tide of infection that would have arisen if the Hotel used for clandestine parties was not demolished and the Manager arrested, the owner is crying wolf where there is none.
13. We also want to caution Mr. Needam Promise Gogorobari to be very mindful of his claims that his hotel Manager “has been framed up by an unorthodox hired medical officers recruited by Governor Wike with a report that he has tested positive to COVID-19 whilst in detention with the Rivers State Government”.
This is a clear accusation and indictment of the reputation and authority of the NCDC.
14 We also want to call the attention of Mr. Needam Gogorobari that we take exception to his description of the Isolation Centre in Port Harcourt, as an “illegal detention facility in Stadium, Elekahia, Port Harcourt” and to inform him and his sponsors that the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu and a team from the World Health Organization, were in Rivers State on a working visit in April this year and not only praised Governor Nyesom Wike for his leadership and handling of the Covid-19 outbreak. but also applauded his medical health team and all the facilities put in place in response to the Coronavirus.
We will therefore be keen to know how the NCDC will react, when they read your description of a facility they approved, as ‘a detention centre’.
15. Finally, we want to assure the good people of the state that the Rivers State Government remains resolute in its fight to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the state and we will not be deterred by cheap blackmail and misleading propaganda.
16 Governor Wike is determined to employ and deploy appropriate strategies to keep Rivers State safe.
17. We call on all residents to work together with the Governor to defeat Covid-19 in Rivers State and by the Grace of God we will be victorious.
Commissioner for Information and Communications
May 26, 2020
Banigo Felicitates With Justice Wike On Her Birthday
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Mrs. Ipalibo Harry Banigo has felicitated with the wife of the State Chief Executive Hon. Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom Wike as she celebrates her birthday on Saturday, 23rd May, 2020.
In a statement from the Government House in Port Harcourt on Friday, 23rd May 2020, Dr. Banigo described Hon. Justice Wike as a humane and God fearing woman who is a great pillar of strength to our amiable Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
While wishing her many happy returns the Deputy Governor prayed the Almighty God to continue to protect and bless Hon. Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom Wike.
Former Nigeria President Jonathan Loses Foster Dad.
The family of former Nigerian President,Goodluck Jonathan and the Otuoke community of Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa state has been thrown into mourning as the News of the sudden demise of Chief Nitabai Inegite,the former president’s foster father reached them.
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