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.
Shell Donates Subsea Training Facilities To UNIPORT
Speaking at a ceremony to hand over the facilities to the university, last Thursday, Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), Mrs. Elohor Aiboni, said, “The donations are aimed at strengthening advanced practical teaching and research in subsea engineering to give the students the required skills and competences for entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry”.
The facilities, valued at over $700,000, are in alignment with the Human Capacity Development Guideline of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Aiboni, represented by SNEPCo’s Social Investment Manager, Dr. Gloria Udoh, expressed optimism that with the level of investment by NNPC and SNEPCo in deep-water training via the establishment centres of excellence and donation of cutting-edge information and communication technology centres, among others, Nigerian oil and gas industry would surpass its local content aspiration earlier than projected.
“This investment anchored on the maintenance of subsea infrastructure on Nigeria’s pioneer deep offshore field, Bonga, is expected to develop and upskill the cognitive and technical abilities of students who pass through the Offshore Technology Institute for the ultimate benefit of our industry and of our country,” Aiboni added.
With the new laboratory and software packages, according to Aiboni, the Offshore Technology Institute is positioned to deliver effective training in engineering design; construction and installation of offshore and subsea structures; computer simulations; civil and construction tests; 3D printing/engravement capability; Measurement/Metering Technology and Robotics; Alternative Energy Technologies; and Data Acquisition Learning System.
In his remarks, Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Onwunari Georgewill, commended NNPC and SNEPCo with its co-venture partners for their goodwill to the university and particularly to OTI, and canvassed more areas of collaboration between the university and its industry partners.
Georgewell said, “This project’s completion is timely because it latches on to the university’s leadership philosophy, which focuses on advancing education through an integrated learning environment to produce industry-ready university graduates and workforce.
“The current administration of the university places a lot of emphasis on university and industry collaboration and partnership. This donation will therefore enhance the achievement of the postgraduate degree-awarding Offshore Technological Institute in the practical context.”
Also speaking, Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr. Simbi Wabote, described the human capital initiatives of SNEPCo as commendable.
Wabote added, “I commend your remarkable and consistent collaboration and partnership with the NCDMB towards the development of in-country capacities and capabilities.”
Represented by NCDMB General Manager, Corporate Service and Logistics, Mr Halilu Abdulmalik, Wabote said, “Your Nigerian content initiatives are consistent with the objectives and aspirations of NCDMB’s 10-year strategic roadmap, and we hope that necessary adjustments will be made to the curriculum to ensure optimal utilization by students in the university community.”
Obasanjo, Osinbajo, Wike, Others Bag CAN Awards
Others, including Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, and Chief Arthur Eze, also received awards at the event; while the kidnapped Dapchi school, Leah Sharibu, won in the Young Christian Achiever award category.
Former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, and Goodluck Jonathan, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustafa, and some Christian governors, serving and past National Assembly members bagged awards.
The awards were part of activities for CAN’s 45th Anniversary Sapphire Celebration Dinner and Award Night.
Earlier in his welcome address, CAN National President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, had said that the gathering was to celebrate 45 years of the church in Nigeria.
He said that Governance Category awards were for Christians in politics who had shown excellent and remarkable services.
“These include past presidents, serving governors and senators in our assessment that deserve such award.
“An award ceremony is applause of vision, personal discipline and determination; it is an event like this that makes people feel that their works are valued.
“The award is a catalyst that is expected to reinforce the awardees to serve humanity more and more,’’ he said.
The CAN president said it was heart breaking that majority of those in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps were Christians who were displaced by religious fanatics, bandits and gunmen in their territories.
He solicited the awardees’ financial support in fulfilling some of CAN’s obligations to fellow Christians and bringing to fruition the association’s projects.
Obasanjo, who was represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, was the special guest of honour at the awards.
Obasanjo said that the award was significant in that it would encourage other citizens to serve humanity, adding “I will continue to do the best I can to uphold the principles of justice, love, equity, mutual respect, industry and the fear of God which epitomise the church of Christ until there’s no breath left in me.”
While showing appreciation to CAN on behalf of all the award recipients, VP Osinbajo said Nigerians needed to be more tolerant of other people’s views.
The vice president dedicated the award to those who, daily in different locations, distant and near, propagated the message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, sometimes in difficult and life-threatening situations.
He said that the awardees were not necessarily the most deserving of Christians to be given any recognition but by the special grace of God which placed them in the high capacity they served.
He said, “As we have seen in the past few years, there’s a growing ethnic and religious chauvinism, and almost intemperate, vehement and violent dismissal of the views of people of other persuasions and faith without adequate consideration.
“At the same time, there is also the rise of cultural and identity politics. The answer to hate and intolerance and conflicts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must believe enough in it, to live it out as our article of faith.
“The gospel commands consideration of the views of others, treating them we would wish to be treated. Our words must be of grace, seasoned with salt.
“We must remain constant and relentless advocates of freedom of worship, respect for human rights, fairness, justice, rule of law because they are fundamental to peace and security. We cannot talk of peace and security without fairness and justice, and compliance with the rule of law.
“We are in the advantageous position that our contribution will be more easily noticed.
“So, this award is dedicated to the men who, daily in different locations, distant and near propagate this message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in sometimes even difficult and life-threatening situations.
“And to many who have suffered deprivations, the families of those who have lost their lives by reason of their belief.
“And we are deeply grateful to the Almighty God for the opportunity and enablement to serve in the positions to which we have been referred.
“I bring, also, the very warm felicitations of the President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria on the 45th anniversary of the birth of this foremost association of Nigerian Christians.
“CAN was formed to, among other objectives, nurture the unity of the church in Nigeria and to work with the leaders of other faith and persuasions to build bridges and forge understanding, peace and unity among the various people and faith in our nation.
“CAN has not only been continually faithful to its founding vision, it has become a veritable force for peace, for unity and for social justice.
“Pursuant to the gospel, CAN has consistently spoken up on behalf of the least of those in our society,’’ he said.
He said that the current and past leaderships of CAN had acted in full realiasation and recognition of their roles as pivotal stakeholders alongside the government and private sector in nation building.
Earlier, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who noted the dire financial condition of the umbrella Christian organisation in the country, advised clerics to tone down their criticism of those in authority.
He said, “I just want to caution some Christian pastors concerning the way we use our pulpit and the kind of fire of insults and abuses that comes from there. When you abuse those who will give you money where will you get the money.
“The Bible says to pray for those in authority. You need to draw your leaders close. When you draw us closer and tell us what your problems are, it will energise us to help. Money will flow more than you need.”
Also, Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who sheltered no fewer than 200 Christians in Barkin Ladi, Plateau, during an attack, was presented with the Special Recognition award.
The late Obadiah Mailafia, former CBN Deputy Governor, was given a post-humous award of Spokesperson for Oppressed alongside Matthew Kukah, Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana.
Awards were also given to best candidates in the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and Senior School Certificate Examination.
Highlight of the event was the cutting of the anniversary cake.
Bandits Free 10 More Kaduna Baptist Students, Keep 11
The Vice President of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja) and its Chairman in Kaduna State, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, said this in a short WhatsApp message to newsmen.
He said, “Ten more students of Baptist High School were released this afternoon. We have 11 now with bandits.
“We are thanking all Nigerians for their prayers and support.
“We are trusting God that the rest will be released very soon. All have been reunited with their parents.”
Earlier, 10 students of Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna were released on Saturday, September 18, after spending 74 days captivity of terrorists, with 22 others still being held.
Hayab had said, “10 students were released this (Saturday) evening and have reunited with their parents. We are now hoping for the remaining 21 who are still with the bandits.”
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