Federal lawmakers from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the House of Representatives have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately unlock the national food reserve agency and distribute items to Nigerians across the 774 local government areas.
This, they said, will curb the spate of hunger in the land amid the lockdown order to halt the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
In a statement issued by the parliamentarians under the umbrella name, “PDP House of Reps Caucus”, yesterday, signed by their leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers State, PDP) and made available to newsmen in Abuja, the members said that available records indicated that compliance to total lockdown has not always been 100 per cent successful if the food question was not addressed.
While commending Buhari for the directive during his state broadcast last Sunday, the caucus, in the statement titled, “COVID-19 Pandemic: A Call for Further and Decentralized Action”, also asked the National Assembly to immediately enact a law for national food prices control.
The caucus said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken our country on the emergency course, unexpected and unanticipated at the beginning of the year that strategic legal, policy and legislative responses have dovetailed into measures directed at curtailing or halting the pandemic.
“As members of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives, we have consistently called, and we still continue to call, for measured responses that take the poor economic conditions of Nigerians, the rights of citizens, the scaling up of the medicare framework, into account in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While many governors have stepped away from what Prof Wole Soyinka rightly described this week as an attempt to halt the spread of the pandemic virus by constitutional piracy, we note that the absence of a structured federal response, based on the dictates of the law, may have led them to ramp up measures outside the remit of their constitutional powers.
“The rule of law has now prevailed, and it is in this light we welcome some of the measures outlined in the President’s belated broadcast and in the Regulation (COVID-19 Regulation 2020) made pursuant to Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act; though the presidential broadcast and Regulation took a long time coming. Well, better late than never. While we find the measures largely satisfying, it is our considered view that the palliative measures outlined in the presidential broadcast and regulation are not far-reaching enough, while some are completely inapplicable.
“Experiences through history have shown that citizens’ rights to movement are often heavily implicated when measures directed at halting the spread of contagious diseases and restoring public safety do not address the food question behind the curtains, worsening food security conditions.
“During the Ebola outbreak a few years ago, citizens of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone openly defied the restrictions that were imposed on movement to limit the transmission of the disease, after staying indoors for a few days in hunger. We must learn quickly from these experiences by ensuring that immediate measures on food security are ramped up.
“One way of doing this is to open up our national food and grain reserves across the country and distribute food to the poorest of the poor in our country at the Local government level. The President should as a matter of utmost urgency issue an Executive Order, pursuant to his powers preserved by Section 5 of the Constitution 1999, directing the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, National Food Reserve Agency and National Emergency Management Authority to release and manage the distribution of food in our national reserves.
“The Executive Order must set out clear consequences for breach, particularly as they relate to public officials who seize on the times to make brisk businesses and gains from the miseries of the people.
“Other measures such as food prices control should be ramped up; though specific, targeted and temporary legislation on food prices control will be needed for enforcement. This is where the National Assembly comes in – by establishing a framework of teleconferencing and social media communication, where the current lockdown and the medical advisories that bar public gatherings make it impossible for the reconvening of the National Assembly, to deliberate and pass such bills, as the Food Prices Control, COVID-19 Containment, Emergency and Disaster Management, into law.”
Also commending the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and the House for the timely passage of an emergency bill to provide palliatives and the donation of members’ of March and April, 2020 salaries to fight the disease, the opposition lawmakers, however, asked that their deductions be transferred directly to their constituencies, saying they had no confidence in the sharing formula of the government.
Rivers Assembly Approves MTEF …As Wike Presents Budget, Today …Sets Aside N2.7bn For LG Polls
The Rivers State House of Assembly, yesterday, passed and approved the state’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2021 to 2023.
It also announced formal plans by the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to present the 2021 budget, today.
This follows a letter from the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to the House for the approval of the MTEF 2021 to 2023.
The Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Martin Amaewhule, who led the debate on the floor of the House, said the state Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2021 to 2023 was in line with the state’s Fiscal Responsibility Law of 2010.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, in his submission, said the MTEF would have positive impact in the state.
As part of plans to present the state’s 2021 Appropriation Bill to the House, the Rivers State Executive Council had after a meeting, last Monday, approved a budget proposal of N478, 660, 773, 476 for 2021 fiscal year.
The Commissioner for Finance, Hon Isaac Kamalu, who briefed journalists after the meeting, at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, said the proposed budgetary estimate would help government to accomplish all ongoing projects in the state, and also enable the government to make life better for the people.
Kamalu, who is also supervises the state Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, said the council further approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for the state for 2021-2023.
Also addressing the journalists, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, said that the council further approved a budget for the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC).
The budget would enable the state electoral umpire to conduct the 2021 Local Government Elections tentatively in April.
According to him, a total sum of N2, 747, 351, 405.13 was approved for RSIEC, which is expected to conduct the local government election in line with 1999 Constitution.
Nsirim further said that the council also approved the construction of a new motor park within the precinct of the newly commissioned Rebisi Flyover, which is intended to curb activities of illegal park operators in that axis.
“This is in line with the urban renewal vision of His Excellency. Recall that the new Rebisi Flyover Bridge that was commissioned a few weeks ago has changed the landscape and skyline in that vicinity.
“And to ensure that the illegal motor parks around the flyover do not deface the aesthetics that have been achieved, government is acquiring land near the flyover bridge to build a befitting motor park for them”, he added.
Release My Husband’s Corpse For Burial, Widow Begs Police …As Panel Strikes Out Nine Petitions
A widow of late Mr Kitoye Itari, an indigene of Abua/Odual Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mrs Comfort Ameiofori, has appealed to members of the state Commission of Inquiry Investigating the alleged Acts of Killing, Violence, Torture and Abuse of Fundamental Rights of Citizens committed by officers, men and operatives of the Nigerian Police in the state to prevail on the police high command in the state to release the corpse of her late husband for burial.
Late Mr Kitoye Itari was said to have allegedly died while in the custody of operatives of the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Unit, Borikiri in August, 2019.
She said that after her husband’s death, the corpse was taken to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital mortuary in Port Harcourt.
Amiefori made this appeal when she appeared at the resumed sitting of the commission at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre in Port Harcourt, yesterday, adding that efforts by the deceased family to secure the release of the corpse have been unsuccessful.
She took time to narrate how her husband was allegedly tricked by the Abua/Odual Divisional Police Officer (DPO), one Mr Joseph, who handed over her late husband to detectives of the IGP Intelligence Unit, Borokiri, where her husband allegedly died in their custody, adding that one Supol Dauda Abraham was the team leader of the policemen that effected her late husband’s arrest in Abua on that fateful Saturday evening.
According to her, it was the Abua Divisional Police Officer (DPO) that called her late husband, who was his friend to come and see him, adding that her husband, without suspecting anything, graciously went to honour the invitation but could not return to the house.
“When I waited for my husband to return on May 8, 2019, which was on Saturday, I went to the DPO’s office at about 6pm to ask about my husband, but he told me not to worry that my husband will return in two days.
“He later asked me to go and visit my husband at Borokiri in Port Harcourt where the people that arrested my husband were.
“I went there severally, even travelled to Force Headquarters in Abuja, looking for my husband but to no avail.
“Later, I got a call from somebody that my husband’s corpse has been deposited at UPTH mortuary. When I approached Supol Dauda Abraham, he asked me to bring N300,000 before we can bury my husband. Please, help me tell Supol Dauda to release my husband’s corpse for burial,” she pleaded.
In his ruling, the presiding Chairman of the panel, Justice Chukwunoye Uriri (rtd), adjourned the matter to December 9, 2020, for cross-examination by the police counsel.
Meanwhile, the panel has struck out additional three petitions for lack of jurisdiction, bringing to nine the number of petitions so far dismissed by the commission since it began sitting.
The commission had, last week, struck out three petitions and another three last Monday.
The Chairman of the panel, Justice Chukwunoye Uriri while striking out the petitions, said there were subjudice and amounted to contempt of court, adding that the commission would be going out of its scope, if it delves into such matter.
Insecurity: Use Foreign Help To Fight B’Haram, Govs, Elders Urge FG
The Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, has declared support for Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum’s request for President Muhammadu Buhari to engage mercenaries to fight Boko Haram.
Ishaku said they should be involved to assist the Nigerian military in its ongoing fight against terrorists.
Darius spoke, yesterday, in Maiduguri when he, alongside Governors of Adamawa – Ahmadu Fintiri; Bauchi – Bala Mohammed; and Gombe – Inuwa Yahaya; paid Zulum a sympathy visit in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
It would be recalled that last Saturday, Boko Haram insurgents had slaughtered more than 43 farmers from the Zabarmari community.
The massacre has been regarded as one of the most gruesome killings by the Boko Haram sect.
Ishaku said they were saddened and traumatized by the heinous crime.
“I will key into your (Zulum) request, which you said that the Federal Government should invite some mercenaries to come and help us out of this problem, because what you can’t do, what you can’t solve. I think we should invite who can solve it for us.
“We cannot continuously be mourning, there has to be a time to stop the mourning. All of us in the North-East Governors’ Forum, we are pleading with the Federal Government to find a solution to the issue of Boko Haram because, if we neglect it, it will become even worse,” he said.
The Taraba helmsman also appealed to the Federal Government to fix the infrastructural deficit in the North-East.
“We call on the Federal Government to look at the North-East with sympathy. It is embarrassing that in the 2021 budget, what is given to the North-East is 0.35 per cent. With all these problems, the insurgency, the insecurity, only 0.35 per cent was allocated for the region. This is very unfair.
“The Federal Government should look at the issue of infrastructure in the North-East. I, once again, call on the Federal Government to remember the Mambilla hydropower project. Without power, we will not, indeed, have any meaningful development”, Ishaku added.
In his remarks, the Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum expressed appreciation to the delegation for the visit.
Also miffed by the current state of insecurity in the country, some elders in the country under the aegis of Coalition of Nigeria Elders for Peace and Good Governance (CONEPAGG) have urged the Federal Government to seek foreign help to tackle the worsening situation.
The elders, whose call was necessitated by the latest killings of innocent farmers in Borno and Sokoto states by both insurgents and bandits, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to save Nigeria of further loss of lives of its citizens by not only immediately removing the service chiefs but also completely rejigging the entire security architecture.
They equally appealed to the United Nations Security Council to intervene in Nigeria’s growing deteriorating security situation, asking the international security body to consider stiff sanctions against any member state that refuses to sell arms to the country.
They stated their positions in a statement, yesterday, and signed by the National Coordinator, Engr. Zana Goni; Coordinator for South-West, Prof. Adebola Adeboye; Coordinator for South-East, Dr. Ugwuanyi Emeka; Coordinator in North-West, Sheik Ibrahim Mohammed; Coordinator in North-Central, Barrister Peter Shima; Coordinator, North-East, Hajiya Zainab Bulama; and Coordinator of South-South region, Dr. Solomon Dagogo; respectively.
The elders said their action followed an emergency meeting convened to air their feelings and present their demands to the Nigerian authorities as well as appeal to the necessary international bodies for possible intervention in the country’s worsening security situation.
“As concerned Nigerians with love for our dear country, we had to urgently summon this emergency meeting to appraise the current security situation and proffer possible solutions.
“Today, December 1, 2020, we are here in Abuja to appraise the security situation in the country, particularly in the North, and make some necessary and urgent demands on the President, Muhammadu Buhari; the National Assembly and the United Nations Security Council,” the statement read.
They condemned the gruesome killing of farmers in Borno State by insurgents, describing the action as inhuman and barbaric.
“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms ever, the barbaric, senseless, and gruesome killing of over 43 Nigerian farmers in Borno State”, they said, adding: “Our hearts are with the families and people of Borno State.”
The elders also took a swipe at the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, over a statement credited to him to the effect that the farmers died of carelessness, demanding that he be sacked immediately.
“We also describe as unfortunate, the senseless, irresponsible and insensitive statement credited to Mallam Garba Shehu, the spokesman of the president, who made a statement suggesting that the innocent farmers died out of their carelessness.
“Nothing can be more callous and insensitive as this statement at a time the whole country is mourning. We demand his immediate sack by Mr. President to serve as a deterrent to people who always put his government in a bad light,” the statement read.
According to them, “The insecurity in Nigeria, particularly in the North, has taken an alarming and dangerous dimension, and we strongly believe that now is the time to act swiftly or we will have ourselves to blame.
“Food security is already threatened, inflation and recession are already terribly with us. If nothing is done within these few days, Nigeria may collapse totally,” they added.
They said: “Our demand as Nigerians with repute and equal stake like other well-meaning Nigerians in the country from the executive are: Immediate sack of the current service chiefs and replace them with younger generals with federal character colouration that have the zeal and commitment to change the game on insecurity immediately.”
The other demands, according to the elders, are “total overhaul of the entire intelligence and security architecture of the country for effective results; increase in the budgetary provision and early release of funds by the Federal Ministry of Finance to security sector because we discovered that lack of timely release of funds to all the security agencies has hampered operation and quick response.
“Our police stations don’t even have fuel in their vehicles to respond to threats, allowances of troops in the North-West and North-East and Niger Delta have not been paid for months,” they claimed, asking: “How can we be that insensitive to the people on the frontline? How can our security be active with an empty stomach and low motivation?”
They called on the National Assembly to stop the consideration of the 2021 Budget until President Buhari sacks the service chiefs, saying the president’s retention of the security chiefs in spite of the resolutions of both chambers of the National Assembly, asking for change was an affront on the supremacy of the Legislature.
“Our demand for the Legislative Arm is one: Stop every deliberation on the 2021 Budget until Mr. President sacks the service chiefs and restructures the entire security architecture in accordance with the resolutions of the two chambers of the National Assembly to that effect. The action of the president in ignoring the resolutions is no doubt, an affront on the Legislature,” they said.
The second demand on the National Assembly from the elders, according to the statement, is for the Legislature to immediately commence debate on true federalism.
The elders called on the United Nations Security Council to, “as a matter of urgency, come to our aid in the fight against insurgency and banditry because the most powerful nation in Africa is about to be consumed with insecurity and hunger.
“We demand that they sanction any member state that refuses to sell arms and military hardware to Nigeria going forward,” they said.
In the statement, the elders appealed to the youths to believe in Nigeria and continue to pursue their demands for a better Nigeria peacefully and legally without taking laws into their hands.
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