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Again, Court Adjourns Ex-SGF’s N544m ‘Grass Cutter’ Fraud Case

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An FCT High Court in Jabi, Abuja, yesterday, adjourned until October 6 and October 7 the trial of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), BabachirLawal.

Babachir is charged with 10 counts bordering on fraud, criminal conspiracy to diversion of over N544million belonging to the Federal Government, in the award of contract in removal of evasive plant species in the North-East.

The EFCC also charged Hamidu, the former SGF’s younger brother, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.

Yesterday’s hearing before Justice Charles Agbaza, was slated for cross-examination of the prosecution’s third witness.

The witness is a Deputy Director, Head of Digital Forensic Laboratory, EFCC,Fatima Umar.

She took the witness stand, to be cross examined by Babachir’s counsel, Akin Olujinmi, SAN.

During cross examination, Umar confirmed that as a digital expert, she knew that the internet offered various possibilities in terms of use.

In addition, she admitted being aware of the activities of hackers on the internet and their ability to take over a third party’s device without physically touching nor without the consent or authorisation of the owner.

Umar, however, said that before a device is hacked into and data get transferred using Bluetooth facility, pairing of devices must be done first before transfer of data can be enabled, which ultimately meant the owner of the device will have knowledge of the transfer.

Olujimi on his part asked Umar to confirm that there was a possibility that if the phone was in possession of another person apart from the owner, such pairing and subsequent transfer of data could be done without his knowledge.

In her response, she said yes, but she, however, said that was not the case in the extant suit.

According to Olujimi, there was possibility that the phone which was taken from one Musa Bulani by one Ibrahim Ahmad, an EFCC’s operative in November, 2017, did not get to Umar until March 9, 2018.

He, therefore, asked Umar to confirm the chain of custody within that period and the possibility that the phone was not tampered with and incriminating evidence planted in

She confirmed that the phone was in perfect working condition when it was brought for data to be extracted from it and analysed, accompanied by consent, specific analysis and chain of custody forms.

Umar said she had to interact with the owner of the phone as he needed to be brought to the laboratory because the phone had a pass code.

”He was brought to the lab because in the consent form which was supposed to know the state and information of the device, whether it had a password or not and in this case.

”In filling the form, he included a password that was wrong, so I requested for him to be brought to give the correct password,” she explained.

Olujimi, in response to her answer, stated that evidence from exhibit eight which was a letter sent to Umar to extract and analyse information from the phone was just the consent form.

He also pointed out that the evidence about the phone being password was not in any document before the court.

In concluding his cross-examination, he asked Umar if she could hack into another person’s phone with her knowledge as a digital forensic expert.

She answered in the affirmative, but added “not in this case”.

Justice Agbaza at the end of Olujimi’s cross examination adjourned the matter until October 6 and October 7 for the continuation of cross examination of the witness by the remaining four defence counsel.

At the last adjourned date, the court had delivered a ruling on the objection raised by counsel to the former SGF, Olujimi, concerning some documents prosecution sought to tender.

The court in its ruling rejected the documents on the ground that conditions for their admissibility were not met by the prosecution.

The EFCC alleged that Lawal as the SGF awarded grass cutting contracts to companies in which he had interests.

They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them.

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NUT Tasks NASS On Teachers’ 65 Years Retirement Age Bill Passage

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The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), has urged the national assembly to expedite action on passage of the Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Bill 2021.
The Secretary-General of NUT, Dr Mike Ike-Ene, made the appeal in an interview with The Tide yesterday in Abuja.
He said the passage of the bill and its eventual signing into law by the President would go a long way in giving teachers the hope that their profession was being given the needed attention.
Ike-Ene said the hope of passage of the bill on June 30, having been mentioned on the Order Paper, was dashed because of the controversy that followed the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill, now an Act.
“We are expecting that as the national assembly has resumed, the bill will be one of the first few bills to be passed.
“We expected the bill to be passed on June 30 concurrently by the two houses having been mentioned on the Order Paper but the debate of the Petroleum Industry Act and debate of the Electoral Reform Bill took the day.’’
The Secretary-General commended the National Assembly for its commitment to ensuring conclusion of work on the bill.
He expressed optimism that when passed, President Buhari would not hesitate in signing it into law.
He thanked the President for the effort to reposition the teaching profession, saying the union had been in the forefront in the struggle for elongation of tenure for teachers, among other things.
According to him, we have actually been fighting for some of the things the President promised to do for teachers, for instance, the elongation of years.
“We have been agitating for 65 years retirement age or 40 years by service and one of the reasons for the agitation is that we discovered that about 26 states did not recruit a single teacher for over 20 years.
“Yet teachers were retiring in their dozens, in hundreds and more deaths were being recorded as a result of the growing insecurity, particularly in schools.
“Some died naturally, others were resigning, yet teachers were not being employed.”
He further said, “We have also been agitating for Teachers Special Salary Structure (TSS) but hazard allowance was granted instead.
“The hazard allowance accumulated to 27.5 per cent of the basic of teachers’ salaries which were not what we were agitating for.
“We thank God that the Buhari’s administration has promised to implement the TSS and since that pronouncement, NUT, government and other stakeholders have been working to ensure implementation.’’
Ike-Ene disclosed that the promise made to teachers by the president would be implemented at different levels, stressing that while some would be passed into law, others would be implemented as policies.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in June, transmitted a letter on a Bill to increase the retirement age for teachers from 60 years to 65 years.
The Bill also seeks to extend the years of service for teachers from 35years to 40 years.
Meanwhile, the president at the commemoration of the World Teachers Day on October 5, 2020, approved a special salary scale for teachers and special pension scheme.
He also said the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) will begin to fund teaching practice in universities and colleges of education.
He further promised to ensure provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance.
The president also promised sponsorship of at least one refresher training, construction of low-cost housing for teachers in rural areas and reintroduction of bursary award.
Other promises are, expansion of the annual Presidential Teachers and Schools Awards and payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students and automatic employment after graduation.

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Traffic Congestion: FG Builds Three Flyovers, Interchange

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The Federal Government is collaborating with Ogun State Government to secure the Right of Way (RoW) for the construction of three bridges and an interchange on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, said this during an inspection of the highway last Wednesday.
Fashola, who was joined by Gov. Dapo Abiodun at the Lotto Bridge under construction, said the highway accommodated over 40,000 vehicles daily, hence the urgent need for additional flyovers and interchanges for decongestion.
The bridges are under construction at Makun, MFM and Lotto (Mowe) areas on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
“We are trying to execute an interchange that will separate the main carriageway and give commuters choice, especially those going to religious places to worship, those going to universities and so on and so forth.
“So that what used to cause the congestion is limited to the barest minimum if not totally eradicated when the road is finished.
“So, we now require additional land to build the interchange, that is why I called the governor (Dapo Abiodun),” he said.
He said that the Buhari administration inherited several stalled projects which he was committed to completing by adequately funding the projects
Fashola expressed satisfaction with progress of work on the ongoing reconstruction/rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
On his part, Gov. Abiodun assured that the state government would give all the land and support needed.
Earlier, the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr Olukayode Popoola, gave the measurements and dimensions needed for the bridges and interchange.
Popoola also gave details on the number of buildings and services on the Right of Way of the bridges which, without paying compensations, would stall the project.
He said that section one of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project, which spans from Ojota in Lagos to Sagamu Interchange, “has achieved 56 per cent completion”.
Also, during inspection of section two of the project, which spans from the Sagamu Interchange to Ojoo in Ibadan, the Federal Controller of Works in Ogun, Mr Umar Bakare, said that the section was 63 per cent completed.

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NEDC Flags Off Construction Of 500 Housing Units In Bauchi

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North-East Development Commission (NEDC) in collaboration with the Bauchi State Government has commenced the construction of 500 mass housing units in Bauchi, to address housing deficit in the state.
NEDC’s Managing Director, Alhaji Mohammed Goni-Alkali, stated this at the ground breaking ceremony of the project yesterday in Bauchi.
Goni-Alkali said that 300 houses would be built in Bauchi metropolis while 200 others would be spread across the 20 local government areas of the state.
According to him, the project is to ease the accommodation problems as well as fast track the rapid social and economic development of the state, to mitigate the devastation caused by the insurgency.
Goni-Alkali said that the commission had so far constructed 1,000 housing units in Marte LGA of Borno, adding that the houses had been handed over to the state government.
He said that the commission would also construct one primary school in each of the senatorial districts across the six states in the region, to promote educational development.
The managing director said that the commission had presented food and non-food items to the Bauchi State Government for distribution to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
He listed the items to include 10,000 bags of rice; 2,000 bags of sugar; 10,000 gallons of palm oil; 3,000 cartons of pasta; 2,000 blankets; 2,000 plastic mats and 1,000 mosquito nets.
In his remarks, Gov. Bala Mohammed, lauded the impact of the commission in the North-East with regard to the construction of schools and roads.
Mohammed also commended NEDC for the provision of other essential services since inception in 2019.
He said that the commission had constructed one block of six classrooms each across the 20 local government areas of the state.
“We have recieved the intervention of the commission in health and agriculture,” he said.
Mohammed promised to distribute the donated items judiciously to the deserving families.
The Goni-Alkali and other officials of the commission would inspect road projects in Alkaleri and Kirfi, and  Visco Vaginal Fistula (VVF) Centre in Ningi

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