The hope of leaving the Kirikiri maximum prison by the convicted former board chairman of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Captain Bode George (rtd) and five other members of the board last Friday may have suffered a setback after spending four days in prison as their bail application hearing was adjourned till November 9, 2009.
George and five co-convicts filed the bail application before the court urging the judge to grant them bail, pending the hearing of their appeal.
Part of the grounds cited by George for the bail application are that he is hypertensive, has arthritis, and that his appeal, which might take more than two and a half years, might be prejudiced.
The other five convicts are also asking for bail on several circumstances bordering mostly on their health.
Justice Olubumi Oyewole of a Lagos High Court had last Monday sentenced George and five others to 2 ½ years in prisonment over their role in contract splitting and disobedience to lawful order.
The others sentenced alongside George included former Managing Director of NPA, Architect Aminu Dabo, Captain O. Abidoye, Alhaji Aminu Tafida, Alhaji Zanna Maidariba and Engr. Sule Aliyu.
Oyewole had found George and his co-convicts guilty and sentenced them to six months jail term for disobedience to lawful order of constituted authority contained in circular No. F15775 dated June, 27, 2001 which pegged the contract approval limit of the board to N20 million.
The six former board members of the NPA were also sentenced to two years improvement each for abuse of office.
They were also found guilty of deliberately rejecting the directives of the circular and that they acted in manner that poses threat to the activities of the nation’s ports and its entire economy which is not in the best interest of Nigeria.
According to Justice Oyewole, all the accused persons in their evidence acknowledged receiving the said order from the ministry of transport but chose by their own volition to disregard the order.
He, however, held them not liable for contract inflation. During the trial which lasted for 15 month, one of the major prosecution witnesses, Engr Mustaphar Bukar, a director in the Federal Ministry of Transportation, who chaired a 7-man administrative panel instituted by the Federal Government to probe the activities of the NPA, said his panel discovered that about 29,526 contracts were awarded by the management of the NPA between year 2001 to 2003.
In his evidence, the witness said that some of the contracts were split and inflated before they were awarded to different contractors by the NPA management.
However, the witness, admitted under cross examination by counsel to the defendants that there was no evidence indicating that the contracts awarded were given out or signed by the Board of the NPA led by Chief Bode George.
Substance Abuse Becoming Thing Of Concern -Odu
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ngozi Nma Odu, has lauded the important role pharmacists play in the wellbeing of the society.
Odu gave this commendation while playing host to members of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Rivers State Branch at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The deputy governor said while others are sleeping, pharmacists work hard “to ensure we all live in a better society, especially when you talk about the dangers of substance abuse.”
Odu stressed that, “It is really becoming a thing of great concern because of the level of children getting involved in this thing. It is even coming down to primary schools which now increases the burden of what you are doing, so we appreciate you for what you are doing for the society which we all are living in.”
The deputy governor extolled the lady pharmacists for the scholarship scheme they were sponsoring, noting that it was “amazing because when you change the narrative of somebody’s life, you become what they call a destiny helper.”
The deputy governor added, “So, for me, it is something I would encourage. Even the Bible says when you do it for them you have done unto God. It is a thing we get a lot of blessings out off, you may not see it now but some day it will definitely come.”
She expressed gratitude to them for their support for the Fubara-led administration which according to her has continued to spur them into action.
“Let me thank you for upholding the governor and myself in prayers, because without prayers we won’t be here, many people have prayed and God has heard, please do not stop, even for good governance, we need God to grant us the wisdom and knowledge of what to do”, she said.
In her remarks, Chairman of the Rivers State Branch of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Ebelechukwu Odom, said they were at the Government House to identify with the Governor Fubara-led administration in the ongoing restructuring of the state, and pledged their allegiance and unflinching support to the administration.
She assured that they would utilize the competences of Lady Pharmacists in Rivers State and synergize with partners for improvement in health, education, research development and socio-economic wellbeing of humanity through relevant and appropriate interventions, projects and programmes.
RSG Denies Rumours Of Cholera Outbreak In Soku
The Rivers State Government says it is not aware of any cholera outbreak in Soku community in the Akuku Toru Local Government Area of the State.
This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt by the State Ministry of Health.
According to the statement signed by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Adaeze Chidinma Oreh, the clarification was necessary following numerous enquiries from the media over a purported outbreak of cholera in Soku community.
The statement read in part, “The Rivers State Ministry of Health has received numerous enquiries from the Press regarding an alleged outbreak of cholera in Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area.
“Public health teams dispatched to investigate these alleged cases and deaths have so far received no confirmation of such.”
While describing cholera as a waterborne infectious disease, the commissioner said that the disease is notifiable, warranting escalating reports from disease surveillance and notification officers at the community level.
The statement clarified that the ongoing medical outreach in Soku community is in no way related to any outbreak of cholera.
“Outreaches have always been a way of getting accessible health care to underserved and vulnerable population, however, all such outreach activities must be conducted with approval from and in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health and as such no entity should be conducting outreaches outside the coordination of the ministry”, it warned.
The ministry further said that all infectious diseases of this nature are reported, managed and escalated by the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
Dr. Oreh said the statement should serve as a strong warning to anyone conducting or planning health activities without due recourse to the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
She added that any such activities found to be carried out without the knowledge and clearance of the State Ministry of Health will be fully investigated and dealt with in order to ensure the protection of the lives of the people.
“Therefore, the general public and members of the Press are advised to disregard the rumours making the round on an ongoing outbreak of cholera and the death of some citizens of Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State as it is presently unfounded, misguided and capable of causing panic amongst citizens and residents.
“The general public is thus urged to remain calm and rest assured that the Rivers State Ministry of Health will continue to be a veritable source of public health information in the state”, the statement concluded.
Bill On State Police Scales Second Reading
The House of Representatives, yesterday, passed for second reading a bill to provide for the establishment of state police in the country.
Sponsored by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Benjamin Kalu and 14 others, the bill seeks to alter the relevant Sections of the 1999 Constitution to pave the way for states to establish their own policing outfits.
As lawmakers took turns to contribute to the debate on the floor of the House during yesterday’s plenary, Kalu who stood in for the Speaker, Abbas Tajudeen, urged members to look beyond political ambitions and think about the safety of Nigerians and Nigeria.
Also speaking, Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) said, “It is the job of the police to maintain law and order. We have a population of over 200m people but we have a police strength that is less than 400,000. State Police should be created to address the internal security challenges of Nigeria.”
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