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SERAP, Others Sue Reps Over N5.04bn Budget On Cars

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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.

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CJN Advocates Training Of Judicial Officers On Road Safety Cases

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Worried by the rising rate of road traffic deaths and injuries in the country, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has advocated for the training of judicial officers on how to handle road safety cases.
Justice Ariwoola disclosed that the proposed training would be organized in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigeria Judicial Institute (NJI) for judicial officers at all levels.
The CJN made the disclosure in Abuja at the 11th edition of the Kwapda’as Samson Rangna’an Dongban (KRSD) Foundation, annual conference.
KRSD is a non-profit organisation founded by the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, committed to creating healthy, safety and secure road conditions and practices for road users.
It was founded in memory of her son, Samson, who lost his life in a road crash 11 years ago.
Justice Ariwoola explained that the training would not only aimed at reducing road traffic fatalities in the country, but will help report more cases on the support of victims of road traffic crashes.
He said, “My concern primarily will be the training of judicial officers on the issues pertaining to road safety cases, particularly from the lowest level of the judiciary, magistrates, and the high court.
“The training will help judicial officers bear in mind the effect of road safety cases on victims and of course, families, and dependants.
“With the Road Safety Corps, KRSD foundation, and in synergy with the National Judicial Institute, the training will be organized and judicial officers at various levels will be properly trained.”
Meanwhile, the CJN has pleaded with the general public to always assist victims of road traffic crashes by being their brother’s keepers.
“I will plead with the general public to be up and doing in providing assistance to victims of road traffic crashes. Many at times, if immediate attention is provided, the victims might not die. I plead with us all to be our brother’s keepers,” he said.
Statistics from the Federal Road Safety Corps and the National Bureau of Statistics show that between 2013 and 2020, no fewer than 41,709 persons have lost their lives to road crashes.
In her speech at the event, the Founder of the foundation, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, called for the establishment of a non-medical trauma management centre for victims and relatives of the victims.
The President of the Court of Appeal disclosed that an estimated number of 6,000 people die in the country from road traffic crashes and many sustain serious injuries.
While advocating for an urgent victims’ support programme, Justice Dongban-Mensem stated: “We aspire to set up a victim’s Trauma Centre to counsel the victims to restore their emotional equilibrium in addition to medical care.
“We advocate that the victims of road crashes who are in non-governmental organisations should be engaged in the management of support measures in road crashes issues,” she said.
The jurist further expressed the need for more emphasis on capacity building and public enlightenment, noting, “One of the major contributing factors to the high rate of crashes on our roads is the attitude of drivers to road safety generally and which again touches very significantly on the issue of driver-attitude, poor education and a dearth of information.”
She equally emphasised the need for an urgent review of the National Road Safety Policy and safety development plan to reduce traffic fatalities in the country.
While disclosing that the foundation was set to prevent at least 50percent of road traffic deaths and injuries, she noted that road safety is a demanding business not only for the government agencies but requires extensive private corporate participation.
“Sustained investment/ support from authorities, private organizations, and international financing for the activities of indigenous non-governmental organisations should be purposefully pursued.
“More direct investments for road safety development in low and middle-income countries should be the top priority in the Global Plan Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030,” she pleaded.
At the sober event occasioned by the demise of her late son, Prince PaekeShepnaan, were the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice OlukayodeAriwoola, President Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, former Aviation Minister and Corp Marshal, Chief OsitaChidoka, representative of the Acting Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr.DaudaBiu, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other road safety stakeholders.

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‘4,130 Cancer Cases Diagnosed In Rivers’

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A renowned Haematologist with the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), Dr. Wobo Emmanuel, said over 4,130 cancer cases have been diagnosed in Rivers State.
Wobo said out of the figure diagnosed, over 313 cases are blood diseases in patients.
He said the total figure of the cancer cases represents about 7.7percent of blood cancer disease in the state.
Wobo stated this while presenting a paper on Epidemiology and Pathogenesis of Acute Leukaemia during University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) monthly Grand Rounds.
The hospital Grand Round is aimed at highlighting the challenges, breakthroughs and ways forward in tackling the challenges in the UPTH.
Wobo, who doubles as a Senior Resident Doctor in the Department of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, UPTH and Lecturer 2, College of Health Science, UNIPORT, said the result was obtained through a 10-year studies carried out by experts both in Rivers State University of Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) and data collected.
“We run a cancer registry in the hospital and every cancer diagnosis made is registered in a period of 10 years”.
He noted that 80percent of adults are prone to Acute Leukaemia, while 10-15percent are in children in the country.
He called on Nigerians to go for medical checks on their health statues as he called on government to assist the hospital with appropriate investigation materials, equipment to enhance the treatment of cancer diseases in the hospital.
“We need molecular testing materials to enhance cancer disease treatments in UPTH.
“Cancer diseases, the expert said, could be acquired through genetics factor or environmental in the life of patients”.
Also speaking, Head of Department (HoD),Haematology, UPTH, Dr UchechukwuOkite, said cancer cases could come in a life of patients in different forms such as eyes problems, arthritis and swollen goitres (neck).
Okite said the aim of the department’s Grand Rounds was to present the challenges in managing Acute Leukaemia to the hospital community.
The HoD listed gas flaring, radiation, genetic, smoking as possible risk factors to acquiring cancer diseases.
Earlier, Chief Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC), UPTH, Prof Lucky Onotai, said the management of the hospital had earmarked 40percent of its budgets to acquire equipment for Haematology Department to enable them treat cancer cases.
UPTH, Onotai said, had also provided a standard building for the treatment of cancer.
The hospital, he further said, was determined to train and re-train its doctors, nurses and non-medical staff in the department to enhance adequate medicare delivery in the hospital.

By: Chinedu Wosu

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Ayu’s Corrupt, Manipulated PDP Presidential Primary, Wike Alleges

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has accused the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Iyorchia Ayu, of obtaining the sum of N1billion in the guise of funding the party, but never remitted the money to the party’s account.
He emphasised that the PDP boxed itself into its current quagmire, saying that to disentangle itself, the remedies would include making sacrifices that engender inclusivity.
Wike spoke in Port Harcourt during a live media chat, last Friday.
“Will he (Ayu) deny the fact that he collected N1billion from Lagos? Let him deny, I will tell him who gave him the money. The money was given to him in Lagos. He met one of the presidential aspirants and told him that he is not sure these governors may want to sponsor the party. Let Ayu say no. I will even call some of the business men and how the money was arranged in Lagos. That money did not enter into the account of PDP.”
The governor, who accused Ayu of corruption, said he exerted pressure on some of the PDP presidential aspirants like Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, and former Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, to step down for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on the day of the convention.
“There’s nothing Ayu did not do for me not to emerge as the PDP candidate. Ayu did everything to manipulate the system to ensure that all the numbers did not add up.”
He said the call for the resignation of Ayu within the party was bordered on justice, fairness and equity.
According to him, “Development alone is not the only problem Nigeria has. Insecurity alone is not the only problem Nigeria has. Part of our problem is non-inclusivity of people, certain section believing they are being marginalised. Whether you like it or not, you must show that you have the capacity to bring everybody together.”
Wike disclosed that the PDP’s presidential candidate, AlhajiAbubakarAtiku, had during the meeting they held in London, promised to work out, within a week, modalities for the resignation of Ayu as national chairman, but never did.
He explained that after the one week that was promised elapsed, instead of returning back to them to state the challenges encountered, the presidential candidate decided to use the PDP Constitution as defence.
“You are talking about Constitution now, but you forget that the Constitution says there should be zoning of elective and party offices. You did not remember that Constitution says so. Now, is there nothing called expediency? Is there nothing called doctrine of necessity? Now, look at where we have found ourselves!”
He further added: “ab initio, the presidency ought to have been zoned to the South, you knew it. What you’ve done is to show how clever or smart you are. Now, there is crisis, you’re now falling back to that Constitution to say that there will be constitutional crisis. You cannot eat your cake and have it. You can’t.”
The governor noted that National Executive Committee (NEC) of PDP could take the decision now to accommodate the resignation of Ayu as the national chairman, and seek ratification at a convention later after the elections.
According to Wike, such decision would be for expediency purposes in order to allow for a southerner to become national chairman of the PDP.
“All we want is, now that you have given presidency to the North, let us (South) take our own chairman, because when they’re meeting for decision making, the presidential candidate seats there, national chairman seats there, the DG of campaign seats there; they take decision and come out and tell you to execute.
“Now, I hear the Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman is gone. Why did they put pressure on the BOT chairman to resign, and then, now you cannot put pressure on national chairman to resign? When I was trying to run as governor, I had a lot of crisis. But I had to let go certain things for us to be able to win election. The problem is that we have not won election, we are arrogant.”
Wike said those who were advising the PDP presidential candidate to ignore Rivers State votes don’t wish him well in the forthcoming general election.
“Anybody advising Atiku: that is a wicked man. I know those who are doing it. They don’t have electoral value in their own units. Some of them are from Edo. Look at their calculation. Buhari didn’t win in Rivers State, but Buhari won Lagos and Kano. Does Atiku have Lagos now?Does he have Kano? The only one he has, always had is Rivers, and you say ‘you don’t want them’.”
The governor specifically accused AlhajiAdamuMainaWaziri, who hails from Yobe State and lacks political relevance, as being one of those misleading the PDP presidential candidate.
“Has PDP won Yobe State? Now, what is his electoral value that he (Waziri) will bring to the table? Tell me; since 1999, we started this democracy, PDP has never won Yobe State, and then, you are going about, we will deal with him. We will sanction him.”
The governor said it has become imperative for the PDP to prove to Nigerians that it can be trusted with their votes, which would return it to power in 2023.
He cautioned the PDP against taking Nigerians for granted, saying they were already disenchanted with the failure of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government.
Wike pointed out that the promise of hope by PDP to Nigerians must be seen from how it was able to resolve the current leadership imbalance and marginalisation among its members.
“You see, people take Nigerians for granted and that’s what PDP is trying to do. Because Nigerians are not happy with APC, therefore, we don’t want to do the right thing? You don’t do that!
“Rather, since we believe that APC government has not done well, then, we, as a people, who want to take over, should show more seriousness to Nigerians.
“It is we as a party that must show to Nigerians that we have integrity, that we are trustworthy to do what we have promised Nigerians that when we come, all these issues of marginalisation will be a thing of the past,”Wike said.

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