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Vote Buying: INEC Tasks NASS On Speedy Passage Of Electoral Offences Commission Bill

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), says speedy passage of the National Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Bill by the National Assembly  will checkmate vote buying.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the bill, meant to provide the legal framework for  investigation and prosecution of electoral offences for the general improvement of the electoral process in Nigeria, on June 30,  passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The Senate had in July 2021, passed a similar bill, which had seven parts and 48 sections, and sought to take the “burden” of prosecuting electoral offenders off INEC.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Lagos State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, told NAN on Sunday that   if passed, the bill would ensure speedy trial of electoral offenders.
He said that if electoral offenders, including vote buyers and voter sellers were arrested and quickly prosecuted, there would be more sanity in the 2023 general elections.
Agbaje, however, said that the battle against vote buying in whatever shapes or forms, must be fought to a  standstill by all stakeholders in Nigeria.
“There are so many issues to this matter. The judicial aspect  is there, security agencies are there.  INEC cannot monitor all these offenders.
“There is no way we can be conducting elections and at the same time, watching people that are buying the conscience of voters with money, food or other things.
“That is why the commission has been asking the national assembly regularly to finish its work on the  electoral offences commission and tribunal bill to become law.
“When we have this, it will be just like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to monitor and investigate the menace of vote buying and other offences.
“It will be like security agency for INEC. Their job will be purposely for this and they will be all out on election day.
“The vote buyers and sellers are giving INEC a bad name, however,  it is not the duty of INEC to monitor this,” he said.
Agbaje advised that all stakeholders should engage politicians on vote buying ahead of the  2023 general  elections, and talk to them as actors sponsoring and encouraging this menace.
The REC decried the delay in prosecuting    electoral offences  in Nigeria, describing it as frustrating.
“When we see this kind of thing, we get frustrated. The judiciary also has to do something. What is the court waiting for in some of these electoral offences?
“In fact, in Kenya and other countries , within two hours, an electoral case will be judged.
“If people are jailed for  electoral offences, I am sure by 2023,  everybody will be careful; but because there is no punishment, people just feel they can do anything.
“So, it is not just between INEC and political parties, judiciary also has a role to play. They must assist us to ensure that whatever case is brought is promptly judged to serve as deterrent ,” the INEC boss said.
According to him, if a case that is simple and can be judged within two weeks is left for three years, and people do not see any action, they feel that if they do it again, nothing will happen to them and that their godfathers will also protect them.
He explained that the security, judiciary, INEC, national assembly, political parties, NGOs and other critical stakeholders had roles to play in fighting vote buying and vote selling.
Agbaje said that it remained  an offence for any voter to display his or her ballot after casting vote for anyone to see, saying:  “ If we have that agency we are talking about, that is their job to position officers to monitor all these.”
The INEC chief added that even before elections, every illegal transfer of money to thousands of voters would be monitored and investigated by the agency.
According to him, INEC will intensify efforts in situating polling booths in such a way that it will not allow voters to display their  ballot paper after voting to  vote buyers, so as to get paid for voting their party.
He, however,  pointed out that in the 2023 general elections, INEC would discuss with members of the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) on ways to fight the menace.
Agbaje, however, urged Nigerians and politicians to change their orientation about elections, saying in countries like Republic of Ireland, elections were not monitored by policemen or party agents at the polling booths on election day.
He said that with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), the 2023 elections will be better and more credible, adding that votes would count in Lagos.

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Sylva’s Petition Won’t Distract Us -Bayelsa Dep Gov

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The Bayelsa State Government has restated its commitment to working assiduously for the continued peace, stability and development of the state.
Deputy Governor of the state, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, stated this recently while speaking at a special dinner organised in honour of some stakeholders of Bayelsa West Senatorial District at his Lodge in Government House, Yenagoa.
In a statement by his media aide, Mr Doubara Atasi, quoted the deputy governor as saying that the Governor Douye Diri-led administration would remain focused on completing all ongoing projects and embark on new economically viable ones to achieve job and wealth creation.
The Bayelsa number two citizen vowed that the administration would not allow anything, including the ongoing legal action filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the 11th November 2023 governorship election, Chief Timipre Sylva, to distract its attention.
He called on all well-meaning Bayelsans, including opposition politicians, to join hands with government in expanding the frontiers of development in the state, rather than embark on a wild goose chase.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo, who expressed optimism that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate would be victorious at all levels of the legal battle,  stressed that the 2023 governorship election was won and lost fair and square.
He thanked the people of the state across party lines for their show of love and support during the elections and the second term inauguration ceremony, describing it as unprecedented in the annals of the state.

According to the Deputy Governor, similar get-together ceremonies will be organized to appreciate PDP stakeholders in Bayelsa Central and East senatorial districts.

“First, we all have to thank the Governor who has directed us to start this process. We are going to do this across the three senatorial districts as part of measures to thank you for the support you have always given to us and our party.

“Unfortunately, few of us decamped because they fell for the deception dummy our opponent sold to them. I pity them and I don’t know why they are always falling for his tricks.

“I hear he told his supporters that there was going to be a repeat of 2020. I don’t blame him because he doesn’t know that my boss and I are special species. He fails to understand that he doesn’t have the kind of grace we carry.

“What doesn’t happen anywhere continues to happen for us. Our swearing-in the other Wednesday was unprecedented. There won’t be any swearing-in like that again in this state just like there was none like it before.

“You all saw how colourful it was and the number of dignitaries that attended: Two presidents-Liberia and our own president represented by their vice. Secondly, two former presidents and over 11 serving governors across party lines”, he said.

In his remarks, the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Solomon Agwanana, underscored the sense of unity and singleness of purpose with which the people of Bayelsa West pursue their political agenda.

While urging the senatorial district to sustain the gesture, Mr Agwanana, maintained that the people of Bayelsa West were able to garner the highest votes for the PDP in the 2023 governorship election because of their unity.

Also speaking, the PDP Caucus Chairman of Sagbama LGA, Hon Fyneman Wilson and his Ekeremor counterpart, Hon Dein Benadoumene, expressed gratitude to the Deputy Governor for organizing the Thank-You event less than two weeks after the second tenure inauguration of the Prosperity Government.

Ariwera lbibo- Howells, Yenagoa

 

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Solid Foundation Needed For Nigeria’s Restructuring -Tinubu

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President Bola Tinubu, Wednesday, assured Nigerians that his administration would restructure the country as earlier promised, but noted that a good foundation must be laid.
Tinubu gave the assurance during a visit to the National Leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, in Akure, Ondo State.
After the closed-door meeting with some selected leaders of the group, the National Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr Jare Ajayi, quoted the President as having assured Nigerians that he would still restructure but that certain structures need to be put in place.
Quoting the President, Ajayi said: “On the issues of restructuring, the President said that he is aware of the need to restructure Nigeria but that a good foundation must be laid before bringing the restructuring in place such that if it is done in a rush without a proper foundation, the restructuring may collapse very soon, but it would be done.
“He (Tinubu) said that when he took the oath of office, he (Tinubu) pledged his allegiance to Nigeria, that he knows what he is facing.
“Tinubu said: “I prayed for it, I danced for it, I campaigned for it and I got it. I know the enormous responsibility. So, don’t pity me, Baba (Fasoranti), just sit down and relax.
“He (Tinubu) assured Nigerians that he understood the struggle and that he is trying to build the structures that will not be reversed.
“The President said that the structure he is trying to put in place in Nigeria economically, socially and politically would be such that it would bring Nigeria back to where it is supposed to be.
“On the hardship Nigerians are facing, he (Tinubu) appreciates the pains Nigerians are going through and said that very soon, Nigeria will overcome it; that is a matter of time. He said that the kind of policies government is implementing will bring positive solutions to the challenges.
“He said that Nigerians should grow our foods, that we should eat the food we grow. Doing so would wean us from depending on foods from foreign sources.”
Responding, Pa Fasoranti said: “Your performance so far has shown that you understand the full gravity of your mandate which is to show the Nigerian people that a good government is possible.
“In Yorubaland, we do not seek for any special treatment or unfair advantage. We know you are our own, but you now belong to all Nigerians. Your mandate was freely given by the people of Nigeria and blessed by God. Therefore, Mr President, continue to govern fairly and courageously and with the fear of God. That is what we expect, that is what we know you will do.
“You know that since the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, the Yoruba people, led by Afenifere, have been at the forefront of the campaign for the restructuring of Nigeria.
“It is now incumbent on you to address this issue of constitutional reforms with courage, fairness and determination.
“We know we cannot return to the past, but we have to seek a future where regional competitions would bring out the best in our country as it did during the First Republic.
“We seek, therefore, a true Federal Republic that would reflect fiscal federalism. We believe a review of the 2014 National Constitutional Conference would help you in charting the course.
“For the people of the South-West, restructuring also has a more pressing meaning. Today, Nigeria has a population of 200 million which would double in the next 25 years to 400 million.
“However, the South-West is facing an avalanche of migration from the other zones of the country to the extent that in 25 years, if the current trend continues, the South-West would be home to 50 per cent of the population of Nigeria.
“We need to be prepared so that our region would not be overwhelmed by imported challenges.
“We want each of the geopolitical zones to have greater responsibilities for security, food production and infrastructural development.
“Since the removal of fuel subsidy, which was costing Nigeria $10 billion yearly, the state governments have been receiving hefty allocations from the Federation account.
“Mr President should persuade the governors to allow this change of fortune for the states to reflect at the grassroots so that life can be better for our people. They should not just buy rice and yams for the people.
“Mr President, thank you for this visit. You owe a duty to posterity to serve Nigeria with all your strength and wisdom.”

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Gov Alia Sets Up Panels To Probe Ortom

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Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State has instituted two separate judicial commissions of inquiry to probe the management of the state’s resources and assets under his predecessor, Samuel Ortom’s administration.
Governor Alia charged the two commissions of inquiry, which he inaugurated earlier in the week, to scrutinize the former administration between 2015 and 2023.
He urged the two panels—the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Income and Expenditure of Benue State Government (from May 29, 2015, to May 28, 2023) and the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Sale/Lease of Government Assets, Companies and Markets (both state and local government-owned markets), as well as Moribund Companies (from or before May 28, 2015, to May 28, 2023)—to do a thorough job.
The governor explained that the setting up of the two commissions of inquiry to look into the activities of the outgone administration has become necessary in response to the desire of the people of the state, who are the major stakeholders and owners of the resources.
In his response, the Chairman of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Income and Expenditure of the Benue State Government 2015-2023, Justice Taiwo Taiwo (rtd), assured that they would do a thorough job within the space of time available to them in line with their terms of reference.
Also, the Chairman of the Judicial Commission on Sale/Lease of Government Assets, Companies, and Markets, Justice Apollos Paul Idi (rtd), expressed readiness to work in line with the terms of reference given to them and come up with recommendations that would help the government move the state forward.
The Commission of Inquiry on the Income and Expenditure of Government Funds from May 2015 to May 2023 has Chief John Ochoga, Henry Tor, Tom Ujah, Ode Igbade Nick, Iorpenda Tarnguhar, and Terfa Gbande as members, while Barr. Ajinge Sar and Dr. Abraham Gberindyer are to serve as government counsel and secretary, respectively.
The Commission of Inquiry on the Sale of Assets, Companies and Markets from 2015 to 2023 has Clement Nenge Beetse, John Ogah, Dr. Terungwa Adzende, and Hon. Abraham Atotse as members, while Victor Nyamtamen (Esq.) and John Edigbo serve as government council and secretary, respectively.
Meanwhile, Chief Ortom has said he welcomed the inauguration of the two judicial commissions by his successor to probe the activities of his administration between 2015 and 2023.
The former governor, through his media aide, Terver Akase, expressed willingness to cooperate with the probe panels as long as the investigation is carried out in line with the law.
Chief Ortom stressed that his administration was built on transparency, accountability, and good governance as he emphasised his readiness to provide any information or clarification as may be required, urging his former appointees to equally make themselves available whenever called upon to provide clarifications.

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