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New Constitution: Senate challenges agitators to go to Court



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Those who are asking for a brand new Constitution as against the ongoing process for the ammendment of the 1999 constition can as well approach the courts to stop its implementation, the Senate had dared agitators. 

The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege on Friday told representatives of the five states from the South South under the auspices of BRADEC United Assembly that only a court ruling can guarantee the framing of a new constitution to replace the current one.Hence he challenged them to approach the court and stop the implementation of the 1999 Constitution.
Omo-Agege who is also the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, said this while responding to remarks made by Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mike Ozekjome.
Ozekhome had, while making a presentation at the just concluded 2-Day National Public Hearing on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, urged the Senate Committee to adopt various memoranda submitted during the zonal hearings, in commencing the process for a new constitution.
The Human Rights Lawyer’s statement come barely 24 hours after the Deputy President of the Senate said the National Assembly lacked the powers to set the entire 1999 Constitution aside to birth a new document.
The Senior Advocate agreed  that while the National Assembly indeed lacks the powers; it can begin the process of bringing about a new constitution for the country.
He said the “1999 Constitution  was hurriedly compiled from the schedules of Decree 4 by the military. 
The constitution is a unitary document which over concentrated powers at the centre in a federation.”
Ozekhome, likened the 1999 Constitution to “an illegitimate child” , pointing out that no amount of amendments will give it legitimacy.
“You cannot put something on nothing”, he told the Panel.
He also called for a cutting down on the number of lawmakers in the Senate (109 of them), and their services made a part time basis, noting that it is too much for Nigeria to carry. 
In his submission, BRADEC spokesperson, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tom Ikimi said the group is shocked at remarks that the Nigerian people cannot have a brand new constitution even when it is widely accepted that the 1999 Constitution is seriously flawed.
The group said while it may not be feasible to immediately have a new constitution; the National Assembly can begin the process now.
BRADEC declared support for the views of Southern Governors on restructuring as well as the return to a regional arrangement that will make it possible for the various regions to operate separatly and make progress at their own pace.
The group declared support for the establishment of State Police which it considered as one of the solutions to Nigeria’s mounting security challenge.
Former Head of Service, Yayale Ahmad who was at the public hearing to lend his voice to calls for the creation of Katagum State, also backed the idea of having a new constitution.
Ahmad said he is not surprised that the issue has come up 22 years after the military handed down the 1999 Constitution without the input of the people.

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GBV: NGO urges Kogi Assembly to present VAPP Bill for assent




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By Friday Idachaba

A Non-Governmental Organisation, Challenged Parenthood Initiative (CPI), has charged the Kogi House of Assembly to, without further delay, present the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill to Gov. Yahaya Bello for assent.

Executive Director of CPI Ms Eunice Agbogun, who made the call while addressing newsmen on Sunday in Lokoja, said the bill was passed by the House on March 21.

She said there was an urgent need for the VAPP bill to be assented to by the governor and gazetted without further delay to curtail the prevalence of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the state.

Agbogun said the law, when operational, was expected to serve as a legal tool for the protection of the people from all forms of violence.

She added that it was no longer news that violence and other forms of offence against persons in public and private life were at their peaks, making life unsafe in the state.

According to her, existing legal frameworks do not cover all forms of offences in the state and that is why most perpetrators of violence are not properly prosecuted and many individuals can not access justice.

She noted that the impunity with which perpetrators were carrying out violent activities necessitated the advocacy for the passage of the VAPP bill as a legal tool for protection.

“The VAPP Bill is to eliminate violence in our private and public lives, prohibit all forms of violence against persons and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment to the offenders.

“We are being faced with cases of GBV. We need the VAPP bill to be assented to law and gazetted,” she said. (NAN)

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House of Reps minority caucus accuses FG of cover up on the outcry of death threats by EFCC chairman




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By Aminci Audu

The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has tasked the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Government not to cover up the outcry by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, that he has been receiving death threats in the course of his duty.

Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Hon. Ndudi Elumelu in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday said they are disturbed by the silence of the APC-led Federal Government on the worrisome development, saying it smacks of attempt to shield corrupt officials within its system
The statement said the caucus will hold the APC led Government responsible should any harm befall the EFCC Chairman.
The statement reads:
“Our caucus is calling on the EFCC Chairman to go public and expose the names of those threatening him as well as issues of corruption involving such individuals.
“We also demand an immediate investigation into the revelation as such threats on the life of the EFCC Chairman cannot be glossed over.”

Moreover, the statement said it is alarmed by the indictment of a female minister in the APC-led Federal Government for buying a $37.5 million worth property from a bank, $20 million cash of which was deposited.

“The minority caucus notes that this revelation by the EFCC is another sad commentary on the monstrous corruption and treasury looting going on in the APC-led administration.

The caucus urged the EFCC Chairman not to be deterred by the threats but to remain focused as well as go ahead to disclose the identities of those behind the threats as well as that of the said minister for appropriate action.

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Senate panel quizzes MDAs on implementation of National Anti-Corruption Strategy




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With barely 6 months to roundup the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017-2021, the Senate Committee on Anticorruption and Financial Crimes has scrutinised Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the level of implementation of the National policy.

To reduce the negative impact of corruption and safeguard transparency and accountability at each level of Government the NACS was borne out of the desire to change the narratives as it seeks to identify and close existing gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives that has been put in place.

The Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CFTIW) collaborated with the Senate Committee to review the implementation of the policy to ensure a hitch-free exercise.

Stakeholders said the success or otherwise of the implementing as well as the political will of the Federal Government will guide its continuity.

The committee, chaired by Senator Suleiman Kwari (Kaduna North), therefore organised a two-day public hearing for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Kyari, in his remarks, listed the establishment of an anti-corruption desk, risk management charter, regulatory compliance and government charter, internal audit charter, and the corruption investigation manual, as achievements of the NACS implementation.

“Our transparency policy says we must disclose anybody we are doing businesses with, we are working with the Corporate Affairs Commission on this. We are required to have transparency in the commodity trading, this means the crude oil and the gas that we sell must be fully disclosed. 

“Anyone here can simply go to the NNPC website. Every data that is required is in public space. NNPC, for 43 years, never published our audited accounts. But we did for 2018, we have published for 2019 and we are going to publish the 2020 audited financial statement.”

Kyari regretted how COVID-19 and the ENDSARS protest stalled the petroleum downstream deregulation. He said though the crash of oil prices due to the pandemic gave Nigeria an opportunity to remove subsidies, the protests forced the government to reconsider the decision.

In his presentation, Prof. Owansanoye announced that the ICPC has been conducting corruption risk assessment of some MDAs.

He said the agency is focusing on the prevention of corruption. One of the strategies highlighted was the “system survey of the MDAs and corruption risk assessment.” 

“We have noticed improvement because we published the reports on the newspapers, they are having impacts. We have done intensive reviews of 5 MDA, including the review of 104 unity schools across the country.”

Sen. Kwari commended Owansanoye for ICPC efforts, and mandated all participants to use the commission’s template for the performance appraisal.

On Thursday, the Auditor General’s office, Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Office of the Head of Civil Service (HOSF) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) appeared before the committee. But the HOSF and the CAC were allowed to reschedule their appearance.

The NCS mentioned the establishment of the Nigeria Integrated Customs Systems. The platform grants stakeholders access to update the system from the comfort of their homes or offices.

The agency told the committee that an Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU) has also been set up at its headquarters, seaports and airports in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidelines.

Aliyu Aliyu, BPP Head of Regulations and Database, said the agency had developed a database system and is streamlining the procurement process of the government.

About 328 government officials have been lectured on the use of Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCPO). The BPP trained procurement officers in Federal University Owerri, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and University of Lagos, among others. 

On the procurement office management system, he said capacity building to contractor and procurement monitor is just 20 percent, while the establishment of a national contractor verification team and verification database is 100 percent.

“We have done full implementation of open contracting and adoption of contracting data standard. MDAs are expected to load their procurement plans and their procurement records on the portal.”

The Auditor General, represented by the Director of Audit, Gandu Magaji, said the staff have been sensitized on the NACS, forensic audit, and that an ACTU unit is operational. The TUGAR Chairman added that he ensures MDAs implement the NASC.

“My office has submitted audited reports up to 2019 to the National Assembly. For the 2020 account, the Accountant General has submitted the statement, in three months, we should be able to submit them.

“We have an annual audit of the recovered assets. We have not been able to do this, but the Auditor General is in the committee set up by the government to manage the sales of the assets.

“Despite the increase in anti-corruption activities to implement the NACS, there was no increase in funding to support the process. NACS did not make the desired impact due to lack of funding”, he said.

Sen. Kwari promised that the Senate will look into the funding, and directed all MDAs that made presentations to submit an evaluation of the NASC implementation to the secretariat of the committee on Friday.

The VP’s office, represented by Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, Senior Special Assistant on Rule of Law, called for the adoption of data in the report template of the MDAs. She stressed that data will help in measuring the impact of the strategy.

“We are happy that this forum was provided to enable us to assess the NASC and to know the level of the fight against corruption. To adequately review the implementation, the MDAs here, who have submitted their reports, should also be requested to provide specific data and figures.

“How many people were trained? How many meetings were done? We need data to measure the impact. We have seen that the funding and structure have not really worked well. That is something we should think about when reviewing NACS for the second time.”

In closing remarks, Sen. Kwari thanked the CFTIW and its Executive Director, Umar Yakubu, for the initiative, the technical support to drive the process, and for serving as a co-secretariat for the event.

“The Senate will work with the Centre in different areas. We will continue to assist the President to fight corruption. We thank all those that attended the sessions. We will present the report to the Senate and make it public”, the lawmaker added.

Last Wednesday, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari; Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye; Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari appeared.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Ministry of Justice, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and others sent representatives.

The Vice President’s office, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption (TUGAR), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and other civil society organizations attended.

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