By Adedapo Adesanya
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called for greater partnership with media, especially in the implementation of the new electoral law towards the 2023 general elections.
This was disclosed by the INEC Chairman, Mr Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Mr Festus Okoye, the INEC Commissioner in Charge of Voter Education, at the Town Hall Meeting/Capacity Building for Editors, organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, in Abuja on Thursday.
Mr Yakubu described the passage of the electoral law as timely, saying the media played a proactive role in the success of the passage of the law.
He said INEC was ready to fully implement the electoral law for the conduct of credible elections as activities for the February 2023 general elections had started.
“The entire process towards the electioneering will take place this year towards the February 2023 elections.
“For instance, INEC cannot register any new political parties 12 months before the elections,” he said.
INEC chairman also said any merger of political parties could not be done nine months to elections.
He assured that the new electoral law had eliminated all forms of electoral vices such as ballot snatching and double voting, among others.
He called on the media to feel free to approach INEC for the credibility of reports to avoid heating the polity.
Mr Yakubu further assured that the commission would always be willing to provide the needed information that would guarantee full implementation of the new Electoral Law.
He, therefore, challenged the media to study the new Electoral Law to be on the same page with INEC.
President of the NGE, Mustapha Issa, in his opening remarks, said the freedom of the media could not be “traded off in whatever political guise”.
Mr Issa said the media should truly and jealously protect “our democracy, which is still the best form of government”.
He said that agenda-setting still remained the media’s major focus, adding that the media “is now ready to set agenda for politicians”.
He called on the media to close ranks and refuse politicians’ antics to divide the society through religious gimmicks and social vices.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman of the town hall meeting, Mr Tony Akiotu, Group Managing Director, DAAR Communications, said the society has not been fair to the media.
Mr Akiotu said the event had provided the opportunity for the media to assess itself.
He called on the media to close ranks and fight against the polarization of the media while commending its efforts in society.
Mr David Mark, the Senior Editor, Washington Examiner, stressed the importance of the media in a free society.
He said the freedom of the media was guaranteed in both the American and Nigerian constitutions.
Mr Mark called on the Nigerian media to be professional in ensuring that news sources were jealously guarded.
He however commended the media for a peaceful transition of power during the former President Goodluck Jonathan to the present administration.
Lagos Joins Eight Other Cities to Improve Air Quality
By Adedapo Adesanya
Lagos State has signed the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration alongside Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Dakar, Ekurhuleni, Freetown, Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Tshwane to improve air quality.
Governor Babajide Sanwu-Olu in a statement revealed that he was committed to improving air quality for its citizens, adding that it is the responsibility of every citizen to maintain it because together it can be achieved.
He explained that he was happy to join the mayors and governors of nine other African cities in making an unprecedented, ambitious commitment to improve air quality with the signing of the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration.
“The need to breathe clean air is more important than the licence to pollute it.
“Lagos has committed to improving air quality and I appeal to the responsibility of every citizen because together we can,” he said.
The statement also revealed that by signing the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, the governor of Lagos State recognises that breathing clean air is a human right, and commits to working toward safer air quality.
Mr Sadiq Khan, the Chair of C40 Cities and Mayor of London, in his remarks, said that: “With COP27 being held in Africa later this year, I am delighted to welcome 10 new African signatories to the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration.
“As Chair, I am determined to do more to support cities in the global south, who are on the frontline facing the worst consequences of climate change.”
Mr Khan also said he was focussing C40’s resources to help cities around the world accelerate their efforts to tackle climate emergencies, reduce toxic air pollution, and address inequalities.
He lamented that the world was at a crossroads, adding that efforts must be made to allow cities around the world to become greener, fairer, and more prosperous for all.
On his part, Mr Michael Bloomberg, United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, President of the C40 Board and 108th Mayor of New York City, in his remarks noted that many of the world’s fastest-growing cities are in Africa.
“We believe that the ten mayors can help show cities everywhere how to protect public health, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity all at the same time.
Mr Bloomberg also added that cities play a vital role in the fight against climate change.
“This new commitment is an important step to help build momentum and highlight Africa’s leadership in the lead-up to COP27 in Egypt later this year,” Bloomberg said.
The statement read in part: “Under the Clean Air Cities Declaration, Lagos is improving public transport as a key component of Lago’s strategy to reduce air pollution.
“The city will expand the bus rapid transit (BRT) network, installing new terminal hubs and lines allowing for additional users and trips.”
“A low-emission bus pilot, replacement of older vehicles by 2025, and improved fuel quality standards will reduce public transport pollution.”
“Improved walking and cycling infrastructure by 2025 will increase active mobility, further reducing demand for private transport.”
“Other actions include rehabilitating three illegal waste dumping sites, increasing the uptake of LPG for cooking, and promoting solar photovoltaic systems on buildings.”
It read: “Air pollution has become the second largest cause of death on the African continent, due in part to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation.
“Approximately 1.1 million deaths per year have been linked to air pollution across Africa, according to a Global Burden of Disease Study.”
“Approximately 59 million people across the ten African cities stand to benefit from cleaner air and improved health through commitments that are estimated to prevent as many as 10,000,”
“Early deaths linked to air pollution exposure, as well as more than 300,000 hospitalisations, resulted in US$ 9.4 billion in annual savings from averted deaths and hospitalisations.
“If Lagos reduces its PM2.5 concentration to 35 μg/m3 (World Health Organisation (WHO) Interim Target 3) by 2030, it could prevent 2,800 deaths and 155,000 hospitalisations per year.”
“This would save $2.3 billion annually (from avoided deaths and hospitalisations).”
According to it, if Lagos reduces its NO2 concentration to 10ppb (WHO Air Quality Guideline), it will prevent 2,300 asthma incidences per year.
“This will save U.S.$ 200 million annually in related healthcare costs.
“Swift, unprecedented and collaborative action is needed to address the sources of pollution that are harming our health and heating our planet,” the statement read
SERAP Wants INEC to Publish Financial Details of Political Parties
By Adedapo Adesanya
In its latest move, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish the reports on the accounts and balance sheets of every political party submitted to the National Assembly since 2015.
The group called on Mr Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the body, to make available the request in a letter dated May 21, 2022, signed by SERAP deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare.
SERAP urged him to “urgently examine the books and records of financial transactions of political parties, and to make public the outcome of any such examination.”
It also urged him to “provide details of the guidelines, and steps that INEC is taking to prevent vote-buying in the forthcoming elections in Ekiti and Osun states and 2023 general elections, and to prosecute vote buyers and other electoral offenders.”
Recently, the All Progressives Congress (APC) collected N100 million for its presidential form while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) collected N40 million for the same purpose for the 2023 elections.
The organisation also alleged that some leading political parties and politicians also spend between N250 to N14,000 to buy votes.
The organisation said: “Nigerians have the right to know about the accounts and financial transactions of their political parties, especially the major parties with a strong possibility to assume government in the future.”
According to SERAP, “transparency and accountability of political parties is important to achieve greater transparency in public life, curb the influence of money in politics, promote a level playing field, and remove the risks to the independence of political actors and would-be public office holders.”
SERAP also said, “It is both immoral and illegal to pay citizens to vote for a particular political party or candidate. Unpunished cases of vote buying and related electoral offences would continue to undermine good governance, the rule of law, moral values, as well as hinder citizens’ participation in elections.”
The letter, read in part: “When a political candidate decides to buy the support of the people rather than contest fairly for their votes, there are possibilities that such candidate will show a disregard for democratic rules and a disposition to adopt illegal means becomes inevitable.
“Vote buying and related electoral offences encourage poor governance and weaken citizens’ capacity to hold their elected officials accountable for their actions.
“SERAP urges you to urgently take measures and to collaborate with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to ensure the effective prosecution of any outstanding cases of vote buying and related electoral offences allegedly committed in the context of the 2019 general elections.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The lack of transparency and accountability in political finance is seriously undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the democratic and electoral processes, and invariably contributing to denying the citizens the right to effective participation in their own government.
“The failure of political parties to comply with transparency and accountability frameworks would undermine citizens’ trust in their political parties and lack of trust will inevitably destroy confidence in the system and decrease citizens’ interest and participation in the democratic process.
“Elections are only one part of the democratic process, and a fair and effective electoral system must be founded in an adequate democratic infrastructure and responsibility of political leaders.
“According to our information, several political parties have for many years failed to submit their annual financial statements to INEC. Many political parties have failed to submit election expenses reports, and to disclose material contributions received from individuals and corporate bodies to the Commission.
“The Commission has also been apparently unable or unwilling to monitor, examine and publish these financial statements.”
“Also, some leading political parties, politicians and other political actors reportedly paid between N250 to N14,000 to buy votes. For many years, allegations of vote buying (the payment of cash or gifts in exchange for voting) and related electoral offences have characterised elections and party primaries in the country.
“SERAP is concerned that despite several provisions of the Electoral Act (as amended), anti-corruption laws, and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations, suspected perpetrators of vote buying and related electoral offences frequently escape justice for their crimes.
“However, INEC has consistently failed to exercise its powers and to provide the leadership that would promote collaboration with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to facilitate and ensure thorough, transparent and effective investigation of cases, and the arrest and prosecution of suspected perpetrators.
“Section 86(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 requires every political party to submit to INEC a detailed annual statement of assets and liabilities and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets and statement of its expenditure. Failure to comply is an offence under Section 86(2), which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of six months or a fine of N1,000,000 or both.
“Under Section 86(3)(4) INEC has the power to examine the records and audited accounts kept by any political party, and to publish the report on such examinations and audit in two national newspapers and Commission’s website within 30 days of receipt of the results.
“Section 226 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 also requires INEC to prepare and submit a report every year to the National Assembly on the accounts and balance sheet of every political party. Under Section 225(5), INEC has the power to give directions to political parties regarding their books or records of financial transactions.
“The Nigerian Constitution and international standards guarantee and protect the right of all qualified citizens to vote, in state as well as in general elections.
“The right to vote freely for the political party and candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.
“The effective exercise of the right of qualified Nigerians to have a voice in the election of those who make and enforce the laws under which, as good citizens, they live can contribute to the enjoyment of other human rights, including to corruption-free public services, freedom of expression and digital and data rights.
“Public confidence in voting systems serves as an indispensable feature of a full and healthy democracy.
“Persistent failure to arrest and prosecute suspected perpetrators of vote buying and related electoral offences may ultimately undermine public confidence, the integrity of the country’s elections, and lead to widespread disaffection with the electoral process.”
LASEMA Combs Collapsed Lagos Island Building for Survivors
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) has commenced search operations in the 3-storey building that collapsed on Saturday in Lagos Island.
The agency is combing the debris of the property for survivors. Already, two adult males have been rescued in the rubbles of the collapsed Lagos Island building located at 4, Alayaki Lane, Lagos Island.
The house caved in today during the heavy rainfall and trapped some occupants.
The two rescued persons have been given pre-medical treatment by the agency’s paramedics, while two corpses recovered from the debris have been handed over to the State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit (SEHMU) for onward transfer to the morgue.
A statement signed by the Permanent Secretary LASEMA, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, claimed that the building was already in violation of safety protocols and had been captured by the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) District Office and served with all statutory notices, sealed at District and Central Enforcement Level, but the developer had continued clandestine operations mostly at nights and at weekends.
It was gathered that Dr Oke-Osanyintolu is in charge of the search and rescue operations, which are still ongoing as an unconfirmed number of people are trapped in the rubbles.
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