Reps Subject Service Chiefs to Thorough Screening
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The service chiefs-designates nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari were on Wednesday subjected to a thorough screening by the House of Representatives.
The President had recently announced Major General Lucky Irabor as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Major General Ibrahim Attahiru as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Rear Admiral Auwal Zubair Gambo as the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), and Air Vice Marshall (AVM) Isiaka Oladayo Amao as the Chief of Air Staff (CAS).
Last Wednesday, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, after reading the letter of nomination from Mr Buhari, constituted a Special Committee to grill the military officers.
Today, the panel headed by the Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Mr Babajimi Benson, with chairmen of the committees on Army, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas; Navy, Mr Yusuf Adamu Gagdi, and Air Force, Mr Shehu Koko, questioned the nominees on ways they intend to address the rising insecurity in the country.
Speaking at the opening of the hearing, Mr Benson said, “I can assure you that the nominees will be grilled on questions covering a wide range of subjects.
“Areas in which they will be questioned include professional skill and experience, Nigeria’s war on terror and insurgency and insecurity in general, funding of the military and strategic security knowledge and vision of the nominees as well as welfare of military personnel.”
He said Nigeria is blessed with brave and gallant soldiers, many of whom have paid the ultimate price in service to the country, noting that, “It is to their memories that we must get it right with our National Security and help secure the peace for which they gave their lives.”
He said from the inception of this 9th House, national security has been discussed more than 200 times at plenary, but that the nation is still grappling with diverse and increasing security challenges, despite some successes recorded by the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces.
“While I appreciate there is no single magic solution, I believe the kind of leadership provided to our Armed Forces is part of the solution mix,” he said, pointing out that because of the sensitivity of security issues, the proper screening session would be held behind closed door to help protect national security and “give the nominees the freedom to respond more adequately, comprehensively and expansively without any fear of an unwitting exposure of sensitive information.”
While commending the President for appointing the CDS and the service chiefs at this time, Mr Benson said, “Over the next days, we will compile our notes, deliberate fully and extensively as a committee and submit our report and recommendations to plenary next week.”
In a remark, the Minister of Defence, Mr Bashir Magashi, thanked the lawmakers for their prompt action to screen the service chiefs.
He said the Armed Forces of Nigeria are fully aware and alert to their constitutional role, noting that “I have no doubt that those nominated by Mr President will make this country proud.”
Giving his vision, the nominee for CDS, Mr Irabor, said he intended to have a leadership focus and philosophy to ensure professional armed forces that meet Nigeria’s security needs.
On his part, the nominee for COAS, Mr Attahiru, said his focus would be to reposition the Nigerian Army to meet its mandate, ensure continuous leadership development among officers and men as well as innovation to meet the demands of the 21st century.
Also, the nominee for CNS, Mr Gambo, said despite his experience, he would need a great deal of the loyalty, cooperation and support of all the officers and men of the Nigerian Navy to succeed, saying he would re-energise the Nigerian Navy to make her meet her needs.
Similarly, the nominee for CAS, Mr Amao, who is a fighter and instructor pilot, said his focus would be to ensure the integrity of the Air Force and to enhance and sustain airmen capabilities, with focus on purposeful training and human capacity development, innovative efforts, a disciplined workforce and boost morale to improve personnel welfare.
SERAP Demands Missing $2.1bn, N3.1trn Subsidy Payments Probe
By Adedapo Adesanya
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to probe the allegations that $2.1 billion and N3.1 trillion in public funds of oil revenues and budgeted as fuel subsidy payments are missing and unaccounted for between 2016 and 2019, as documented by the Auditor-General of the Federation.
SERAP, in the first letter to the new president, charged him to “name and shame anyone suspected to be responsible for the alleged widespread and systemic corruption in the use of oil revenues and the management of public funds budgeted as fuel subsidy and to ensure their effective prosecution as well as the full recovery of any proceeds of crime.”
SERAP also asked him “to promptly, thoroughly, independently, transparently and effectively probe all fuel subsidy paid by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, and to use any recovered proceeds of crime as palliatives to address the impact of any subsidy removal on poor Nigerians.”
In the letter dated June 3, 2023, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations,” noting that “There will be no economic growth or sustainability without accountability for these human rights crimes.”
SERAP said: “Your government should urgently act to follow due process of law in any policy to remove fuel subsidy, ensure that suspected perpetrators of these crimes against Nigerians are brought to justice, and full recovery of any missing public funds.”
SERAP also said, “Arbitrarily removing fuel subsidy without addressing outstanding accountability issues in the alleged mismanagement of oil revenues and fuel subsidy payments would amount to punishing poverty and further impoverishing the poor while letting high-profile officials and non-state actors get away with their crimes,” adding that, “Any removal of fuel subsidy should not be used as a ploy to keep the poor in poverty while those who allegedly stole oil revenues and fuel subsidy payments keep their ill-gotten wealth.”
SERAP informed Mr Tinubu that, “Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’ Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’
“The UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, to which Nigeria is a state party, obligate your government to effectively prevent and investigate the plundering of the country’s wealth and natural resources and hold public officials and non-state actors to account for any violations.
“Specifically, article 26 of the UN Convention requires your government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption.
“Article 26 complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption allegations.”
Governor Akeredolu Not Dead–Ondo Commissioner
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, has refuted reports that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has died.
In a statement on Saturday, the Commissioner described the news as fake, though confirming that Mr Akeredolu was truly indisposed.
She said despite the Governor’s state of health, he has been discharging his constitutional duties and has also been delegating some of his functions to others who are competent to discharge them.
She advised members of the public, particularly citizens of the southwest state, to disregard the rumours of the Governor’s death.
“We have been inundated with calls and messages concerning the state of health of the Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. We had chosen to ignore this wicked fabrication until it appeared that certain persons sought to draw political mileage from the disinformation.
“Though the Governor has been indisposed, he has been attending to state matters and delegating functions to functionaries of the government when necessary.
“We enjoin the members of the public to ignore the rumour. Aketi is very much alive,” Mrs Ademola-Olateju said in the statement.
Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr Richard Olatunde, has released a short video showing Mr Akeredolu watching the FA Cup final played at Wembley Stadium in England between Manchester United and Manchester City on Saturday.
The Governor watched the football game won by the blue side of the city on a large television screen.
FCFA Tasks Nigeria to Adopt Sweden’s Tobacco Harm Reduction Model
By Dipo Olowookere
Nigeria has been advised to adopt the model used by Sweden to achieve Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR), which helped the European nation to reduce smoking rates, thereby promoting a healthier future.
Sweden is moving closer to becoming a smoke-free society, as over the past 15 years, smoking rates have plummeted from 15 per cent to 5.6 per cent, making it the lowest rate in Europe.
This has also put the country 17 years ahead of the European Union’s target, affirming the effectiveness of the Swedish way of making reduced risks alternative products to smoking widely accessible, acceptable and affordable.
Nigeria can also achieve this feat if necessary steps are taken to work toward this, the Foundation for Consumer Freedom Advancement (FCFA) submitted.
While joining others to celebrate World Vape Day 2023 on May 30, the group said it was fully behind the fight to combat smoking charging African leaders to adopt the Swedish model to save millions of lives across the continent to transform public health outcomes and reduce the staggering toll of tobacco-related diseases.
Nigeria continues to face the devastating consequences of smoking-related diseases. The World Health Organisation, in 2022, reported that nearly 30,000 lives were lost in Nigeria due to this.
According to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction, 4.1 per cent of the adult population in Nigeria are current smokers, representing approximately 4.5 million individuals.
The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction reports that while 7.9 per cent of men in Nigeria are current smokers, only 0.3 per cent of women smoke.
These figures underscore the urgent need for the Nigerian government to prioritize THR and learn from the Swedish model, FCFA said, attributing the success of adopting a smokeless oral tobacco product called Snus and promoting diverse alternatives to traditional cigarettes.
The organisation Sweden offered a range of reduced-risk alternatives such as e-cigarettes or vaping products and nicotine pouches, noting that these alternatives are made readily available in convenience stores, supermarkets, and tobacco stores, simplifying the transition process for smokers.
FCFA has called on the Nigerian government to prioritise Tobacco Harm Reduction, stating that through education, regulation and provision of safer alternatives, Nigeria can empower its citizens to make informed choices and transition from traditional combustible tobacco products.
The group promised to partner with “stakeholders in Nigeria to promote Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives and work towards a smoke-free future.”
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