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Reps Subject Service Chiefs to Thorough Screening

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Grill Service Chiefs

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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

Aduragbemi Omiyale is a journalist with Business Post Nigeria, who has passion for news writing. In her leisure time, she loves to read.

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Second Niger Bridge to be Ready 2022—FG Assures

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Second Niger Bridge

By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government has reaffirmed its determination to complete the construction of the Second Niger Bridge next year.

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, gave this assurance at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday, June 20, to mark the sixth year anniversary of the present administration.

According to Mr Fashola, the bridge, which will serve as a major link between South-East and South-West Nigeria, will be delivered between the second and third quarter of 2022.

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Records show that construction of the bridge commenced on September 1, 2018, with construction cost put at N336 billion when the contract deal was signed.

The minister, however, made no mention if the construction cost of the facility had changed since the commencement of work.

He said that the project would facilitate the influx of investments to the South East when completed, noting that the construction work had gone beyond the water level, explaining that most bridge works were done underwater.

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“So, what you see currently is the final work. The sub-structure which entailed building cement structures underwater often costs a lot of money.

“We should finish the bridge next year between the second quarter and third quarter,” he affirmed, saying that construction time was lost because of COVID-19.

The bridge is 1.6 kilometres long and furnished with other ancillary infrastructure, including a 10.3 kilometres highway and an inter-change expected to be completed next year.

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The bridge spans from Asaba in Delta State to Ozubulu, Ogbaru, and other communities in Anambra State.

The existing Niger Bridge linking Onitsha and Asaba was completed in December 1965. It was built by the French construction giant, Dumez.

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Twitter: SERAP Sues FG Over Directive to Broadcasters

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national broadcasting commission NBC

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the federal government and the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, from using unlawful directive to prevent television and radio stations in the country from using their Twitter.

The National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) had directed broadcast platforms to delete their Twitter accounts after the operations of the micro-blogging website were suspended for deleting a tweet of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the suit filed by SERAP, it said the directive to broadcasters was as a pretext to harass, intimidate, suspend or impose criminal punishment on journalists and broadcast stations simply for using social media platforms.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/496/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government of President Buhari, the NBC, and Mr Lai Muhammed and any other persons from censoring, regulating, licensing and controlling the social media operations and contents by broadcast stations, and activities of social media service providers in Nigeria.”

SERAP also wants “an order setting aside the directive by NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed asking broadcast stations to stop using Twitter, as it is unconstitutional, unlawful, inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and the country’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

SERAP is arguing that “The government of President Buhari, the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed have consistently made policies and given directives to crack down on media freedom, and the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and access to information, and to impose crippling fines and other sanctions on broadcast stations without any legal basis whatsoever.”

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According to SERAP, “The court has an important role to play in the protection and preservation of the rule of law to ensure that persons and institutions operate within the defined ambit of constitutional and statutory limitations.”

SERAP is also arguing that “Where agencies of government are allowed to operate at large and at their whims and caprices in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be anarchy, licentiousness, authoritarianism and brigandage leading to the loss of the much cherished and constitutionally guaranteed freedom and liberty.”

According to SERAP: “By using the National Broadcasting Act and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code to stop broadcast stations from using Twitter without recourse to the court, the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed have contravened the right to access to justice and fair hearing guaranteed under sections 6[1] & [6][b] and 36[1] of the Nigerian Constitution 1999, and articles 1 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Kehinde Oyewumi, and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The directive by the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to broadcasters to delete their Twitter accounts is unlawful, as it amounts to a fundamental breach of the principle of legality, the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom, and incompatible with the country’s international human rights obligations.

“SERAP and concerned Nigerians are entitled to the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom subject only to lawful restrictions. SERAP and concerned Nigerians frequently rely on the Twitter handles of many broadcast stations as sources of information for our activities in the promotion of transparency and accountability in the country.

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“Nigeria is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which impose legal obligations on the government of President Buhari to ensure that the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom are respected, promoted, protected, fulfilled, and not unlawfully restricted.

“The NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed have not shown any law breached by journalists, broadcast stations and media houses in Nigeria, and the government of President Buhari cannot use any disagreement with Twitter as a ploy to violate Nigerians’ rights and undermine their individual businesses and professional duties.

“The drafters of the Nigerian Constitution well knew the danger inherent in special executive and legislative acts which take away the life, liberty, or property of particular named persons. They intended to safeguard the people of this country from punishment without trial by duly constituted courts. These principles are so fundamental and must be respected.

“The directive to broadcast stations has seriously undermined the ability of Nigerians and other people in the country to freely express themselves in a democracy and undermined the ability of journalists, media houses, broadcast stations, and other people to freely carry out their professional duties.

“The Twitter accounts by broadcast stations and media houses are their own properties acquired upon privity of terms and conditions formulated by the Twitter Inc. and accepted by the stations and media houses.”

SERAP is also asking the Federal High Court for the following reliefs:

1. A declaration that the directive by NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to broadcast stations in Nigeria to deactivate their Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source of information gathering is unlawful, and amounts to a breach of the principles of legality and no punishment without law, and violation of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom guaranteed under sections 39 and 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 [as amended], Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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2. A declaration that the acts of the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed in relying on the National Broadcasting Act and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code to unilaterally direct broadcast stations to delete their Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter without recourse to the court amount to an infringement on sections 6[1] & [6][b], 36 and 44[1] of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], Articles 1 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

3. A declaration that the provision of section 2[1][r] of the National Broadcasting Act and sections 5.6.3, 5.11.3 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 36[1], 39, and 22 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency and incompatibility.

4. A declaration that NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed lack the power and authority to unlawfully impose penalties such as fines and other sanctions on any journalists and broadcast stations for using Twitter, and refusing/failing to deactivate their Twitter handles.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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EFCC Goes After Car Dealers, Real Estate Agents, Others

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EFCC Real Estate Agents

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Abdularasheed Bawa, has hinted that a searchlight will be beamed on car dealers, jewellery sellers, real estate agents and others.

The anti-money laundering agency, while addressing newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, disclosed that evidence has shown that these set of people use proceeds of corruption for their business transactions.

He said the EFCC was working on a number of proactive strategies including a special control unit against money laundering, established particularly to address non-designated financial institutions including car dealers, real estate, jewellery dealers, among others.

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Mr Bawa said that he was confident that when the unit is fully established, corruption will significantly decline in the country.

He added that the agency was equally working towards the development of a biometric ownership database to address money laundering.

According to him, most proceeds of crime are laundered through real estate and have become a huge challenge, giving examples of property acquired especially in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt where billions of naira were laundered through this means.

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He, however, declined to disclose actual perpetrators or the properties involved but revealed that since his assumption, a number of recoveries have been made including N6 billion, $161 million, £13,000, €1,730, among others.

He further said internet fraudsters numbering 1,502 have also been apprehended between January and June 2021, noting that efforts were underway to file about 800 of them.

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Mr Bawa was at the Presidential Villa yesterday to clarify the specific Minister involved in the laundering of about $37 million into real estate to which he referred in his earlier statement.

He said the matter was an old case involving a former Minister of Petroleum, Ms Allison Diezani Madueke.

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