Notwithstanding the heavy policing and thorough security checks at the land borders, aimed at ensuring compliance with Federal Government’s closure order, smugglers are still plying their illicit trade, as they have now devised new methods and new routes to convey their products, especially bags of rice, turkey and vegetable oil. Investigations by Saturday Telegraph reveal that the illegal dealers in the commodities now engage the services of motorcyclists and canoe operators to convey bags of rice and cartons of vegetable oil from Benin Republic to Nigeria. An undercover operation by our correspondents, who were embedded among the smugglers, exposes the covert and deadly operation of the men of the underworld, showing how they bypass the borders by going through the sea and land using remote villages. On the sea, our reporters witnessed how a team of smugglers paddled their canoes in very dangerous manner, along the Cotonou- Badagry beaches, passing through places like Gbetrume and Inagbe to beat the eagle-eyed Customs officials. Some of the smugglers are also armed in the pro-cess as they ferry their illegal products in a combat-ready manner, as narrated by one of the smugglers.

Pretending to be smugglers, our reporters had approached some canoe paddlers for help to take their wares to the other side of the sea. Agreeing to carry out the dirty job, but not without a fee, one of the traffickers, advised our reporters to brace up for the show ahead. The canoe operator, who spoke in pidgin English, while claiming to be the ‘captain’ of the boat, said he is not new in the business, as he had been conveying people across the sea over the years. Not wanting to lose their money in case of any eventuality or a confrontation with naval officers, which could make them abandon the job, the traffickers opted to collect their money before embarking on the journey. “Na gbege we dey go now. We never know whether we dey come back or we go yamutu, make you just ready and make you give us our money before we comot”, he said in adulterated language. The journey was however hitch-free as the canoe operators eventually stopped at place where some ‘okada’ riders took over the job. On land, the smugglers move their wares through Igolo, a border village and its neighbouring hamlets to pass through Owode and Idiroko in order to bypass Seme border and reach their destination. The risky process of the new method has however led to the increase in the prices of the grains and oily liquid, as bikers now collect N100 per bag as against the N50 that was in force before the closure. In the same vein, bikers that hitherto convey between three and five bags on a single journey, now load up to six bags to do brisk business. As such, a single journey that used to cost the smugglers not more than N200 now makes them cough out N600 per route. This has no doubt added to the rising cost of the commodities, as it has made the price unbearable for consumers and end-users of the products to purchase.

Further investigations show that some Customs officials as well as drivers and haulage staff of some big and international companies are involved in the ongoing illegalities. Our correspondents did not only see how big trucks were allowed into the country, but also witnessed how they smuggled bags of rice,turkey and vegetable oil, using the cover of their business empires. On the particular day, convoy of trucks belonging to cement, paint, shoes and other manufacturing companies were seen packing the smuggled products into their vans. One of our reporters, pretending to be a smuggler, had approached some of the drivers, who narrated how they have been ‘helping’ others to convey their goods across the border, before agreeing to take her bags of rice across the border for a fee. One of the drivers explained that the Customs officials would be compensated by their bosses once the goods arrive their destination. He said: “When we are stopped by the Customs people, we will just tell them that the rice belongs to the white men, our ogas, and that it is for their domestic consumption. They know how they get their money from our bosses. “Police and Customs do not disturb the drivers of white men and big companies. That is the opportunity we have been using to take it across the border. We only enjoy the privilege to make our own money. “But your money will depend on the number of police and Customs check points. You know that they always take our apples and those apples belong to our oga. So, you will have to pay for the apples”, he said. True to his words, the officials met on the road were only shown the apples, which they took, promising to see the driver and haulage staff in ‘town’. What is however not clear is the place they referred to as ‘town’ as well as the reason for allowing the trucks to move despite the government order. When asked the reason for their movement even with the closure, the driver simply replied that some buses belonging to big organisations are allowed to move with a special pass. “We can move, just like the multinational corporations can move. We enjoy the same privilege and they were told to allow us because our companies are international”, he said. An on-the-spot assessment to various markets by our correspondents across the country however shows that there is low patronage of the products owing to the rising cost of rice and vegetable oil.

A new twist to the rising prices is the fact that some smugglers now put local rice in the bags meant for the foreign product. This was witnessed in one of the villages, where our correspondent was on covert operation. The village (names withheld), which was far away from the border and many miles into a busy Lagos busy area, had some of inhabitants repackaging the product. Saturday Telegraph team saw some people in the process of exchanging the bags, this they noted was to make it more attractive as many people believe in the consumption of foreign products. “This is just our way of making good money in this period. Many people want to eat foreign rice, they prefer Uncle Benz and other foreign rice but they don’t know the taste. “Once they see it in the foreign bag, they will buy it. We have been selling it to them, and they are eating it. That shows you that many of them do not even know what they are buying”, one the sellers told our correspondent.

In many parts of Nigeria, including Lagos, Benin, Kano, Port Harcourt and several others, Saturday Telegraph investigations showed that the prices of various brands of rice which is a staple food of most homes have also gone up while the availability of both local and foreign rice products vary from one market to the other Our Correspondent who visited Butcher Street Market on Mission road, New Benin Market on Benin-Lagos road and Agbado Market on Akpakpava road, all in Benin City, the Edo State capital gathered that local brand packs of rice are available with sharp rise in their prices while the prices of foreign products are prohibitive. The prices of some of local brands range from N19, 500 to N22, 500 per bag while that of foreign rice is between N25, 000 and N27, 000 each bag. Indications showed that local rice is available in large stock in some of the markets visited while foreign products and brands are in low in stock. However, aside the low or high availability of the rice products, there is low patronage by customers due to the increased prices. Among the local brands available in the markets visited include Mama Choice N22,000,; Patron N21, 500, Tomato Rice N19, 000; Big Bull N22, 500 and Royal Naija N25, 000. Those of foreign brands are within the ranges of N27,500 for Cap Rice, Tomato rice N26, 000, Yummy Yummy N25, 000, Royal Stallion N25, 000 while the price of 20kg of Gripple Seven is N13, 000. The Niger State Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Idris Abini blamed the reason for the increase and differences in the prices of local rice on activities of hoarders and also the farmers. He however told our Correspondent that, before the year runs out, there would be bumper harvest and rice would flood the markets and thereby crash the prices. When our correspondent visited the Engr. Abdulhadi’s Kure ultra modern and the popular Kasuwa Gwari in Minna, only few shops have foreign rice (Caprice and Stallion) displayed.

The prices of local rice in Ebonyi otherwise known as Abakaliki Rice has continued to increase. Though the commodity is much available in the markets and various mills across the state where they are processed, packaged and sold, the price of the rice has been on the increase because of its high demands arising from the restriction on foreign rice. A market survey conducted in across major markets in Enugu, including Ogbete Main Market and New Haven Market shows that full bag or bushel (50kg) of foreign rice (Caprice brand and Tomato brand) goes for N21, 000 as at this weekend, as against N20, 000 it sold about three weeks ago. Similarly, half bag or half bushel (25kg) of foreign rice currently goes for N10, 500 as against N10, 000 it sold about three weeks ago. On the other hand, full bag or bushel (50kg) of local rice currently sells for N14, 500; while half bag or half bushel (25kg) goes for N7, 300. This is against N12,500 and N6,500 respectively about three weeks ago.

Traders across the country have said that following the closure of the country’s borders, the demand for local rice has increased, occasioning widespread scarcity in some states. Most of the shops visited by our correspondents in different towns showed that there were limited stocks of local rice on sale. The most available brands of local rice in the markets in Imo are ‘Mama’s Pride’ and ‘Chef’s Choice’, and both are produced in Nasarawa State. One of the traders in Owerri, Ebuka Uzoigwe, lamented the ordeal traders undergo to get supply of rice, adding that the country was not yet prepared for the border closure. He said: “Local rice is speedily going out of the reach of ordinary people and it is not yet Christmas. The rice is not even available and even where it is available it is costly. Before the border closure, local rice was sold about N14,000 but now Mama’s Pride is N20,000 while Chef’s Choice is N18,000. They are almost the same price with foreign rice which is sold about N22,000 but unavailable. Most of the bags of foreign rice you see in the market today are old stocks.” “Some of us came together, contributed money and ordered a trailer load of local rice. It is two months now since we gave money to our supplier and we have not gotten any supply. Only recently the supplier called us to tell us that to facilitate timely delivery of the supply, we must add an extra N1500 for each bag of the rice. It is the final consumer that will bear the brunt. ” When asked about the Abakaliki rice from Ebonyi state and the Coscharis rice, he said the Abakaliki rice was also as scarce as others while stressing that they were yet to see Coscharis rice in Owerri. “For now, people that want to buy Coscharis rice, we refer them to the television where they saw the advertorials. The point is that we did not produce enough to go round before we shut down our borders. After the border closure, it became obvious that most of the states we thought were producing rice do not even have enough to serve their state which is why we no longer get regular supply and when we get, we get them at exorbitant prices.” Mrs. Ngozi Okereke in Orlu confirmed that for the first time, she just got supply of the Coscharis local rice and that it sells for N21,000 a bag. She also lamented the sudden hike in the price of local rice in the market. “It defeats the purpose of closing the borders and banning the importation of foreign rice,” she said.



In the southern parts of the country, local rice such as Bblue, Maurice, Maka, Offada, “O’god” and so on are largely available in the markets and while foreign rice like Tomatoes, Good Mama, Flourish, Good luck and so on prices were put at N27,000, N28,000 e.t.c at Sekona, Oluode, Ilobu, Owode markets of the state. At the popular Ogbeogonogo Central Market in Asaba and Midwifery Market along Okpanam Road, the price of a 50kg locally produced rice has risen by more than two-third since July. As at October 10, the price of Caprice foreign rice rose from N16,000 to N29,000 while locally produced stonefree Tomatoes rice skyrocketed from N13,000 to N25,000, even half-bags went up from N6,500 to N15,500.

While foreign rice is scarce in the markets visited, owing to the border closure, local rice, which is expected to have flooded the marketplace, is at lower production. Prices of poultry food like frozen turkey and chicken rose at fastest pace from N1,300 to N2,200 and N1,100 to N1,400 respectively.

The Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof. Eric Eboh, to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, said Okowa had succeeded in using agricultural landscape to develop the state and create wealth and job for unemployed youths and graduates in the state. He said: “We are already milling the rice.

It will be from farm to table. We will process and package it to be launched. It will end up at the government conference table, where it will be served for governors and captains of industries, and declared open to be exported to other countries for consumption.”

In Abia State, the much talked about Abia Rice (Osikapa Abia) could not be found in any market. It was gathered that the Abia Rice has no particular point of production but as produced at the various rice producing communities. Recently, the Chief Press to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Mr Onyebuchi Ememanka, told journalists the Ikpeazu administration has established four cottage rice mills at Ofeme, Bende, Acha and Uzuakoli with plans to establish additional mills in Arochukwu and Bende.

In Bayelsa, the local rice, which is now the generally accepted, has flooded the markets. A visit to Swali market the biggest market in Bayelsa showed that almost all the local brands of rice were available. It was noticed that there were more than six brands of local rice at the market. North Despite the closure foreign rice is still available in some markets in the North, especially in Sokoto State. One of our correspondents who visited markets in the North noticed various brands of foreign and locally produced rice. The brand names of the rice seen in the Sokoto old market includes Naija, Sogar, Tomato Anajo, Royal Stallion, and Diamond among others, while the local rice include King, Royal, Naija, Labana, while others have no brand names.

Traders in the old market in Sokoto said the hike in the price of foreign rice had made consumers to have preference for local rice. A trader known as Aliyu said the price of foreign rice had increased to N1000 per measure and 50kg bag of the commodity is being sold at above N18, 000. According to him the increase has led to consumers demanding locally produced rice with a stable price of between N550 to N600 a measure. In Kano, despite the availability of local rice and the springing up of many milling companies, the prices of the commodity has skyrocketed.

Some of the rice farmers and sellers in Kano have different positions on why the price of the commodity is high, some believe that lack of implements and lack of seri-ous government intervention caused the hike in price. Alhaji Zakari GarunBaba a big time Rice Farmer, believes that all the Federal Government’s policies on rice farming was rather a failure because most of them who were truly in the business were not considered.

“You could see that after spending these huge amount the prices of rice in the final analysis will be determined by how it is being produced locally, that is why today we have a bag in the market been sold at N15,000 to N16,000”. In the same vein Alhaji Sabiu Bako a rice miller who recently open his milling company, said from diesel to other operational items needed to produced the local rice they spent millions of Naira that is why it is still high price in the market. The Federal Government Boarders Closure has received a significant supports from the Nigeria Rice Producers who says the policy is greatly making impact on the home grown rice.

A non-governmental organisation, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has dragged the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and four others to the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the composition of a three-man interim committee to run the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

In the suit, LEDAP alongside three Niger Delta indigenes; Iruo Onoruvwe, Anatole Osuji and Walter Abere, are questioning the powers of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to constitute the interim committee.

The minister had told reporters in Abuja last week that the interim committee was to prepare ground for the new Board and supervise the forensic audit which President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered weeks ago.

Dissatisfied with the arrangement, LEDAP through its Executive Director, Mr. Chino Obiagwu (SAN) and the three Niger Delta indigenes dragged Akpabio, the NDDC and the three men who constituted the interim committee to court.

The three men who were named as the third to fifth defendants are; Dr. Gbene Joi Nunieh, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh and Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang.

In the suit, the plaintiffs argued that the composition of the interim committee by Akpabio is contrary to Section 2, 10 and 12 of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) Act No 6, 2000 (as amended).

They argued that under Section 12 of the said Act, it is only the president that can appoint the Managing Director and Executive Directors of the NDDC and that such powers cannot be delegated to the minister.

They further argued that the president had already nominated certain persons to be appointed as Managing Director and Executive Directors of the NDDC and same had already been legally confirmed by the Senate.

A B737-500 aircraft belonging to Air Peace which departed Lagos for Owerri lost one of its two engines yesterday morning. The six-man crew which departed Lagos airport for Owerri returned to Lagos airport 19 minutes after take-off. According to air traffic controllers, the flight crew declared engine failure at 07:47a.m. and subsequently made an air return to Lagos with 90 passengers and six crew members on board. The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) corroborated controllers in a statement when it confirmed that, “From the information provided by the Air Traffic Control (ATC), the flight crew declared engine failure at 07:47 local time and subsequently made an air return to Lagos.”

AIB spokesman, Tunji Oketunbi, said the aircraft landed safely at 08:06 a.m. All the occupants disembarked with no injury. He further disclosed that the AIB team of safety investigators had commenced investigation into what it described as, “Serious incident involving a Boeing 737-500 aircraft operated by Air Peace, with registration marks, 5N-BUJ.” Oketunbi stated that as the sole agency mandated to undertake the investigation of aircraft accidents and serious incidents, the Bureau wants the public to know that it would be open to receiving any video clip, relevant evidence or information that may assist in this investigation. The agency appealed to the media and the public to respect the privacy of the people involved and not to pre-empt the cause of the serious incident.

The recent incident brings to four the number of incidents involving the airline in quick succession in less than six months; a pattern experts said are worrisome. On June 23, 2019, the crew inexplicably landed the aircraft in a manner that led to a total nose gear collapse.

The crew notified the airport authorities who quickly ensured the safe disembarkation of the passengers, the airline said. A week before that, an Air Peace flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt skidded off the runway on Saturday 22nd June, closing Port Harcourt Airport for over 24 hours. On May 15, 2019, while the aircraft was on approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos from Port Harcourt, the aircraft was said to have experienced a hard landing as it touched down on the runway (18R). Damage assessment of the airplane revealed that the aircraft made contact on the runway with the starboard engine cowling as obvious from various scrapes, scratches and dents, an evidence of tyre scouring on the sidewalls of the No. 4 tyre. Recently, the airline and the AIB were embroiled in a face-off that led to a spat over allegations that the carrier usually conceal incident from investigation by the investigative body.

enue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday said that the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) in the state would conform strictly to the state’s Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017.

He spoke at the launch of the national livestock transformation plan and the commencement of training on the programme, which was held in Makurdi, the state capital.

The governor said the plan would be implemented according to peculiarities of Benue State, stressing that the focus would be on livestock including pigs, goats, poultry, sheep and cows.

He explained further that Benue decided to domesticate the NLTP when stakeholders were convinced that the state would be free to own and implement the programme.

Governor Ortom encouraged Benue households to venture into animal husbandry in addition to crop farming with ranching as the driving force.

He reaffirmed the commitment of his administration to the full implementation of the state’s Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, saying that no part of the state would be allocated for grazing reserves or Ruga settlements.

The governor commended the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture in the office of the Vice-President, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, for his contributions to the NLTP initiative, assuring him of greater collaboration.

He appealed to the Federal Government to fulfil its promise of ensuring the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes.

he Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, Governors of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states, National Assembly members, military and para-military commanders, police commissioners, traditional rulers, elders, academics and civil society organisations from the states, yesterday met in Maiduguri for a security summit organised by the IGP and hosted by Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum.

At the summit, heads of all security establishments, traditional rulers, civil society organisations and humanitarian actors took turns to give updates of security situations in each of the six states while questions were asked and suggestions made by diverse participants.

Governor Zulum and Mai Mala Buni of Borno and Yobe states, were in attendance while deputy governors of Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe, represented their governors. Taraba was represented by a commissioner.

In his welcome address, Inspector-General Adamu said the summit was part of police strategy of enhancing multi-stakeholder participation towards increased synergy and community policing.

Governor Zulum called on the police to be deliberate in the deployment of recently recruited police personnel to strategic locations in their states of origin in order to leverage on their understanding of their localities for effective policing. The governor also called on the military to be firm in taking battles to the door step of the insurgents, while pledging his commitment to the continued provision of logistics to the military and other security establishments operating in the state.

Yobe’s Governor, Buni, said there was the need to device ways to actively explore and engage the insurgents in dialogue as records had shown that; “no conflict of this nature anywhere in the world has ever been resolved solely by military means.”

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, represented by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume from Borno State, called on the need for the National Assembly to increase allocation proposed by the executive arm in the 2020 budget currently before the National Assembly.

Traditional rulers from the states in the North-East, led by the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-Amin Elkanemi, called on the need for traditional rulers to be involved in the recruitment of volunteers seeking to contribute to the fight against insurgency in order to enhance government’s existing system of recruitment that guaranteed the non-involvement of questionable characters.

The summit, which was still on-going, was expected to produce a communiqué by the time it would end.

The Chairman, Daar Communications Plc., Chief Raymond Dopkesi, yesterday told FCT High Court, Apo, that everybody treated him like a plague after his name appeared on the looters’ list released by the Ministry of Information.

Dokpesi stated this while being crossexamined by the defendants’ counsel in a suit he filed before Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of an FCT High Court, Apo, seeking N5 billion damages from Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

He dragged the ministers to court, claiming that they defamed his character by including his name on the treasury looters’ list.

The House of Representatives yesterday raised the alarm over a possible reoccurrence of Ebola in Nigeria and urged the Federal Ministry of Health to deploy necessary materials and personnel at the airports, seaports and land borders for carrying out screening exercise of passengers. It also urged the Federal Government to set aside funds for the management of Ebola virus in the event of its reoccurrence in the country; even as it mandated the committees on healthcare services and health institutions to ensure that relevant agencies take precautionary measures to avert the reoccurrence of the disease. The resolution followed the adoption of a motion brought by Hon. Paschal Chigozie Obi (PDP, Anambra), in which he expressed fear at the likely reoccurrence of Ebola in the country.

Leading debate on the motion, Obi noted the recent outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in March 2019, where more than 1,000 cases of Ebola infections were reported. He recalled that; “In 2014, Ebola epidemic spread to some West African countries such as Guinea, Sierra-Leone, Liberia and then Nigeria, when a Liberian, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, arrived in Lagos by air and infected many Nigerians, including doctors and nurses.”

The lawmaker reminded the House that; “The virus quickly spread to different parts of Nigeria, causing up to 50 per cent death rate of infected people. Conscious of different measures by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to curtail the menace of Ebola, ranging from issuing an alert to airline operators directing them to ensure a high level of vigilance and ensure that proper checks were carried out on passengers and other relevant measures such as providing sanitisers and clinical equipment, where necessary. “

Also conscious of steps taken by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on August 8, 2019 to sensitise the public by declaring Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and also raising the alarm on the need for nations to take preventive actions against the possible further outbreak of Ebola virus,” he stated. He commended the Federal Government for its efforts in tackling the menace of the Ebola disease in 2014, notwithstanding the ravaging force it came with.

He, however, expressed worry that given the proximity of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Nigeria and other West Africa countries, “if necessary measures are not put in place to prevent the reoccurrence of the pandemic in a densely populated country like Nigeria, the impact may worsen and become difficult to curb.”

he House of Representatives has passed for second reading a bill that prescribes 30 days within which the clerk to the National Assembly (CNA) shall authenticate bills passed by the parliament for onward transmission to the president.

The bill also gives the CNA, a maximum of seven days, within which he must transmit an authenticated bill to the president for assent.

The bill titled; “a bill for an act to amend the Authentication Act, Cap. A2, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and for related matters” was sponsored by the Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, (APC, Abia).

In his lead debate on the bill at yesterday’s plenary, Kalu said: “The    bill, which comprises four clauses seeks to provide      a time frame for the  performance of the functions   of the Clerk of      the    National Assembly under  the    Acts  Authentication   Act.

“It seeks to provide for 30 days  within whichthe Clerk of the National Assembly must prepare a clean copy of the bill    passed by the National     Assembly and authenticate same (Amendment          proposed to section 2(1) of the   Principal Act);  and   to provide for    seven days  within which  the Clerk of the National Assembly   must transmit the already authenticated bill    to the  President   for his     assent (Amendment proposed   to section 3 of      the    Principal    Act)”

He explained that, “this will in turn  mark the commencement of the counting of the 30  days required under Section      58(4)  of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Altered) within which the    President must assent or signifies that   he withholds  his assent.     

“The bill    also   seeks to provide the Speaker      of the House of Representatives  with  certain       functions   under  the    Act (Amendment   proposed   to      section       2(2),(3)       and   (4)     of      the    Principal    Act)”.

Speaking further, Kalu maintained that, “the  extant Acts Authentication  Act, Cap. A2      LFN, 2004 contains    certain      defects      that hinder        the    timely transmission of      bills passed         by     the    National     Assembly   to      the          President   for     his     assent.”               

He noted that Sections 2 and  3 of   the    extant   Acts  Authentication   Act          tasks the    Clerk of      the    National     Assembly   with  the    important  duty  of          preparing   and   authenticating    a        clean copy of      each  bill    passed        by          the    National     Assembly and     presenting the    Schedule    and   copy of such          bill to        the   President  for    his     assent respectively.

According to him:“It   failed to     prescribe    an    ascertainable     time within       which         these duties must       be    carried      out. This    deficiency in     the   Acts  Authentication  Act has      directly resulted          in     the   undue       delays          observed    in      the    process      of      transmittals        of      bills   passed        by          the    National     Assembly   to      Mr.    President   for     his    assent.”             

The House spokesman noted that, “recall        that Section 58(3)        of      the          Constitution        of      the    Federal       Republic     of      Nigeria,      1999 (As          Altered)      provides     that,   “where      a        bill    has    been passed        by     the          House         in      which         it       originated, it       shall  be     sent  to      the          other House,        and   it       shall  be     presented  to     the   President   for    assent        when          it      has    been passed        by     that  other    House         and  agreement         has   been          reached     between   the   two  Houses       on    any  amendment        made          on     it.”

He said: “This       is       the    basis for     authentication    of      Acts.           This,   read  in          conjunction         with  the    provisions  of      the    Acts  Authentication   Act         shows that there is       no     time  frame         given within        which         the          Clerk of     the   National    Assembly  performs   this  specific      function    of          ensuring    that  the   certified true       copy of       bills   gets to        the          President for       his     assent.               

“If      this   is       cured,         then  we     would         be     able  to      isolate        the          challenges related       to      the    computation       of      30          days  required          by     the   Section      58(4)         of     the   Constitution       of     the   Federal          Republic    of     Nigeria,      1999         (As   Altered),     within       which        the    President  is       expected    to      signify       that  he    assents      or     that  he withholds  his     assent.               

“If      the    timeline     is      fixed for    transmittal of      bills   passed        by     the          National     Assembly, then it      would        be    clear when         to     begin          to     count        the   30    days within       which         the    President   would          assent        or      withhold    his     assent. On the    other hand,          if          transmittal time is      not    clearly        specified,   it      becomes    difficult      to          assess         the    time  allowed      for     the    President   to      assent”.

About 31,000 civil servants in Ebonyi State and their family members would benefit from health insurance scheme which would be flagged off by the state government this month. Executive Secretary of Ebonyi State Health Insurance Agency (ESHIA), Dr. Achi Chinwoke Doris disclosed this to journalists in Abakaliki in an interview. According to her, the state government has agreed to subsidize for the 31,000 civil servants in the state by paying 10% of each of the civil servant’s basic salary as it would also cover the spouse of the civil servant and four of his/her children.

Achi said: “The health insurance scheme is just like any other insurance where you would pay some money upfront; not so much to cover possible eventualities in the future. We understand that people can get sick when they do not have anything in their pocket. Sometimes, because of taking care of medical bills, some persons will deep their hands into their lives savings. So, the health insurance scheme helps to pull resources from people from different background, people with different ability to pay. “As for the civil servants, they are state government properties. They are very important part of our workforce in the state.

There are about 31,000 civil servants in the state; about 10,000 under the state. Then the LGA, we have UBEB Teachers of about 12,000 and LGA workers of about 8,000. “It is actually an initiative of this administration to ensure that everybody is covered; the civil servants and their family members.

The state government has shown great commitment; his Excellency has shown great commitment, His Excellency has shown great commitment to this project. Just last week, it was agreed that the state government was going to subsidize for every civil servants and their family members by paying 10% of the basic salary of each civil servant and its going to cover the civil servant, the spouse and four children.

The Senate has indicated its readiness to undertake a review and eventual domestication of all existing treaties, charters and conventions entered into by the country. Investigation by New Telegraph revealed that one of such subsisting international tools may be the Green Tree Agreement (GTA), which necessitated the formal ceding of Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon. New Telegraph recalls that Nigeria and Cameroon had, in 2006, signed the GTA, following the October 9, 2002 judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which made Bakassi a Cameroonian territory, after a protracted legal tussle on ownership.

However, the chairman, Senate Committee on Anticorruption and Financial Crimes, Suleiman Kwari, has assured that efforts will be made to ensure that all charters were duly attended to. The lawmaker, who spoke at the one-day dialogue session on “strengthening the anti-corruption agenda: ensuring accountability and transparency”, yesterday in Abuja, also disclosed that all anti-corruption and financial legislations, were being reviewed.

The event was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, in conjunction with the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC). “On the international level, all the charters, treaties and conventions, entered into by Nigeria will be reviewed and domesticated,” Kwari said. On ongoing action to review existing anti-graft acts, he said: “The Senate, through its committee on anti-corruption and financial crimes, is also reviewing all the anti-corruption and financial legislations, with a view to bringing them in line with current day realities. “We have also formed a legislative anti-corruption and financial crimes forum, comprising the various committees with direct inter-phase with the antigraft war. “In the discharge of our oversight functions, we will be seeking to establish a joint services operating procedure for the various agencies in the anti-corruption war, with a view to strengthening their operations. “This will create more efficiency. These agencies will be held accountable and performances will be measured based on the nation’s financial investment in their various activities.”

In his opening remarks, the PACAC’s chairman, Prof. Itse Sagay, sought support for the whistleblowing policy of the Federal Government. Sagay further made a case for “people participation” in the anti-graft war. “We must also encourage whistle blowing. The dramatic recovery of over $43 million in an Osborne flat in Ikoyi, Lagos is as a result of whistle blowing, which incidentally was introduced by PACAC.

The Biafra Zionists Federation (BZF) yesterday called for immediate withdrawal of military personnel from all the roads in the South-East geopolitical zone. This came amidst complaints from commuters over an alleged harassment and extortion by soldiers deployed for the Army ‘Operation Atilogwu Udo 1.’

The group also alleged that cases of petroleum tanker explosions in the area were terrorist attacks, positing that the tankers were wired with explosive devices. In a statement by BZF President, Benjamin Onwuka, the group asked the Army to suspend the operation immediately. Army had on 1st November, 2019 launched another operation patterned in line with the Operation Python Dance which generated controversy last year. Onwuka in his statement described the ongoing exercise as a further subjugation of the Biafran people, insisting that the recent petrol tanker fire at Onitsha was ‘a well-planned terrorist attack.’

He said: “The Nigerian Government is here once again with their oppressive tendencies against the good people of Biafra land. We recall vividly all the terrible things the Army did here last year in the name of Operation Python Dance. “Now, they have come up again, this time with a deceptive acronym, Atilogwu Udo or whatever they call it. We don’t care about whatever name they give their attack dogs, but our stand is that their troops should be withdrawn forthwith from all our roads. “We are already receiving disturbing reports about their activities across all the zones in our area.

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Drivers, passengers and innocent people are already been harassed and dehumanized, even for answering phone calls. “To this end, we demand suspension of the said exercise and immediate end to the militarization of the Biafra land. We are not fighting another war, neither are Boko Haram elements residing here. We reject any form of Army invasion of our territory under whatever Uchenna Inya ABAKALIKI About 31,000 civil servants in Ebonyi State and their family members would benefit from health insurance guise, or whatever acronym. “The Army cannot come here to be searching our people for any form of identification; they know where to find Boko elements.

“We have already reported them to the United States and Israel and our demand is simple- they should take their exercise to the North-East and leave innocent Southerns alone. “This is the fourth time that a gas-laden tanker exploded in Onitsha Anambra State; it is not an accident in any form, but a well-coordinated attack on innocent traders. How come it does not happen along the Highways but in densely populated areas?

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