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I’m Not Dictating to Judiciary, Says Buhari

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With a pledge to sustain judicial independence, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday opened this year’s  Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The President said he was not dictating to the third arm of government.

He explained that the Federal Government under his watch had demonstrated this by accepting unfavourable court judgments.

President Buhari, who was represented by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN), restated his administration’s commitment to strengthening institutions.

Alluding to the raging controversy about the recent trial of top judicial officers, the President pledged to justly apply the law against “sacred cows”.

He said: “We have had to disrupt the age-long wrong assumptions and historical narratives of the presumed immunity of sacred cows in our society, simply to demonstrate that henceforth the law will be used as a potent instrument to regulate the activities of all persons and institutions in our country in a fair and transparent manner.”

Malami affirmed government’s resolve to probe the circumstances surrounding the failed power project leading to $9 billion arbitration award against Nigeria in favour of British firm, P & ID.

The AGF regretted that the $9 billion is 20 per cent of Nigeria’s reserves and vowed that all culpable individuals and corporate bodies would be punished.

He said: “It is a sad testimony with potential for national economic disaster when legal issues are handled either in a compromised, ignorant or incompetent manner.

“Let me say that without prejudice to our right to challenge this award, Mr. President has already directed the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take steps to ensure that all issues related to negotiation, signing, formation and obvious frustration of the purported contract are duly investigated and all persons and institutions, whether in the private or public sector, who acted in ways that have now made our dear nation face potential economic adversity and widespread opprobrium are made to face the law and prosecution in the law court.

“Never again shall we allow such short-sighted individuals to compromise our national interest and walk away without a sense of accountability… Never again,” Buhari said.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, noted that the Judiciary was not truly independent financially.

He promised that it would not lose “its firm grip on the mantle of honesty, transparency and integrity”.

The CJN, who explained that those three virtues formed the pivot of his administration, said the judges do not regard “anybody’s face or feelings” in deciding cases.

He said: “By the grace of Almighty God, I will tenaciously hold on to that, even until that very moment of my last breath on earth.

“Let me assure this assembly that we don’t look at anybody’s face or feelings before making our decisions.

“If there is any deity to be feared, that deity is the Almighty God. We will never be subservient to anybody, no matter how highly placed.”

He pleaded with those preventing judicial independence to desist.

“Please, all that are concerned, let us enjoy our independence. If you say that I am independent, but in a way whether I like it or not, I have to go and bend down, asking (for funds) I have lost my independence” Muhammad said.

Muhammed added that Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Justices sacrificed their annual vacation this year to clear the backlog of “time-sensitive cases”.  He admonished lawyers to desist from the practice of filing needless appeals at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

The CJN warned that the apex court would be unsparing in punishing “blatant abusers of the court processes”.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu urged lawyers to key into the ongoing global technological transformation, if they must remain relevant.

Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said with the impact of technology in different aspects of life, the legal profession, as the voice of the voiceless, could not afford to swim against the tide in the scheme of things. NBA President Paul Osoro assured that the association’s members would ensure that the legal profession in Nigeria was “placed on the pedestal of integrity”.

Delivering the keynote address, the International Bar Association (IBA) President Horatio Neto urged Nigerian lawyers to promote gender parity and ethnicity. He also advised them to specialise in different fields of technology that are relevant to the law profession at the global sphere.

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FG Explains Reasons Behind Deregulation Policy

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The federal government has said in view of recent misguided comments and innuendos, it has become expedient for the Ministry of Petroleum to explain misconceptions around the issue of Petroleum Products Deregulation.

Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, in a statement he personally signed Wednesday in Abuja, explained that after a thorough examination of the economics of subsidising PMS for domestic consumption, the federal government concluded that it was unrealistic to continue with the burden of subsidizing PMS to the tune of trillions of Naira every year.

The Minister said more so when the said subsidy was benefiting in large part the rich rather than the poor and ordinary Nigerians.

The former Bayelsa state governor, however said the government was mindful of the likely impact of higher PMS prices would have on Nigerians, adding that to alleviate the impact the ministry will roll out the auto-gas scheme, which will provide Nigerians with alternative sources of fuel and at a lower cost.

According to the Minister, deregulation means that the government will no longer continue to be the main supplier of Petroleum Products. “But will encourage private sector to takeover the role of supplyer of Petroleum Products.

“This means also that market forces will henceforth determine the prices at the pump. In line with global best practices, Government will continue to play its traditional role of regulation; to ensure that this strategic commodity is not priced arbitrarily by private sector suppliers; a regulatory function not unlike the role played by the Central Bank of Nigeria in the banking sector; ensuring that commercial banks do not charge arbitrary interest rates.

“Petroleum Products are refined from Crude Oil. Therefore the price of Crude (the feedstock) for the refining process will affect the price of the refined product.

“When Crude Oil prices were down, Government, through its regulatory functions ensured that the benefits of lower Crude Oil prices were enjoyed by Nigerians by ensuring that PMS was lowered.

“At that time, we indicated that increase in Crude Oil Prices will also reflect at the pump.

“This is a necessary action taken by a responsible Government in the overall interest of Nigerians. Indeed, one of the reasons we have been unable to attract the level of investments we desire into the refining sector has been the burden of fuel subsidy. We need to free up that investment space so that what happened in the Banking Sector, Aviation Sector and other Sectors can happen in the Midstream and Downstream Oil Sector.

“We can no longer avoid the inevitable and expect the impossible to continue. There was no time Government promised to reduce Pump Price and keep it permanently low.

“Let us therefore ignore the antics of unscrupulous middlemen who would want status quo ante to remain at the expense of the generality of Nigerians. In addition to attracting investments and creating jobs and opportunities, this very important policy direction will free up trillions of naira to develop infrastructure instead of enriching a few.”

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Osagie Denies Involvement In Widows’ Empowerment Scheme

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The Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagie, has denied involvement in any widows’ empowerment scheme.

In a statement on Wednesday, Osagie cautioned the public to be wary of fraudsters who are exploiting the political campaigns to deceive and defraud people.

“There is a scam message being sent on social media on a specious empowerment scheme targeted at women and widows in the state said to be linked to me. This is a scam,” he said.

“The Office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication has no relationship with the group known as Insured Good People (IGP).

“The statement did not emanate from me or my office. It is ploy by fraudsters to exploit vulnerable women and widows and the general public should consider it as such”.

According to the governor’s aide, with the governorship election drawing closer and things heating up in the state, some fraudulent persons are using the opportunity to perpetuate their crimes.

“With the election campaigns getting to a head, some fraudulent people would want to use such schemes to defraud vulnerable people in the society.

“I have alerted security agencies in the state to watch out for individuals and groups, who would want to take undue advantage of the ongoing electioneering campaigns to defraud Edo people,” he said.

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Edo: South-South Forum Urges Nigerians to be Vigilant

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A group, South-south Emerging Leaders’ Forum (SELF) has warned against subterranean plot by some highly placed politicians to rig the the 2023 general elections, beginning with the forthcoming Edo state governorship election.

The South-south forum, in a statement made available Wednesday in Abuja, by its Convener Barrister Preye Wilson, said the arrow head of the plot has commenced moves aimed at compromising the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to return the APC to power in 2023.

SELF revealed that a renewal of tenure is being dangled before the Chairman of the INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu as bait to get him to play ball.

Prof. Yakubu was appointed as Chairman of the INEC by President Muhammadu Buhari on 21 October 2015. His tenure is due to expire on October 20 this year.

Section 3(1) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act 2010 (as amended) provides that “the chairman and members of the commission shall each hold office for a period of five years and on such terms and conditions as may be specified in their letters of appointment.”

The Forum further disclosed that according to
credible intelligence they gathered a top member of the National Assembly leadership has held a preliminary session with the INEC boss to “discuss the proposal and present the terms.”

He said that the INEC boss has been requested to show commitment to the cause by returning the candidate of the APC as winner of the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo state.

The group said the leader of the highly secretive plot has pledged to facilitate Yakubu’s reappointment as INEC boss for another term of five years after he must have delivered Edo state to the APC in demonstration of good faith.

“There is a plot by the some politicians in the ruling party to ensure the return of the INEC chairman for a second tenure.

“They have held a meeting with the INEC chairman where it was stated that his tenure would soon be over but will be allowed to have a second term on the condition that he returns the APC in 2023.

“To be sure that he would not renege on the agreement, they have asked the INEC chairman to deliver Edo state in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

“This will prove that he will play ball in 2023 and as such, he will be recommend to the President, General Muhammadu Buhari, through his Chief of staff to be allowed to come back for a second term.

“With this information at our disposal, it is clear that the INEC chairman is already compromised and to this effect, the Edo State Governorship election is compromised.

“We, therefore call on Nigerians at home and abroad, the international community, United Nations, United States, United Kingdom, European Union, etc., to be vigilant and impress it on the APC government that they will one day be held accountable for their actions. We are watching!”

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