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Compel Govs To Fund Healthcare With Security Votes, SERAP Asks Court

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to “direct and compel 36 state governors to use public funds budgeted for security votes, and life pensions for former governors to fund healthcare facilities and to address the impact of COVID-19 on millions of Nigerians, as well as publish details of spending on COVID-19 in their respective states.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/757/2020 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel the 36 state governors to disclose how much they have individually collected from the Federal Government as COVID-19 support, from private donations and other sources, as well as details of spending of any such funds and donations.”

SERAP is also seeking: “a declaration that the failure of the 36 state governors to respond in a satisfactory way to SERAP’s requests amount to a fundamental breach of the FoI Act, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 25 April 2020, expressing concern that: “many state governors are spending scarce state resources to pay themselves security votes and their predecessors’ life pensions rather than using public funds to effectively respond to COVID-19 by investing in and improving public healthcare facilities in their states.”

The organization revealed that only two governors—Kaduna State governor, Mr Nasir El-Rufai and Kwara State governor, Mr Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq—responded to its FoI requests. While “governor El-Rufai claimed that the FoI is inapplicable in Kaduna state, governor Abdulrazaq stated that the information requested by SERAP is protected from disclosure by the FoI.”

Governor El-Rufai claimed: “The FoI is binding only on the Federal Government and its agencies, the Federal Capital Territory, and the states that choose to domesticate it. We are therefore not bound to respond to your request using the threat of an FoI Act that is inapplicable in our State.”

Governor El-Rufai also said: “Should you choose to rephrase your request as a citizen or voter in Kaduna, to whom we are accountable under OGP commitments, I will direct the relevant departments of government to respond. Our version of FoI is with the State House of Assembly for domestication.”

Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq in his own response to SERAP said: “the category of the information you requested is protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.”

But SERAP in the suit said: “By a combined reading of the FoI Act, the Nigerian Constitution, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is applicable throughout the country, governors El-Rufai and Abdulrazaq and other 34 governors ought to be compelled to invest in healthcare facilities, and to tell Nigerians how they are spending COVID-19 funds and donations in their states.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Kolawole Oluwadare and Atinuke Adejuyigbe read, in part: “The 36 governors have a responsibility to act in the interest of Nigerian citizens and residents in their states under the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution, and Oath of Office of Governor of a State in Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.”

“The crux of SERAP’s argument is better expressed in the following questions: What is the economic benefit of appropriation of security votes and pension to former governors and deputy governors to the citizens of Nigeria during a pandemic? Why should the governors spend so much on a relatively negligible percentage of the population at the expense of the majority of the citizens?”

“The office of a governor is created by Section 176 of the Constitution, and the governors are vested with powers to act as members of the executive pursuant to Section 5[2] and [3] of the Constitution. These statutory functions, among other duties of the governors, are guided by rules including the Oath of Office of Governor of a State.”

“The oath of office of governors is integral to the honest performance of their functions in the public interest. The oath is considered of such importance that Section 185[1] of the Constitution provides that the governors can perform their respective official functions only after taking the oath of office.”

“It can be inferred that appropriation of hundreds of millions of Naira for security votes and payment of pensions to former governors in the face of glaring socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on citizens and residents can only be in the personal interests of the governors and their colleagues, in clear conflict with the public interest and well-being and prosperity of the country and its people.”

“Majority of Nigerians continue to live in poverty and without access to basic necessities of life such as healthcare, and clean water, as established by the National Bureau of Statistics in its 2019 Report.”

“The unconscionable allocations to security votes and pensions for former governors are happening at a critical time that Nigeria requires urgent infrastructural development to lift itself out of the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment in response to the harsh realities of COVID-19 pandemic on the people.”

“The 36 governors ought to be directed and compelled to use the budgets for security votes and life pensions for former governors to improve the healthcare facilities in their respective states, provide palliatives and reliefs, and to address the impact of COVID-19 on citizens and residents of their respective states.”

“The 36 governors ought to be directed and compelled to provide details of palliatives and reliefs that they have provided to the most vulnerable people, including the list of beneficiaries, details of what they are doing to improve testing for COVID-19, isolation centres, as well as ensure safe protective equipment for health workers.”

“The 36 governors ought to be directed and compelled to provide details of what they are doing to ensure full respect for human rights of everyone and access to justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses during and linked to COVID-19, as well as any support they are providing to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to improve its capacity to respond to COVID-19.”

“This suit is of public concern as it bothers on issues of national interest, public welfare, and interest, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability. The right to truth allows Nigerians to gain access to information on what their state governments have done or are doing to cushion the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on Nigerians.”

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

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Lekki Shooting: CNN Carried Out A Hatchet Job On The Army – International Journalists

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The report by Cable News Network (CNN) on the shooting at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos was a “poor” hatchet job targeted at the Nigerian Army, the International Institute for Investigative Journalism (IIIJ) has said.

In an electronic statement signed by special rapporteur, Francois Deburoiche, on Wednesday, the IIIJ said it came to this conclusion following a careful investigation on the events that led to the escalation of violence at the toll gate.

After forensic analysis of CNN’s report, the International Institute for Investigative Journalism noted that there were some missing details in the American television channel’s piece.

According to the institute, the report was carried out in poor taste, lacking professionalism and objectivity. It added that the claim of use of live bullets and testimonies of victims were all tales.

The institute, however, advised the television channel to retract and admit error in the documentary.

Read the full statement below:

The International Institute for Investigative Journalism is issuing this press statement with the best of intents after a careful investigation on the events that led to the escalation of violence at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos Nigeria during the EndSARS protest.

A team of investigative journalists with extensive experience in conflict situation interrogated the various claims made by the American Cable News Network in its report on the Lekki Shootings and came up with a comprehensive analysis that found gaps that were not filled in the CNN documentation of the events at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos Nigeria.

Our statement:

The CNN documentary on the EndSARS protest in Nigeria was released to the general public with lots of inaccuracies. These accuracies were detected after an extensive forensic investigation by the International Institute for Investigative Journalism.

It is thus our opinion that the report was carried out in the poor taste, lacking in professionalism and objectivity. This is a great betrayal on journalism by the CNN, which indeed violated the known tenets of journalism.

The videos and images used in the CNN report were not subjected to adequate scrutiny. Consequently, it lacked credibility for use by an organization of repute such as the CNN. This fact was also buttressed by the fact that the CNN report was very hasty in its conclusion by indicting the Nigerian Army of culpability in the events at the Lekki Tollgate.

Our position remains that the CNN erred substantially in its report that was highly misleading to the general public in Nigeria and other parts of the world. The documentary also failed woefully to highlight the events that led to the reign of violence in parts of Lagos state but instead rehashed the issues under different subheadings with minimal evidence that indicts the Nigerian Army of wrongdoing at the Lekki Tollgate.

The International Institute for Investigative Journalism concludes that the CNN documentary was prejudiced in its analysis as well as presentation which fall nothing short of a poor hatchet job with the undeniable intent to discredit the Nigerian Army operation at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos Nigeria.

The analysis by CNN in the documentary was hasty in its categorization with regards to the use of live bullets by soldiers at the Lekki Tollgate. The report attempted to portray the use of excessive force by soldiers, while the accompanying videos and images did not depict such.

The credibility of those interviewed in the documentary was also suspect with the choice of words and the facial and body expressions of the victims as well as their relatives. Thus much was revealed by forensic analysis as the emotions portrayed didn’t match their words.

Conclusion:

The International Institute for Investigative Journalism is of the considered opinion that the CNN carried out a hatchet job that is targeted at the Nigerian Army institution. We as a result of this classify the CNN documentary as highly misleading and with the capacity to cause disquiet in Nigeria.

The CNN must retract and admit error in submission in its documentary on the Lekki Tollgate shootings. The International Institute for Investigative Journalism faults the CNN documentary in all ramifications.

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Why Army is Boosting Land Power, Buratai Speaks at War College Lecture

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The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, has said that the Army War College Nigeria (AWCN) has continued to churn out highly-capable operational commanders, with a very good understanding of operational art and the requisite skills for the effective application of land power.

Buratai, was the special guest of honour at the ‘Graduation Lecture’ of Course 4/2020, in Abuja. The COAS, who had earlier commissioned the War College Office Extension Building, further said the building is made up of offices, Central Auditorium with 450 seating capacity, a lecture hall and a lounge with 180 and 120 seating capacity, respectively.

According to Lt. Gen. Buratai, the War College was conceived to address the observed gaps in the professional military education of Army’s personnel at operational level. The Commandant of AWCN, Maj. Gen. SE Udounwa, expressed gratitude to the Army Chief for tirelessly supporting the College, especially in the area of infrastructural development.

The AWCN was established in 2017 to bridge the gap between the tactical and strategic level training by producing well trained, educated and inspired operational level leaders for the Nigerian Army.

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JUST IN: NLC, TUC Stage Walk Out From Meeting With FG

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Labour union representatives on Sunday staged a walk-out from a meeting with the federal government, barely five minutes after it started.

According to the president of the Trade Union Congress, Quadri Olaleye, on the meeting’s top agenda were the issues surrounding the hike in the price of fuel and electricity tariffs, not issues of palliatives.

In his opening remarks before the closed-door session, Olaleye accused the federal government of dishonesty, playing to the gallery and painting the organised labour in a bad light before civil servants and the public.

Representing the Nigerian Labour Congress was its deputy president, Najeem Yasin.

“This meeting is not going to be as usual,” Olaleye told news men. “Why, because we have seen the insincerity of government and it’s putting us at risk. They are taking us for a ride, which cannot continue.

“We are in the process of discussing, for over three months now. And they made announcement increasing the fuel price again. And no other person than NNPC. When has authority been giving to NNPC to increase the price of PMS? This is unacceptable.

“The meeting agenda is not well prioritised. And because of that, we are leaving the meeting. We will not continue, we will go back to our organ, and we are going to get back to you on the next line of action.”

In attendance from the federal government were the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Petroleum, Timiprye Sylva, Minister of state for power, Goddy Agba and the Secretary to the Government, Boss Mustapha.

“We felt that the item of increase in PMS, having been listed at all as an additional item, would have satisfied everybody,” labour minister, Ngige said after the walkout.

More to come…

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