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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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CGI Babandede Bows Out With Glorious Light, Global Acclaim

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The 11th Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, MFR, was pulled out from Service Monday in grand style, razzmatazz and pageantry, after a transparent and diligent service to his country – Nigeria.

The occasion took place at the NIS Parade Ground, Sauka, Abuja, and was graced by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was Special Guest of Honour; Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, MON, mni; Service Chiefs, Inspector-General of Police, IGP Alkali Usman Baba and other heads of sister security agencies. Also at the occasion were top traditional rulers, Captains of industry, community leaders, youth groups, women groups and members of the diplomatic corps.

Speaking during the ceremony, the Minister of Interior, Aregbesola, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, paid glowing tributes to CGI Babandede for rebranding and repositioning the Nigeria Immigration Service as a top class migration management agency globally.

Continuing, Ogbeni Aregbesola, enjoined Babandede’s successor and NIS management to effectively harness and utilize the ultra-modern technological infrastructure established by Babandede for continued policing and surveillance of Nigeria’s borders, adding that the innovation is world-class and must be properly maintained at all times.

The Minister of Interior poured encomiums on the out-going CGI, applauded the gigantic transformational milestones and legacies left behind by the outgoing CGI

In the same vein, the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar Badaru lauded the sterling leadership qualities of CGI Babandede, patriotism and monumental achievements of the outgoing CGI, noting that he is a shining ambassador of Jigawa State, whose footprints are written on the sands of time in building a harmonious relationship with sister agencies; was unparalleled and must be exploited to the fullest for enhanced productivity and service delivery.
He enjoined other chief executive officers to borrow a leaf from the mercurial service record of CGI Babandede who has made Jigawa State proud.

Meanwhile, other stakeholders are also unanimous that CGI Babandede will continue to be a reference point, in the annals of efficient service delivery, transparency and patriotism in Nigeria, alluding that he has changed the narrative and paradigm shift of the NIS in compliance with best international practices.

Also, a prominent civil society group, Guild of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Equity, Justice & Transparency (GOCMEJ), was full of praises for CGI Babandede for redefining service delivery, accountability, transparency and patriotism in Nigeria’s public service. The organization, which is an amalgamation of over 350 CSOs, NGOs and media executives, recommended the outgoing CGI for higher national office, stating that his invaluable service record must not be sacrificed on the altar of officialdom. Emphasizing that CGI Babandede is brimming with resourcefulness, youthful energy and zeal for service to humanity and his fatherland.

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NDDC: GPMI Hails Sen. Akpabio , Says Detractors Should Leave Him Alone

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The Global Peace Movement International UK has described the Niger Delta Minister, Sen. Godswill Akpabio as a man who claimed fifteen story building without a steer case.

The group also said Senator Godswill Akpabio is a proven performer. Since he became the Minister of Niger Delta, he has been working diligently to develop the region. It is on record that massive work is going on in the region in different sectors.

In a press statement signed by the media officer, Augustine Aminu (KSM) on behalf the President General of Global Peace Movement International UK, Dr. Mike Uyi who currently lost his sister, Pastor Rose Uyi.

He said, prior to the minister’s assumption of office at the Niger Delta Affairs ministry, activities at the ministry were in dire need for reformation. Therefore, it took the frugality in his resource management and political determination to turn around the entire gamut of the Niger Delta community for the better within his short stay in office.

According to Uyi, the mandate of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is to formulate and execute plans, programmes, and other initiatives as well as coordinate the intervention activities of agencies, communities, donors, and other relevant stakeholders involved in the development of the region. Akpabio has promised never to deviate from the mandate.

“NDDC was meant to address the development challenges in the Niger Delta region but the commission has only enriched a few people in the past leaving the mission and vision not actualized. Faceless contractors have pocketed funds for projects and were never executed”.

“Akpabio is tested and trusted. As commissioner, senator and governor, he performed excellently. Unarguably, Akpabio is among the ministers that would perform very well in this administration and should be allowed to concentrate on transforming NDDC. GPMI believes that he will do greater things if given a higher national assignments”.

Under the supervision of Senator Akpabio, a forensic audit was carried out to unravel corruption and bad corporate governance in the commission.

“The Minister as we know him has been a detribalised and generous individual. His personal aides and workers hail from different states in the Niger Delta region and the country. Besides, the minister is known for presenting opportunities to people based only on their competencies”.

“He has carried all stakeholders in the Niger Delta along and that is why the region has remained peaceful since his emergence as a minister”.

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Less Than 3 Percent Of Kaduna Residents Have Health Insurance – KADCHMA

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Less than 3 percent of people out of about 9 million are covered by medical insurance under the Kaduna State Contributory Health Management Agency (KADCHMA) it has been revealed.

The revelation was made during a stakeholders meeting organized by the Kaduna Maternal Accountability Mechanism (KADMAM) with Partnership to Engage and Learn (PERL-EC) and Lafiya Programme.

Speaking on the matter, the representative of KADCHMA and Director of Operations, Dr Juliana Bungon said that apart from the state government employees only about 2000 individuals from the informal sector are registered with the scheme.

She added that  getting the informal sector to participate in the scheme had been difficult because they are not organized as the organized informal sector who are part and parcel of the trade unions.

She however added that the state government is making arrangement with farmers in the rural area to batter harvested food items with relevant agency so that they can be captured in the scheme.

” we are also going to vigorously involve cooperatives, desk officers in local governments as well as embark on massive sensitization with media to drive home the matter, ” she said.

Speaking earlier,  Mal Mustapha Juma’are  said that people must be part and parcel of the scheme so that the issue of out of pocket expenditure which hitherto had been a stumbling block to Nigerians resident in Kaduna state can be minimized.

Mal Juma’are who frowned at the paltry percentage of residents who have embraced the scheme called on participants to help in galvanizing the populace so that they can embrace it and make it their own.

Also speaking, the Co-Chair of Open Government Partnership (OGP) Hadiza Umar said that action in the area of sensitizing and enrolling the people of Kaduna state is necessary in order to curb or reduce the number of people dying daily from treatable diseases.

She said that Kaduna State will remain open in all its activities as she urged participants and stakeholders to share the information especially in the informal sector.

Mr Abel Adejor, on behalf of PERL-EC and Lafiya programme said that the aim of the meeting is for associations and organizations that are in the informal sector to be properly mobilized with adequate information for them to key into the scheme.

He further said that the civil societies and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) will continue to give support to program for it to succeed in the state.

The meeting was made possible by the KADMAM in collaboration with KADCHMA and support from PERL-EC and Lafiya programme in partnership with UKAID.

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