The Supreme Court on Monday suspended some appeals before it, postponing the fate of seven state governors till today and causing apprehension among parties, who were either represented or physically present in the court. The appeals, which emanated from the March 2019 governorship election across the federation, had been slated for hearing and determination by the apex court. Typical of days when high-profile cases are heard, the courtroom was filled to capacity with parties to the appeals, party loyalists, families and friends of the appellants and respondents.
The unexpected, however, happened less than an hour into the commencement of the sitting when Chief Justice of the Federation, Ibrahim Mohammed Tanko, announced that one of the justices on the panel had suddenly become ill. He, therefore, stood down the matter, so that the sick colleague could be attended to. As the justices rose to take the bow, all eyes watched to identify the sick judicial officer. The crowd waited, hopeful that proceedings would somehow resume, until one of the court registrars returned with the final announcement adjourning the matter till today.
Other members of the panel besides Tanko are Justices John Inyang Okoro, Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta, Uwani Musa Aba Aji, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Aminu Sani and Olukayode Ariwoola.
The affected governors are: Imo State Governor Emeka Ihedioha; Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Umar Ganduje (Kano); Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa); Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Samuel Ortom (Benue).
Meanwhile, a High Court in Jabi, Federal Capital Territory, yesterday fixed February 25 to hear a suit challenging the qualification of House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to contest an election. The suit is also challenging his nomination as the Speaker of the Ninth Assembly.
When the matter, which was slated for the hearing of pending applications came up, the claimant’s counsel, Obed Agu, informed the court that he had a motion on notice before the court. He said his application was seeking to regularise his processes by way of asking for an extension of time, to enable him to file his reply.
The motion was brought in pursuant to the rule of the court dated November 18 and filed November 19, 2019 in a four-paragraph affidavit.Agu said he had filed his written address and wanted to adopt the same as an oral argument, urging the court to grant his prayers.The judge, Justice Charles Agbaza, asked the first defendant’s counsel, Femi Adedeji, if he had any objection to the application.Adedeji, on his part, did not raise any objection. In his ruling, therefore, Agbaza said the application had merit and granted it in the interest of justice.
The judge also directed that a hearing notice be served on the other defendants, who were absent from Monday’s proceeding. Also, a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday adjourned until February 11 the trial of the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, charged with an alleged N1.4 billion fraud.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Usoro before Justice Rilwan Aikawa on 10 counts.He was first arraigned before Justice Muslim Hassan in December 2018, but the case was re-assigned to Justice Rilwan Aikawa. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges before Hassan. He also maintained his not-guilty plea before Aikawa and was granted bail.
The continuation of trial, earlier fixed for yesterday, has now been further adjourned to February 11, as Aikawa did not sit.Also mentioned in the charge is the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom, Emmanuel Udom, who is described as “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution”.Others are: the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; Accountant General of Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Udomah; the Akwa Ibom Attorney General, Uwemedimo Nwoko and Margaret Ukpe.
The aforementioned names were described in the charge as being at large.In the charge marked FHC/418c/18, the anti-graft agency alleged that the defendant committed the offence on May 14, 2016. Usoro was alleged to have conspired with others to commit the offence within the jurisdiction of the court.
Buhari Approves Suspension of Ex-EFCC Acting Chairman, Magu
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the suspension of the boss of the country’s anti-graft agency, Ibrahim Magu days after he appeared at an investigative panel.
The Nigerian Government said Magu’s suspension is to “allow for unhindered inquiry” by the panel investigating allegations of corruption against the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, should take charge and oversee the activities of the Commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives in that regards,” Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said in a statement on Friday.
COVID-19: Fresh Lockdown Likely After Two Weeks – PTF
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday lamented the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases among people in government, saying it was directly impacting on governance and security in the country.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who stated this at the task force press briefing in Abuja, also said the possibility of ordering a fresh total lockdown to curtail further spread of the virus could not be ruled out.
The SGF, who advised prominent Nigerians to take COVID-19 protocols seriously, said the virus does not respect status.
Mustapha’s warning came amid rising cases of COVID-19 among state governors and other prominent Nigerians. Recently state governors, including David Umahi of Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and their Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, contracted the virus.
Warning people in authority, the SGF said, “Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on governance and security of our nation. We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians, irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitisation messaging.”
When asked if the task force would be considering a fresh lockdown in the face of what it observed as disregard for guidelines, Mustapha said events of coming weeks would determine the next line of action.
He said, “We will not speculate on what will happen in future but we will protect the lives of Nigerians.
“To achieve that, if it means to lock down again, we will not shy away from that responsibility. We will recommend to the President who will look at the report and take a decision on our recommendation. What happens in the next two three weeks will determine what we will do.”
Cross River Finally Joins the Fray As Nigeria Records 575 New COVID-19 Cases
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced 575 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 29,286.
Nine deaths were recorded from the virus on Monday bringing the total number of confirmed deaths from the virus to 654.
There was an increase in the number of confirmed cases reported Monday compared to what was reported on Sunday (544).
The health agency in a tweet Monday night said the 575 new cases were reported in 20 states including Lagos, Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Delta, Edo, Ogun, Katsina, Bayelsa, Rivers, Borno, Plateau, Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, Osun, Enugu, Nasarawa, Abia, Cross River, Kaduna and Ekiti.
All the reporting states already had at least a case of the virus.
As of the time of reporting, all 36 states and the FCT have recorded at least a case of the disease.
NCDC has officially recorded the confirmed cases reported in Cross River, after days of controversies on the cases.
Lagos remains the epicentre for the disease in the country while Zamfara has not reported any new confirmed case in the past 48 days.
“Till date, 29, 286 cases have been confirmed, 11, 828 cases have been discharged and 654 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” the NCDC stated.
The 575 new cases were reported from 20 states: Lagos – 123, FCT – 100, Delta – 58, Edo – 52, Ogun – 42, Katsina – 24, Bayelsa – 23, Rivers – 22, Borno – 19, Plateau – 18, Ondo – 18, Oyo – 17, Kwara – 15, Osun – 13, Enugu – 9, Nasarawa – 7, Abia – 6, Cross River – 5, Kaduna – 3 and Ekiti – 1.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria in February, NCDC said, 152,952 samples have been tested.
As of the time of reporting, there are 16,804 active cases of COVID-19 in the country, while 11,828 have recovered and have been discharged.
A breakdown of the 29,286 confirmed cases shows that Lagos State has so far reported 11, 367 cases, followed by FCT – 2,281, Oyo – 1,530, Edo – 1,435, Delta – 1,285, Kano – 1,268, Rivers – 1,205, Ogun – 1,047, Kaduna – 868, Katsina – 628, Borno – 574, Gombe – 520, Bauchi – 518, Ebonyi – 503, Ondo – 474, Plateau – 454, Abia – 391, Enugu – 381, Imo – 352, Jigawa – 318, Kwara – 284, Bayelsa – 268, Nasarawa – 232, Osun – 178, Sokoto – 153, Niger – 122, Akwa Ibom – 112, Adamawa – 99, Benue – 97, Kebbi – 84, Zamfara – 76, Anambra – 73, Yobe – 61, Ekiti – 45, Taraba- 22, Kogi – 5, and Cross River – 5.
While confirmed cases of the virus have continued to increase in the country, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the government is trying to boost overall COVID-19 sample collection, by preparing all public and private hospitals nationwide to become collection hospitals sites.
This, he said will require working with state governments to identify the facilities and the space within them, to conduct training for the personnel selected and supply both PPEs and sample collection kits, as well as the logistics to go around to recover test samples.
“If logistics around sample collection and delivery to test sites are better organised, a lot more will be achieved.
“However, the more we test, the more confirmed cases we shall find, of which the vulnerable will have to be prioritised for admission to treatment centres, even if they are not yet showing symptoms,” he added.