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Dickson Turns Down Life Pension Request for Lawmakers, Says It’s Illegal

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Governor Seriake Dickson of  Bayelsa State has declined assent to the bill seeking life pension for former lawmakers from the state as proposed and passed by the state House of Assembly last week.

The controversial bill has attracted condemnation from Bayelsans, including civil society groups who were planning a showdown with the lawmakers.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson, who said this on Monday, added that the governor had conveyed his decision to decline assent to the bill in a letter to the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly on Monday.

He said the governor held consultations with the Assembly members in Toru-Orua, where he explained his reason for rejecting the bill to the lawmakers.

Iworiso-Markson quoted the governor as having said that the bill was inconsistent with Section 124 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

Dickson said he was of the view that the state Assembly lacked the powers to expand the categories of public servants who should be entitled to pension.

He stressed that he had to withhold assent to the bill because the state, which was bedevilled with a lot of challenges in spite of its low Internally Generated Revenue base and unstable earnings from the oil economy, was the only state in Nigeria to come up with such a bill.

The governor stressed that he was guided in the decision by the principle that government should not be for a select privileged few in the society.

He said the lawmakers and indeed the Nigerian populace would attest to the fact that all the decisions of his administration were guided by the urge “to protect public interest and promote the general good.”

Dickson said, “The provisions of this bill granting pension to members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and the extension of same to former members of the Assembly and Bayelsa indigenes who served in the old Rivers State House of Assembly, is inconsistent with Section 124 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“I am not convinced about the legality of this bill which seeks to expand the categories of persons entitled to pension. While I agree that the Assembly can adjust the quantum of pension payable to persons entitled to pension, I am not convinced that the House has powers to add to the categories of pensionable public officers.

“Evidently, there is no record of any other state in this country that has expanded the categories of pensionable public officers to include lawmakers.  I do not agree that Bayelsa, which is coping with all the myriads of issues and challenges, with our low Internally Generated Revenue base and the unpredictable oil economy, should be the first to initiate this.

“Honourable members of this Assembly, Bayelsans and other Nigerians following our progress as a government would clearly attest to the fact that my entire public service, actions and decisions are marked by what is in the public interest, particularly the interest of the vulnerable, ordinary people. It is in the service of this category of people that in the last seven years, I have, in an unprecedented manner, which only history will record and reward, extended the frontiers of the benefits of purposeful democratic governance.

“It is my philosophy that government should not be for a select few. In the last seven years, my actions and decisions, which have sometimes elicited opposition from the elite who have been feeding fat on the resources of our state, have been marked by this singular disposition of mine.

“And I do not intend at this point to abandon that. Rather, I intend to do more to consolidate on the policies and actions which have been taken to protect the vulnerable. Therefore, I am unable to assent to this bill which in my view aims to expand and consolidate the class interest of a privileged few.”

The governor said the quest to protect the vulnerable against the privileged few inspired the populist programmes of his administration.

These, he said, included the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme with over 150, 000 beneficiaries, the Education Trust Fund, local and foreign scholarship programmes, empowerment schemes, support for the aged, the most vulnerable, employment, public housing and a number of other social intervention programmes.

He commended the leadership of the House for the healthy relationship with the executive and the high level of productivity as shown by the high number of bills and motions passed during the period.

Dickson said notwithstanding his decision to decline assent to the bill, he still “holds the Assembly in very high esteem.”

The governor also noted that he had to set up a committee on the contributory pension scheme to make it workable so that interested assembly members and other appointees at the state and local government levels could take advantage of it.

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Buhari Reads New Riot Act to Ministers, Heads of Agencies, Others on Foreign Travel

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In a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of resources of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved for immediate implementation, additional cost saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly, in the area of official travels.

According to a statement issued by the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation Wednesday, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are now required to submit their Yearly Travel Plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.

They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan, from the appropriate quarters.

On the nature and frequency of travels, the statement said, all public funded travels (local and foreign) must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence.

”In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of the country. Except with the express approval of Mr. President, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Chief Executive Officers and Directors are restricted to not more than two (2) foreign travels in a quarter.”

When a Minister is at the head of an official delegation, according to the statement, the size of such delegation shall not exceed four including the relevant Director, Schedule Officer and one Aide of the Minister.

”Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three.”

For Class of Air Travels, President Buhari approved that Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants to the President, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments and Chief Executive Officers of Parastatals who are entitled would continue to fly Business Class while other categories of Public Officers are to travel on Economy Class.

Also, travel days will no longer attract payment of Estacode Allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding, the statement added.

”The Auditor-General of the Federation has been directed to treat all expenditures that contravene these guidelines as ineligible.”

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Police Uncover Another Torture Centre with 300 Inmates in Buhari’s Hometown, Daura

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The Police in Katsina State on Monday arrested the owner of a rehabilitation centre in Daura where over 300 inmates were being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Some of the teachers were also said to have sexually molested the inmates at the centre owned by Mallam Bello Maialmajri.

The 78-year-old cleric was arrested alongside two other men, whose names were not disclosed.

Last month, the police in Kaduna State rescued over 300 boys from an Islamic school, where they were allegedly chained,   sexually abused and tortured.

The  Katsina State   Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba, who led the operation at about  1pm, expressed shock at the new discovery.

The centre is located at Nasarawa Quarters,  in the   Sabongari area of  Daura.

Daura is President Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown.

After inspecting the rehabilitation centre, Buba ordered the  Daura Divisional Police Officer, ASP M.O.Wakili,  cordon off the centre.

The CP  said, “We learnt that the inmates here are over 300.  The inmates revolted yesterday (Sunday) because of the inhuman treatment they were being subjected to.

“Some of the inmates escaped while the ones you are seeing, about 60,  stayed back.

“The inmates are from various parts of Nigeria, including Katsina,  as well as from  Niger Republic. I will meet with the Emir of Daura and Governor Aminu Masari on the issue. We will do the profiling of the remaining inmates  to determine where they are from and we will thereafter appeal to their parents and their  guardians to come and collect them.”

He added, “As you heard from the inmates, apart from being subjected to inhuman treatment, some of their so-called teachers practised homosexual acts with them. Although the teachers escaped when my men came here after  the inmates revolted, we shall get all of them and they would face the full wrath of the law.

“From what I have seen here, the old man, who is the owner of this place and who is over 78 years old, does not have  the capacity  and facilities to run this place again.”

One of the inmates,  Abubakar Saminu,16, from Yobe State said his parents brought him to the centre because he was always stealing.

He said,”My parents brought me here because they believed I  would be cured of my stealing problem.  But they would beat us, starve us and subject us to inhuman treatment here.”

It was learnt that Maialmajri had already  handed  the running of the centre  to his son, Umar, who reportedly escaped when  police arrived.

The Emir of Daura,  Dr . Umar Farouq,  who spoke in Hausa,   said, “We in Daura will not support any act of lawlessness. We want the law to take its  course.”

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Charges Against Sowore, Mockery of Justice System – SERAP

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Anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has urged the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to enter a nolle prosequi to terminate the charges filed against the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, alias Mandate.

In an open letter on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, SERAP said the charges which centre on insulting President Muhammadu Buhari would only make a mockery of the Nigerian criminal justice system.

SERAP advised Malami to activate his power of nolle prosequi under Section 174 of the constitution to terminate the charges against Sowore and Mandate “and several other similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.”

SERAP said, “Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom.

“These cases are persecution and not prosecution. As a guardian of the public interest, you (Malami) have a role to end this travesty now, and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.

“These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicisation of judiciary. This will be bad for everyone – ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power, as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power/in opposition.”

SERAP said while the Federal Government had the responsibility to prevent and prosecute criminal offences, it ought to do so lawfully, and in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law.

Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Solomon Okedara, described Section 24(1) of the Cybercrime Act under which Sowore was charged with insulting the President as “repressive, oppressive and largely unconstitutional.”

Okedara said, “In fact, I am of the opinion that proceeding with such a charge particularly when the person allegedly insulted is the President will rather paint the image of the President and the country in bad light before the comity of nations.

“This is aside the fact that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act does not meet the requirement of permissible restriction to freedom of expression. Having worked on the Cybercrime Act and indeed Section 24 both as a practitioner and researcher, it is clear that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act is indeed an insult to our hard-earned democracy and same does not deserve a place in our laws.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow himself to be embarrassed Malami against Sowore.

Adeniran, who described the charges against Sowore as trumped-up and face-saving, argued that it was obvious that government had no grounds to continue to hold Sowore.

The CACOL chairman said this in a Facebook post on Sunday.

He said, “FG has no good reason to hold Sowore anymore; the trumped-up charges are (a) face-saving strategy with no substance!

“President Buhari, please don’t allow Malami to embarrass you any further. Order Sowore’s immediate release and damn it!”

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