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I Remain Senator Despite Appeal Court Judgement, Says Ekpenyong

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Chris Ekpenyong, the man who truncated former governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio’s ambition of returning to the Senate for a second term, has vowed to continue with legislative duties, despite a judgement by the Court of Appeal nullifying his election.

The Court of Appeal, Calabar, on Saturday, nullified Mr Ekpenyong’s election as the senator representing Akwa Ibom North West District.

It ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a rerun in one local government area – Essien Udim Local Government Area – within 90 days.

“Today, the Court of Appeal in Calabar nullified my election results in only Essien Udim LGA and order for a rerun within 90 days. I still remain the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District with my certificate of return issued to me by INEC,” Mr Ekpenyong said in a statement on Saturday.

“I will still be going about my routine statutory legislative duties as your senator while preparing for the re-run in Essien Udim.

“There is nothing to worry about because we will still come out victorious in the rerun. I urge everyone to remain calm and courageous in supporting the mandate given to me at the poll,” he said.

INEC has also reacted to the court judgement, saying they have been vindicated by it.

“The Court re-affirmed as valid and preserved the elections as declared by the Commission in 9 out of the 10 LGAs that make up Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District. It, however, ordered a rerun of the Senatorial election within 90 days in Essien Udim LGA ONLY, where the Commission had decried the massive rigging and manipulations that culminated in the dubious award of 61,329 votes to Senator Akpabio alone in the LGA, intended to upturn the results of the other 9 LGAs,” the INEC spokesperson in Akwa Ibom state, Don Etukudo, said in a statement.

INEC also said thugs loyal to Mr Akapbio were on “rampage” in Essien Udim on Election Day.

“They snatched and stuffed ballot boxes, foreclosed the use of SCRs, brutalised INEC ad hoc personnel and prevented voters from exercising their franchise.

“The brigandage got to a climax when Senator Akpabio personally led the thugs to overrun INEC office in the LGA. Staff were held hostage for hours, TVC Television news crew and even foreign observers were assaulted while they fretfully doctored election results,” the election commission said.

INEC said details of the rerun would be announced later.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party had welcomed the judgement of the court which the party said has “proven that widespread irregularities occurred in Essien Udim Local Government Area”.

“We are preparing for the election. And we are expecting Senator Akpabio’s resignation (as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs) so that he can come for the election,” Ini Emembong, the PDP spokesperson in Akwa Ibom state, said.

Mr Akpabio was a candidate of the All Progressives Congress, while Mr Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, was the PDP flag bearer.

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Buhari Approves Suspension of Ex-EFCC Acting Chairman, Magu

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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.

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COVID-19: Fresh Lockdown Likely After Two Weeks – PTF

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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.”

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Cross River Finally Joins the Fray As Nigeria Records 575 New COVID-19 Cases

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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.

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