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NASS Leadership: Oyo ALGON congratulates Lawan, Gbajabiamila

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NASS Leadership: Oyo ALGON congratulates Lawan, Gbajabiamila

 

The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Oyo State Chapter, has congratulated Sen. Ahmed Lawan and Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on their election as the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

 

A congratulatory message to the newly elected officers, signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye and Pastor Jesutoye Oluyinka, was made available to News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Ibadan.

 

ALGON, in the congratulatory message, said it was proud of their achievements and doggedness as they climb the political ladder.

 

The association congratulated other members of the National Assembly (NASS) on their inauguration, urging the new leadership to further ensure stability and unity of the country, while working hard to deepen the nation’s democracy.

 

“The Executive Council and entire members of ALGON in Oyo State heartily congratulate you all on the attainment of your new offices as members of the ninth National Assembly,’’ it said.

 

The ALGON also congratulated Hon. Debo Ogundoyin (PDP-Ibarapa East) on his emergence as the Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly.

 

 

“We are optimistic that you will do more in your new capacity and hope your tenure will bring greater development to our constituencies in Oyo State as well as Nigeria.

 

“We also hope that your tenure will bring fresh re-engineering to the Hallowed Chambers. God will grant you the grace of accomplishment,’’ it said.

 

 

Akeem Abas: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Judiciary

Court fixes June 1 to hear suit against NASS over infectious bill

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday fixes June to hear a suit filed by Sen. Dino Melaye against the National Assembly over the consideration of the infectious diseases bill 2020.

NAN reports that the bill was sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu fixes the matter date to enable the applicant serve court processes on all counsel in the matter.

Earlier, Mr Kayode Ajulo,  counsel to the Speaker of the House of Representatives said that he was  yet to receive the processes of the applicant and was therefore not ready for the matter.

 He, however, accepted service following the directive of the judge.

Former senator representing Kogi West,  Dino Melaye, had dragged the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to court over the controversial “Control of Infectious Disease Bill 2020”. 

 

Melaye also joined the clerks of the senate and house of representatives as respondents.

 

The bill which was sponsored by Gbajabiamila and other lawmakers, Pascal Obi and Tanko Sununu, seeks to empower the Federal Government to, upon mere suspicion that a person is infected with an infectious disease, arrest and detain the person for as long as necessary.

Section 37 of the  Bill also seeks to empower the Federal Government to direct compulsory vaccination in an outbreak or a suspected outbreak of an infectious disease.

Melaye approached the court under the fundamental rights enforcement to the dignity of his person, personal liberty, right to private and family life, right to freedom of movement and right to own immovable property in Nigeria.”

Mr Nkemakolam Okoro, counsel to Melaye told newsmen that several sections of the bill were likely to infringe on the rights of both his client and other Nigerians.

” A situation whereby Nigerians are made to be forcefully vaccinated, where they cannot travel out or come into the country without being subjected to forceful vaccination, the situation whereby the director – general of the centre for disease control can just see you on the road and arrest you without any test and subject you to detention for as long as he wants on mere suspicion that you may be having an infectious disease.

“A situation whereby the director – general can invade any premises or acquire your property without payment of compensation, are issues we have with the bill and we think those provisions, if passed into law are likely to infringe upon the fundamental rights of Nigerians, ” Okoro said.

He is therefore praying  the court for an order declaring some sections of the bill invalid and unconstitutional, as same constituted a gross abuse of the fundamental rights of his client and or will likely be infringing upon the fundamental rights of his client and Nigerians if eventually passed into law.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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NGF urges NASS to stepdown proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill

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The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has urged the National Assembly to stepdown the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, pending wider consultations.

The News Agency  of Nigeria reports that the Bill was introduced by the House of Representatives.

Reacting to the development, the NGF advised the lawmakers to stay action until an appropriate consultative process was held.

The 36 states governors made the call in a communiqué issued at the end of the forum’s 8th teleconference meeting held on Wednesday on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The communiqué, which was made available to newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, was signed by the Forum Chairman and Governor of Ekiti , Dr Kayode Fayemi.

“Following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and NGF Vice Chairman, Aminu Tambuwal, on the proposed bill, the governors raised concern over the lack of consultation with state governments who were at the forefront of the pandemic.

“The forum resolved that the bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.

“In the light of this, the forum established a Committee, comprising the governors of Katsina, Sokoto and Plateau to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed bill.

“The NGF Secretariat was also mandated to comprehensively review the bill and its implication on states,” it stated.

The forum also expressed concerns over the rising number of Coronavirus cases in the country which reached 4,787 as at May 12, based on an update from the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19.

The governors noted that the worrying trend urgently called for additional measures by state governors to ramp up capacity for testing and increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per state.

They added that the trend also called for measures by governors to accelerate the procurement of additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training for health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of interstate restriction of movement.

The NGF noted that in line with the commitment made by the forum to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, they were making warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives.

The forum noted that the governors had appointed state coordinators who would be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.

It stated that the governors were briefed  by the Forum Chairman on existing coordination activities with the PTF on COVID-19, multilateral and bilateral partners, and the private sector through the Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

It disclosed that the forum was coordinating an additional response with the support of the Dangote Foundation to set up a volunteer workforce of health personnel who would be trained and deployed to strengthen the availability of health workers for states in critical need.

The volunteer work force, according to the forum, is in addition to ongoing activities aimed at strengthening the public health response and the delivery of palliatives to vulnerable persons.

It disclosed that the governors set up two committees to interface with the Federal Government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan, as well to steer the activities of the NGFNESG Economic Roundtable (NNER), respectively.

The forum said that it had followed with interest, the development of the 12-month Economic Sustainability Plan by the federal government, which was designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

“In the spirit of developing a truly coordinated national response to the crisis, governors expressed the importance of greater consultation and collaboration between the federal and state governments on development planning.

“A Committee was consequently set up to interface with the federal government on the next Medium-term National Development Plan.

“The committee is made up of the Governors of Bauchi, Plateau, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Ekiti.

“A second committee comprising the governors of Gombe, Nasarawa, Delta, Ebonyi, Oyo and Kaduna states was established to steer the activities of the NGFNESG Economic Roundtable (NNER).”

NNER is a sub-national platform of the NGF and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, created to promote sub-national competitiveness through public-private collaboration.

“The Forum received a briefing from the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, on the Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19.

“The initiative is set up by oil and gas operators to provide medical consumables to states, deploy logistics and in-patient support systems, and deliver permanent medical infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.

“Governors commended NNPC for leading the industry to take the initiative and advised the group to prioritise interventions that will boost the country’s testing capacity and the capacity of health workers who are at the frontline of the epidemic,” it further stated.

The state governors agreed to take additional measures to strengthen their public financial management systems, including a revision of their 2020 budgets and the amendment of state procurement guidelines to support e-procurement and the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises.

This, according the the them, followed an update from the Governor of Edo, Godwin Obaseki, on the operation of the World Bank States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) project which was supporting a strong pro-poor fiscal response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It added that to fast-track the deployment of e-procurement across states, the forum would be adopting a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with the Kaduna state government providing the framework agreement that other states could leverage on.

The governors noted the rising trend of deductions from revenues accruals to the federation account, available for distribution to the three tiers of government, and the threat it posed on the fiscal capacity of states to respond to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Members also raised concern about the ownership and distribution of proceeds from recovered looted funds and accounts or investments funded as first line charge from the federation account.

“The forum agreed to engage with the federal government to ensure that the governance arrangement of all federation-funded investments, recognise state governments as shareholders in the distribution of proceeds and decision making,” it stated.

The forum congratulated the newly appointed Chief of Staff  (CoS) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and looked  forward to a fruitful partnership that would support the development of the country.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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N40bn NDDC Probe: Ex-militants back NASS

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A group of ex-militants known as ‘Conscience of the Niger Delta’ has thrown its weight behind the National Assembly’s probe of an alleged N40billion irregular expenditure by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

In a statement by the Coordinator on Monday in Abuja, Mr Odudoh Okpokiri, the group called on the National Assembly and all anti corruption agencies to “ignore the ranting of fake militants.’’

The coordinator alleged that shadowy groups were being sponsored to gag the National Assembly from carrying out the probe through threats and mindless blackmail.

He urged the lawmakers to proceed with any lawfully assigned responsibilities regarding the investigation of the alleged corruption in the NDDC to make it function better.

“We know ourselves; the statement of threat against those who want to probe is not from any of our members.

“Is it the members that are being owed by the commission for many years that will threaten anybody?

“That statement is not from us, Nigerians should ignore it, our members want the NDDC to be repositioned to work for Niger Deltans and we will not stand against anything that will make the place better for everybody is tired of the corruption.

“We call on the leadership and members of the National Assembly to ensure the probe is carried through and findings made public else, members from the region should consider themselves personal non granta in the region,” he said.

Okpokiri said that the group wants the Federal Government to pay more attention to the plights of people in the region, pledging support for the government for everything that would reposition the NDDC.

He said that ex-militants would not allow politician to use them to settle personal and political scores when the people were being shortchanged in the region.

The group, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure a thorough forensic audit of the commission’s account.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to personally appoint a neutral Forensic Auditor to audit the account of NDDC since the politicians involved now are accusing themselves of corruption.

“Let the anti corruption agencies and the National Assembly be allowed to carry their investigations to a logical conclusion and compare notes with the outcome of NASS probe,” he said.

Okpokiri said every stakeholder from the region, except those profiting from the sleaze, are in support of the federal government’s move to clean NDDC.

The group also reiterated its support for President Muhammadu Buhari in his determined efforts to rid the commission of monumental corruption, which had been ravaging the agency since its creation over 19 years ago.

Edited By: Abiemwense Moru/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

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CSO urges NASS to pass Cannabis Control Bill

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Civil Society Organisation Stakeholders on Farming for Medical use Initiative (CSOF) has urged the National Assembly to give a serious consideration to the Cannabis Control Bill before it and pass it into law.

 

The group made the call in a statement issued by its Programme Manager, Johnson Omede, on Thursday in Abuja.

Omede commended the House of Representatives for taking the initiative of commencing the process to amend the Cannabis Farming Prohibition Law, with the introduction of the ‘Cannabis Control Bill’.

He described the bill, sponsored by member representing Isiala Mbano/Onuimo/Okigwe Federal Constituency of Imo, Princess Miriam Onuoha, as very strategic to unlocking the benefits of cannabis for medical purposes and only under stringent control processes and monitoring.

He urged the lawmakers to give the cannabis for medical purposes bill accelerated hearing.

Omede said there was no better time for the important draft legislation to be passed than now when Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil, a chemical in the Cannabis sativa plant, is being used for the treatment of COVID-19.

“There are over 80 chemicals, known as cannabinoids, that have been identified in the Cannabis sativa plant.

“In Israel, the Tel Aviv Hospital, Ichilov, has already gone ahead and started using CBD or the non-psychotropic parts of the cannabis plant against the novel coronavirus in a new study.

“A cannabis control law would have helped Nigeria to join in the clinical trial of Cannabidiol for COVID-19 treatment, as the country desperately searches for cure and the health sector is beginning to get overwhelmed and stressed.

“The farming of cannabis for health, and its uses as CBD oil for chemotherapy in cancer patients and for other health benefits in Nigeria, is capable of creating thousands of jobs in the country, and also earn us a significant foreign exchange from exportation,” he said.

Omede said that the bill had also addressed concerns and highlighted sanctions against abusers and make the regulatory agencies more responsible.

“We call on patriotic Nigerians to support this bill presented by a courageous woman so that Nigeria will not be left behind.

“Other countries, including Ghana, are moving in droves to regulate cannabis farming and restrict its use for controlled and monitored health treatments only,” he said.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Palliative: FG donates 5,400 of 50kg bags of rice, other items to Enugu, Anambra, Sokoto, Nassarawa

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The Federal Government on Friday handed over 5,400 of 50kg bags of rice and other items to Enugu, Anambra, Sokoto and Nassarawa States, as palliatives to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the relief items were collected in different Customs formations in Lagos.

The formations include Seme border Command, Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, Jealith Bonded Terminal in Amuwo Odofin, Western Marine Command, Apapa and Ikorodu Lighter Terminal.

The relief items include 5,400 bags of 50 kg rice, 7,200 cartons of tomato paste, gallons of vegetable oil and cartons of spaghetti.

Mrs Kemi Adedeji, Lagos State Coordinator of the operations presented the items to officials of the four states, on behalf of Hajiyah Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

Adedeji said the gesture was in fulfillment of Federal Government’s promise to cushion the effects of the global health crisis.

She urged representatives of the four state to ensure that the relief items got to the poor and vulnerable in the states.

“These palliative are given to cushion the negative effect the Coronavirus pandemic might have on the people of the various state, especially the vulnerable.

“These relief items are a gesture from the Federal Government.

“These are your own shares and I implore the states to distribute the food items to vulnerables and downtrodden in your states.

“The items have been certified fit for human consumption by National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC),” she said.

Receiving the items on behalf of the Anambra Government, the State Liaison Officer in Lagos, Mrs Uloma Wise, commended  the Federal Government for the assistance.

Wise assured that the relief materials would be distributed among the needy in the state.

Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu/Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)

 

 

 

 

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FG gives 5,400 bags of rice as palliatives to Anambra, Sokoto, Nassarawa states

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The Federal Government on Wednesday handed over 5,400 bags of 50kg rice and other relief items to Anambra, Sokoto and Nasarawa states to cushion the effect of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the relief items were loaded into nine trucks from the Seme border Customs warehouse for onward delivery to the people of the three states.

Mrs Kemi Adedeji, Lagos State Coordinator, National Social Safety Net Project, who presented the items to officials of the three states on behalf of Hajiyah Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, said the gesture was in fulfillment of Federal Government’s promise to cushion effects of COVID-19.

She said that the palliatives, which included 98 jerrycans of vegetable oil, should be distributed to indigent people in the states.

 

Relief items in Seme.

Adedeji urged the officials of the three state governments to ensure that the relief materials get to those it was intended for.

Handing over the relief items, Acting Customs Area Comptroller in Seme, Dalha Wada, said the Comptroller General of Customs, retired Col. Hammed Ali, had directed release of the relief items as palliatives to the states in compliance with Federal Government directive.

The customs boss said that the items had been checked and certified as good for human consumption by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Receiving the items on behalf of Anambra Government, the State Liaison Officer in Lagos, Mrs Uloma Wise, thanked the Federal Government for the assistance.

Wise promised that the relief materials would be distributed among the needy in the state.

Edited By: Bayo Sekoni/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

 

 

 

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Politics

N850bn loan approval: PDP wants NASS to ensure prudent use, prompt repayment

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the National Assembly to ensure the prudent use of the N850 billion loan it approved for the Federal Government on Tuesday.

 

The party, in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja also advised the presiding officers of the Senate to ensure prompt repayment of the loan.

 

Ologbondiyan expressed concerns over what he described as hasty approval of the N850 billion loan as requested by  President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said that the party was concerned that in spite of the huge natural and human resources at the disposal of the country, government was still accumulating loans, without repayment plans.

Ologbondiyan also expressed worry over the transparency and management of the country’s loans.

“The PDP, therefore, charges the Senate Presiding officers to note that in approving this loan, the nation holds them responsible to ensure strict oversight monitoring of the handling of the money.

“This is especially as it is being sourced from the capital market, which hosts investments by private individuals and firms.

“The Senate must ensure judicious use of the funds as well as prompt repayment.

“This is because our nation cannot afford any default, as such is capable of crippling the capital market and worsening the economic hardship already being faced by Nigerians,” he said.

Ologbondiyan advised the Federal Government to articulate innovative ways to create wealth and plug wastes, instead of resorting to borrowing.

He said what was expected of the government at a time such as this was to immediately cut on luxury.

The PDP spokesperson also advised the government to slash the number of presidential appointees, cut down huge allowances  and maintain a lean budget that would centre on health, research and growth of the economy among other critical needs.

“The PDP, therefore, urges all stakeholders, particularly fiscal transparency groups, the Nigeria Corporate World and management of the capital market to protect Nigerians by closely monitoring the performance of the loan.

“This is to guarantee effective management and prompt repayment,” Ologbondiya said.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Coronavirus: NASS leadership meets Buhari, advocates Fund Management Committee for donations

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The National Assembly on Tuesday advocated for the establishment of Fund Committee to manage donations from individuals and organisations in support of the ongoing crusade against COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, made the call at the end of a strategic engagement between President Muhammadu Buhari and the NASS leadership over national issues including the Coronavirus disease at the State House, Abuja.

Lawan, who was in company of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, stated that the committee, when constituted, would ensure proper and effective utilization of the various donations made so far.

He said: “The leadership of the National Assembly has been holding series of meetings with Ministers and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and this afternoon we had an engagement with the President to discuss with him what we have resolved as leaders of the National Assembly and our opinion on various issues regarding the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria as well as going forward.

“For example, the various donations that we are receiving should go into a single account and should have a fund management committee that would be in charge of releases. Accountability and transparency require that we have that separation.

“It is also an opportunity for us to commend Nigerians and corporate bodies that have given us donations but we believe there should be more coordination as far as the management of the funds donated is concerned.”

Lawan commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for working hard to curb the spread of the deadly virus in the country.

“I believe the Presidential Task Force is doing a very good job, they have been very proactive and they deserve our commendation,” he added.

On Social Investment Programme, the Senate President called for a review of the way and manner the programme was being implemented to enable more poor and vulnerable citizens benefit from it.

“We also believe that it is time to reform the way and manner we implement the social investment programme.

“This is a very important programme that is meant to help poor and vulnerable Nigerians and we believe that having implemented it for four years or more, we should be reviewing to evaluate the efficacy and efficiency with which we have been implementing the programme.

“I believe that we also need to legislate on how to fight poverty in Nigeria because this is one issue that has been there for quite some time and therefore there is need for us to have a very clear and well spelt out processes and procedures on how to tackle poverty.

“There should be very little or no room for discretion so that we have a programme that will be very transparent and should go deep down to those who really deserve to have the support and should be such an equitable and fair programme as far the geographical spread across the country is concerned,” he said.

On palliative measures, the Senate President said the National Assembly is on standby to reconvene and deliberate on the issue of the N500 billion stimulus package meant to cushion the effects of COVID-19 proposed by government, when presented to it.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who also spoke on the outcome of the closed door meeting with the president, said they discussed the issue of providing free electricity for Nigerians as result of the lockdown order occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.

According to him, the proposal is meant to make the citizens more comfortable as they stay at home.

“You know I am very passionate about electricity for our people. Interestingly, I brought it up today and we discussed that with the President and hopefully in a matter of days he will meet with the stakeholders on electricity.

“I impressed on him my position, the DISCOs have their issues, no question about it but at this point in time we need to put that aside and think of the Nigerian people.

“The President listened very attentively and I think hopefully whatever the issues are, we will be able to resolve them at least for these two months and then long-term, how electricity will not be an issue but what is imperative right now, is when you ask people to remain at home, you must make that home a little bit comfortable for them,” he said.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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COVID-19: Buhari meets NASS leadership

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met with the leadership of the National Assembly at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the agenda of the meeting between the president and the NASS leadership, involving the Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the   Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiala, was unknown as at the time of filing this report.

NAN, however, gathered that the meeting, which was at the instance of the NASS leadership, would discuss national issues including the efforts of the Federal and State Governments as well as stakeholders towards curbing the spread of Coronavirus across the country.

NAN also reports that the president had earlier met with some cabinet Ministers, who updated him on the activities of their respective ministries.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Judiciary

COVID-19: SERAP urges FG to share N37bn NASS renovation fund to states

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Federal Government to share the N37 billion earmarked for the renovation of National Assembly complex to states as part of COVID-19 relief.

SERAP said this in a statement signed by its Deputy-Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare in Lagos on Sunday.
He said the group had written a letter dated April 11 to Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila on the matter.

Oluwadare while lauding the NASS leadership on steps and voluntary contributions already made in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, urged them to make a public commitment to give N1 billion each of the amount to the 36 states, and the FCT.

He noted that immediate redirection of the N37 billion would act as direct reliefs and benefits to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

“Nigeria is at a crossroads and National Assembly leaders and members must now decide whether to continue to look after themselves and do little for the country’s poorest or make commitment to redirect the N37 billion to help ameliorate the suffering caused by COVID-19 restrictions.

“Going ahead to spend N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex even when COVID-19 is over would further undermine the social contract in Nigeria, and hurt the poorest and most vulnerable people across the 36 states and FCT.

“It would limit the ability of the authorities to provide much needed benefits and support to these Nigerians, and undermine efforts to reduce the impact of the disease on the country,” Oluwadare said.

He noted that the distribution of the funds to 36 states and the FCT would be in the interest of the public.

“It will improve the chances of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to live a life of dignity while obeying authorities’ directives to stay at home.

“Without sufficient COVID-19 direct reliefs and monetary benefits to these Nigerians, many may be forced to turn to criminal activities as their only perceived options for surviving,”he said.

Oluwadare urged NASS to immediately advice President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; to implement their commitment to redirect the N37 billion to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable.

He also urged the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and civil society groups to monitor the spending of any redirected funds to the 36 states and FCT.

“This is to ensure that the funds are spent to support the poorest and most vulnerable people, such as pensioners, People Living With Disabilities (PWDs), and not diverted, stolen or mismanaged,” he said.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

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PHED explains two months free electricity tariff for consumers, says it’s NASS proposal

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The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) has denied plan to offer two months free electricity to customers as part of palliative to cushion the effect of lockdown occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic.

PHED, however, said it welcomed the suggestion of a two months free electricity to Nigerians as proposed by the leadership of the National Assembly.

Mr John Onyi, the Managers, Corporate Communications of the company, made the clarifications in a statement, on Saturday in Yenagoa.

Onyi assured electricity consumers in Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River States that the company would continue with its operations until when discussions on the matter are concluded.

He said: “PHED wishes to state categorically that it supports the idea of free electricity to consumers in line with the suggestion by the leadership of the National Assembly to our Customers in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Bayelsa States as a palliative arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“However, customers should note that the  proposal is still under deliberation by all relevant stakeholders with a view to mapping out modalities on  implementation.

“While we await the official directives from the relevant government agencies, PHED as a responsible organisation, will not hesitate to comply with such directive if served accordingly.

“Meanwhile, our operations will continue as usual and customers are advised to pay their electricity bill pending the final decision from the government, while we will strive to serve our customers satisfactorily as promised,” he said.

Edited By: Rabiu Sani Ali
(NAN)

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NASS impressed with Presidential Task Force on COVID-19

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The leadership of the National Assembly has commended the competence of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha in containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila gave the commendation on Thursday at a meeting with the PTF in Abuja.

Lawan said that the PTF had done a good job so far by coordinating the fight against the pandemic and reaching out to the various states of the federation.

The senate president lauded the PTF for giving Nigerians daily updates on the national response strategy adopted to contain the virus.

The legislator suggested the harmonisation of the funds contributed by organisations and individuals to combat Covid-19 for accountability and efficient service delivery to Nigerians.

Earlier, Mustapha told the lawmakers that coronavirus had emerged as the most significant public health emergency of international concern spreading across 209 countries.

According to the PTF chairman, the world has recorded no fewer than 1.5 million cases across the 209 affected country.

“The disease has placed considerable and significant strain on the global health care system and the economy of the world.

“Given the relentless exponential growth rate witnessed in other countries, the spread of the virus in the continent and in particular in Nigeria should be expected.

​“The nation is at war against a very dangerous, unseen and ubiquitous enemy and all hands must be on deck to successfully prosecute the war,’’ Mustapha said.

Mustapha urged the National Assembly to develop a legislative framework to prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic and would transform the healthcare systems.

He urged the lawmakers to strengthen the legislative framework for economic growth through domestic manufacturing and deepen the legislative oversight during this pandemic and beyond.

The SGF called on the legislature to pass legislations that would further ease the ability of the executive to cushion the impact of the economic decline.

The PTF chairman told the lawmakers that the virus had spread to no fewer than 16 states with six deaths warning against illusion as it affects all and sundry.

Mustapha said that there is a high level political and multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms for preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that there is high level coordination of the United Nations agencies and other bilateral and multilateral partners, foundations and international bodies involved in the response resulting in a common United Nations Basket Fund.

He explained that it had accelerated procurement systems for good and services and attraction of donations from global philanthropists including Jack Ma as well as many corporate bodies operating in Nigeria.

The SGF said that the mobilisation of the States and Local Government areas resources were ongoing in preparation for the possible spread of the disease into communities.

Mustapha said the PTF had been working in conjunction with the states, especially on testing, detection, isolation, contact tracing and management of coronavirus cases. 

He noted that the pandemic had exposed the weaknesses in the global health systems advising that a plan be laid for the immediate, medium- and long-term development of the health system.

The SGF explained that the PTF will not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash donations for COVID-19.

According to him, the Accountant-General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through five commercial banks and also provided the modalities for its utilisation.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza
(NAN)

 

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General news

NASS staff, suspected to have COVID -19 infection, died of health complications – Plateau govt.

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The Plateau Government on Sunday confirmed that the  death of a National Assembly (NASS) staff, Joel Dewus, was not from COVID-19 as suspected but from other health complications.

The State Commissioner for Health, Mr Lar Noam, who confirmed the death in an interview with Nigeria News Agency said late Dewus  had been in  coma for two weeks at the Jos University Teaching Hospital  (JUTH) due to some health complications and not COVID-19.”

“As a government, we feel so sorry for the family of Dewus, who brought him in sick  from Abuja  to his home Town, Mangu, and then JUTH, he was  on  admission till his death this early morning of Sunday, April 5.

“When he was brought to JUTH from Na Allah Na Kowa Hospital, Mangu, two weeks ago, we took his blood sample and took it to Abuja for COVID-19 test but the result was negative on March 31, “ Ndam explained.

He expressed regret over the panic and controversies the late Dewus illness brought upon some residents of Plateau.

 “We kept explaining to the public that the NASS staff was suffering from a different ailment and not Coronavirus, yet some refused to believe us.

Also speaking on the death, the Chairman, Mangu Local Government,  Mr Lawrence Danat, said, “unfortunately the patient died in the early hours of today, Sunday April 5, 2020 of complications from different aliments.”

Danat,  in a statement signed by the council’s Information Officer, Mr Valentine Opiah, expressed regret over the death and sympathised with the family of the deceased.

Speaking on the controversy surrounding the ailment, Danat said: “The suspected case of COVID-19 regarding the health challenge of Dewus, who worked with the national assembly, Abuja has been confirmed negative.”

“The case was earlier reported to the authorities of Mangu local government area, precisely on Tuesday March 31, 2020 by the relations with a referral letter from Na Allah Na Kowa Hospital and l (Danat) immediately established contact with the Plateau State Taskforce team on COVID-19.

“The Mangu General Hospital was contacted by the Council to provide Ambulance which conveyed the patient to Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) where his samples were collected and sent to Abuja for COVID-19 laboratory test.

“Management of Mangu local government council hereby commiserates with the families of the deceased as well as dispel rumours making rounds especially in the social media that there is a case of COVID-19 in the area,” the chairman stated.

The LG boss, however, advised the citizens to constantly maintain personal hygiene by regularly washing their hands on running water with liquid soap and using hand sanitisers as well as observing social distancing in any gathering.

/ AMY

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma and Abdullahi Yusuf
(NAN)

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Politics

COVID-19: PDP tasks NASS on proposed N500bn intervention fund

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has called on the National Assembly to scrutinise the overall profile of the N500 billion proposed by the Federal Government as intervention fund against COVID-19.

The party, in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, on Saturday in Abuja, said the call was important  to ensure that the fund reached the desired targets.

Ologbondiyan called on the legislature to examine the expenditure layout and put adequate clauses to eliminate diversion.

He also urged the lawmakers to ensure prudence, as well as guarantee broad-based transparency in target-specific disbursements across all areas of need in the fight against the pandemic.

The PDP spokesperson said the call was predicated on apprehensions in the public space over allegations of diversion of funds in the recent disbursement of N20,000 social palliative.

He urged the National Assembly to demand the Federal government to furnish it with details of how the N500bn would be spent.

Ologbondiyan also called on the lawmakers to ask what amount would be spent on interventions on individuals and families, as well as a template that guaranteed that the fund would get to vulnerable Nigerians.

“The PDP insists that such information should also include details of what each state of the federation gets; the parameters for allocations, the monitoring system and foolproof measures to block all loopholes and check fraud.

“The Federal Government needs to place these details before the National Assembly.

“This money, which is to be mopped up from various special government accounts, belongs to Nigerians.

“As such, the National Assembly must ensure that it is fully utilised for their well-being.

“The PDP therefore, urges the National Assembly to instill checks and balances, by ensuring implementation involves trusted and transparent eminent Nigerians from the private sector, to further guarantee accountability and overall confidence of Nigerians in the scheme,” he said.

Ologbondiyan also called on the National Assembly to direct a quick investigation into allegations of diversion of the N20,000 social palliative.

According to him, the direct disbursement of the money instead of going through the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN), is part of a design to manipulate the system and stifle accountability of the funds.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Nyisom Fiyigon Dore
(NAN)

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Politics

COVID-19: FG seeks NASS approval for N500bn intervention fund

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The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Saturday met with the leadership of the National Assembly to intimate it on an Executive proposal to establish a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.

Ola Awoniyi, the Special Adviser to the President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in a statement said that the minister held the meeting with the President of the Senate and senior officials of the ministry at the National Assembly Complex in the Federal Capital Territory.

Also in attendance were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, and some principal officers of both Chambers.

The meeting is a follow-up to another one held on March 25 between the National Assembly leadership and members of the Presidential Committee set up for the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

“What we are proposing is the establishment of a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund.

“This Fund that we are proposing should be created will involve mopping up resources from various special accounts that the government as well as the Federation have to be able to pull this N500 billion,” the minister said.

Ahmed added that in addition to the identified special accounts from where the money would be drawn as loans, the proposed intervention fund would also be sourced from grants being expected and loans from multilateral institutions.

“Our general view is that this crisis intervention fund is to be utilised to upgrade healthcare facilities as earlier identified.

“The Federal Government also needs to be in a position to improve health care facilities not only in the states but to provide intervention to the states,’’ she said.

Ahmed explained to the lawmakers that the Fund, if approved, would also take care of special Public Work Programmes currently being implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).

“We know that there will be a need for the parliament to agree and approve the taking of loans from these special accounts and we will be coming back with a proposed bill in that regard that will define what the fund will be used for,’’ the minister said.

Earlier in his remarks, the Senate President said the meeting was in fulfilment of an earlier promise to provide support as the need arises in this time of crisis.

“Just like we told Nigerians, when there is need for us to meet or to take legislative action in support of ensuring that the government responds appropriately to development issues and challenges in the country, we will do so.

“This meeting, the second in the series after we shut down the National Assembly for two weeks, is a clear testimony of what we have said.

“Governance requires that we work together, so we want to listen to those things that you have on your side and how we can also play our constitutional role in ensuring that Nigerians continue to benefit from governance.

“And to also see how we are able to weather the storm created by COVID-19.

“Going forward, we need to interact more because very fundamental decisions will need to be taken, and these decisions can only be said to be constitutionally legal if the legislature gives its stamp of authority for the executive to implement and execute.

“I think coming to us for those loans is critical because we are in an emergency and time is of the essence.

“So, we must work as expeditiously as possible to ensure that we place the request before the National Assembly.

“I think time has come for us to redefine the implementation of the Social Intervention Programme, because probably going out to communities to give them N20,000 per person might not be the best way to go.

“It is still an effort, but I think we need a better approach that will be more efficient,’’ Lawan said.

Edited By: Oluyinka Fadare/Sadiya Hamza
(NAN)

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Politics

COVID-19: CSOs urge NASS to monitor CBN N50 bn palliative through oversight

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The `Say No’ Campaign, a coalition of civil society organisations has urged the National Assembly to monitor utilisation of the N50 billion palliative announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over Coronavirus.

Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, Co-convener of the `Say No’ Campaign, made the appeal in a statement in Abuja on Friday.

Nwagwu said that the action was to ensure some level of transparency and accountability in disbursement of the palliative aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that members of the coalition included -YIAGA Africa, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa, and Centre for Transparency Advocacy.

Nwagwu said that the CBN announced recently that it had set aside various intervention funds for start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises.

He said that the measure was to support and mitigate the impact of the global pandemic, COVID-19, in order to boost activities and survival of the enterprises.

“According to the statement from the apex bank, the sum of 136 million dollars that is N50 billion is to be released to help small companies stay afloat, pharmaceutical companies to produce patent drugs and medical supplies.

“It is to also assist households mostly hit by the scourge. Other beneficiaries mentioned are hoteliers and airline service providers.

“We, the under listed `Say No’ Campaign coalition, therefore, consider this a proactive step at curtailing a severe economic meltdown as a result of the global shutdown currently being experienced due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

“While this move is highly commendable, we will like to emphasise the need to put in place some transparency and accountability measures that will provide all affected companies a level playing ground of benefiting from this intervention.

“It should also ensure that the fund is judiciously used for the purpose for which it was set aside,” he said.

Nwagwu said that over the years, billions of Naira had been released in different initiatives by the CBN as supportive measures targeted at boosting the nation’s economy.

He said that accountability for these funds in improving the nation’s economy remained a matter of debate and institutional claims.

The co-convener said further that the recent effort by the apex bank may be frustrated, if the process of accessing or securing the fund was compromised.

“There is a need to deliberately track and monitor the disbursement and effective utilisations of the fund to ensure prudency, thereby preventing diversion by unscrupulous opportunists.

“We will like to also emphasise the need for the apex bank to clearly state the criteria for determining the ‘household most hit’ by the scourge.

“This is to forestall the eventuality of making the process of selection susceptible to manipulation that may lead to some individuals having undue advantage because of their positions or affiliations.

“The process must be designed to ensure that no vested interest is accorded any advantage at the expense of those who are deserving of this crucial intervention.

“We, therefore, call on the leadership of the National Assembly to proactively deploy its oversight function to monitor these funds as released by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“This is to ensure benefiting companies/businesses, especially the pharmaceuticals utilise the funds for the purpose for which they are disbursed,’’ Nwagwu said.

He said that the coalition further requested that a CBN intervention fund tracking committee comprising the apex bank, relevant trade unions, civil society bodies and other relevant stakeholders be immediately set-up.

This, he said, was for the sole purpose of ensuring that all relevant and agreed protocols are complied with in the spirit of fairness and equity.

He said that this would ensure transparency and further heighten general confidence level in the process, thereby checkmating the nefarious activities of possible vested interest that will be out to ensure that efforts of the government and particularly the apex bank were truncated.

He said that the group also urged other civil society groups and citizens’ movements to remain active in monitoring the developments in the overall interest of the country and the prosperity of its people.

Nwagwu said that the coalition would be making a freedom of information request to the CBN, as soon as it became necessary to do so, on the details of the disbursement of intervention funds including the beneficiaries.

“This is to ascertain that the process adheres to the principles of fairness, equity and accountability.

“This will also help the coalition in verifying that all established and agreed protocols are adhered to in the overall interest of the country.

“The `Say No’ Campaign is committed to the fight against corruption and impunity and to ensure accountability and good governance in Nigeria,” he said.

Edited By: Oluyinka Fadare/Ali Baba-Inuwa
(NAN)

 

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Economy

COVID-19: NASSI decries slow pace in commercial activities

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The Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), has decried the slow pace in commercial activities facing the chain of manufacturing, distribution and consumption in Nigeria due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Solomon Vongfa, National President of NASSI, in a statement on Thursday in Abuja said that the pandemic had crippled the commercial life of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) across the nation.

Vongfa stated that the MSME’s occupied more than 70 per cent of Nigerian work force.

According to him, the current global health challenge has forced members of this productive sector to shut down their plants and companies across the country, thus running at a loss.

As a solution, the NASSI president requested the kind assistance of the Federal Government to support the MSME’s in order to revive and stimulate their businesses.

He also appreciated the Federal Government efforts and in particular the current release of N50 billion intervention fund through the Central Bank of Nigeria to support the growth of MSME’s nationwide.

In addition, he solicited for immediate support by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to aid the MSME’s family at this period of global health challenge.

“The development of Nigerian economy to compete globally can be spurred by major stakeholders through the application of local content and looking inwards to Nigeria local resources.

“This will naturally stimulate industrialisation, create wealth and reduce crime in a nation of more than 200 million people,” he said.

He, however, expressed appreciation to the entire MSMEs sector and Nigerians for their patience during this trying period.

Edited By: Abiodun Esan/Donald Ugwu
(NAN)

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Environment

Coronavirus: EHORECON strengthens surveillance in NASS, OSGF, Fed. Sec.

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The Environmental Health Officer Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) says it is committed to strengthening surveillance at various sensitive areas in the FCT to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Dr Yakubu Baba, the Registrar and Director, Education and Training of EHORECON, said this at a sensitisation and awareness creation on how to prevent CORVIC-19 on Wednesday in Abuja.

Baba said that the Minister of the Environment, Mr Muhammad Mahmood, gave the directive to the entire environmental health workforce to establish the environmental health surveillance in institutions risk.

He said that the EHORECON visited National Assembly, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (OSGF) Head of Service and Federal Secretariat, as the most sensitive areas in the FCT.

He said that EHORECON had established the surveillance and screening desk in all the departments in the ministry before the outbreak began.

“So, we need to scale up this surveillance to cover sensitive areas more, especially now with the current situation that some of the senior officials are really affected with the disease.

“It is pertinent to strengthen our surveillance; it is also pertinent to really be on ground to see how we can contain the disease in the country.

“We are going to scale up the screening; we are extending to national assembly, OSGF, the presidential villa, head of service and federal secretariat, where it has most of the ministries.

“The EHORECON is equally directed to also enforce the social distance protocol and make sure that the surveillance is establish in some areas in the FCT.

“We have equally informed our members in Lagos State to start the same exercise because FCT and Lagos are the key states that are in the red zone.

“We are going to extend this not only in the public places also in the household and in the entire communities to advocate and educate public how they can avoid.’’

Baba said that EHORECON supposed to be in the frontline, adding that the ministry was providing all the logistic for the council to ensure effective service delivery.

He said that one of the responsibilities of the environmental health officer was to assess and monitor the isolation and the quarantine centres by ensuring that the environment was safe.

Edited By: Grace Yussuf
(NAN)

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Politics

Covid-19: Clerk orders total shutdown of NASS Complex

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The management of the National Assembly has ordered a total shutdown of the complex as a measure to curtail the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The Clerk of the Assembly, Mr Ataba Sani-Omolori issued the directive in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.

Sani-Omokoro said that the decision was taken in conjunction with the leadership of the Senate and the House of the Representatives.

“Following growing concerns over the rising incidence of COVID -19 in the country, the leadership of both houses and the management of the National Assembly have directed all staff including legislative aides to remain at home for the next two weeks.

“Legislators and staff of the assembly are encouraged to adhere to the professional advice from the Minister of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control.

“Only clerks of both chambers, Directors and Heads of departments are expected to show up at work in the National Assembly,” he said.

The directive also made it clear that all banks and other businesses within the complex are expected to be closed for the period.

NAN reports that 44 has so far been reported to have been infected by the novel coronavirus in the country.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza
(NAN)

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Politics

ICRC advises NASS to domesticate International Humanitarian Law

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Mr Eloi Fillion, Head of Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has advised the National Assembly to domesticate the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Fillion said this in a statement issued by ICRC Public Relations Officer, Mr Aliyu Dawobe on Thursday in Abuja.

Dawobe said Fillion gave the advice at the ongoing joint 2-day workshop by the House of Representatives and ICRC in Abuja.

“The IHL protects those who do not, or no longer participate in hostilities, like civilians, detainees, the wounded and the sick.

“ The aim of the workshop is to improve the understanding of IHL.

“We hope that the workshop will inspire the parliamentarians to prioritise the domestication of IHL treaties.

“Such as the Kampala Convention on internally displaced persons, to strengthen the protection of civilians and foster good relationships between the House of Representatives and the ICRC,’’    Fillion said.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, said the IHL had guided members to deploy appropriate method in warfare.

“IHL is how we regulate the means and methods of warfare so that we may yet safeguard our humanity from the tribulations of war,” he said.

Gbajabiamila, was represented by the Deputy House Leader Mr Ahmed Idris Wase at the event.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Ali Baba-Inuwa
(NAN)

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