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DR. BUKOLA SARAKI RESPOND TO RUMORED FUEL HIKE ALLEGATION……Described it as false and wicked report!

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President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has described as both false and wicked the swirling reports about likely fuel hike, allegedly being orchestrated by the Senate, saying there is no such intention in the first place.

Saraki, who said he was going to order an official statement to that effect, however dismissed as a lazy type of journalism the habit of taking innocuous reports on the surface and misinterpreting them as if such writers have predetermined motives.

In the same vein, the Senate has said the recommended increase in the pump price of petrol and diesel by N5 per litre, remains a proposal that is yet to be reviewed by the Senate as a whole. The legislative body however assured Nigerians that it would reject any proposal to increase the price of fuel, just as it abolished fixed electricity charges and rejected the hike in hike in data price.

Addressing the issue in an exclusive chat with THISDAY yesterday, Saraki said the story was obviously taken from the report of a public hearing on road maintenance, which suggested taxing the already existing templates of internal inflow, such that would not affect the pump price of petroleum or the end users.

According to him, since appropriation for the road maintenance was no longer feasible and it was important they took care of it, the idea was suggested that they looked inward, perhaps, by reviewing the Petroleum Products Pricing regulatory Agency (PPPRA) inflow template and see the areas the suggested N5.00 could be taken from, albeit in bits.

He said, for instance, the public hearing reports identified some of the steady inflow from the ports in terms of charges, from where some bits could be taken, adding that the overriding instruction was that the N5.00 must not reflect on the pump price or passed down to the consumer in whatever way.

“I am surprised therefore that anybody would take such a report and turned it on its head. Do I call that lazy journalism or what? The report is so false and wicked that you can’t but see the sinister intention in it. The charge to maintain road is in no way a concern to the public because it would not be passed down to them.

“But because anything that is anti-senate sells quickly, nobody bothered to find out the true picture and the negative report sold like wildfire, when indeed, it was the imagination of the writers and possibly their sponsors.

I am going to get Yusuph (his media aide) to issue a statement on this. Whether or not the critics of the Senate like it, we are and will always be pro-masses.

“Whatever this Senate does, even if it appears in the estimation of our critics as anti-people, is done first with the interest of the people factored critically into accounts. We set out ab initio to protect our people and their interest and that has remained our guiding principle. We will not depart from it. Now ask yourself, on what basis will an increase in the pump price of fuel be justified at this period, when you consider the state of the economy?

“Maybe those who sold the story and their sponsors would have an answer. We are not insensate representatives and if that is the impression that some out there want registered in the subconscious of the people about the senate, then, they will try harder. Check out our records and genuinely analyse them, we have consistently been pro-masses of this great country and that is not going to change,” he maintained.

The Senate on its Twitter handle @NGRSenate yesterday said there was no cause for alarm over the issue which had already drawn condemnation from several sections of the country.

The tweets read: “Story about recommended increase in price of fuel remains a proposal. It has not been reviewed by Senate plenary which comprises of all 109.”

“Rest assured senate that abolished fixed electricity charges, halted hike in data price & much more will not support increase in fuel price This recommendation, like all reports, will still be reviewed & debated at plenary in line with Senate procedures and democratic practices.

“Committee Report on funding road was being deliberated, when salient issues arose which led to the stepping down to clarify grey areas. Absolutely no proposal to increase fuel price! What was discussed at public hearing with stakeholders is the need for ways to maintain roads.”

“While everyone agreed on need to set aside a particular amount to fix roads, a proviso was set that price of fuel SHOULD NOT BE INCREASED. Even for purpose of funding road maintenance, we must maintain charges as it exists within the PPPRA template of PMS at 145 Naira.”

The Senate Committee on Works recently presented for enactment by the upper chamber, a proposed law titled: ‘The National Road Fund Establishment Bill’, which is part of the 11 economic reform bills initiated by the Senate and already endorsed by the House of Representatives. The 11 economic recovery bills from where the National Road Fund Bill originated was initiated by the National Assembly leadership to help take the country out of recession.

They are the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill; National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill; National Road Fund Bill; Federal Roads Authority Act (Amendment) Bill; and National Transport Commission (Establishment) Bill.

Others are Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill; Warehouse Receipts Act (Amendment) Bill; Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) (Amendment) Bill; Investment and Securities Act (ISA); Customs and Excise Management Act and Federal Competition Bill.

However, the nine sources identified for generating revenue for the planned National Roads Fund are fuel levy of five naira (N5) chargeable per litre on any volume of petrol and diesel products imported into Nigeria and on locally refined petroleum products, as well as axle load control charges.

There is also the toll fees (a percentage not exceeding 10% of any revenue paid as user charge per vehicle on any federal road designated as a toll road, but not applicable to PPP roads); international vehicle transit charges; and inter-state mass transit user charge of 0.5% deductible from the fare paid by passengers to commercial mass transit operators on inter-state roads.

The bill also recommended road fund surcharge of 0.5% chargeable on the assessed value of any vehicle imported at any time into Nigeria; lease, licence or other fees which shall be 10% of the revenue accruing from lease or licence or other fees pertaining to non-vehicular road usages along any federal road and collected by the federal roads agency.

On the list too are grants and loans, and gifts of land, money or other property. The bill further stated that the National Roads Fund would be established with a high level of independence under the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry of Finance, which will only oversee the fund for policy direction.

The Senator Kabiru Gaya-led Committee on Works, which processed the bill, said “The National Roads Fund shall set aside an amount not exceeding 3% of the total monies accruing to it in the preceding year as Administrative Fund.”

The bill was recently listed on the Order Paper but could not be considered, because of time constraint. Gaya, a representative of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Kano State, however pleaded with the Senate to pass the bill to facilitate the nation’s economic recovery.

The committee report was reportedly signed by 15 members and they were Gaya (chairman), Clifford Ordia (vice chairman), Mao Ohuabunwa, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Biodun Olujimi, Ben Bruce, Gilbert Nnaji, Abubakar Kyari, Ibrahim Danbaba, Mustapha Bukar, Ahmed Ogembe, Sani Mustapha and Buruji Kashamu as members.

Unfortunately, the stories were written in a way that suggested that the end users, in this case the people were to pay for the increase. The import of the proposed fuel levy charge, according to the reports, was that end-users, including motorists, would pay N5 tax on every litre of fuel bought at any fuel station, insinuating that “This will worsen the hardship most Nigerians currently face.”

In a similar development, the Special Adviser to the Senate President (social media), Mr. Bamikole Omishore, in a statement made further clarifications on the matter.

“At the Public hearing on the National Roads Fund Bill the stakeholders were unanimous on the need to access a percentage of the funds for the sustainable maintenance of roads from the pricing template of petroleum products. While the unanimity was on a percentage, opinion varied as to what percentage. Some argued for 25%, 11%, 7% and 5% of the value of the price of the product.

“This position was held strongly since most other African countries have actually implemented an average of N25 surcharge on petroleum products for the maintenance of their roads.

“It was the widely-held view that we may not be able to go that far in view of the economic challenges the country was going through and the need to ameliorate the suffering of the ordinary Nigerian.

“The technical committee in review this submission determined that even at a surcharge of 5% which leaves the value at about N11 (at the current price of PMS) will be untenable not only due to implementation challenge that would have require that at all times, the surcharge will mean an addition burden is placed on Nigerians beyond the cost of the petroleum product.”

“Rather it was agreed that the charge be pegged at N5 (five naira) and implemented within the existing charges template rather than a calculation arrived at in addition to the price of the product.”

“Therefore, what the Senate has adopted is an innovative and most sensitive approach to eliminate the possibility of increasing the price of fuel in order to fund the Roads Fund. Now with what we have the charge on petroleum products for the purpose of funding road maintenance will have to be determined within the charges template as they already existing within the PPPRA template.

“Finally, it’s important therefore to make it clear that there is no ambiguity in what the Senate has done as there will be no one naira added to the current price of fuel as a result of this bill.

“The charge is to be accommodated within the pricing charge template in effect within the PPPRA. What the Senate has adopted is the minimalist approach to ensure that our roads can come back to life.”

“Where we are with our roads and why the need for the National Roads Funds: 77% of our roads are classified as dilapidated and dangerous, one of the highest in Africa. The average in Africa is 25%.”

“A total of 12, 077 road crashes were recorded across the country in 2015, the News Agency of Nigeria notes. Nigeria is ranked second-highest in the rate of road accidents among 193 countries of the world.”

“WHO adjudge Nigeria the most dangerous country in Africa with 33.7 deaths per 100,000 population every year. According to WHO, one in every four road accident deaths in Africa occurs in Nigeria”, he added.

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More Troubles For Umo Eno As Court Rejects Stay-of-execution Request

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed an application filed by Pastor Umo Eno seeking a stay-of-execution of the Order which had nullified his nomination as the PDP governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State.

The court which nullified Eno’s nomination, ordered that he should be replaced with Rt. Hon. Michael Enyong as the authentic PDP candidate.

In throwing out the request for stay of execution, the Court ruled that Umo Eno was never a party to the case filed by Enyong, and so his request could not be entertained by the COurt. The court therefore described Umo Eno as ‘’meddlesome interloper’’ for seeking to file an application in a matter he was never a party of.

Recall that in a judgement delivered on January 20, Justice Fadima Aminu of the FHC, Abuja, had ordered the PDP to submit Enyong’s name to INEC as its candidate. In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1295/2022 filed in August, Enyong had submitted that he won the party’s primary held on May 25. The defendant in the case was PDP. Enyong did not join Eno as a party in his case. How clever!

This means that it is only the PDP that has the locus to file an appeal or stay of execution application against the judgement which sacked Eno. So far, the PDP’s National Legal Adviser (NLA) is not willing to participate in the matter especially since he was never carried along in all the Umo Eno legal matters. Rather, the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the Party had always engaged Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem (the former NLA) as its legal counsel, totally sidelining the current National Legal Adviser. Recall also that the PDP National Legal Adviser had a few weeks ago issued a public statement announcing that it is only the NLA that has the authority to brief and engage lawyers holding briefs for the party. The public statement had also warned party members to desist from engaging lawyers without his knowledge.

Meantime, I understand that Enyong’s lawyers had served INEC with the Court order and his name would soon be published by the electoral umpire as PDP’s authentic governorship candidate.

My Take:

1. The chances of Umo Eno returning to his former status as the governorship candidate is very, very slim. It probably will not happen.

2. Gov. Udom Emmanuel and the PDP have yet to come to terms with the fact that Umo Eno’s name has been deleted as the candidate. They are inconsolable in anger, grief and pain. ‘’They are experiencing a great sense of separation, akin to the overwhelming feeling of loss which one experiences when he is bereaved’’, says a political analyst and business man, Elder Aniefiok Isatt.

3. This development is also the greatest setback and the most devastating blow the PDP has ever suffered in the state since 1999. This case might just be some kind of ‘’Nunc Dimittis’’ for the PDP in the State.

4. Privatively, PDP stalwarts are quick to blame the governor for the woes that has befallen the party this season. They believe that by imposing a very unpopular person as the candidate, the governor had bruised and hurt the majority of the members.

5. The question many are pondering is: Will Udom Emmanuel take to Enyong and accept him as the PDP candidate, thus conceding that Umo Eno was never God’s revelation, contrary to what he told the people; or will the governor leave Enyong to his own devices and embrace a different person?

 

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Our Client Wanted To Say ‘Pupsy’, Not Her Private Parts — Lawyer Defends Embattled Nigerian Polytechnic Female Graduate

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Barrister Ikechukwu Nwaopara, a legal practitioner representing the interest of Sharon Ogechi Okoroafor, the graduating student of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, who went viral on social media for saying that she graduated with the help of God and her private parts, has said his client was misinterpreted.

The lawyer, who made the appeal to the institution’s management in a statement made available to newsmen, claimed that their client had no intention of disparaging the institution’s reputation, standards or integrity.

The statement reads: “We are solicitors to OKOROAFOR OGECHI SHARON (our client under our Pro Bono (Free Legal Services) on whose behalf we write this memo to you.

“We are aware that she will be facing the school disciplinary panel this morning, and we wish to use this medium to express our confidence that the panel will carry out their duties in compliance with the principles of Fair hearing, good conscience and natural justice, devoid of harassment, intimidation, and threats.

“We have met and discussed with our Client and evidence before us shows that she has no intention to defame the character, standard and integrity of the institution. In her words what happened in the said viral video was a slip of tongue as a result of her uncontrollable ecstasy over her graduation. Her intended words were “God and Pupsy” in appreciation of the Almighty God and her dad.

“It is clear, therefore, that she had no intention whatsoever to use such a “foul word” in the said viral video to cajole or blackmail the institution, as no lecturer or name of the institution was mentioned or referred to in the said viral video.

“Our lawyers are already on ground at the institution now to follow up the proceedings at the panel against any form of intimidation or harassment. The integrity and standard of the said institution is not in doubt especially since my senior brother, Rev Dr Arimanwa took over as the Rector. Indeed, justice is for all parties.”

We had reported that after Sharon’s video went viral on the internet, the management of the institution announced that it would investigate her action as it was capable of dragging the reputation of the school to the mud.

 

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Alleged N1.4bn Fraud: Witness Reveals How Kogi Assembly Candidate, Atumeyi Fraudulently Benefitted N681m from Union Bank Customers’ Accounts

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The first prosecution witness, PW1, Olusegun Falola, in the ongoing trial of Ismaila Yousouf Atumeyi, a Kogi State House of Assembly candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, and two others, on Monday, January 31, 2023, told Justice Tijani Ringim of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos how the sum of N681m (Six Hundred and Eighty-one Million Naira) was paid into Atumeyi’s business account.

Atumeyi is standing trial alongside Ngene Joshua Dominic and Abdulmalik Salau, a former employee of Union Bank Plc, on an 18-count charge bordering on alleged cybercrime and money laundering to the tune of N1.4bn.

Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, Falola, an Internal Auditor and Team Lead, General Investigations, Union Bank Plc, told the court that “sometime in October 2022, during the periodic internal review of accounts of customers, we observed that some accounts that were placed on No-debit were debited.

“In the course of our review, it was observed that the methodology employed in debiting the said accounts was different from the way accounts are being debited in the normal banking activity.

“Based on this, the case was assigned to me for further internal investigation. During the review, I observed that beyond the few accounts that were referred to me for investigation, there were other numerous accounts that were being debited.

“Furthermore, the debits on these accounts were traced to two beneficiaries, Atus Homes Limited account and Fav Oil and Gas Limited.

“These two accounts received the sum of N681m and N1.38bn, respectively from the account of 429 customers.”

He also told the court that further investigations revealed that Atumeyi is the signatory to the Atus Homes Limited account, while the signatories to Fav Oil and Gas are Shuaibu Yusuf and Nurudeen.

According to him, all illicit debits on the customers’ accounts were done via internet banking on one of the bank’s platforms known as Union 360.

Giving further testimony, he said: “As at the time of investigation, over 600m had been withdrawn from the account of Atus Homes Limited and over N800m withdrawn from Fav Oil and Gas.

“We also realized that they were able to make those fraudulent transfers because the bank system was fraudulently manipulated.

“It was this realization that made us know that only a person with privileged information on the bank’s information technology could have carried out such illicit transactions.

“It was based on that knowledge that we reported the matter to the EFCC for further investigation.”

Oyedepo sought to tender the petition written to the EFCC, the correspondences between EFCC and the bank as well as the defendants’ statements of account that had been identified by the PW1.

However, counsel to the third defendant, Babatunde Ogunwo, objected to the admissibility of the attached statement of account on the grounds that the prosecution had not sufficiently complied with Section 84 (2) 2(4) of the Evidence Act.

“I strongly believe that the prosecution has not satisfied the provisions of Section 84 (2) 2(4) of the Evidence Act. All I heard the witness say is questions put to him by the prosecution.

“However Section 84(2) of the Evidence Act gives conditions more than what the witness has stated.

“There are four legs as stated by the Evidence Act and the witness has only answered one. These conditions have to be complied with.

“I humbly submit that the prosecution has not complied with the conditions stated for the admissibility of the statements of account”, Ogunwo argued.

Responding, Oyedepo said that the argument of the defence counsel was misconceived and also missed its target.

He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the objection of the defence.

He also submitted that the certificate of identification as enshrined in the Section of the Evidence Act “is not a ritual that must be performed in achieving admissibility of computer-generated evidences.”

He further argued that “where the issue is as to the failure to comply with procedural steps towards admissibility, the order the court will make is not to reject the document, but to urge the tendering party to regularize.

“This document is relevant in the determination of this matter and I urge my Lord to so hold.”

In a short ruling, Justice Ringim overruled the objection of the defence and admitted the evidence in exhibit.

Justice Ringim also granted the second defendant, Dominic, bail on the same terms of the 3rd defendant, as granted on January 6, 2023.

The matter was adjourned to February 2, 2023 for continuation of trial.

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