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$9.6b Judgment Debt: CSOs Storm UK, Irish Embassies

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

The Coalition of Civil Society Groups (CCSG), on Monday stormed the  British High Commission and the Irish Embassy in Abuja protesting the award of a $9.6 billion fine against Nigeria by a United Kingdom court following a botched oil deal.

A United Kingdom Arbitration Court had in its judgement on the 16th of August, 2019, awarded $9.

6 billion in favor of Process & Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID). 

The protesters, as early as 8am gathered at the British and Irish Embassies in Abuja carrying various placards calling on authorities to promptly act on the matter.

Some of the placards read: “P&ID $9.6 bn Judgment in UK is a fraud; Boris Johnson help President Buhari Fight corruption; 200 million Nigerians are against $9.6b judgement; Boris Johnson please call British Judge to order; we call for the reversal of the judgment”.

The group is asking the court to overturn the judgement claiming it was politically motivated and that the private company involved did not follow due process in the oil contract deal.

In a protest letter addressed to the British High Commissioner, the CCSG said, “we consider the judgment as a travesty to justice, disrespect to the sovereignty of the Nigerian Government as the case is not supposed to be heard in a foreign country where the said irregularity was committed”.

The letter which was signed by the Group’s President, Etuk Basset Williams and Secretary General, Mallam Abubakar Ibrahim said ” we consider it as a deliberate effort to deter the effort of the Nigerian Government towards the fight against corruption. We are strongly opposed to this judgment”.

“It is disheartening to observe the questionable commitment and resolve of the tribunal sitting in UK to go  ahead with the judgment despite being served the court ruling in Nigeria which gave the Federal Government of Nigeria the leave to review the contract fur to the irregularitued found in the way and manner with which the contract was signed.

While we appreciate and respect the responsibility and duty of courts, we frown at the steps taken by the company (P&ID) and the Tribunal in UK towards the dispute involving Nigerian and P&ID.

” Thus we use this medium to express our dissatisfaction to this illegal process and lack of due recognition of our sovereignty as a nation and the interest of the Nigerian people “, the letter added.

The group further said while it recognized the cordial relationship that had existed between the Governments of Nigeria and Britain, it urged ” the two parties to review the contract and negotiate the payment awarded against Nigeria”.

Although no officials of the two embassies came out to address the group or collect their letter, they however promised to continue the protests for one week until they are given attention.

Foreign News

1 killed as Kenyan Anti-government Protests Intensify Again

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At least one person was killed in renewed anti-government protests across Kenya on Tuesday, a Reuters reporter said, as police clashed with demonstrators demanding that President William Ruto step down.

Youth-led nationwide protests that broke out a month ago against proposed tax hikes have continued even after Ruto withdrew the legislation and fired almost all of his cabinet.

Activists say they want Ruto to resign and are calling for systemic changes to clean up corruption and address poor governance.

At least 50 people have been killed in the protests to date, the government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said on Tuesday.

In Kitengela, a town on the southern outskirts of the capital Nairobi, police fired repeatedly in the direction of hundreds of protesters, some of whom were throwing rocks, Reuters TV footage showed.

The protesters also burned tyres, waved Kenyan flags and chanted “Ruto must go!”

A Reuters reporter saw the body of one protester lying on the ground with blood oozing from a head wound.

The national police spokesperson declined to comment.

Tuesday’s protests appeared to be some of the biggest since Ruto withdrew the tax increases on June 26.

The Nation newspaper reported demonstrations in at least 23 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

In Nairobi’s city centre, riot police fired tear gas at several dozen protesters. An ambulance service posted footage on X showing its personnel carrying away someone injured there on a stretcher.

Demonstrators in the coastal city of Mombasa waved palm fronds as they marched, while litter burned in the street, images on Kenyan television channels showed.

The protests have created the biggest crisis of Ruto’s two years in power.

With Kenya spending over 30 per cent of its revenues just paying the interest bills on its debt, he has been caught between the demands of lenders to cut deficits and a hard-pressed population reeling from rising living costs.

“Ruto is very incompetent. He has no leadership skills. He just wanted the title of president of this country,” said one protester in Nairobi who did not give his name.

“The guy is a puppet to the IMF. That is it. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing for the IMF.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been a major target of the ire of young Kenyan protesters, who have accused it of being the driving force behind the proposed tax hikes.

The IMF has said its main goal through its lending programmes with Kenya has been helping the country overcome economic challenges and improve its people’s well-being.

Ruto’s office had announced “multi-sectoral” talks for this week to address grievances raised by the protesters, but there was no sign they had begun.

Most of the leading activists behind the protests have rejected the invitation, instead calling for immediate action on issues like corruption.

Ruto’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The protests began peacefully but later turned violent.

Some demonstrators briefly stormed parliament on June 25, and the police opened fire.

In addition to the 50 deaths, 413 people have been injured, 682 have been arbitrarily detained and 59 have been abducted or are missing in connection with the protests, KNCHR said.

Ruto has promised to investigate accusations of abuse but has broadly defended the conduct of the police and accused criminals of hijacking peaceful protests.

On Monday, he accused the Ford Foundation, an American philanthropic organisation, of sponsoring those who had caused “violence and mayhem” in Kenya, without providing evidence.

The Ford Foundation rejected the allegation, saying it did not fund or sponsor the protests and has a strictly non-partisan policy for its grant-making. (Reuters/NAN)

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Court Nullifies ECOWAS Commission Staff’s Dismissal

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The ECOWAS Court of Justice has nullified the dismissal of Mr Momodu Cham, a former staff of the Commission, saying it breached Article 69 of the ECOWAS staff regulations.

Cham had filed the suit following his dismissal from his position as a Procurement Officer with the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing (GIABA), a specialised ECOWAS agency.

The applicant, a community citizen residing in Banjul, Gambia, had joined the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) and its President, as first and second Respondents, respectively, in the suit challenging his sack.

Delivering judgment, Justice Dupe Atoki, the Judge Rapporteur, held that the cessation of Cham’s salary by the Commission before the exhaustion of the appeal process was arbitrary, unlawful, null, and void.

According to Justice Atoki, the action of the Commission is contrary to Article 73(b) of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

The Court, therefore, ordered the Respondents to pay Cham his salary arrears and other entitlements from January 2021 to June 2021, as compensation.

It further ordered the Commission to pay Mr Cham’s salaries and emoluments from July to December 2021 as compensation for the unlawful dismissal.

“Requesting an on-the-spot response to charges without prior notice or an opportunity to prepare a defense violates procedural safeguards outlined in the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

“The regulations are designed to ensure an Applicant’s rights are fully maintained until the Council’s final decision.

“Consequently, the summary dismissal of the Applicant by the 2nd Respondent breached Article 69 of the regulation.

“Therefore, the cessation of the Applicant’s salary and other emoluments after invoking the right of appeal is a violation of Article 73(b) of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations,” Justice Atoki held.

The Court, however, declined to grant any orders for mandatory injunctions against the Commission and reinstatement of the applicant .

The Applicant had contended at the trial that he was suspended on July 11, 2019, following a forensic audit report by Ernst and Young UK, which implicated him in irregularities related to the purchase of IT equipment for GIABA.

He said that on Jan. 26, 2021, he was summarily dismissed, and his salaries and emoluments were withheld in violation of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

Cham had prayed the court to grant him several reliefs, including a declaration that his dismissal was arbitrary, null, and void.

He also sought an order setting aside his dismissal and the immediate payment of his salary arrears and other entitlements from January 2021.

The applicant had also prayed for his reinstatement to his position as a Procurement Officer and compensation for costs incurred in prosecuting the suit.

The Respondents, in their defense, had however, maintained that the applicant was properly suspended and later dismissed following a forensic audit report and a subsequent query.

They had also argued that the dismissal was appropriate due to the allegations of gross misconduct, embezzlement, theft, fraud, and abuse of trust.

The three-member panel also had Justices Gberi-bè Ouattara, presiding, and  Sengu Mohamed Koroma, as a member.(NAN)

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UN Warns Against Israeli Evacuation Orders in Gaza

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UN humanitarians on Wednesday warned against Israeli evacuation orders in Gaza City, noting that it will only fuel mass further suffering for Palestinians.

The directive, issued by the Israeli military, follows evacuation orders affecting several parts of the city in recent days.

“These civilians must be protected – and their essential needs must be met, whether they flee or stay,” UN reliet coordinator office (OCHA) said in a statement.

“This is what we mean when we say that all parties must respect international humanitarian law, at all times.

The situation is unfolding as a new round of negotiations towards a ceasefire in Gaza resumed in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday.

OCHA noted, however that the evacuation orders “are also forcing the humanitarian community to reset their aid operations over and over again.”

“Aid workers are responding, but what they can deliver falls far short of needs,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Muhannad Hadi, said on Wednesday in a post  on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

He stressed that “more funding is urgently needed – as is a safe, enabling environment inside Gaza.”

Mr. Hadi visited Deir Al-Balah on Tuesday, where he witnessed firsthand the consequences of the breakdown in public order and safety as he entered and exited the Kerem Shalom crossing, OCHA reported.

“He saw groups of men with sticks waiting for trucks to leave the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza. All trucks he passed were badly damaged, with broken windshields, mirrors and hoods,” the agency added.

The Humanitarian Coordinator also observed bags of fortified flour from the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN agency assisting Palestine refugees (UNRWA) scattered alongside the road coming out of Kerem Shalom.

The top official “also saw that the city of Khan Younis has largely been reduced to sand and rubble, without a single structure left untouched.”

While in Gaza, Hadi met with women’s groups who told him about the harrowing conditions at sites for displaced people.

Many women have cut off their hair due to lice, difficulties in accessing shampoo and other personal hygiene products, and the lack of privacy, for example.

Others voiced despair over the inability to provide for their families, especially for relatives living with disabilities and those who are sick.

Women also reported on how extreme overcrowding in displacement sites can lead to tensions within communities.

They also said that overcrowding, despair and the breakdown in public order and safety are fueling an increase in sexual and gender-based violence.

Hadi also visited the IMC Field Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, together with the Regional Director of the World Health Organiwation (WHO), Hanan Balkhy.

Hadi said he was humbled to see how doctors and nurses provided trauma care for hundreds of patients with severe wounds, despite nearly impossible operational conditions, including the inability to get basic medical supplies such as gauze,” the agency said.

OCHA also reported on Wednesday that it had documented more than 1,000 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank since October, leading to casualties and damage to property, trees, and saplings.

Nearly 1,400 people, including 660 children, in more than two dozen Bedouin and herding communities have been displaced during the same period due to settler violence and access restrictions.

OCHA added that Israeli forces in the West Bank killed 14 Palestinians between July 2 and 8, the vast majority during two operations in the Jenin and Tulkarm cities and their adjacent refugee camps. (NAN)

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