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Artisan Miners Flex  Muscles with Niger Governor over Ban

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From Dan Amasingha,  Minna 

Niger State stern warnings over ban on illegal and official mining is been challenged  by artisanal miners who  have continued to carry out their activities across the state, saying “we do not have any other jobs.”

It should be recalled that before the collapse of two mining pits in communities in Shiroro and Paikoro local governments of the state during which some lives were lost and others still trapped, the state Governor Alhaji  Umaru Bago had placed a ban on mining in all parts of the state.

The state government in a bid to take action arrested some of the artisanal miners including women and breastfeeding mothers.

Speaking to an artisanal miner who simply gave her name as Rahina, she said the government is being insensitive at their plights adding that “most of us here were chased out of our lands by Boko Haram and our husbands have been killed or abducted.

The mother of three told newsmen  that when their community in Shiroro LGA was attacked and her husband killed, they managed to move to Minna to survive.

According to her, when we arrived Minna, we went begging for foods and we had no place to sleep until this day I saw these people (miners) and I approached a lady who told me she is from Gusoro village in the same Shiroro local government area with me.

“She encouraged me to start mining so that I can feed my children because begging exposed her to a lot of things.
“We started living in this uncompleted building with others and with my children. Sometimes we make N1,000 and other times we make as much as N8,000 depending on luck.”

Another artisanal miners who gave his name as Jibrin Musa  said “Governor Bago does not care whether we are alive or surviving. We are farmers but Boko Haram chased us out of our lands, what did he do?

“We are not lazy people and because we do not want to steal or indulge in attacking people for survival, we decided to do this mining work and it is God-given resources.”

Another artisanal miner who pleaded anonymity told our Correspondent that, the government is chasing the wrong people who are only surviving.

According to him, if the government is sincere about banning mining, let them go to Allawa, Galkogo and other communities and stop those Boko Haram and Bandits’ miners who are making millions of Naira everyday.

“Have you asked yourself and has the government found out why, despite attacks on various communities, those working on mining sites are not attacked,” he questioned.

 Government should go and stop those mining companies who are paying royalties to terrorists and not come after us who are seeking for daily survival.”

It should be recalled that claims had it that a Chinese company had plundered at community and other surrounding villages while bribing Bandits believed to be a faction of Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, the officials of the Niger State Ministry of Mineral Resources had raided several illegal mining sites in Minna the state capital during which seven male illegal miners and several women including breastfeeding mothers were arrested.

The men apprehended were handed over to the police for prosecution while the women were released considering their vulnerability especially those who were nursing mothers or elderly.

In a statement by the Information of the Ministry, Mrs. Maureen Dibie and made available to newsmen, several equipment used for illegal mining were also seized from the illegal miners.

She disclosed that it was discovered that  “majority of these miners hailed from Sokoto and other states. Only a few of them are locals.

“This underscores the need for stringent measures to be taken to prevent outsiders from exploiting the region’s mineral resources illegally, which can have detrimental effects on the environment and the local economy.”

She submitted that the “Ministry with the support of the state authorities, remains determined to uphold the law and clamp down on illegal mining operations in Niger State by targeting these illegal activities”.

She further said the government aimed to protect both the natural resources and the communities that depend on them for their livelihoods.

The Mining sites close to El Amin University, M.I Wushishi Estate, Angwan Kompani along Eastern Bypass, Shango and behind the State owned Abdulkadir Kure University of Education have artisanal miners on daily basis especially during the rains.

Top on the list of those arrested include aged women and nursing mothers and children who are mostly of school age.

The state cracked tea was led by the permanent secretary of the ministry Yunusa Nahauni with other top officials backed up by police operatives, Nigerian security and civil defense corpse and the State’s forest hunters.

The raid was extended to the premises of a private owned University El-Amin University, Brighter schools road, T-mama area off Mandela road and Federal Government College staff school where the illegal miners were said to have been excavating without caution.

Speaking with the Dagacin off Maitumbi area, Yusuf Galadima, he said “I am concerned about the increasing involvement of breastfeeding mothers and underage children in illegal mining.

“There are times that these miners clash at mining sites, which have led to the destruction of agricultural land. You can imagine how some of these children’s education has been disrupted.”

Also, the Dagacin of Kaffin-Tela, mallam Suleimain Umar Shaba while acknowledging the negative impact of mining on children said “a higher number of these children are out-of-school and the teenagers amongst them are already potential threats to our community.”

NEWS

Constitutional Amendment Crucial for Efficient Implementation of LG Autonomy – Lawyer

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An Umuahia-based Legal Practitioner, Mr Chuwkuemeka Nwachukwu, has said that the 1999 Constitution must be amended to allow for effective implementation of the Supreme Court judgment on Local Government (LG) autonomy.

Nwachukwu said this in an interview in Umuahia on Friday.

He said that the 1999 Constitution as amended “has a lot of loopholes”, which must be critically addressed before the LG Autonomy Act and judgment of the nation’s apex court could be effectively enforced.

He, therefore, called for an Executive Bill from the Presidency for the immediate amendment to take care of “the lacuna in the Constitution that has been pointed out over the years”.

Nwachukwu said that failure to do so could undermine the import of the landmark Supreme Court judgment of Thursday on LG autonomy.

He said that clear legal frameworks were essential for effective governance and implementation of judicial decisions.

According to him, this will help to ensure that LGs can operate as an autonomous third tier within defined legal boundaries, thereby enhancing local administration and accountability.

The legal practitioner also called on the Federal Government to set up a monitoring mechanism for checks and balances in the implementation of the judgment across the states of the federation.

Also reacting to the judgment, the immediate past Chairman, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Abia chapter, Mr Ikechi Nwaigwe, said the Supreme Court’s decision had nothing to cheer about yet.

Nwaigwe said that until every process was put in place to realise the desired LG autonomy, Nigerians should not think it is yet Uhuru.

He argued that desperate Nigerian politicians would always work against the wishes of the people with all their might.

“I am not yet excited by the decision of the Supreme Court, which affirmed the financial autonomy of the LG system.

“It is a good development but we have not reached our El dorado on the issue of LG autonomy.

“I said so because I know Nigerian politicians are desperate and can work so hard to upturn the process of achieving complete autonomy because it will be for the good of the Nigerian people.

“I will be excited if President Bola Tinubu will ensure that the process is completed with necessary legislation passed and proper implementation begun,” he said.

Nwaigwe said that the process of getting proper autonomy should not overlook the process of who becomes LG chairman and persons who might be godfathers to them.

“The process of reaching the desired destination should also ensure the Independent National Electoral Commission conducts the elections to promote competition among parties.

“If the State Governments, through their State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), conduct the elections, the judgment will not achieve the desired goal.

“The state governors will still manipulate the SIECs and the elections,” he said.

In Imo, the state Chairman of NULGE, Mr Charles Okere, said that the LG autonomy would help to promote the welfare of council woŕkers.

Okere, who hailed the judgment, said it would facilitate projects execution according to the peculiar needs of the people at the grassroots.

“The judgment is a welcome development even though it only guarantees financial autonomy because the councils’ administrative responsibility still rests with the State Assemblies,” he said. (NAN)

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Foreign News

ECOWAS 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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NEWS

Gunmen Abducts Acting Rector Benue Polytechnic, Demand N70m Ransom 

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From Attah Ede Makurdi 

Acting Rector, Benue State Polytechnic Ugbokolo, Engr. Dr. Emmanuel Barki has been abducted by gunmen suspected to be kidnappers.

He was kidnapped while returning from Makurdi to Ugbokolo after official assignment that took place in the State capital, Wednesday.

It was gathered that the Acting Rector was kidnapped along side with some management staff of the polytechnic and his driver.

It was further gathered that the abductors moved them away from the highway and reportedly abandoned the official vehicle of the polytechnic.

A source who disclosed this to newsmen in Makurdi on Friday, on condition of anonymity, said the abductors called the family of the Acting Rector and demanded for N70m as ransom after 24 hours that he was kidnapped with his driver and other management staff of the Polytechnic.

Some since the incident happened, prominent individuals have been paying visit to the family of the Acting Rector to sympathize with them.

The immediate past Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Benue State chapter, Rev. Dr. Augustine Akpen Leva, condemned the dastardly act and prayed for the immediate release of the Acting Rector.

Dr. Leva particularly called on Governor Alia to improve on the security situation of the state to enable people and even the travellers go to places of their choice without been victims of kidnappers.

When contacted, the Benue State command police public relations officer SP Catherine Anene, confirmed the incident, saying investigation is ongoing. 

However, the special adviser to governor Alia on internal security, Chief Joseph Har also confirmed the abduction of the rector.

According to him, the Acting Rector was kidnapped three days ago.

He said he was not aware of any ransom negotiation, but that security personnel have been in the bush since then combing the bushes.

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