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Benue Assembly Receives 27 Bills, Pass 18, Leaves Six Others in One Year

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From Attah Ede, Makurdi
The Benue State House of Assembly lawmakers on Tuesday, received 27 bills, passed 18,  while six of the bills were in committees level and three others also pending in the 10th Assembly.
The House also received 20 reports, out of which 17 of them have been conclusively debated in the period under view.


The 10th Assembly was inaugurated on June 5th, 2023 and ended its first legislative year on June 5th.

This was disclosed by the Chairman House Standing  Committee on  Information of the Assembly, Mr.
Elias Audu  during a press conference at the Assembly Complex, Makurdi.
Mr. Audu  said that the Bills had brought about remarkable legislative improvement and service delivery in the State.

He maintained that apart from painstakingly screening and having heads of MDAs to defend their budgetary estimates, the 2024 Financing and Appropriation Bills, which are the foundation of government financing, were passed before the December, 31st, 2023, deadline despite its late submission to the House by the Executive as a mark of their commitment and support for the Executive Arm of Government to succeed.
The Chairman listed some of the landmark legislation passed by the House to includes; A Bill for A Law to Prohibit Harassment and Extortion of Money from Investors, Developers and Businessmen  in Benue State (Popularly called Marching Ground) and for Purposes Connected Therewith, 2023, A Bill for A Law to Provide for the Retirement Age and Enhanced Remuneration of Magistrates and Legal Officers in the Ministry of Justice and  for Purposes Connected Therewith, 2024, A Bill for a Law to Repeal the Maintenance of Former Elected Governors of Benue State and Their Deputies Law, 2023; The Benue State Civil Protection Guards (Establishment) Bill, 2024 and The Benue State Youth Development Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2024.
Mr. Audu explained that the repeal of the bill for maintenance of former elected governors and their deputies became necessary to ease the huge burden it placed on the lean resources of the State, adding that it was done in the overall interest of the State and  has nothing to do with seeking vendetta or trying to get at anybody in particular.
 According to him,  the Civil Protection Guards Establishment Bill is a Legislative intervention to end the incessant killings and mindless displacement of  people of the  State from their ancestral homes by marauding herdsmen and the general  insecurity in parts of the State so that farmers can go back to work and produce enough crops to feed the State as well as improve their socioeconomic conditions.
 “As a way of halting the negative trend of harassment and extortion of money from Land Developers in the State by some unscrupulous youths, the Bill to criminalize “Marching Ground,” has become more relevant now than ever before.
“The passage of the Bill for a Law to establish the Benue State Youth Development Commission on the other hand is in recognition of the importance of youths in our society and the need to mainstream their issues in governance as a panacea to provide a platform by which their interest will be projected and promoted through trainings, credit facilities and gainful employments.
“The objectives of the Commission when established will end youth restiveness and help to achieve the Governor Alia-led administration’s dreams of resourceful youth population and a peaceful Benue.
Other very critical bills that are at the last stage of passage include, the Bill for A Law to Make Provision for the Establishment of the Benue State Drug and Health Commodities Management Agency and the Bill for A Law to Provide Free Snake Bite Treatment in Government Hospitals.
“While the Drug and Health Commodities Management Agency Bill when passed and assented to by the Governor will be a game changer as it will provide the avenue for donor agencies and other development partners to assist the State in the provision of affordable drugs to our people.
The Bill for Free Snake Bite Treatment will make it mandatory for government medical facilities to treat victims of Snake bite free of charge. All these are bills that are targeted at improving the living standards of our people especially those in rural areas.
Also lending his voice, the Majority Leader of the House, Saater Tiseer  said no fewer than 20 out of all the motions moved and debated on the Floor of the Assembly were Motions to draw attention of the executive arm of government and other security agencies to the security challenges within and around Benue State.
According to him , the leadership of the Benue State House of Assembly under Aondona Dajoh, has intervened in communal crises with the view to bringing lasting peace in the affected areas.

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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