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Court Fixes Sept 26 to Hear Case Against Alia’s Executive Order

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From Attah Ede, Makurdi

A Benue State High Court sitting in Makurdi, presided over by Justice Theresa Igoche, on Monday, fixed September 26, to hear the suit challenging the Executive Order in Benue State.

State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State, Bemgba Iortyom and Human Rights activist, Adebayo Ogorry, had dragged the Benue State Government, the Governor of Benue State and the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice and Public Order, Benue State, to court, arguing that the law severely infringes on fundamental rights of citizens and represents a “reign of dictatorship” that must be stopped.

It would be recalled that, Governor Hyacinth Alia had on February 27th, 2024, signed the Executive Order banning public gatherings and holding of all forms of events, including wakes, ceremonies and religious occasions beyond the hour of 10 pm, as well as prohibiting several other activities.

When the matter came up on Monday, Terna Agerzua who held the brief of Mohammed Ndarani, SAN, as counsel to the Benue State Governor and Benue State Government drew the attention of the court to his motion for extension of time to file his memorandum of appearance and defense to the suit for Governor of Benue State and Benue State Government.

 Jones Okwe who appeared for the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice and Public Order, Benue State, also moved his application for extension of time to regularize his processes.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Theresa Igoche granted both applications.

Joseph Ogizi, who held the brief of Abdul Mohammed, SAN, for plaintiffs, informed the court that though the matter was fixed for hearing, the defendants in the suit served on his processes yesterday and shortly before sitting.

He asked the court for a short adjournment to enable him to file his response to the processes served on him.

After listening to the submission of Ogizi, Justice Theresa Igoche adjourned the matter to September 26th, 2024, for definite hearing.

In the suit, the plaintiffs are seeking, a declaration that the requirement of “First seeking and obtaining a permit from the Department of Public Order at the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, Benue State, for the holding of rallies, wakes and other forms of public gatherings is illegal and unconstitutional as it violates sections 40, 41, 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

They were also seeking a declaration of the court that the provisions of the Public Order Act, Cap. 382, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, upon which the Executive Order made by Governor Hyacinth Alia and signed on 27th February, 2024 was purportedly premised, is in itself illegal and unconstitutional as it contravene sections 40, 41, 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended) and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

 The court declared the Defendants incompetent under the Public Order Act, Cap. 382, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, or under any law made by the National Assembly or the Benue State House of Assembly whatsoever to issue any permit for the holding of rallies, wakes or any such public gatherings after the hour of 10PM, amongst other reliefs.

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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