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Tinubu Receives Bill Proposing Return to Regional Gov’t

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By David Torough, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu is expected to receive a draft bill seeking a return to a regional system of government for Nigeria today.

The proposed legislation authored by a chieftain of the Yoruba socio-cultural association, Afenifere, Akin Fapohunda, and titled, “A Bill for an Act to substitute the annexure to Decree 24 of 1999 with New Governance Model for the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, seeks among others, new extant laws to be cited as “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria New Governance Model for Nigeria Act 2024.

Last week that the said bill was disowned by the House of Representatives whose spokesman, Akin Rotimi, and the Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business said it had not been listed for deliberation in the ongoing moves to review the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

However, Fapohunda disclosed on Thursday that the bill would be transmitted to the President today.

Meanwhile, Fapohunda who also represents the Coalition of Indigenous Ethnic Nationalities said that the organisation is proposing the division of the country into eight geo-political regions with approximate interim boundaries.

The proposed regions, according to Fapohunda, include, the southern region to be made up of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, and Cross Rivers States and “Optional inclusions of the Annang, Effik, Ekoi, Ibibio, Oro Ohaji/Egbema in Southern Imo, the Adonia, Efemia, Ijaw, Ogoni, Bini, Ishan, Isoko, Urhobo and the Ijaw-speaking people in Northern Ondo State with land contiguity.”

He continued, “The South Eastern region consists of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo States. The Western region comprises Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, and Ekiti States, incorporating the Yoruba-speaking people in Kogi and the Igbomina people in Kwara State. Additional options would be for the Itsekiri people of Delta State and Akoko-Edo people of Edo State to make their respective choices.”

Others include the Mid-Western Region “Made up of Edo and Delta States, possibly incorporating the Anioma people and the Eastern Middle Belt Region comprising Northern Cross River, Southern Kaduna, Southern Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba States.”

The Western Middle Belt Region comprises Southern Kebbi, parts of Kwara and Niger States while the North Eastern Region will be made up of parts of Borno, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa, and Yobe States.

The North Western Region, according to the Afenifere chieftain, comprises Kaduna, parts of Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States.

Fapohunda said the coalition envisaged a two-tier government, federal and regions, adding that the latter would be at liberty to manage her affairs, “Including the creation of sub-entities, based on the stipulations that are agreed upon and embedded in their respective constitutions.”

In its proposed governance stipulations, CIEN stated that “In the quest for re-configuration and downsizing, an option to consider might be to retain the present boundaries of the 36 States, as would have been adjusted, but to creatively downgrade the paraphernalia of political administration as follows:

“To introduce a new regional government framework with executive and legislative functions and bodies with the headship title of Premier.

“In the new dispensation, the present States (for example the six in the Western region) would be converted to provinces. Governance at this level shall be by Provincial Councils that integrate executive and legislative functions, with Chairman and Support Specialist Administrative Officers. The regions shall be at liberty to create provinces, subject to viability and self-sustainability.

“The present Local Government Areas are to be transformed into divisions, with divisional managers and specialist administrative officers; to operate as socio-economic development institutions. The new provinces shall also be at liberty to create divisions, subject to viability and self-sustainability.”

The coalition also proposed a new constitution to embody novelties including freedom of the regions to “Create, merge and or re-configure their sub-political units and may adopt provinces, divisions or districts as may suit their circumstances without interference from any other authority.

“Regions and sub-regional entities are to be reconfigured such as would reduce the cost of public and civil service administration to less than 20 to 30 per cent of generated revenue.

“In drafting their Constitutions, the peoples of the respective regional territories will take a cue and also dismantle any arrangement or configuration that will favour the politicians and the political class; with a focus on freeing resources for true development.

In all, the coalition proposes that the Federal Government “Shall comprise not more than nine Ministries and Ministers,” adding that “The very big United States has just 15 Cabinet Ministers, while Nigeria is not even up to just a State of Texas or New York.”

The group is also advocating a return to the parliamentary mode system of government “Built-in statutory rotation of headship among the regions.”

Bill seeking six-year single term, “anti-democratic” – NANS

Relatedly, the National Association of Nigerian Students yesterday rejected the bill seeking a single term of six years for the President and state governors, describing it as “anti-democratic” and an attempt to stifle citizens’ choices.

It will be recalled that 35 members of the House of Representatives, under the auspices of Reformed-minded Legislators, had last week proposed a bill seeking a single term of six years for the President and state governors.

The lawmakers are equally seeking for rotation of the presidency among the six geopolitical zones of the country, arguing that the proposition if implemented would lead to a reduction in the cost of governance.

However, NANS while reacting to the bill, called on Nigerians, pro-democracy groups, organised labour and trade unions to mobilise against the bill.

Speaking at a press conference in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Thursday, the National Clerk of the Senate of NANS, Yekini Adewale described the bill as “a smokescreen” to divert the attention of Nigerians from the current economic pains and agonies that Nigerians are facing.

The apex student body threatened to mobilise students across the country in a protest against the bill.

Adewale said that if the bill is passed into law, it would erode accountability, probity, transparency and responsibility on the part of political leaders.

‘Yes, democracy thrives on the pedestal of a synergy between the three arms of the government, but when a key arm such as the legislature, proposes bills and peradventure, passes laws that stifle people’s choices or throw spanners at the wheel of the tenets of democracy, then, it is disheartening and must not be allowed.

‘NANS as a non-governmental organisation and the only pressure group that has been agitating for the continued survival and sustainability of our hard-earned democracy from being truncated does not only condemn the proposed bills but calls on Nigerians to move against such step aimed at achieving a selfish agenda by some unscrupulous politicians.

‘If the proposed bills are allowed to see the light of day, then, our democracy is in total jeopardy.

‘Any president or governor who realises that he cannot seek a second term in office, may rather busy himself feathering his own nose instead of delivering good governance to the electorate.

“Expunging the second term from our constitution is synonymous with extinguishing the only power the electorate has to vote out any non-performing president or governor.

‘As a student body in the country, we shall mobilise our members massively against these bills seeking to efface accountability, probity, transparency and responsibility from the elected executives and lawmakers.

‘To further demonstrate our rejection of these anti-democracy, anti-people and anti-progress bills, a day will be set aside for Nigerian students to embark on a mass march against the National Assembly,” Adewale said.

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Universal Insurance Projects N20bn Premium This Year

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Universal Insurance Plc has projected to generate a premium income of N20 billion for the 2024 financial year in spite of the country’s harsh operating environment.

Mr Ben Ujoatuonu, Managing Director, Universal Insurance, disclosed this at a media briefing yesterday in Lagos.

Ujoatuonu confirmed that all the company’s indices were showing positive, adding that the underwriter would continue to sustain the tempo.

He also revealed that the company grew its assets from N11 billion in 2022 to N17 billion in 2023, adding that its premium income and profit for the 2023  financial year stood at N9.

3 billion and more than N530 million respectively.

”This year 2024, we started out with very high expectations and also looking forward to opening more branches.

“In 2024, we are projecting to end the year with a premium income of about N20 billion.

“We are very optimistic that we are going to achieve this before the end of the year, and it may interest you to know that as at today, we are doing about N9.3 billion in premium income.”Our assets will also increase from N11 billion to about N17.5 billion and our shareholders fund will increase from about N9 billion to N12 billion,” he said. NAN

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Father of Twins Cries Out as Wife Dies after Childbirth

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From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja

Mr Hassan Isyaka Ibori, an indigene of Lafia-Obessa community in Okehi LGA, Kogi State has cried out for help in taking care of his set of twins who lost their mother shortly after delivery.

Ibori, a young farmer, who resides at Anyone community in Adavi LGA lost his wife, Nana Hawa Ibori, barely an hour after she was delivered of a set of female twins.

Narrating his ordeal to our reporter in Adavi, amidst tears, Ibori said the sad incident happened on June 2 at a private hospital in Anyone community.

“I took my wife to the hospital around 4:00am when she was due on 2nd of June and was delivered of a set of female twins around 7:00am successfully.

“I started jubilating with the arrival of the twins, but my joy suddenly turned to sorrow when my wife died about one hour after.

“Shortly after the delivery, she started complaining of stomach pain and she was attended to by the nurse who gave her injection to relieve her of the pain but she died about one hour after.

“It was so painful losing my wife shortly after she gave birth to our set of twins,” Ibori said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

He lamented the difficulties he has been going through in feeding and ensuring that the babies’ nutritional needs are adequately met.

He added, “I’m a farmer. I farm to take care of myself and my family but in the last two years, the Fulani herdsmen have been destroying our farmlands.

“Because of the destruction of our farmlands, I hardly get much harvest. It has not been easy for me feeding the twins as well as my other children.”

Ibori made a passionate appeal to the state government, the governor’s wife, commissioner for women affairs as well as other well meaning individuals to come to his aid.

“I am yet to get over the shock of my wife’s death. I have exhausted all my savings in taking care of the babies.

“I appeal to the wife of our governor, Hajia Shekinat Usman Ododo to come to my aid to enable me take good care of the twins,” he stated.

Ibori appreciated members of his community for the support rendered his family do far.

Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in several low-and-middle-income countries is alarming, with about 34 percent of global maternal deaths occurring in Nigeria and India alone.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the MMR of Nigeria is 814 (per 100,000 live births).

The lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is one in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at one in 4900.

Medical experts link the high rate of maternal and neonatal mortality in Nigeria to the three forms of maternal delay.These barriers include: delay in making decision to seek maternal health care; delay in locating and arriving at a medical facility; and delay in receiving skilled pregnancy care when the woman gets to the health facility.

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N1.6bn Fraud: Ex-AGF, Co-defendants Make Refunds to EFCC

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By David Torough with Agency report

Former Acting Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) Anamekwe Nwabuoku yesterday begged a Federal High Court, Abuja to give him more time to conclude the refund of the public funds allegedly siphoned.

Nwabuoku and his co-defendant, Felix Nweke, in the 11-count money laundering charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prayed Justice James Omotosho to suspend their trial to enable them perfect the refund process.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nwabuoku and Nweke, a former Deputy Director in the Ministry of Defence are being prosecuted for alleged money laundering offences to the tune of N1.

6 billion.

While Nwabuoku is the First Defendant in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/240/24 dated May 20 and filed May 27 by Ekele Iheanacho, Nweke is the Second Defendant.

They were alleged to have perpetrated the act while Nwabuoku served as the Director of Finance and Accounts in the Ministry of Defence between 2019 and 2021.

Nwabuoku was appointed Acting AGF on May 20, 2022 under ex-President Muhammadu Buhari after Ahmed Idris was suspended as AGF over alleged N109.5 billion fraud.

He was, however, removed in July 2022, few weeks after he assumed office.

Sylva Okolieaboh, a Director at the Treasury Single Account (TSA) Department replaced Nwabuoku as Acting AGF.

Okolieaboh’s appointment followed after report that Nwabuoku was under the radar of EFCC over corruption allegations.

When the matter was called yesterday for the defendants to take their pleas, Nwabuoku and Nweke stepped into the dock.

However, Nweke’s lawyer, Emeka Onyeaka informed the court that there was a new development in the case.

Onyeaka notified the court that his client had taken steps toward settling the matter.

The lawyer said Nweke had made substantial refund of the money traced to him by the anti-graft agency.

“The Second Defendant has taken steps, as there is a communication to the commission via-a-vs the alleged offences on making refund.

“The commission is in receipt of the money and promised to communicate to us,” he said.

Onyeaka said, “Upon being served with the charge on Monday, we communicated with the commission and we are asked to tarry for their administrative procedure.”

He said since substantial amount had been refunded, if his client is arraigned, such action would affect the trial.

He, therefore, prayed the court to grant them an adjournment in order to take further step on the administrative procedure.

Maduakolam Igwe, who appeared for Nwabuoku, aligned with Onyeaka’s submission.

Igwe said his client had equally taken same step and that substantial amount of money had been refunded.

“We have written to the commission on this. The First Defendant has also made some refund.

“May I adopt the submission of my learned friend to tidy up the administrative procedure,” he corroborated.

Responding, counsel to EFCC, Ogechi Ujam acknowledged that the commission was in receipt of a proposal letter.

She said, “However, no negotiation has been made, no settlement has been done and no agreement has been reached by parties.”

According to her, in the circumstance, we urge this honourable court to allow us to arraign the defendants.

“Take a date for arraignment,” Justice Omotosho responded.

After counsel agreed, the matter was adjourned until Oct. 14 for arraignment.

EFCC alleged that Nwabuoku, Nweke, Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), Turge Global Investment Limited (at large), Laptev Bridge Limited (at large), Arafura Transnational Afro Limited (at large) and other persons (at large) converted funds which are proceeds of unlawful activities to personal use.

The offence is contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as (amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 15(2) (b) and (3) of the same Act.

In count two, Nwabuoku, Felix, Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), between September 2019 and October, 2020 in Abuja, indirectly converted the sum of N262, 602,897.27 (Two Hundred and Sixty Two Million, Six Hundred and Two Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety Seven Naira Twenty Seven Kobo).

The money was alleged to have been paid into the Zenith Bank account of Temeeo Synergy Concept Limited (at large), with account number: 1016901286, knowing that the funds constituted proceed of unlawful activity.

The offence, EFCC said, is contrary to Section 15(2) (b) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012), among other counts.

Meanwhile, the former AGF Idris is undergoing trial-within-trial.

Idris was arrested by EFCC in Kano in 2022 following allegations that he fraudulently amassed N109.5 billion through bogus consultancy contracts and other illegal activities, using proxies, associates and family members.

The commission alleged that he laundered the money using real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.

His arrest was ordered by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in the Buhari-led administration, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

His trial took a new dimension on Feb. 1, when he told the Federal Capital Territory High Court that EFCC had deceived him to admit to the allegations against him.

The trial-within-trial was ordered by the court following the objection raised by his counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), alleging that his client did not make his statements to the EFCC voluntarily.

He claimed that EFCC told him they wanted to use him to get the Minister of Finance and some governors to receive derivation funds.But a detective with EFCC, Mahmud Tukur denied promising the former AGF leniency in exchange for indicting the former Minister of Finance and others.

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