….Presidential Election Tribunal
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday in Abuja began its defence of the February 25 presidential election on a shaky note, with none of its three witnesses present at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC).
Contrary to the scheduled activities of the Court, INEC, which conducted the disputed election and billed to open defence, came to the court without any witness.
Its lead counsel and former President of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmood SAN, informed the court of his plan to call three witnesses to counter the allegations of the Labour Party (LP) and its Presidential candidate, Peter Gregory Obi.
He, however, lamented that none of the witnesses was in court due to domestic reasons for him to open the defense.
The senior lawyer pleaded with the court to bear with him and applied for adjournment of his defense.
However, lead counsel to Obi, Dr Livy Uzuoku SAN, expressed shock and surprise with the conduct of the electoral body.
He told the court that the INEC lawyer ought to have taken him into confidence before the commencement of the proceedings.
However, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, who stood for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Prince Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi SAN, who represented the All Progressives Congress (APC), did not object to request for adjournment of INEC’s plea for the case to be shifted.
Presiding Justice of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, subsequently fixed a new date of July 4 for the electoral body.
Atiku’s Aide Mocks Electoral Commission
Daniel Bwala, a media aide to the 2023 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has mocked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for failing to open its defence.
INEC had failed to open its defence at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal after 10 days breaks.
This was due to the absence of witnesses for the electoral body at the tribunal.
Reacting, Bwala tweeted: “INEC failed to open its defence after 10 days break; reason? Because witnesses failed to show up. #Vuvuzela #hakunamatata”
Meanwhile, Levi Uzoukwu, a counsel to the Labour Party, LP, presidential candidate, Levi UzoukwuPeter Obi said INEC was not ready to defend its case before the tribunal.
Uzoukwu spoke after the tribunal adjourned sitting on Monday following the absence of INEC’s witness at the resumed sitting.
The lawyer, however, noted that LP was ready to move on with its case, unlike INEC which has continued to show inconsistencies.
“Given the contradictions and inconsistencies and what INEC has done; I’m sure they are not ready to defend this case,” he said.
Electoral Not Ready to Defend Case – LP Lawyer
Lawyer to the Labour Party (LP), Levi Uzoukwu has said that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are not prepared to defend its case at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Uzoukwu made this comment yesterday, shortly after the court adjourned its resumed sitting, following the absence of INEC’s first defence witness.
Speaking to newsmen just outside the court, the LP lawyer said his camp has a strong case and are ready to move on with their case, unlike the INEC that has continued to show inconsistencies.
“Given the contradictions and inconsistencies and what INEC has done; I’m sure they are not read to defend this case,” Uzoukwu asserted.
“I stand to be proven wrong, but I would wish that they defend this matter so that the public will see more things of what happened to this election.”
While reiterating that Nigeria has never had an election like the February 25th presidential poll, the legal counsel stressed that it is the INEC’s choice to either call a witness or witnesses, adding that he and his client the LP, are ready at all times.
Tribunal Admits EU Report Faulting Tinubu’s Victory
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) yesterday admitted to exhibit the final report of the European Union Election Observer Mission, which faulted the conduct and outcome of the 2023 presidential election that produced President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and others.
The report tendered by the former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, was admitted as an exhibit notwithstanding vehement objections by President Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In its report, the European Union Election Observer Mission claimed that the presidential election did not show credibility, fairness and transparency in the ways and manners in which it was conducted by INEC.
The report tendered through INEC’s sole witness and Director of Information Technology (IT), Lawrence Bayode, said only 31 percent of the presidential election result was uploaded into INEC’s result viewing portal.
In his evidence-in-chief, Bayode admitted that the electoral body has no electronic collation system for election results, hence, the presidential election result was not electronically collated.
Specifically, the INEC witness admitted that the collation of the presidential election results was done manually by the presiding officers of the electoral body.
Under cross-examination by Atiku Abubakar’s lead counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), the witness admitted that not all the presidential election results were uploaded into INEC’s results viewing centre as of March 1, 2023, when Tinubu was declared and returned as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
While the witness told the court that there was a technical glitch that affected the uploading of the presidential election results, the witness, however, under cross-examination admitted that such a glitch was not reported to Amazon Web Services (AWS) by the INEC.
Under cross-examination by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), lead Counsel to President Tinubu, the witness told the court that Form EC8A formed the basis of the election results and that data and network service were required for the upload of the images of the results captured by the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine.
He further testified that images captured on BVAS, whether transmitted electronically or manually, will not affect the integrity of the election, especially when results entered into Form EC8As are announced to the hearing and knowledge of party agents.
The INEC Director, while answering another question from Olanipekun, said, the February 25 presidential election results announced in favour of Tinubu were free, fair, transparent and in substantial compliance with the provisions of the law.
Also under cross-examination by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), lead counsel to the APC, the witness admitted that glitches were experienced on the election day but,however,r said, that the glitches did not affect the final results and scores of candidates at the election
With one witness and four documents tendered, INEC closed its defense in the petition filed by the former Vice President against the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
CJN Brushes aside Criticisms, Scores Judiciary Very High
By Ben Atonko, Abuja
Despite the outcry against the conduct and performance of the judiciary, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola on Monday, scored the third arm of government very high, stressing that “the judiciary, as it is today, is more deserving of public trust and confidence than ever before.
Ariwoola said this at the opening of the 2023/2024 new legal year and the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on 58 lawyers.
The judiciary has come under scrutiny in the recent past especially after judiciary pronouncements on political matters.
Only last week, the Court of Appeal sacked the governor of Kano State, Abba Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP)) and declared the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Nasiru Gawuna as the winner of the March poll.
But a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment later emerged affirming Yusuf’s victory in the exercise, contrary to what was said in court. The court defended itself, saying it was a clerical error.
The Kano State Government described the clerical error in the CTC as “outrageously scandalous.”
Last month, a Supreme Court Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, at his valedictory session addressed what he observed as rots in the judiciary that have continued to affect the justice delivery system in the country.
Muhammad who was said to have pulled out from the seven-man panel that dismissed all the appeals that sought to remove President Bola Tinubu from office, accused the CJN of abusing the powers of his office.
According to him, there was abuse of powers in the judiciary and “continued denial of the existence of this threatening anomaly weakens effective judicial oversight in the country”.
He maintained that the decision not to fill the vacancies in the Supreme Court is deliberate — all for “the absolute powers vested in the office of the CJN and the responsible exercise of same”.
Yet Justice Ariwoola was upbeat with his brother justices as he counted their successes.
He said the Supreme Court handled 1,271 cases including motions and appeals in the 2022/2023 Legal Year.
“Out of these, we heard 388 political appeals, 215 criminal appeals, and 464 civil appeals.
“Similarly, the court considered a total number of 49 criminal motions, 153 civil motions, and two political motions.
“Between Sept. 30, 2022 and July 11, 2023, the supreme court delivered a total number of 251 judgments. Out of these, 125 were political appeals, 81 were civil appeals and 45 were criminal appeals.
“Within the period under review, precisely 10 months duration, a total number of 91 rulings were delivered by the honourable court.
”To a very large extent, I will confidently say that this score-card is impressive, fascinating and appreciable in view of the unpleasant events that dotted the legal year, especially the attenuating number of justices on the supreme court bench, which has to do with some challenges that could not easily be surmounted by one arm of government alone.
“I attribute the tremendous successes recorded in the course of the last legal year by the honourable court to the doggedness exhibited by my industrious and team-spirited brother Justices and the general staff,” he said.
Ariwoola urged the new SANs not to take for granted the honour newly conferred on them, pointing out that they were successful out of 114 applicants.
“While 57 of the new SANs are from the advocate, only one emerged successful from the academics.
“As Senior Advocates of Nigeria, you now carry heavy burden on your shoulders from the moment you leave this courtroom, everything in you and about you will now be freely scrutinized and dissected by everyone that comes in contact with you.
“There is nothing like private life for you henceforth, as whatever you hitherto regarded as private life will now be treated as public life by members of the public; and there is nothing you can do about it.
“So, watch your utterances, watch your actions and watch the kind of company you keep, because you have already assumed the role of ministers of the court, as you are now expected to assist the court to attain justice, equity and fairness in all ramifications.”
The CJN called for respect of the rule of law and the holistic independence of the judiciary.
“The Judiciary, as it is today, is more deserving of public trust and confidence than ever before.
“If the faith of the people is to be maintained in the Judiciary, then judges must be above board, deliver justice without fear or favour.
“So, I admonish all of us to always be impartial in all our judgments,” he said.
He assured Nigerians that he would do everything possible to ensure that the apex court attains its full complement of 21 justices before he retires next year.
“Currently, there are just 10 justices on the bench of the apex court; the lowest in the history of the apex court.
“As soon as I assumed office on June 27, 2022, I immediately got down to work on this urgent and immediate need in particular.
“Though we have not gotten them on board yet, I can convincingly assure the litigant public that within a very short while, the Supreme Court will, for the very first time in its history, get the constitutionally-prescribed full complement of 21 Justices.
“That is one of the legacies I have been working assiduously to leave behind as it now seems that the court has been somewhat ‘jinxed’ from meeting its constitutional requirement since that piece of legislation was enacted several years ago.”
He admonished Nigerians on the imperative of being less litigious and be more disposed to alternative dispute resolutions to free the courts from some unnecessary cases which are over-stretching both human and material resources.
FEC Approves N27.50trn for 2024 Appropriation Bill
By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the 2024 appropriation bill of N27.50 trillion for the 2024 budget with a N1.5 trillion increase from the earlier estimated bill.
The government had proposed N26.2 trillion earlier but had reviewed the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) that was approved by the National Assembly.
Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Sen.Atiku Bagudu, announced this on Monday at the end of the FEC meeting chaired by President Bola Tinubu in Abuja.
Similarly, House of Representatives on Monday, confirmed that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would present his 2024 Appropriation bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who is Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had said that the 2024 Appropriation bill would be presented to the National Assembly in the next few days.
Gbajabiamila, who said that FEC would tidy up work on the budget, however cautioned Committees Chairmen and Deputies in the House against imminent Infighting, saying that this has been the characteristic of committee heads since democratic government returned in 1999.
He said that the new proposal was legitimate because the appropriation was dependent on the final process that could be changed due to many variables including new priorities and MDAs presentations.
The former Speaker also advised his successor, Tajudeen Abbas, to nip in the bud this monster, to enable the House deliver on its good governance agenda for the people.
Bagudu said that MTEF that was approved by the National Assembly put the exchange rate at N700 per dollar and an oil price benchmark of 73.96 dollars.
He added that FEC revised the MTEF to use an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar and oil price benchmark of N77.96 in order to further fund the eight priority areas of the administration.
Bagudu said that the president would give more breakdown of the budget during its presentation to the National Assembly, stressing that the presentation date would be decided by the National Assembly.
The minister said that the 2024 forecast revenue would now be N18.32 trillion higher than the 2023 budget and the supplementary budgets provisions.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Chief Wale Edun, said that the Federal Government has secured funds from the African Development Bank for budget support.
He said that the $1billion funds would aid effective implementation of the government reform policies as well as ensure transparency and accountability in the various tax reforms.
Edun added that it would be used in areas such as power and ensuring the efficient utilisation of tax revenues, adding that it was not for project.
Speaking in Abuja at a retreat organized for House of Representatives Committees Chairmen and their Deputies, with the theme, “Improving Legislative Performance through Effective Committee Management”, Gbajabiamila said that infighting between Chairmen and their Deputies, has been the greatest challenge of the House of Representatives.
“I experienced it when I was Speaker, Leader of the House, Minority Leader and Minority Whip”, he averred, expressing hope that Speaker Abbas, would work closely with the committee chairmen and their Deputies to solve this problem in 10th House of Representatives because, “as it it is said, when elephant and elephant are fighting the grass will suffer and in this case, the grass is the Nigerian people.
“We were guilty of this in 9th Assembly but I hope that the 10rh Assembly will correct it. Do your committee works thoroughly. Research thoroughly before going for your committee work”, he admonished his colleagues.
Declaring open the one day retreat, the Speaker, Abbas, said that committees would have only two weeks to conclude considerations of the budget for quick passage by the House.
He said it was in view of the budget presentation that the retreat was put together for the chairmen and deputies, to equip them for the task ahead.
The Speaker said that the House will convene a town hall meeting on 2024 budget to get citizens inputs before passage, which is first time this would be happening in the history of the House.
“In line with our mantra as the “Peoples House”, the 10th House of Representatives is committed to greater and more transparent engagement with the public. This is necessary for reducing suspicion, building trust and generating support for the work of the National Assembly.
“As we expect to receive the 2024 Appropriation bill in a few days, I wish to state that the House will convene a Budget Townhall Meeting to enable citizens to make inputs into the 2024 Appropriation.
“It is the first time such an engagement is planned at the national level. I invite our partners to work with us in preparing for a vigorous and all-inclusive budget process.
“To ensure speedy passage of the 2024 budget, I charge all Committees to double their efforts and finalise all considerations in two weeks.
“However, this does not imply haphazard and superficial consideration of the Budget. Rather, it is a challenge to you to deploy all resources and make the needed sacrifices to ensure we pass the Budget in good time for the good of all Nigerians”, he said.
The Speaker said the theme of the retreat was deliberately chosen “to provide a comprehensive understanding of the tasks ahead, especially for many of us taking up these legislative responsibilities for the first time.
“The legislature is central to our democracy, and a strong House is integral to ensuring that governance is conducted in an open, accountable, and representative manner.6.
“As chairmen and deputy chairmen of various committees, we must ensure that the House delivers on its Legislative Agenda. All Committees should study the relevant sections of the Agenda and incorporate them into their work plans.”
Deputy Speaker, Hon Benjamin Kalu, admonishing his colleagues, asked deputy chairmen to avoid rubbing shoulders with their chairmen, and that the chairmen must, equally, not treat others as their slaves, as they were only first among equals.
He urged them to be transparent in all their affairs and not take those that they oversight for granted.
Zenith Bank Signs MOU with French Govt, to Establish Presence in France
By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
Zenith Bank Plc has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the French Government to establish a subsidiary of the bank in France.
The MoU, which was signed by the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia and the French Minister for Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, Mr.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia said it was his pleasure to the Minister to Nigeria and Zenith Bank.
“I am indeed very delighted about the signing of this MoU with France. For me, it is an honour to do this on behalf of the bank, and we look forward to securing the licence and starting operations in early 2024,” he said.
He thanked the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann and her colleagues at the French Embassy in Nigeria for their efforts towards improving French-Nigerian business relations.
Also speaking during the ceremony, the French Minister for Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, Mr. Olivier Becht, said: “I want to thank you very much for your decision to open a branch of Zenith Bank in Paris. We are thrilled to welcome in France Zenith Bank’s first office inside the European Union.”
“For us, that’s a very good signal, and it is undoubtedly a demonstration of mutual confidence. No doubt also that your vision on international finance guided you to decide to open this branch and this decision in many respects can also be regarded as a milestone in French-Nigerian economic relations and an illustration of our friendship”.
He noted that the government of President Macron had adopted a pro-business agenda in order to make France more attractive by undertaking several reforms in labour law, simplifying a lot of procedures and cutting business taxes, corporate taxes and production taxes by more than 25 billion Euros, adding that, we hope that the opening of the branch of Zenith Bank in France will also be an occasion to boost the
French-Nigerian business in order to have more French companies investing in Nigeria and also to have more Nigerian companies investing in France.
Zenith Bank has continued to distinguish itself in the Nigerian financial services industry through superior service offerings, unique customer experience and sound financial indices.
The bank remains a clear leader in the digital space, with several firsts in deploying innovative products and solutions and an assortment of alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed, and safety of transactions. Zenith Bank also has subsidiaries in Ghana, Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited; Sierra Leone, Zenith Bank (Sierra Leone) Limited; The Gambia, Zenith Bank (Gambia) Limited.
The Bank also has a Representative Office in The People’s Republic of China.
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