18 C002D5556 Sunday 15 April 2018 AssemblyWatch From the Red Chamber With OWEDE AGBAJILEKE Last week, I examined the cold war between Pro-Buhari and Pro-Saraki senators over the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act Bill upon resumption from Easter break. Although I submitted that the Senate may not be in a hurry to consider the four reports of the Samuel Anyanwu-led Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions against Pro-Buhari senators, it turned out that President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term declaration altered the game plan of Saraki’s loyalists who would crush any obstacle on their way. French statesman and military leader, Napoléon Bonaparte, once said, “Never interrupt your enemy Omo-Agege: The need to pick one’s battle wisely when he is making a mistake”. For loyalists of Saraki, they simply allowed the ‘sins’ of Pro-Buhari senators to accumulate and referred same to its disciplinary committee. At the moment, there are three other reports against Pro-Buhari senators yet to be submitted in this regard. This was the lot of an All Progressives Congress Senator representing Delta Central in the National Assembly, Ovie Omo-Agege, upon Senate’s resumption from Easter last week. The Pro-Buhari senator was suspended for 90 legislative days over his comment that the amendments to the Electoral Act to reorder the sequence of elections was targeted at President Buhari. With just three legislative sittings in a week - Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - and exclusion of public holidays and about two months annual recess, this means the embattled lawmaker may not resume until after the general elections in the first quarter of 2019. Unfortunately, other senators loyal to Buhari who had earlier promised to stand by Omo-Agege chickened out, as Chairman of the Parliamentary Support Group (Senate) for President Muhammadu Buhari, Abdullahi Adamu, walked out of the chamber, thus reneging on the assurances of the group that they would all insist that they all be suspended. Like I submitted on this platform last week, this is a battle for political survival for Saraki. Should Pro-Buhari senators succeed in galvanising support amongst their colleagues to stop moves to override the president’s veto, then he should kiss the nation’s Number Three position goodbye as this would serve as a launch pad to impeach him. Unfortunately, Omo- Agege failed to learn from the experiences of the immediate past Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, who was suspended in March last year for six months. He failed to realise that despite being an apologist of the President, that did not deter his colleagues in the upper legislative chamber from suspending Ndume. In 2002, the Anyim Pius Anyim-led Senate clamped an indefinite suspension on Francis Arthur Nzeribe to ‘protect’ the institution of the chamber. The Delta Central lawmaker also did not realise that Buhari is not a General that would stick his neck for his staunch supporters. Ask Ndume and the former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who were suspended by both legislative chambers while he (Buhari) looked the other way. Unlike Buhari, Saraki has never abandoned his loyal lawmakers. For instance, he accompanied one of his strongest loyalists, Dino Melaye, to Lokoja recently and provided security cover for him after the police declared him wanted. Omo-Agege’s biggest mistake was apologising to his colleagues in plenary and proceeding to court thereafter to restrain the Senate from taking disciplinary action against him. As a first-timer in the Senate, he cannot claim to love Buhari more than Northern senators. His decision to take the matter to court having tendered unreserved apology made matters worse. The 59 senators he listed as being opposed to the Electoral Act could not come to his rescue. At the end, he became the fall guy. As the court adjudicates on the matter, one major lesson to be drawn from the lawmaker’s encounter is the need for one to learn to pick one’s battle. Besides belonging to a faction of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State, the embattled lawmaker’s association with the controversial Parliamentary Support Group (Senate) for President Muhammadu Buhari, pitched him against most APC senators, considering the fact that he recently defected to the governing party from Labour Party (LP). With one of the foot soldiers already down, there are strong indications that the Samuel Anyanwu-led panel will now beam its searchlight on Adamu to serve as deterrent to other senators. As the 2019 elections approach, more of these politically-motivated battles between the two groups will come to the front burner, as governance is relegated to the back stage Much ado about Electoral Act vis-à-vis non-usage of electronic voting, Abachagate From the Green House With All eyes are on the National Assembly to commence the legislative process in motion on the controversial Electoral Act, 2018, which President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to barely a month ago. Going through the content of the re-gazetted bill, I observed that some germane legislative contents that would give credibility to engender public trust. Part of the new innovations in the bill include the legislative framework for the use of ‘Smart card’ otherwise called ‘Electronic voting’, electronic register of election results to be known as National Electronic Register of Election Results which shall be a distinct database or repository of polling unit by polling results, including collated election results of each election conducted by INEC. The amendment included sections 52(2) of the Principal Act: “The Commission shall adopt electronic voting in all elections or any other method of voting as may be determined by the Commission from time to time.” This include accreditation of voters. Likewise, the proposed amendment to section 65A(1 & 2) and 67. I described the bill as revolutionary, because considering certain provisions relating to section 78 for penalties (between N1 million and N5 million or/and six months imprisonment) against political association, its executive members and principal officers who provide misleading information to the Commission. I actually became very inquisitive and agitated when I read the headline of the news credited to the INEC chairman, ruling out the use of electronic voting in 2019. I wouldn’t know the rationale that led to taking such volatile decision by the Commission which ought to be proactive and innovative, but drastically took Nigeria back to the electioneering dark age! Of course, the pronouncement has started generating tension within the polity, including the allegation raised by Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) leveled against the Presidency of pressuring INEC not to use the electronic machine. While I have no doubt that the bill was conceived in good faith, certain provisions of the bill will help in checkmating insider abuse by some staff of the Commission, as seen in the last general elections, and the ongoing probe which led to the suspension of 205 staff allegedly involved in bribery scandal. According to the proposed amendment to section 8 of the Electoral Act, Principal Act, 2010, “a member who being a member of a political party, misrepresent himself by not disclosing his membership, affiliation, or connection to any political party in order to secure an appointment with the Commission in any capacity, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of at least five years or a fine of at least N5 million or both.” All of these are compelling reasons for the President to asset the bill. So for the House and indeed national Assembly to pull the trigger of securing the future of elections in the country is not too much to pay the price and its constitutional powers/arsenal this time around. If the Legislature gets it wrong, it may spell doom for the democratic rule in Nigeria. Aside creating ample opportunity for massive rigging across the country, ruling out the use of electronic voting will also give room for under-age voting and other vices especially in some localities where security agencies have minimal presence. Never forget less than 400,000 policemen and political thugs and electorates resorting to self-help. All of these should be put to the fore by the members of the House of Representatives in taking decision when the bill eventually comes to the floor. Never forget that the time is not on the side of the National Assembly, considering the timeline provided for in some of the amendments. Meanwhile, one of the critical resolutions passed by the House before it adjourned plenary till Tuesday, 17th April, 2018 was on the need to investigate the proposed payment of $17 million to Lawyers engaged by the Attorney General of the Federation for recovery of ‘Abacha Loot.’ According to the promoter of the motion, Mark Gbillah (APC-Benue), Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss Lawyer who was engaged by the Nigerian Government since 1999 to work on recovery of the Abacha Loot for which the sum of $321 million was a part, had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was the Attorney-General of the Federation. Gbillah observed that the Swiss lawyer had since been paid by the Federal Government for his legal services for the recovery of the money which was then domiciled with the Attorney-General of Switzerland pending the signing of an MoU with Nigeria to avoid the issues of accountability around previous recoveries. At present, all that was left was the signing of the MoU which is a government-to- government communication for the money to be repatriated to Nigeria. It was however surprising, when Nigeria’s Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, curiously engaged the services of another set of Nigerian Lawyers in 2016, namely, Oladipo Okpeseyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Temitope Adebayo for a fee of $16.9 Million (about N6 Billion), without due process, accoding to the lawmaker. Tracing the relationship of the two layers engaged by the AGF, Gbillah noted that both Lawyers had worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a legacy party of the All Progressive Congress (APC) when Malami was the legal adviser of CPC. This and many more questions are expected to be looked into by the Ad-hoc Committee to be KEHINDE AKINTOLA announced in the next legislative day. The terms of reference for the Ad-hoc committee include: “investigate the circumstances surrounding the engagement of Nigerian lawyers, namely - Oladipo Okpeseyi, (SAN), and Temitope Adebayo for a fee of $16.9 million (about N6 billion), when the actual work had been concluded by Mr Enrico Monfrini, and was paid by the Nigerian government for the recovery of the sum of $321 million part of the Abacha loot from Luxembourg, and whether due process was followed and to report back within six weeks for further legislative action. On the other hand, the House urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to suspend the payment of the said fee of $16.9 million (about N6 billion) or any part thereof pending investigation on the matter.
Sunday 15 April 2018 Minimum wage: Lagos, not FG will decide for its workers - Official …decries lopsided federal structure JOSHUA BASSEY As debate continues on what should be the appropriate national minimum wage for Nigerian workers, with the organised labour throwing up different figures, a commissioner in Lagos, Akintola Benson Oke, has submitted that the state government, not federal, will decide for its workers. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, (TUC) in 2016 jointly submitted a proposal of N56,000 to the Federal Government as minimum. Recently, however, the two labour centres withdrew the figure and made a fresh demand of N66,500 while their counterparts in United Labour Congress (ULC) are insisting on N96,000 per month as appropriate national minimum wage for Nigerian workers. The Federal Government in November 2017 inaugurated a 30-member tripartite committee headed by Ama Pepple, a former Head of Service and Minister of Housing. The committee comprising labour, private sector representatives and government was tasked with discussing the labour’s demand and arriving at what will be a new national minimum wage. Nigeria currently pays N18,000 minimum wage, a sum that stakeholders across sectors Kofoworola Awobamise, permanent secretary, Ministry of information and Strategy; Kehinde Bamigbetan, commissioner, Ministry of Information and Strategy; Idowu Ajanaku, special adviser to the governor on Information; Abayomi Onayele, director-general, Lagos State Records and Archive Bureau, during the 2018 Ministerial Press Briefing at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja. of the economic believe is inadequate, and one of the lowest in the world. The minimum wage was signed into effect in 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan and meant for a review after five years. The NLC and TUC in withdrawing their initial demand of N56,000 said it was necessitated by the current economic realities whereby workers in the country have become poorer in the face of inflation and depreciating value of the naira which have combined to raise the cost of living in the country. Peter Ozo-Eson, the general secretary of the NLC, said the union submitted the fresh demand at the last meeting of the tripartite committee on March 27. According to Ozo-Eson, we have taken a position since we made the initial demand on the government which is almost two years back. “When we got to the tripartite committee and the committee called on all stakeholders to submit a memorandum. “In responding to the request for a memorandum, we then use current economic indices to make a fresh demand. So, what we place and what we demand is an outcome of analysis we carried out. “We did the analysis using the current economic table and data of the nation and of course that came to something different. We are going to maintain what is in the memorandum that we have submitted to the tripartite committee.” Noting that the fresh demand was a joint memorandum by the NLC and TUC, Ozo-Eson declared: “We have made the presentation to the committee and we have defended it. We have also taken into account changes between the first demand and the current position.” However, responding to a question on the possibility of Lagos paying a higher minimum wage, Benson Akintola Oke, the state commissioner for establishments, training and pensions, said it was within the purview of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led state government to decide what to pay workers in the state public service. C002D5556 19 Inside Lagos Lagos to establish community poultry farm in Isheri A 200 capacity community poultry facility is being established at Isheri by the Lagos State government as part of the measures to upscale the production of poultry products in the drive for food security in the state. Muslim Folami, the commissioner for local government and community affairs disclosed this on Thursday, during a media briefing to mark the third anniversary of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration. The government came into office in May 2015. According to Folami, the poultry farm will commence operations in the second quarter of this year, ending June 2018. He said this was also in the efforts to positively engage the locals and create job opportunities for farmers in the Isheri community. Folami said already, the Vegetable Farm in Isheri which was mainly an open field system had been upgraded to a Green House system to produce ‘fruity vegetable’ particularly Habanero pepper starting from the second quarter of the year. On effort to upscale fish production, the commissioner said a locally formulated sinking feeds was being produced at Lagoon Replenishment Centre/Hatchery located in Badagry, for sales to fish farmers in communities around Badagry while a commercial fish hatchery has also been proposed for the Centre to support local fish farmers in the area. Meanwhile, Folami has advised residents of the state to desist from locking down their streets with iron gates, warning that the government would not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law against defaulters. “There is a law in Lagos State against indiscriminate installation of street gates. We are not saying you should not have gates in your streets but those gates should be manned 24 hours. “The reason we are opposed to the practice of keeping gates perpetually locked is that there may be emergencies, there may be fire outbreak. A pregnant woman can fall into labour anytime and would want to go to the hospital. If you lock the gates what happens? We have had cases where some pregnant women died because the gates were closed. “There were so many incidents of fire outbreak and the streets could not be accessed to put out the fire. We will not fold our hands and allow such things to happen. Henceforth, anyone found guilty would be punished,” Folami said. Folami, who restated the commitment of the state to the development of the grassroots, called for the support of the citizens to fast-track the process. Consumers’ rights abuse: LASCOPA steps in ...offers free services to aggrieved persons Amid increasing cases of product adulteration and associated health hazards, the Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency (LASCOPA) says its doors are opened to customers and consumers whose rights may have been abused or violated in any way. The agency says complaints bordering on fake or adulterated product and below expectation services which had been paid for, can be forwarded to its office in order to help aggrieved customers and consumers seek redress. Kemi Olugbode, the general manager of LASCOPA who spoke with reporters in Ikeja, said the agency recently established by the state government, according to its enabling law, has the mandate to protect consumers of goods and services against any act of infringement on their rights. According to Olugbode, “our doors are widely opened to receive complaints from any consumer irrespective of their sex, tribe, religious or political affiliations.” Urging the general public to take advantage of the free services of her agency, the GM assured that all forwarded cases would be thoroughly investigated and attended to. She noted that LASCOPA would explore every available option to ensure that all complaints from consumers are resolved amicably without necessary initiating a court process. Speaking on the process resolution, Olugbode said that upon the receipt of complaints from any aggrieved consumer, the Complaint and Mediation Section of LASCOPA would write the respondent, to reply to the allegation against them. She said that the agency usually requested the respondents to reply within 14 or 21 working days of receipt of a letter from LASCOPA depending on the circumstances of the matter. Mediation process would commence to ensure a peaceful resolution of all consumers’ complaints as soon as the respondent honours the invitation letter from the agency. The GM said that it was only when all available mediation process had been explored and the complaint not satisfactorily resolved that the option of litigation could be considered. She said the agency had so far been able to amicably resolve a number of consumers’ complaints to their satisfaction free of charge. Oshodi demolition: Hope rises for property owners Owners of property that had to give way for the ongoing construction of Oshodi Transport Interchange and expansion of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) road can look forward to a relief, as the state government says their compensation will soon be paid. There is, however, a proviso, as the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode hinted that those with relevant and valid documents may benefit from the payment. It was gathered that the compensation may cost the state government a whopping N1billion. Ambode undertook a tour of the project and other construction sites on Thursday after which he appealed to those involved to be patient with the government. He said: “We will soon commence the payment of compensation to all the people that we have in one way or the other demolished their properties. And once their papers are complete, they will be compensated for paying the price for the benefit of Lagos residence and Nigerians. “I want to also appeal to Lagos residents to bear with us. We recognise the inconveniences and hardship being experienced on this road due to the ongoing construction. “As much as possible, we are trying to reduce the impact of traffic on residents and road users, believing that it is in the overall interest of all that we should have a standard road that leads to our international airport. “This road will be delivered as a Christmas gift and we should be able to use it with the Oshodi Transport Interchange and make a major facelift in this axis.” Ambode said specifically that the Oshodi Transport Interchange was about the recovery of access roads with tunnel, skywalk, park and ride facility, mall, hotels, and five expanded lanes for easy networking of roads in and out of Oshodi area.” Thomas Cunningham, the contractor handling another project being embarked upon by the state government, the Iyana-Oworo Lagoon Reclamation, said they were at 95 per cent reclamation stage as we have reclaimed 30 hectares. He said that by the end of July, they would have reclaimed the remaining 20 hectares. At the Bariga-Ilaje link road construction where jetties will be situated for water transportation, the contractor said work was at 65 per cent completion stage, with a mini bus terminal where passengers would alight to take jetties to Apapa, CMS, Ikorodu and Epe. Ambode, who expressed satisfaction with the work done, said that the 50-hectare land space would not be sold for residential but for transportation and entertainment hub with clubs, bars, hotels, boutique and transportation with jetties among others. On the Ilaje road construction, he said that the project would be delivered by July, adding that a Primary Healthcare Centre would also be constructed to cater for the highly populated area. The governor also inspected the construction work at the Lagos State Model School, Sabo, Yaba which had 36 classroom and nine laboratories.