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False alarm: Lawan, Akpabio not recognised senatorial candidates — INEC

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…Tasks media on responsible reportage

Abimbola Abatta and Ridwan Adekunle

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has debunked the rumour making the rounds that it has accepted the nominations of Senate President Ahmed Lawan and former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio as senatorial candidates for Yobe North and Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial Districts respectively.

INEC was reacting to an online report, alleging that the Commission has doctored, backdated and certified documents to accommodate the nominations of the two senatorial candidates.

Nigerian NewsDirect reports that Lawan and Akpabio’s names were missing from the list of successfully nominated candidates submitted to INEC by the 18 political parties in June.

The duo, having failed in their efforts to clinch the 2023 Presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), are trying to claim the senatorial tickets despite the fact that they did not partake in the primary elections in their senatorial districts.

Meanwhile, Bashir Machina (Yobe North) and Udom Ekpoudom (Akwa Ibom North-West) had emerged as candidates in the primaries. But it was learnt that their names were not forwarded to INEC as candidates.

A media report on Tuesday had alleged that INEC backdated Certified True Copies of reports of the APC primaries “to accommodate” Lawan and Akpabio.

Debunking the allegations yesterday in a statement by INEC’s spokesperson, Festus Okoye, the Commission said it has not recognised either of the two personalities as a Senatorial candidate.

According to the Commission, what was misconstrued by the rumour-peddling online platform as INEC’s endorsement could have been easily fact-checked.

The statement read, “Not for the first time, our attention has been drawn to a story published by an online medium that the Commission has doctored, backdated and certified documents to accommodate the nominations emanating from Yobe North and Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial Districts in respect of Senators Ahmed Lawan and Godswill Akpabio. Nothing can be further from the truth.

“As evidence of the alleged role played by the Commission, a certified true copy of Form 9C uploaded by their political party and received by the Commission on 17th June 2022 when the nomination portal closed was presented.

“For clarity, the Form EC9 (submission of names of candidates by political parties) is the form uploaded by parties on the INEC nomination portal. This is clearly indicated on the title of the Form which was received on 17th June 2022 when the portal closed.

“What follows is the publication of the personal particulars of nominated candidates which was done a week later. The forms of the two personalities in question were not published by the Commission. The decision of the Commission triggered legal action which are still ongoing. It therefore defies logic and common sense to go around and submit doctored documents purportedly recognising the duo as candidates when the matter is clearly sub-judice.

“As part of the ongoing case in Court, a law firm requested the Commission for a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Form EC9 submitted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as its candidate for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District which we are duty bound to oblige them under the law. The Form was certified on 15th July 2022.

“If minimum care has been exercised by the promoters of the story, they would have seen the two stamps of the Commission bearing different dates on the Form. It is this Form that is now misconstrued as INEC’s endorsement.

“For the record, the Commission has not recognised any of the two personalities as a Senatorial candidate.”

Okoye, therefore, called for responsible reportage as against the unwarranted attack on the Commission and its officials.

Meanwhile, Nigerian NewsDirect monitored some reactions to the controversy on the social media platform, Twitter.

According to @timi_Kolade21, “INEC is an unbiased umpire going by the last two elections. The fact that INEC gave room for political parties to change candidate does not necessarily mean that the outcome of the election will be manipulated. We shouldn’t major on minor.”

@JosiahLabi said, “They (INEC) didn’t need to wait for any pressure. They are supposed to take the submission from the party. It’s now left for the short-changed aspirants to go to court and get their mandate back.”

Also reacting to the development, @ChiamakaPeters3 said, “My worry is that often time such high-power news that has something to do with the high and mighty of this Nation will eventually become a reality. The Lawans and the Akpabios of this world will rather jump the ocean than being away from the corridors of power.”

@akhator15 said, “So what we saw was just to test how Nigerians will react. Please, don’t push Nigerians to the wall because you may not be able to control the reaction when they start. We love peace and we are very peaceful.”

On @holymusicality’s part, “Both Akpabio and Ahmed Lawan should even be investigated and imprisoned for this. It is gross misconduct and manipulation of process.”

For another tweep, @HonDistinguish, “INEC shouldn’t forget these two (Lawan and Akpabio) were Presidential aspirants under APC, at the same, Senatorial district contestants under the same party in the same primaries period. Ahmed Lawan and Akpabio should go and rest please.”

“I pray it stays this way, but reading the INEC statement, I noticed a court judgement can make that happen easily and we know how judgements are in this country. There is still that possibility of it happening. We wait still,” @obaroddy stated.

@shethall asked, “How can we trust these guys with the nation’s general election?”

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Impeachment: Court to hear Shaibu’s suit against assembly, others April 19

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A Federal High Court in Abuj la  has fixed April 19 for hearing of a suit filed by the impeached Deputy Governor of Edo, Philip Shaibu, against the state house of assembly and others.

The matter, which was before Justice Inyang Ekwo, was on Friday fixed for hearing after a team of lawyers, including Alex Ejesieme, SAN, showed up to seek a date for the case.

The suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/405/24, was not listed on the cause list, the lawyers, who said they were for the defence, came to the court.

Shortly before the judge rose, one of the lawyers told Justice Ekwo that the matter was scheduled to hold on Thursday but due to the public holiday, the court did not sit.

“So in obedience to court, we came today,” he said.

But Justice Ekwo, who held that he could not preside over a matter that was not in the file, directed them to liaise with the court registrar for the next adjourned date.

The matter was consequently fixed for April 19 for hearing.

The suit dated March 26 but filed March 27, Shaibu sued the Inspector-General (I-G) of Police; State Security Service (SSS) as 1st and 2nd respondents.

He also joined Hon. Justice S.A. Omonua (rtd.), the Chairman representing himself and members of the Panel of Seven Appointed by the 4th Defendant; the Chief Judge of Edo; and Prof. Theresa Akpoghome as 3rd to 5th respondents.

Shaibu, in the suit filed by O.A. Gbadamosi, SAN, also listed Mr President Aigbokhian; Mr Oghogho Ayodele Oviasu and the Edo State House of Assembly as 6th to 8th respondents respectively

In the originating motion on notice, a declaration that the threat and failure of the 3rd to 8th respondents to give him a fair hearing in the impeachment proceedings commenced by the 8th respondent is illegal, unconstitutional, and a gross violation of his fundamental right to fair hearing, pursuant to Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

He sought a declaration that the failure of the 8th respondent (assembly) to serve the purported impeachment notice on him personally and on each member of the House of Assembly, in line with Section 188(2) of the 1999 Constitution is a violation of his right to fair hearing.

He also sought a declaration that the inclusion of the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th respondents as chairman and members of the seven-member Investigation panel to investigate allegations contained in a purported impeachment notice to the applicant is tainted by a reasonable likelihood of bias and will result in a violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to fair hearing, guaranteed by virtue of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.”

He sought an order directing the respondents not to take any further steps in violating his fundamental right to fair hearing, guaranteed by virtue of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

He also sought an order directing the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th respondents to recuse themselves from sitting as Chairman and members of the 7-Man Investigating Panel appointed by the 3rd respondent, on account of the likelihood of bias on their part against him, among other reliefs.

Giving seven grounds of argument, Shaibu averred that before now, he had never been confronted with any of such notice or allegations of misconduct or abuse of office or any allegations at all, whether as deputy governor or acting governor.

He said he had not been served with any letter/notice as required by Section 188(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended and no privilege had been accorded him by the assembly to provide answers to any purported allegations to warrant a process targeted at his removal from office as deputy governor.

“The 3rd respondent via a letter dated 25th March, 2024 was appointed by the 4th respondent as the chairman of a panel of seven persons to investigate the allegations contained in a purported impeachment notice, which is yet to be personally served on the applicant.

“The 3rd respondent is a retired judicial officer and community leader from Esan North East Local Government Area of Edo Central Senatorial District, where there is strong clamour against the gubernatorial ambition of the applicant.

“The 3rd respondent appears to have been given the hatchet job of recommending the removal from office of the applicant, in order to weaken his political ambition of becoming governor of Edo State.

“The 4th respondent being a protégé of the 3rd respondent, appointed him as chairman of the Investigating Panel, when other persons he offered the same appointment rejected it, because it was a politically motivated job,” he said, among other grounds.

Shaibu was, on Monday, impeached by the state’s house of assembly after the seven-man panel found him guilty of perjury and leaking of the government’s secrets.

The retired Justice Omonuwa-led panel, which had its inaugural sitting on April 3 in Benin, ended its sitting on April 5 with Shaibu or his counsel failing to show up.

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AfDB strengthens partnership with CSOs

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) says it is solidifying its partnership with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in West Africa.

The AfDB, in a statement issued on its website, said this was deliberated during the bank’s fruitful mission to Ghana.

The statement said the mission focused on advancing an agreement signed between the bank and the West Africa Civil Society Institute in December 2023 on an action plan for 2024.

The statement said the mission outlined collaboration in CSOs capacity building, resource mobilisation, knowledge management, and advocacy.

“Immediate initiatives highlighted in the plan include CSOs involvement in finalising the Bank’s Civil Society Engagement (CSE) capacity building programme and integrating it into bank operations.

“Recognising the imperative of early and comprehensive CSOs engagement, the mission emphasised improved integration of diverse perspectives into the bank’s country strategy papers and country dialogue.

“Collaboration with Afrobarometer shall include a joint initiative with the International Budget Partnership to strengthen CSOs capacity in the budget space.

“Discussions also covered data and analysis on the bank’s High 5s, focusing on citizens experiences, poverty alleviation, access to food, and migration,’’ it said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Afrobarometer is a pan-African, independent, non-partisan research network that measures public attitudes on economic, political, and social matters in Africa

According to the bank, Afrobarometer will lead conversations on governance within the CSE Community of Practice (CoP), thereby, generating knowledge to inform the bank’s programming on economic and financial governance.

The statement said collaboration on major events like the AfDB’s Annual Meetings and the 2024 United Nations Climate Change Conference was envisioned.

It said this would be possible by leveraging Afrobarometer’s expertise to enrich discussions and align them with Africa’s priorities.

It said: “a meeting with the West African Network for Peace building (WANEP) during the mission culminated in finalising a joint Transition Support Facility III proposal.

“The proposal is titled ‘Sahel Peace building, Reconciliation, Inclusive Development and Empowerment.

“Exploratory talks also covered potential joint initiatives on conflict prevention, mitigation, and resilience building in the West African Region, particularly in the Sahel.

“A feasibility study on civil society engagement in peace building is also under consideration,’’ it said.

According to the statement, WANEP will lead discussions on fragility and resilience within the CoP.

The statement said it would offer insights that could inform the implementation of the bank’s 2022-2026 Strategy for Addressing Fragility and Building Resilience through such interactions.

It reiterated AfDB’s continued commitment towards collaborating with civil society to advance inclusive and sustainable development across Africa.

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Ibadan kingmakers certifies Olakulehin fit to become Olubadan

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The Olubadan-in-Council has certified the Olubadan designate, High Chief Owolabi Olakulehin, fit to ascend the throne as Olubadan of Ibadanland.

The Olubadan-in-Council made the declaration at the end of a special meeting with the Olubadan-designate at Oja-Oba palace of Olubadan on Friday in Ibadan.

The meeting had in attendance 10 Olubadan-in-Council members while the Otun Balogun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Abimbola Ajibola, who allegedly said that Olakulehin was not fit, was not at the meeting.

Addressing the newsmen after the meeting, the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, High Chief Rashidi Ladoja, said that members of Olubadan-in-Council had done their part as Ibadan kingmakers.

According to him, a letter will be sent to Gov. Seyi Makinde for the government consent before coronation of Olakulehin as the 43rd Olubadan of Ibadanland.

“After the governor’s consent, a day for the coronation will be announced. We thank everyone for the support as we pray that all of us will be alive to witness the coronation,” he said.

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