FG Seeks National Policy on Public Safety, Security

The federal government has continued to search for an appropriate national policy on public safety and security in a bid to develop a framework for implementation.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade, Monday in Abuja, at the opening of the Stakeholders Consultative Forum on the Development of a National Policy on Public Safety and Security, said the search for a national strategy was based on the urgent need to close the gap in policy and processes that the nonexistence has created over time.
He noted that when this policy is developed, it would evolve “specific roles and responsibility of the individuals, communities, relevant agencies and the various tiers of government in ensuring peace and security in our society based on international best practices.
“Nobody can use politics to disintegrate Nigeria.”
According to the minister, the workshop is one of those planned in search for an “enduring workable and robust national policy on public safety and security that will be a guide and a path towards ensuring the provision of enduring policy on public safety and security in Nigeria.”
Olubolade added that it would provide an overall framework for implementation and delineation of roles of various stakeholders involved in public safety and security.
Professor of Criminology at the University of Abuja, Femi Odekunle, who delivered the lead paper at the forum, said the matter of public safety must be looked at beyond the “legally assigned functions of the Police and other internal security agencies.”
He said the existence of crime in the society over the decades had exposed the country to an unprecedented security risk to itself and the citizens, resulting in invaluable socio economic loss and the serious depletion of the quantum and quality of safety in the country.
Meanwhile, the Ona of Abaji and Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Traditional Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Adamu Yunusa, has called on the federal government to include public safety in the country’s education course outline beginning from primary to tertiary education in order to inculcate it into the character of the Nigerian youths.

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PHCN Workers Threaten Blackout If Not Paid by Thursday. • Electricity will improve in two years, says Sambo

Over 2,000 workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) embarked on a protest yesterday over the delay in the payment of the severance benefits to about 55 per cent of electricity workers.
This came as the Special Assistant to Mr. President on Power,  Professor Abubakar Sanni Sambo, yesterday said with the concerted efforts by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration towards reforming the power sector and attaining the 20-20 Vision on adequate electricity supply in the next two years, the country would experience adequate power supply.
The workers, under the aegis of the National Union of Electrical Employees (NUEE), staged the protest at the Eko and Ikeja Electricity Distribution Companies and threatened to commence indefinite strike on November 1. The workers locked the gates to the two offices and prevented people from entering the premises.
“The reports reaching the union is that majority of the banks cannot give financial backing to the schedule sent to them by the federal government. This means that government does not have money,’’ Adeleke Ibrahim, the Chairman of Lagos Chapter of NUEE, who led the protest, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The union official said if the workers’ entitlements were not paid by the end of October, the entire workforce of PHCN in all the 36 states would embark on an indefinite strike.
Ibrahim said the union was not against the privatisation of the company, “but government should pay all workers’ entitlements before the new owners will commence operation.”
He appealed to government to ensure that all the agreements it signed with the workers were met to avert the strike.
Ibrahim said some of the issues in contention included non-payment of retirement savings to pension fund administrators and non-remittance of dues of two per cent deducted from workers’ salaries to the unions.
Others are non-payment of benefits of retirees who disengaged in 2011 and non-regularisation of service of some casual workers.
Meanwhile, Sambo, while calling on Nigerians to key into this transformation agenda of the president on electricity supply, noted that without adequate supply of power, the country would keep experiencing low business growth.
According to him, “Electricity supply is so low in Nigeria. This has adversely affected business generally. Until there is a significant improvement in power supply, there will not be development in the business cycle.
Little wonder then that Mr. President is working frantically to achieve the transformation agenda on adequate electricity supply for the teeming Nigerian populace. In two years’ time, the country will enjoy highly improved power supply.”
The special adviser who also doubles as Chairman Award Committee on International Institute for Training, Research, and Economic Development (IITRED), enjoined Nigerians to develop interest in research for national development.
He also called for more funds for the various research institutes in the country as a means of breaking new ground in every area of human endeavours.
The President of IITRED, Sani Dawop said after critical screening of all the candidates presented for the award, only one of them met the criteria for the award.
Dawop said the award will take place today in Abuja, with President Jonathan as the special guest of honour, and will also declare it open.
He also said the award will attract the crème de la crème of the society.

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Fashola Reiterates Opposition to Sovereign Wealth Fund. •Says he needs compelling reason to support initiative

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) Monday reiterated his opposition to the operation of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), better known as the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), noting that the federal government under the 1999 Constitution lacked the powers to save on behalf of the state governments.
The governor added that the SWF, which the NSIA was set up to manage on behalf of state and local governments, was a flagrant violation of the section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.
He utterly differed on the establishment of the fund and NSIA while addressing the authority’s Chairman, Mr. Mahey Rasheed and Managing Director, Mr. Uche Kalu during a visit to the governor at the State House, Ikeja, to handover the state’s share certificate showing its ownership of the fund.
At a meeting during the visit, Fashola said he was not comfortable with the fund because Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution only “makes provision for the creation of the Federation Accounts and not the fund.”
He frowned at a situation whereby concepts like the SWF would be brought into the country without taking cognisance of the country’s socio-economic and political conditions and realities.
He explained that the fund was established when the states “are having shortfalls in receipts on the monthly payments from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) needed to keep development going.
“It is something that I want to have continued engagement about the merit at this time. But as I said I will continue to talk to the Managing Director, Mr. Uche Orji. And as I told him before, my mind is open. But I need a compelling argument to persuade that this is the way to go at this time,” he said.
Addressing his visitors, he said: “You mention constitutional democracies. Is there any of them that includes Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Do any of those countries you mention write in its constitution that any money that comes in must go into the Federation Accounts?”
He demanded that all the components of the federation should sit down “to ask real questions. Do we need this? If yes, do we need it now? If we need it now, does our law allow us to do it or are our laws the same to the laws of those countries where the ideas were brought from? And what are the real dynamics of the global economy today? Is this a saving economy or time for investment?
“Other issues include: how do we save money by an Act of the National Assembly when the constitution that created the National Assembly itself stated that every money that comes in this country must go into the Federation Accounts and that any money standing in credit in that account must be distributed between/among the federal, states and local governments?
“For me, it might be comfortable for some of my colleagues to support the fund. But I think I own a sense of duty to advice, as a legal professional and a leader in my profession that I do not feel comfortable with this kind of arrangement. It is not because I disagree with saving, but because questions may be asked in the future that lawyers were sitting among you when this kind of thing happened.
“It is not too late to make the savings initiative. There can be a bad way to do a good thing. Also, there can be a good way to do a bad thing. There are much more fundamental issues beyond the constitutional hurdles. I think that is the first thing we must cross. If we cross those issues, we can begin to discuss what percentage of the monies should be saved or should the federal government save for us.”
He expressed concerns about the disparity in the country’s revenue allocation formula under which the federal government “is getting 52.68 percent of the total earnings that comes into this country and the state governments get 26.72 percent, while the local governments only get 20.60 percent.
“Even when the federal government was persuaded, the government demanded to know what stopped it from saving its part of 52 percent, its response was that the country’s infrastructure was 40 years old already.”
He explained that the infrastructure fund component of the SWF when the country’s critical infrastructure was really over 40 years old, was something else.
“This country is running on the infrastructure that was built after the 1969 civil war. But the population we had at that time has multiplied many folds,” he observed.
In his remarks, Rasheed said the rationale of the SWF was purely meant for investment and to take back the proceeds of the investments, which will be distributed to the federating components.
The chairman also differed with Fashola’s perception of saving for the next generation, explaining that the NSIA was not saving to inherit.
“It is saving to produce investment so that the country can get more money and then we invest more. When are talking of the infrastructure fund, it is part of the three funds under the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority.
“If we have the capability of getting one dollar out of this one dollar, and out of this one dollar, we can get it twice. We are getting investors both in equity and debt just like the United States of America. We invest and definitely, we have to repay it.
“The difference is that the investment that would be made by the NSIA is for profit. Like the investment in the construction of roads, power plants and others, we do it on a commercial basis and sell the service. When we get more, we will do more.
“This is basically another way in which many other federal democratic states such as Australia, Norway and others in world have done,” Rasheed explained.

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House Vows to Probe Climate Change Funds

The  House of Representatives Committee on Climate Change has vowed to  investigate the utilisation of funds donated by international agencies and development partners  to the Department of Climate Change in Nigeria.
The scrutiny of funds followed the revelations that the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment,  operates from a make-shift accommodation devoid of  befitting  work spaces  and  public conveniences.
It was discovered that the department got to its present location after it was evicted from its former office due to inability to fulfill its rent obligations.
The Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, Hon. Eziuche Ubani (PDP/Abia), who spoke to journalists,  during an oversight visit to the department,  said the probe became necessary  to avoid  a situation where the donor agencies  would visit the department and withdraw their assistance due to poor management of the funds donated to it.
Ubani said the shabby  situation of the office was a reflection of the nonchalant attitude of the government and those directly in charge of the office  towards climate change issues.
He  lamented that while other  nations  were taking  climate change matters  seriously, Nigeria does not seem to see it as a priority.
“Donors are supposed to be funding that department and I’m sure they receive money from donors and I’m sure they would be disappointed if they came to see where they work from. That is the very worrying part of it. We are going to make  utmost efforts to get  the Ministry of Environment  to respond to it. They need to be able to get standard accommodation for them, anything less than that would be unacceptable.
“All the talk about climate change is just a pretence because even if donors come to see where this people are working from, like a matchbox for about  forty  staff crammed in that place with no public facility, no toilets and nothing, they would be very disappointed,” he said.
The Director, Climate Change  Department, Federal Ministry of Environment,  Dr. Samuel Adejuwon, had earlier  told  the lawmakers  that the department with its 45 staff were evicted from their former building after government failed  to offset their N12million rent  backlog.
They were  subsequently relocated  to a part of the library  of the Ministry of Environment.
The lawmakers  could not complete  the assessment of the budget performance as the  Permanent Secretary, Mr. Taiye Haruna,  could not furnish them with all the necessary  documents to back up his claim that they  had achieved 80 per cent budget  implementation. The committee has directed him  to bring all the documents  to the National Assembly on Monday (today) for thorough scrutiny.
“Not to come forward with standard documents that are public documents to show us and present to members and then to talk about budget performance as eighty percent procurement is something unacceptable.
“There are standard operating procedures that we know that happens between the National Assembly members, the committees  and then ministries and departments and this case, it is something they know very well and they failed because they were not prepared and that exactly tells you how bad things have gone in that place.
“If they fail to come on Monday then we will take the matter back to the House to let them know how bad things have become in that ministry and from there, we can take it forward,” Ubani said.

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NCAA: We’ve No Documents on Armoured Cars’ Purchase. •APC cautions president against shielding Oduah  •Bulletproof vehicles not on NSA’s security list

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said it is not in possession of documents relating to the controversial purchase of the two armoured BMW cars, worth N255 million, it was accused of buying for the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah.
The agency, in an October 23 letter addressed to Falana & Falana Chambers and signed by its Legal Adviser, E. D. Chukwuma, however, did not state who was in custody of the documents.
The letter, a copy of which THISDAY obtained at the weekend, was a response to a request by Falana & Falana Chambers, contained in a letter dated October 21, in which it requested information on the purchase of the bulletproof cars under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
The law firm of Lagos-based human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had given the NCAA a seven-day ultimatum to respond to the request or it would head to court to compel the agency to release the information.
The raging controversy over the Oduahgate scandal also continued yesterday as the All Progressives Congress (APC) urged President Goodluck Jonathan not to become an accessory to corruption by shielding the minister from facing the consequences of the abuse of office that the purchase of the two cars, without due process, amounted to.
A new twist has also emerged in the car scandal following a report that the two cars are not on the list of bulletproof cars in the country domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Responding to the request from Falana & Falana Chambers, the NCAA in the letter entitled, ‘Re: Request for Information on N255 million Armoured Cars for Aviation Minister, Ms Stella Oduah’, said: “I am directed to refer to your letter dated 21st October, 2013 on the above matter and to inform you that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority is not in possession of any document relating to the purchase of armoured cars for the Aviation Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah.
“With regard to your request for records of previous purchase of armoured cars by the Aviation Ministry or NCAA, I am to inform you that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority does not have such records.”
The regulatory agency, during a presentation at a public hearing by the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which has been tasked to probe the car purchase scandal, had last Thursday said the “ownership title of the documents and spare keys of the vehicles are with First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) and would only be transferred to the NCAA after final payment.”
Under the procurement terms, FBN had financed the lease agreement for the acquisition of the two BMW armoured cars.
The APC has however warned the president against being an accessory to corruption by shielding Oduah from facing the consequences of her action.
The party said Jonathan, through his body language, was sending a signal to his ministers that it was all right to be corrupt.
It wondered whether the president was aware of the joke making the rounds that there are five super ministers in his cabinet he can neither sanction nor remove, irrespective of their actions, because they are the ones diverting funds into his war chest for the 2015 polls.
The party, in a statement yesterday by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it had reached the conclusion after juxtaposing the evidence that have come out on the scandal against the actions so far taken by the president.
“It has now emerged that the money spent to purchase the armoured cars was not appropriated, which is a violation of the Nigerian constitution; that due process was not followed in buying the cars, as the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) has testified; and that the minister – who was said to have approved the purchases – violated the law by approving an expenditure over the N100 million limit.
“These revelations make the Oduahgate a straightforward case that should have been summarily dealt with by the president. Instead, he has engaged himself in a rigmarole by setting up a diversionary administrative panel in what is now looking like an orchestrated ploy to buy time, hoping this issue will die down and the minister will escape being sanctioned.
“Unfortunately for Mr. President, Oduahgate is not just another scandal, but a referendum on his administration’s fight against corruption, and on the legacy he intends to leave in this critical area,” it said.
APC also accused the president of ignoring Nigerians who have expressed outrage at the action of the minister, by giving her approval to travel to Israel as part of his entourage.
“No one believes the dummy that is being sold to the public that the minister was denied access to the president in Israel. The egregious act of putting the minister on his entourage, at a time she is at the centre of a terrible scandal, calls to question the president’s sense of propriety and his commitment to the war against corruption.
“This indecorous action of making a minister who is under investigation for monumental corruption and abuse of office one of the faces of Nigeria in a foreign land is an embarrassment to the country and its people, and a further dent on the poor image of the Jonathan administration,” it added.
The party condemned the president’s handling of the matter so far and the renting of people to engage in pro-Oduah demonstrations.
In a related incident, the Tax Payers Association of Nigeria (TAPAN) has expressed worry over what it described as grand conspiracy to loot the nation’s treasury.
TAPAN’s National President, Mr. Thomas Ilukholo, at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, said the car purchase scandal was a clear indication of connivance between some public officers and fraudulent contractors to steal taxpayers’ money.
The group   urged the federal government to go after the perpetrators of the heinous act as well as all accomplices to serve as a deterrent to government officials with reckless tendencies.
Meanwhile, a new dimension has been added to the car purchase controversy following a report by an online news medium Premium Times that the two controversial cars are not on government’s official list of armoured cars available anywhere in the country.
According to the report, this has fuelled suspicion that the cars might not have been bought but papers processed to launder public funds.
Car dealers as well as end users of reinforced cars are mandated to seek authorisation from the NSA’s office before ordering or importing such vehicles into Nigeria.
Under that regulation, no car dealer or end user, including private individuals, security agencies, and government parastatals, can bring in armoured cars into the country without obtaining end user certificates from the Office of the NSA in Abuja.
But sources at the NSA office informed the online news medium no authorisation certificate was issued to either Oduah or the NCAA to procure the controversial vehicles.
“We have thoroughly checked our list and I can confirm that at no time did we issue an end user certificate to anyone to procure any such cars,” a source said.
“It is likely the cars do not exist and that the documents were either forged to steal public funds. But if the cars indeed exist, the minister, the NCAA and Coscharis Motors would have to explain why they sneaked vehicles into our country without authorisation.
“It is a serious violation, and the minister and other people involved have a lot of explanations to make,” the source said.
Another source said the NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), was appointed into the three-member administrative panel by Jonathan to probe the procurement of the cars specifically to determine whether the purchase of the vehicles did not breach Nigeria’s security regulations.
When contacted on the matter, Dasuki said he would not comment on any aspect of the committee’s work because he is not the chairman of the panel.
“My office is only serving as the committee’s secretariat. I am not the chairman. And you have to wait for us to complete our work. The question you asked (whether an end user certificate was issued for the vehicles) is one of the issues we will look into,” he said.
It was further discovered that there are some inconsistencies in the contract papers, especially conflicting details about the transaction, with recorded dates and figures contradicting each other.
While the NCAA purportedly originated the contract in August, with the first letter of order to Coscharis written on August 13, documents originating from the car firm showed that the deal was sealed in June and the cars released at the same time.
The vehicle release checklist by Coscharis Motors was signed on June 25 with all basic functions of the cars approved as being in order.
There is also a discrepancy in the contract sum. While Coscharis Motors listed the two cars as costing N225 million on the Goods Received Note of August 14, the NCAA approved N255 million, a difference of N30 million.

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National Dialogue: Nigerians in Diaspora Protest Non Representation, Call for Sovereign Conference

Nigerians in the UK have expressed concern over the non-representation  of the Diaspora in the 13-member National Dialogue Committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan.
They expressed their views on Sunday in London at the International Dialogue Forum, where leaders of the various ethnic associations living in the UK voiced their thoughts about the proposed national dialogue.
Jonathan had set up the committee to come up with modalities of convening a national dialogue in order to resolve what he called “issues that currently caused friction in the polity.’’
However, the Nigerian community in the UK wanted a review of the committee membership to include representation from the Diaspora.
They also stressed the need for the national dialogue to be sovereign, noting that its submission should not be sent to the National Assembly, but adopted through a referendum.
Chief Ejike Uzoalor, the Chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo UK chapter, said the national dialogue was long overdue
He said “given our diversity and interest, it is necessary to have a common position on issues that affect us.’’
In his remarks, Dr Ojibulem Lawrence, the Chairman of the Niger Delta Forum, said: “we want this dialogue to be a sovereign conference  where its outcome will be decided by the people and not the National Assembly.’’
On his part, Mr Alistair Soyode, the organiser of the Forum, said the international dialogue was to enable Nigerians in Diaspora to voice out their opinions on the national conference and identify areas of concern that would  be their contribution to the dialogue.
The Europe correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that issues bordering on  resource control, security, zoning formula, education, diaspora, voting and youth empowerment were on the agenda of the forum. (NAN).

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House Probes IOCs over Violations of Local Content Act.

The House of Representatives Committee on Local Content  at the weekend hinted that it would soon launch an investigation into the activities of some multinational oil companies in Nigeria over their alleged violation of the Local Content Act.
The law was passed by the National Assembly in 2010 to protect the interest of  Nigerians  in the oil  and gas sector but  oil multinationals which  have dominated the scene  for several decades seem to have  been observing the law in the breach.
Investigations revealed  that a Korean firm recently  executed a contract worth  over $8 billion in the sector, a job that could have been handled by a local firm to create jobs and stem the tide of capital flight.
Deputy Chairman,  House Committee on Local Content, Hon. Nasir Ali Ahmed (APC/ Kano), told journalists that in the course of exercising its  oversight functions,  the committee had discovered a lot of breaches of  the Local Content Act by these International Oil Companies (IOCs).
Ahmed disclosed that the committee had already summoned some of the firms to explain their actions.
The Local Content Law  stipulates among other things  that:  “All  regulatory authorities, operators, contractors, subcontractors, alliance partners and other entities involved in any project, operation, activity or transaction in the Nigerian oil and gas industry shall consider Nigerian content as an important element of their overall project development and management philosophy for project execution.”
Section 3 (2) of the Act demands that indigenous service companies which demonstrate ownership of equipment, have local  personnel and capacity to execute such work be given exclusive consideration for such jobs in the  oil and gas industry.
“An operator, contractor or subcontractor who carries out any project contrary to the provisions of this Act, commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine of five per cent of the project sum for each project in which the offence is committed or cancellation of project.”
Similarly, Section 49 (1) of the Act  states that all  operators, project  promoters, alliance partners and Nigerian indigenous companies engaged in any form of business, operations or contract in the Nigerian oil and gas industry, shall insure all insurable risks related to its oil gas business, operations or contracts with an insurance company, through an insurance broker registered in Nigeria under the provisions of Insurance Act.

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