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Anti-graft war must be won against all odds, says Senate President 

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Senate-President-Lawan
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…As Witness Protection bill scales second reading 
 
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said that the war against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government must be won irrespective of temporary setbacks.

Lawan stated this in his remarks after a bill seeking to establish the Witness Protection and Management Framework scaled second reading during plenary on Tuesday.

According to him, the fight against corruption is one that must be vigorously pursued by government to ensure the eventual elimination of graft, given that same is capable of hindering Nigeria’s development.

He added that the Witness Protection bill, if passed and signed into law, would be an incentive that encourages witnesses to testify in corruption cases since their protection is guaranteed under the law.
 
Lawan said, “Distinguished colleagues, almost every administration in this country would work against corruption that has bedeviled the development of this country.

“The witness protection bill that we are debating today is a way forward to encourage witnesses to testify against corruption. And by protecting them properly, that will incentivise such witnesses.

“The war against corruption is a must, and it must be won. It is not about the quantum of funds or resources that we have, but how we are able to put to use even our scarce resources.

“So, this is a very important bill, and I’m sure all of us would lend our support.”

Sponsor of the bill for an Act to establish the Witness Protection and Management Framework, Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari, said the bill was first read on February 23, 2021.

According to the lawmaker, it was also listed among the bills of interest and international significance, contained in the recent Executive Communication from President Muhammadu Buhari, which was read on the floor of the Senate on the 19th of January 2022.

“Empirical evidence show that one of the major causes of the inability to successfully prosecute criminal cases in our courts is the lack of witnesses.

“Many of them face intimidation and threats just as prosecutors most times do not have the funds and management framework to safely bring witnesses to testify in court.

“The passage of this bill into law will fill this gap as well as fulfill some of our Country’s international commitments to various conventions and protocols, like the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) amongst others”, Senator Kwari said.

He further recalled  that the Witness Protection and Management Bill and Whistle Blower Bill were initially considered as co-joined in a single bill by the 8th National Assembly and passed in 2017.

He added that following a technical stakeholders roundtable comprising of representatives of relevant criminal justice system operators, it was resolved that both bills be unbundled in order to allow Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAS) currently running witness protection programs continue in that wise.

“This necessitates the separation of the two bills and accordingly paves the way for witness protection programmes across the broad spectrum of Law Enforcement Agencies, thereby discouraging duplicity and multiplicity of agencies”, he said.

Section 1 of the bill provides for the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to protect witnesses and related persons, with responsibilities for carrying out all administrative duties relating to witnesses and related persons.

The bill under the section ensures that the relevant agency takes responsibility for entering into a witness protection agreement, regulate the procedure while harmonizing existing laws and policies on witness protection and management.

The Bill in Section 2 also specifies offences and laws in which the bill apply, and comprise terrorism, money laundering (prevention and prohibition), economic and financial crimes, corrupt practices and other related offences, drugs and narcotics and their trafficking, trafficking in persons, Criminal and Penal Code offences.

It further provides for customs and excise management, any legislation dealing with proceeds of crimes, confiscation and forfeiture of assets, and to all justice sector institutions and authorities, including the courts, law enforcement as well as security agencies, and other relevant regulatory institutions towards the protection of witnesses in the course of the investigation, detection and prosecution of offences.

Part 2 sets standard for establishing and managing the witness program, while Section 3 mandates all public institutions having responsibility under their laws of investigating and/or prosecuting offences under any law, to establish a witness protection and management program.

The section further provides for rights, duties, privileges and obligations of other bodies such as courts, lawyers, parents/guardian in relation to witness protection and management.

In addition, Part 3 provides for protections such as allowing a witness to establish a new identity or restore a former witness’s original identity by an application from a relevant agency made to the Court, for a new entry in the birth, marriage or death registry and issuance of a certificate as the case may be.

Part 4 mandates relevant agencies, to designate a Witness Protection office at each of their branch offices to enable the adoption and management of the Witness Protection Program.

On the other hand, Part 5 of the bill provide for the establishment of a Witness Protection Fund to be managed and controlled by relevant agencies.

According to the bill, such funds include moneys appropriated by the National Assembly for payment into the Protection Fund, which shall amount to at least fifty per cent of the total estimated expenditure of the Protection Fund, moneys approved by the President for Witness Protection Programs, moneys accruing to the Protection Fund from any fund or account established by an Act for the lodgment of proceeds of confiscation and forfeited assets.

Other sources include a percentage of the total amount recovered by the Government as direct result of information provided by a protected person, subventions, grants, aid and donations from Federal or State Government, etc.

Part 6 criminalizes certain acts relating to false or misleading and unlawful disclosures, false representation and unauthorized access to a witness.

Part 7 under Miscellaneous provides for legal proceedings such as 30 days pre-action notice, non-compellability of witness, restriction on execution against property of the relevant agency, indemnity of officers of the relevant agency including powers of the Attorney General of the Federation to make regulations in respect of the bill.

The bill after consideration was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; and Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes.

The Joint Committee is expected to report back in four weeks.

Meanwhile, a bill seeking to establish the Federal Polytechnic Shagamu also scaled second reading in the Senate.

The bill sponsored by Senator Olalekan Mustapha (Ogun East) was referred by the Senate President after consideration to the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further inputs.

The Committee was also given four weeks to report back to the chamber in plenary.

 

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APC primary: No cause for alarm – Oyetola’s aide

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Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola
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Expresses confidence that Appeal court will set it aside

The Chief Press Secretary to Osun Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, Ismail Omipidan, has appealed to supporters of the governor to remain calm in the face of the decision of a Federal High Court to nullify his candidature in the July 16 Governorship poll.

He noted that their team of lawyers would be challenging the decision at the Appeal Court, just as he expressed confidence that the decision would be set aside.

Omipidan further noted that the case was instituted by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in spite of the fact there is a plethora of decisions flowing from the apex court that frowns upon such a decision.

He said that, for the records, the position of the law is that only members of the APC who participated in the primary election can approach the court to challenge the nomination of Oyetola as the candidate of the party.

“All these are part of the antics of the opposition PDP and some of their collaborators from within to distract us. But like every of their plans, this too has fallen flat on their faces.

“They want to distract us from the Tribunal case. But we shall remain focused until we take back our mandate. We have confidence in the Tribunal to do justice in the case before it, just as we have implicit confidence in the Appeal Court to set aside this latest decision of the Federal High Court,” Omipidan said.

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Nigeria @ 62: Southern Senators To Houses of Assembly, Speed up Review of Constitution Amendment

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Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele
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The Southern Senators’ Forum has asked the State Houses of Assembly across the nation to expedite action on the Review of the 1999 Constitution as transmitted to them by the National Assembly, adding that this would be an Independence anniversary gift to Nigerians if done as such.

The Chairman of the Forum , Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, made this known in a statement issued on the occasion of the commemoration of the 62nd Independence anniversary. Bamidele said he is optimistic that most of the challenges facing the nation will be a thing of the past if the salient report becomes law.

Bamidele also urged Nigerians to be optimistic about the future of the nation, notwithstanding the enormity of our current challenges, adding that there is yet light at the end of the tunnel if we have faith in God and take the much needed steps.

He pointed out that just like the political office holders and public servants in general, every citizen has a role to play in the nation building process and with determination, faith and persistence, Nigerians will surely witness a new Nigeria which is headed for growth and development and that is devoid of violence, hostilities, and acrimony.

The statement reads, ” As we celebrate 62nd Independence anniversary of our great nation, I will like to implore the State Houses of Assembly across the Federation to expedite action on the passage of the Review of the 1999 Constitution as transmitted to them by the National Assembly, because some of the problems facing the people of Nigeria are already being addressed in the amendment draft transmitted to the State Houses Assembly.

” The speedy passage of the amendment will serve as the most cherished and memorable anniversary gift you can give to the electorates who reposed confidence in you by voting you as their representatives in the Houses Assembly.

” We must also know that the process of nation building is a collective responsibility of both the leaders and followers in order for us to have the nation of our desire and Nigerians should continue to hope for greater future and with determination, faith and persistence, Nigerians will surely see a nation devoid of banditry, terrorism, kidnapping, ethnic hostilities and acrimony.

” Nigerians should not succumb their future in the hands of the pessimists who are always craving for negative news in the country, but put their trust in God, for He will surely see us through our challenges as a nation”.

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Senator Opeyemi Bamidele Bags National Honour

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Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele
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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved conferment of national honour on the Senator representing Ekiti Central, in the the current Ninth National Assembly, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele.

The National Honours ceremony is billed for October 11, 2022 in Abuja

This was disclosed in a statement released by Senator Bamidele’s media office , stating that the Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary is listed among the recipients of the 2022 National Honour Award of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).

The letter conveyed the award was signed by the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-government Affairs, Senator George Akume signed on September 16, 2022.

The letter from the Minister reads, ““I have the honour to formally inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the conferment of the National Honours on you, in the rank of CON, Commander of the Order of the Niger.

“The ceremony is scheduled to take place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 at 9am.”

Bamidele is the Chairman of Southern , Senator Forum, and was in House of Representatives between June 2011 to June 2015). He served as Honorable Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State (July 2007 to February 2011), Honourable Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Development, Lagos State (July 2003 to May 2007, Special Adviser to the Governor on Political and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Lagos State (July 2000 to May 2003).

Bamidele obtained law degree in the University of Benun and graduated from the Nigerian Law School, he was called to the bar in 1992. He then proceeded to Franklin Pierce University where he received a master’s degree in law and was called to the New York Bar in January 1999.

Among the bills sponsored by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele is a bill for the Establishment of the Federal University of Medical and Environmental sciences in Ekiti. Also, his Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Establishment Act Amendment Bill of 2021, seeking to strengthen and extend the life of AMCON, has already been assented to by President Buhari.

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