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N’Assembly won’t hesitate to demand arrest of govt. officials that fail to account for public funds – Lawan

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SENATE-PRESIDENT
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…says conflict between executive, legislature not in interest of Nigerians

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said that the National Assembly won’t hesitate to issue a warrant of arrest on any government official that refuses to appear before its Committees to account for public funds in their trust.

Lawan made this known on Friday while fielding questions at a briefing of Editors, Bureau Chiefs and members of the Senate Press Corps to mark the 2nd anniversary of the ninth Senate in Abuja.

The Senate President was reacting against the backdrop of likely concerns into findings by the Public Accounts Committee on the report of the Auditor-General for the Federation on the accounts of the Federation for the year ended 31st December, 2015.

The report was laid on Tuesday this week by the Public Accounts Committee Chairman, Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) during plenary.

Lawan said, “The Public Accounts Committee normally works with the report of the Auditor-General for the Federation.

“[And] the report of the Auditor-General is an annual report. Normally, report infractions where an agency was given money, there was expenditure that the Auditor-General could not understand, he will give thirty days for that organization to come and explain.

“If the agency does not come forward in thirty days to give an explanation, that issue is put in the Auditor-General’s report.

“It is not a final indictment, so to speak. The Public Accounts Committee is supposed to invite the agency to come and explain what the Auditor-General is reporting.

“[And] I’m sure that our public accounts committee has been doing its best. Where an agency refuses to appear, we normally have some other ways of maybe after three invitations to appear, then we go for the warrant of arrest.

“I served as as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for eight years, and I had the benefit of getting my Senate President to sign warrant of arrest of some people who felt they were so big. [And] at the end of the day, they ran all over the place looking for soft landing.”

The Senate President emphasised: “We will not hesitate to sign warrant of arrest on anyone who refuses or fails to appear to account for public funds in his or her trust. We will not hesitate.

“But I can assure you, that majority of public servants invited to come before the committees of the National Assembly appear, only few sometimes fail to appear.

“Now, those few, if we judge their absence to be defiance, we will take the appropriate action.”

Speaking on the relationship between the legislature and the executive arm of government in the last two years, the Senate President dismissed insinuations that the National Assembly is a “rubber stamp” of the executive.

According to him, the ninth assembly’s resolve to collaborate with the executive arm of government owed to its decision to work patriotically in the interest of Nigerians.

He added that a frosty relationship between both arms of government as previously characterised in past assemblies had time and again failed work in the overall interest of Nigerians as they always are the losers.

“The relationship between the executive and legislature between 1999 and 2003 was largely characterized by mostly fight and total lack of coordination and collaboration.

“But who paid the price? Nigerians paid the price because government could not function.

“The legislature must have its pride of place. In fact, in the constitution, the first arm of government mentioned is the legislature before the executive arm, then the judiciary.

“The legislature is even the senior partner in government, if I may say so. But what is important is for the legislature to know its mandate and obligations to understand that it has an oversight function over the executive arm of government and even the judiciary, to uphold separation of powers between the various arms of government.

“[And] if it knows that, it means it knows its boundaries. The executive should also have its boundaries because these are clearly defined roles.

“In 2019 when we campaigned,  we said when we are given the opportunity to serve in this capacity, we want to establish a working relationship based on mutual respect, cooperation, consultation, synergy and partnership with the executive arm of government.

“Not at the expense of our roles as the legislature, but we believe that we can get better outcome in terms of government delivering services to the citizens of this country. That is what informed our position.

“[But] it appears that what some people expect from a legislature, or a relationship between the two arms – the legislature and the executive – is stone throwing, fights, insults, punching and so on.

“That legislature that does that is the kind of legislature we (Nigerians) want. How does that give you what you need? It doesn’t give you what we need.

“I can tell you we disagree with the executive, but the difference between us and what might have happened previously is that we are able to sit down and talk and say no, we are not accepting this one, you should withdraw it.”

Reacting to the recent ban of Twitter by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Lawan expressed optimism that the engagement between Nigeria and Twitter would resolve the contentious dispute.

He said, “the Honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, informed Nigerians that they are talking with Twitter to resolve this matter.

“[And] our belief is, Nigeria needs Twitter just as much as Twitter needs Nigeria.

“Our expectation is that this engagement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Twitter would resolve the dispute between Twitter and our government.

“[But] beyond that, I’m an optimist. I believe that all of us would have learnt our lessons.”

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Supreme Court Orders FG To Pay allocations Directly To LGAs

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The supreme court has ruled that the federal government should henceforth pay allocations directly to local government councils from the federation account.

Delivering judgment in the suit on Thursday, a seven-member panel of justices held that state governments have continued to abuse their powers by retaining and using the funds meant for LGAs.

In May, the federal government filed a suit at the supreme court against governors of the 36 states.

In the suit marked SC/CV/343/2024, the federal government asked for full autonomy for the country’s 774 local governments.

In the suit filed by Lateef Fagbemi, attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, the federal government also requested the supreme court to authorise the direct transfer of funds from the federation account to local governments — in accordance with the constitution.

The suit was hinged on 27 grounds.

“That the constitution of Nigeria recognizes federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and that the three recognized tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the federation account created by the constitution,” the originating summons had read.

“That all efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 Constitution in terms of putting in place a democratically elected local government system, has not yielded any result and that to continue to disburse funds from the federation account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local governments is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 constitution.”

The federal government had asked the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the constitution to declare that the governors and state houses of assembly are under obligation to ensure democratically elected systems at the third tier.

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N33bn Fraud: Ex-Minister Mamman Collapses Outside Court

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The arraignment of Saleh Mamman, the former Minister of Power under ex-President Muhammadu Buhari, was on Thursday, July 11, 2024, stalled at a Federal High Court in Abuja due to ill health.

Mamman, whose plea was fixed for Thursday morning, collapsed outside the courtroom before the case was called.

The former minister’s counsel, Femi Ate (SAN), told the presiding judge Justice James Omotosho shortly when the matter was called for Mamman to take his plea.

Upon resumed hearing, the ex-minister walked into the courtroom and stepped into the dock with part of his clothes drenched.

Justice Omotosho then asked why Mamman was sweating or whether it was raining outside.

The former minister, who responded from the dock, said water was poured on him.

The counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN), while addressing the court, said though the matter was fixed for Mamman’s arraignment, there was a development outside the courtroom.

Olumide-Fusika said he had a discussion with Ate outside the courtroom about Mamman’s ill-health.

“I was informed of an incident outside. I will want my learner senior advocate to tell the honourable court himself,” he said.

Speaking, Ate said Mamman, “upon being brought into the premises of the court collapsed and had to be resuscitated and treated by the medical personnel of the Federal High Court.”

He said his client was served with the charge after he was resuscitated.

N1.6bn fraud: Please give me time to return looted funds, ex-AGF begs court

“He was served this morning,” he added.

The lawyer said he sought the understanding of Olumide-Fusika for an adjournment so that the arraignment could be done on Monday when his client would have been okay.

However, the judge said due to the workload in the court dockets, the arraignment could only be fixed for September ending.

Ate then withdrew the oral application for an adjournment.

The judge, however, asked Mamman if he was fit enough to take his plea today and he responded in the affirmative.

Mamman, however, said he was fit to continue with the arraignment.

“It can happen to anyone,” the judge said.

Justice Omotosho, thereafter, stepped down the arraignment until Thursday afternoon.

The EFCC had filed a 12-count money laundering charge against the Mamman.

He was alleged to have committed money laundering offences to the tune of N33 billion.

The former minister served under former President Buhari from 2019 to 2021.

 

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Olaide Akinremi, House Of Reps Member, Dies At 51

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Olaide Adewale Akinremi, a member of the house of representatives, is dead.

The lawmaker died on Wednesday morning aged 51.

Akinremi represented Ibadan north federal constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He was a ranking member and house committee chairman on science and research.

In a statement, Akin Rotimi, spokesperson of the house, said the Oyo lawmaker was a “dedicated public servant known for his unwavering commitment to the development of his constituency and the country at large”.

“His passion for service, coupled with his deep understanding of the needs and aspirations of his people, earned him the endearing title of ‘Jagaban’.

“Throughout his tenure, he was a staunch advocate for policies and initiatives that promoted social welfare, economic growth, and scientific research.

“His contributions to legislative debates and his active participation in committee activities were a testament to his dedication and hard work.

“Rep. Akinremi was as much a grassroots politician as he was an astute statesman who leveraged his goodwill and network of relationships to attract positive impact to the people of his constituency.

“He built friendships by being intentional about reaching out and sending goodwill messages to all colleagues on special occasions, fostering camaraderie and unity within the House.

“As a ranking member, Rep. Akinremi had keen institutional memory and was a mentor to many first-time parliamentarians, guiding them with wisdom gained from his extensive experience in legislative affairs.”

Tajudeen Abbas, speaker of the house, also expressed “profound sadness” over the passing of the lawmaker.

“Rep. Akinremi Olaide Adewale was a beacon of dedication and service,” Abbas said.

“His contributions to our legislative work, especially in the area of science and research, were invaluable.

“His passing is a great loss to the House, his constituency, and the nation. We will miss his leadership, wisdom, and the unique passion he brought to his work.”

Akinremi’s death comes weeks after the passing of Isa Dogonyaro, a member of the house of representatives who represented Babura/Garki federal constituency of Jigawa state.

Dogonyaro died in May after a brief illness.

 

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