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…..charges INEC to be swift, decisive and professional in the Okigwe senate poll

The leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group in Nigeria :- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) thinks that the decision by the Federal High Court Owerri division, which categorically decided on the legal interrogatory of who exactly is the flag bearer of All Progressives Congress (APC), in the yet to be fixed but much anticipated election to choose a senator for Okiwe that has remained “ a political orphan” in the upper legislative chamber, is a welcomed development.

Consequent upon the ruling of the Federal High Court resolving the controversy trailing the Okigwe by-election’s Senatorial primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Rights group said the candidates validly presented now to the Independent National Electoral commission as candidates including the Court decided flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress must now go to the fields and tell the constituents what blueprints they possess to change the fortune of Okigwe.

HURIWA stated that it is imperative that the just reappointed INEC Chairman should fix a quick date for the conduct of the by-election just as the Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said it was high time that Okigwe Senatorial zone changes from the unfortunate position as the most marginalized senatorial district in Nigeria to an economic zone whereby industrialization upgrade would drive up employment for the youngstars and bring about stability, growth, progress and security for all.

The group which says it has no favoured candidate in the poll, however charges all those willing to serve the people to be ready to do the most simple of all tasks by producing academic qualifications they have claimed to have so Okigwe no longer suffers perennial lack of representation in the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“HURIWA has recently visited Okigwe senatorial zone and from our findings, the constituents have this feeling of being short changed and the bad state of the only Federal road traversing Okigwe to Umunahia and Okigwe to Owerri, is a disgraceful phenomenon which means that this prolonged lack of representation of Okigwe in the senate is not just a political disadvantage but a gross human rights violation.”

Mahmood Yakubu
INEC Chairman

“We urge the rejuvenated independent National Electoral Commision (INEC) to fix a definite date for conduct of the Okigwe senatorial poll just as we challenge the electoral empire to conduct a free, fair, peaceful and transparent election so it will be impossible for the winner to be removed by the election Tribunal and so the seemingly unending episode of lack of representation of Okigwe at the senate would stop. We trust that Professor Yakubu Mahmood led INEC will not help to perpetuate this deliberate under-representation of Okigwe Senatorial zone.”

HURIWA recalled that a Federal High Court sitting in Owerri last Friday ruled that former Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and not Mr. Frank Ibezim or Lady Uchenna Uba, was the rightful candidate qualified to represent APC in the forthcoming by-election.

HURIWA recalled that the seat of Imo North Senatorial District formerly occupied by Senator Benjamin Emeka Uwajumogu, became vacant following the sudden death of the senator in his residence in Abuja last December even as part of the process of selecting a candidate to fly the party’s flag during the by-election earlier fixed for October 31, 2020, but put forward indefinitely due to the #EndSARS protests, APC organised parallel primaries.

HURIWA recalled that the then ‘candidate’ Ibezim, who was favoured by Governor Uzodimma emerged from the rival primary organised by the Chairman and Secretary of the APC Senatorial Primary Election Primary Committee, Senator Ararume, was announced winner in the alternate primary endorsed by other members of the committee.

Hope Uzodinma
Governor, Imo State

Dissatisfied with the outcomes of both exercises, Lady Uchenna Uba approached the Court seeking an order to be declared the authentic candidate of the party for the Senatorial by-election.

Joined, as parties to the suit were, APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Araraume, Dr. Edith Chidinma Uwajumogu and Hon. Mathew Omegara as 1st to 5th defendants.

Ruling on the suit No. FHC/101/2020, which was earlier scheduled for October 27, 2020, the Presiding Judge, Justice Tegem isolated two issues for resolution, including the issue of tentative result and determining the rightful winner.

He remarked that there were two different results tendered in evidence before the court, the result from the Plaintiff, the 1st Defendant, and also Mr. Frank Ibezim.

According to the court, while the first result was signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Seven Member Panel that conducted the primary election, where Ibezim polled the highest number of votes and was declared winner, the second tendered in evidence before the Court by the third Defendant (Senator Ifeanyi Araraume) was written by a split group of the same Seven Member Panel for the conduct of the Election, but did not sign that Result in which the third defendant polled the highest number of votes and was declared winner.

Although the court found on the first issue that “in the Court of law an unsigned document is no document, since the authenticity of the document cannot be ascertained,” it declared that the “result signed by Chairman and Secretary of the Seven Member Panel in my view is the tentative result.”

On the issue of who was the rightful winner, Justice Tegem queried: “What is the implication of the disqualification as adduced by the counsel to the 4th respondent (Edith Uwanjumogu)?

The Presiding judge noted that by coming to court through a proxy, Ibezim spoilt what ordinarily was a very good opportunity before him, but missed it having chosen to do it by proxy.

Consequently Justice Tegem disclosed that tendered in evidence before the Court by the Plaintiff was the reports of both the Screening Committee and the Appeal Panel of the APC, stressing that there was no evidence that the disqualified aspirants (the Plaintiff (Uba), Ibezim and the 5th Defendant Omegra and three others) showing that they appealed to the National Working Committee of the party.

The judge noted also counsel to the plaintiff and the 1st Defendant never raised any point of law in defense of the issue of disqualification during there adumbration in adoption of their written addresses and held that “this amounted in my view to an admission.”

“In the eyes of the Law, the Plaintiff, Frank Ibezim, Mathew Omegra and three others never participated in the primary election. Disqualified aspirants remained not aspirants in the said primary having been disqualified,” the judge declared.

Consequently the court ordered as follows: “The participation of Frank Ibezim is nullified having been disqualified by the party screening committee and the Appeal Panel before the primary election.

“That the next person who polled the third highest votes in the resolved tentative result, which is Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, to now be the candidate of the party for the by-election of the Imo North Senatorial District, replacing Ibezim.”

The Rights group is therefore urging politicians to give peace a chance so the people of Okigwe will be offered the Constitutional right that belongs to them as Nigerian citizens to freely elect their Senator so the vicious circle of systemic lack of representation at the highest legislative body in the Federal Republic of Nigeria is brought to an end

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Security, Job Creation, Poverty Reduction top 2024 Budget Priorities



* As President Bola Tinubu Presents 2024 Budget

By Elizabeth Okwe

President Bola Tinubu says Nigeria’s national defence and internal security, local job creation, macro-economic stability, investment environment optimization, human capital development, poverty reduction, and social security are some of the top priorities of the 2024 Budget of Renewed Hope.

Addressing a joint session of the National Assembly on the 2024 Federal budget proposal on Wednesday in Abuja, President Tinubu said the nation’s internal security architecture will be overhauled to enhance law enforcement capabilities with a view to safeguarding lives, property, and investments across the country.

He said the proposed budget prioritizes human capital development, with particular attention given to children, because human capital remains the most critical resource for national development.

“To improve the effectiveness of our budget performance, the government will focus on ensuring value for money, greater transparency, and accountability. In this regard, we will work more closely with development partners and the private sector.

“To address long-standing issues in the education sector, a more sustainable model of funding tertiary education will be implemented, including the Student Loan Scheme scheduled to become operational by January 2024,” the President affirmed.

Speaking on the economy, President Tinubu said a stable macro-economic environment is crucial in his administration’s bid to catalyze private investment and accelerate economic growth; hence, his government shall continue to implement business and investment friendly measures for sustainable growth.

“We expect the economy to grow by a minimum of 3.76 percent, above the forecasted world average. Inflation is expected to moderate to 21.4 percent in 2024. In preparing the 2024 Budget, our primary objective has been to sustain our robust foundation for sustainable economic development. A critical focus of this budget and the medium-term expenditure framework is Nigeria’s commitment to a greener future.

“Emphasizing public-private partnerships, we have strategically made provisions to leverage private capital for big-ticket infrastructure projects in energy, transportation, and other sectors. This marks a critical step towards diversifying our energy mix, enhancing efficiency, and fostering the development of renewable energy sources. By allocating resources to support innovative and environmentally conscious initiatives, we aim to position Nigeria as a regional leader in the global movement towards clean and sustainable energy.

“As we approach the COP28 climate summit, a pivotal moment for global climate action, I have directed relevant government agencies to diligently work towards securing substantial funding commitments that will bolster Nigeria’s energy transition. It is imperative that we seize this opportunity to attract international partnerships and investments that align with our national goals. I call upon our representatives to engage proactively to showcase the strides we have made in the quest to create an enabling environment for sustainable energy projects.

“Together, we will strive for Nigeria to emerge from COP28 with tangible commitments, reinforcing our dedication to a future where energy is not only a catalyst for development but also a driver of environmental stewardship,” he said.

The President said a conservative oil price benchmark of 77.96 U.S. Dollars per barrel and a daily oil production estimate of 1.78 million barrels per day were adopted after a careful review of global oil market trends, and that a Naira to U.S. Dollar exchange rate of 750 naira per U.S. Dollar was adopted for 2024 as well.

Giving a breakdown of the 2024 Appropriation Bill, the President said: “Accordingly, an aggregate expenditure of 27.5 trillion naira is proposed for the Federal Government in 2024, of which the non-debt recurrent expenditure is 9.92 trillion naira while debt service is projected to be 8.25 trillion naira and capital expenditure is 8.7 trillion naira. Nigeria remains committed to meeting its debt obligations. Projected debt service is 45% of the expected total revenue.

“The budget deficit is projected at 9.18 trillion naira in 2024 or 3.88 percent of GDP. This is lower than the 13.78 trillion naira deficit recorded in 2023, which represented 6.11 percent of GDP. The deficit will be financed by new borrowings totaling 7.83 trillion naira, 298.49 billion naira from Privatization Proceeds, and 1.05 trillion naira draw down on multilateral and bilateral loans secured for specific development projects.”

President Tinubu said his administration remains committed to broad-based and shared economic prosperity, adding: “We are reviewing social investment programmes to enhance their implementation and effectiveness. In particular, the National Social Safety Net project will be expanded to provide targeted cash transfers to poor and vulnerable households.”

He also said efforts will be made to further contain financial leakages through the effective implementation of key public financial management reforms.

The President commended the patriotic resolve of the 10th National Assembly to collaborate with the Executive on the mission to renew the hope of Nigerians and deliver on the promises made to Africa’s largest population.

“As you consider the 2024 Budget estimates, we trust that the legislative review process will be conducted with a view to sustaining our desired return to a predictable January-December fiscal year. I have no doubt that you will be guided by the interest of all Nigerians. We must ensure that only projects and programs with equitable benefits are allowed into the 2024 Budget. Additionally, only projects and programs that are in line with the sectoral mandates of MDAs and those which are capable of realizing the vision of our administration should be included in the budget,” the President declared.

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What Caused Unusual November Heavy Rainfalls in North, Other Parts of Nigeria – NiMet



* Fingees increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency, through its Central Forecast Office (CFO) has explained the recent rainfall witnessed in the northern part of the country especially in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on Saturday and Sunday November, 25 and 26, 2023 respectively.

The unexpected weather condition took members of the public by surprise, because it was expected that at this time of the year, the north should be transiting or have transited into harmattan season, which is characterized by dust, cold and winds.

Explaing further, NiMet Director-General, Professor Mansur Matazu disclosed that observation indicated an opening that linked mid-latitude Trough with the thermal-lows over the West-African region.

“This mid-latitude trough pull the Inter-Tropical Discontinuity (ITD) far northward above the country (from approx. Lat 8.00N to about 12.00N withing 48hrs),

“By implication there was mass influx of moisture far into the country, especially to the western half of the country. Conversely, ITD is expected (normally) to have a southward displacement during this season”.

According to NiMet, with this moisture influx, and already high energy in the atmosphere, it is only natural that there would be condensation and formation of clouds. The cloud build-up over the Northwestern and Northcentral parts of the country (including Abuja, FCT) resulted into thunderstorms that was experienced recently on Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27, 2023.

“Climate variability is the main factor responsible for this phenomenon. It results in modulation of natural atmospheric processes which contributes to short-term fluctuations in weather, due to both natural and anthropogenic influences on the global atmospheric processes, which has given way to changes in patterns of weather and climate conditions in the atmosphere. This is not exclusive to Nigeria alone, the statement reads.

“In recent times, human activities particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have led to an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. This enhanced greenhouse effect is causing changes in the Earth’s climate, a phenomenon commonly referred to as climate change.

“NiMet observes, monitors, predicts and reports weather and climate information on all our socio-media platform, including our website. The weather of the days in question were equally forecasted and was well reported. However, this is not a change in the season as predicted, rather, fluctuations based on temporary weather modulators.

“NiMet assures it will continue to update the general public on necessary weather updates”.

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Ringleaders Of Sierra Leone Coup Plot Under Arrest As Calm Returns



A military armoury in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown came under attack on Sunday, the government said, as it imposed an immediate national curfew. (Photo by Saidu BAH / AFP)

Sierra Leone’s government said it was in full control on Sunday evening after reporting an attack at a military armoury in the capital Freetown that sparked armed clashes, which the president called an attempt to destabilise the state.

Authorities in the English-speaking West African country — which has been going through a political crisis following elections in June this year — have declared a national curfew until further notice.

President Julius Maada Bio said late Sunday that calm had been restored after what he described as an attempt to undermine peace and stability in the country.

“Most of the leaders have been arrested. Security operations and investigations are ongoing,” Bio said on national television, adding that the government would “ensure that those responsible are held accountable”.

An AFP journalist said calm was slowly returning to the capital by Sunday evening, but checkpoints heavily guarded by security forces remained in place.

The “government is in firm control of the security situation in Freetown, the attackers are retreating,” information minister Chernor Bah earlier told AFP.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show men in uniform under arrest in the back or beside a military pick-up truck.

Earlier in the day, witnesses told AFP they heard gunshots and explosions in the city’s Wilberforce district, where the armoury and some embassies are located.

Other witnesses reported exchanges of fire near a barracks in Murray Town district, home to the navy, and outside another military site in Freetown.

The information ministry reported attacks on prisons earlier in the day that obliged the security forces to retreat.

“The prisons were thus overrun” with some detainees released and others “abducted”, it said.

Video posted on social networks suggested numerous prisoners had escaped from the central jail.

One man who was in a group filmed on the street by an AFP correspondent said they had escaped from the prison.

The information ministry said security forces had pushed the attackers to the outskirts of Freetown, with drone video taken by AFP showing empty streets in the capital.

The situation remained unclear with the authorities making no comments on the motives or identity of the attackers.

– ‘Like a war’ –
President Bio wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the government would “continue to protect the peace and security of Sierra Leone against the forces that wish to truncate our much-cherished stability”.

“We remain resolute in our determination to protect democracy in Sierra Leone.”

Regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has contended with a series of coups among its members since 2020, issued a statement underlining “its zero-tolerance for unconstitutional change of government”.

Echoing language used to condemn past coup attempts, ECOWAS spoke of its “utter disgust” over a “plot by certain individuals to acquire arms and disturb the peace and constitutional order”.

The US embassy condemned on social media the bid to break into the armoury and offered continued support for those “working for a peaceful, democratic, healthy and prosperous Sierra Leone”.

The European Union’s local representation expressed concern and called for the respect of constitutional order.

Witness Susan Kargbo told AFP by telephone she was woken “by a loud sound of heavy machine gun (fire) and bombs coming from the Wilberforce barracks around 4:30 am.

“I was shocked and… the gunshots continued until this morning, it was like a war,” she said.

– Attackers ‘repelled’ –
The government said those attempting to break into the armoury had been repelled but asked the public to stay at home while security operations continued.

The local representations of the UK and the European Union echoed the authorities’ advice to stay at home.

The civil aviation authority said Sierra Leone’s airspace remained open but asked airlines to reschedule their flights after the lifting of the curfew.

President Bio, who was first elected in 2018, was re-elected in June with 56.17 percent of the vote — just over the 55 percent needed to avoid a run-off.

International observers condemned inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in the count, as well as acts of violence and intimidation.

The main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party disputed the results of the presidential, legislative and local elections on June 24 and boycotted all levels of government.

The APC and the government signed an agreement in October following talks mediated by the Commonwealth, the African Union and ECOWAS.

The APC agreed to end its boycott and begin participating in government in exchange for an end to detentions and court cases it said were politically motivated.

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