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BIG STORY

BREAKING: Senate Approves N10bn Loan For Kogi Three Days To Gubernatorial Elections

Peter Okunoren

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The Senate on Wednesday approved the N10bn loan refund for Kogi State despite stiff resistance from the opposition senators.

No sooner had the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Loans, Senator Clifford Ordia, laid the report of his panel on the issue at plenary than the Senate President called for the debate on it immediately.

The Minority caucus in the Senate against the approval of the sum of N10.016billion for the Kogi State Government a few days to the governorship election slated for Saturday, November 16.

Attempts by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, to stop the process because it was not indicated in the order paper, was frustrated by Lawan, who insisted that the arrangement was in order.

Ordia, who read the report of his committee said necessary findings conducted by his panel showed that due process was followed by the Kogi State government in executing Federal Government projects.

He also said the Federal Government agencies in charge of the loan refund had approved the payment.

Senator Jibrin Barau, who spoke immediately after the presentation of the bill, asked his colleagues to approve it.

But Abaribe, in his contribution, said he agreed with Barau that states that had done the job of the Federal Government should be paid.

He, however, said that the approval appeared too hasty.

Abaribe said since the Kogi Governorship elections would hold on Saturday, the approval should be delayed for one week.

He said, “This is not the right time to approve such a loan refund. The exigency of the time suggest that we should delay for one week so that the money would not be used for something else.”

Lawan disagreed with Abaribe and said there was no time that the red chamber cannot approve the payment of the money.

Lawan subjected the matter to a voice vote and ruled in favour of those who supported its approval despite protests from lawmakers who were raising points of order.

One of the protesters, Senator Uche Ekwunife, wondered why the Senate President refused to take her point of order before ruling on the issue.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on penultimate Tuesday, sent a letter to the Senate, seeking its approval for the payment of N10bn to Kogi State.

Buhari, in the letter, addressed to Senate President, said the money would be used by the state government to settle local debts it incurred as a result of the projects executed on behalf of the Federal Government.

Buhari said his request was based on the resolution passed by the 8th Senate

BIG STORY

Senate Passes Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill

Peter Okunoren

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The Senate on Tuesday passed the bill on sexual harassment in tertiary institutions after reading it for the third time.

The bill titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress Sexual Harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith, 2019’, was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, and 106 other senators.

The passage of the bill followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters – which was in charge of reviewing the bill and organising a public hearing on the legislation.

The bill was reintroduced in the Senate on October 9 and scaled second reading on November 6.

The bill, with 25 clauses, seeks to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions. It also seeks to protect students against sexual harassment as well as prevent sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary institutions.

The bill also proposes up to 14 years jail term for offenders.

The bill was reintroduced to the Senate two days after a BBC documentary exposed two lecturers of the University of Lagos, and a lecturer of the University of Ghana for sexual harassment. The documentary sparked reactions from many Nigerians who described the issue as a norm in Nigerian universities.

During the public hearing, lecturers, students, academic bodies and civil organisations raised concerns and proposed amendments to the bill.

One of such was the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Biodun Ogunyemi, who described the legislation as biased.

He said the bill will stigmatise lecturers in universities.

In his presentation, chairman of the committee, Bamidele Opeyemi, said sexual harassment has been made an offence by removing mutual consent as a defence in the prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions.

The bill, he said, seeks to maintain the relationship that exists between educators and students with the aim of making tertiary institutions conducive centres of learning.

“This bill seeks to tame the hydra-headed monster in the name of sexual harassment which has become a pandemic in our tertiary institutions.”

The Senate, thereafter, resolved into the Committee of the Whole to consider and pass the bill.

In his remark, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the bill is an important and landmark legislation that the ninth Senate has passed.

“We have to protect our daughters, sisters, mothers from sexual predators. From the recommendations, we wanted a fair means of offence that somebody is accused of.

“We want tertiary institutions to be a safe and peaceful learning environment for everyone,” he said.

The bill will be transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence and then sent to the president for assent.

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BIG STORY

COVID-19: No More Meals Aboard Domestic Flights — Aviation Minister

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A new flight rule has banned meals aboard domestic flights. The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, spelt out the rule during the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, on Monday.

Sirika said food would no longer be served on domestic flights when operations resume, explaining that the decision is part of efforts to control the spread of coronavirus on flights.

His words: “For domestic operations, there will be no food. No food will be given to reduce contamination level and we will allow you to come with your mask.

“Like the MD of FAAN said the other day, we see it as your private thing. So, you have to bring your mask, they don’t have to be the fancy ones.”

On how the cabin crew came into existence, he said the cabin crew’s job was not to offer tea to passengers.

He said: “They came into the industry because of people who were getting air-sick so we thought we would be putting nurses in the airplane to look after those people who are sick. “Since then, they metamorphosed and became something new.

“They want to now give you tea because many people don’t get sick anymore. They will give you coffee, offer you food and drinks, and so on.

“So the main purpose of the cabin staff is to ensure that we all remain safe for your welfare and your health.”

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BIG STORY

BREAKING: Buhari Suspends EFCC Boss, Ibrahim Magu, For Alleged Money Laundering, Gross Misconduct

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Ibrahim Magu has been suspended as the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

This development comes a day after he was arrested and detained by security operatives in Abuja.

He had appeared before a panel probing allegations of gross misconduct against him.

Mr Magu spent last night in a police cell at the Force Criminal Investigation Department Headquarters in Area 10, Garki, Abuja, after he was quizzed on Monday for about six hours by a Presidential panel, chaired by a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami.

It was gathered that Magu was detained at the FCID after the panel grilled him. The media aide of the anti-graft boss, Tony Amokedo, told the journalists that he is not aware of the suspension of his boss.

The panel was constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe various allegations leveled against Magu following a petition by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Department of State Service (DSS). Malami’s memo allegedly accused Magu of diversion of recovered loot.

The memo was said to contain 22 allegations against the embattled EFCC chairman. But Malami through his spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu, said he had no knowledge of Magu’s arrest. “You are just informing me now,” Gwandu said when told that Malami had reportedly written a memo in June 2020, which indicted Magu.

“I am also not aware of any memo written to the president on the EFCC chairman,” he said.

One of our sources said the Salami panel had “quizzed Magu” who has been the acting chairman of the EFCC since when he was first nominated for the job by President Buhari in 2015.

“I am sure Justice Salami was selected to chair the panel because he will not compromise.

“This is a serious setback for the administration’s anti-corruption war.

“As it is now, Magu is a loner. “He may be asked to hand over to the most senior officer in the commission while the investigation continued.

“I don’t see him surviving this,” the source told one of our correspondents.

Another source told the Daily Trust that “it took a long time before President Buhari gave the green light for Magu to be interrogated.”

According to the source, “What happened yesterday was a tough decision…It was at the instance of the president and he (Buhari) agreed that Magu should be asked questions.

“This was based on the petitions and facts made available to him.

“Magu is the face of the anti-corruption war of the president but the allegations are heavy.

“So, I can assure you that it was a tough decision taken by the president in order to save his image and that of his administration,” he said. It was not clear last night whether Magu was allowed to go home after he faced the panel or the DSS took him into custody.

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