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Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak, Reps Members Take Delivery of 2020 Toyota Camry Cars, Begin Distribution

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The House of Representatives has started taking delivery of the Toyota Camry 2020 model cars acquired for members as official cars, otherwise called utility vehicles, The PUNCH is reporting.

Our correspondent sighted some of the cars at different parking lots within the National Assembly Complex, on Thursday.

The legislators had at an executive (closed-door) session on February 5, 2020, resolved to purchase 400 units of the exotic car.

The House has, however, kept sealed lips on the cost of each unit as the contract for the supply it was learnt was not awarded to accredited Toyota dealers.

The House procured the V6 Limited Edition variant of the car.

Chairman of the Committee on House Services, Mr. Wale Raji, who confirmed delivery of the cars declined to respond to further inquiries.

The cars, which belong to the National Assembly, are usually auctioned to the lawmakers after four years.

A check on the website of Toyota revealed that each of the vehicles – depending on the variant, has a price tag of between US$25,000 to the US $35,000, excluding the cost of shipping and customs duties, which is about 100 percent of the actual cost of each unit.

For instance, those with a higher specification, which most often than not is the preferred choice of lawmakers, could cost taxpayers a tidy sum. Vehicles in this range are: XLE at $29,455, XLE V6 at $34,580, XSE at $30,005 and XSE V6 at $35,130.

Already, about 14 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado sports utility vehicles have already been handed out to presiding as well as other principal officers and chairmen of select House committees.

Some lawmakers who were contacted on Thursday said they had yet to receive vehicles delivered in “the first batch.”

Giving a breakdown of how the vehicles are shared, a member of the House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said, the 400 saloon cars would be allocated to each of the 360 members and some top management staff, Chiefs of Staff to the (two) presiding officers as well as some of their special advisers and assistants.

The lawmaker explained that new members who did not get committee appointments would benefit from the first batch.

The source said, “I was told 100 have already arrived and they are sharing them to new members who are not chairmen and deputy chairmen (of committees). The next batch will be for returning (ranking) members who are neither chairmen nor deputy chairmen. The last batch will go to the ranking members with appointments.”

The Committee on House Services and the National Assembly Management, led by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, had constituted a joint committee to oversee the acquisition, verification and distribution to the lawmakers.

The Committee on House Services, which also exists in the Senate, serves as the protocol and welfare department.

The joint committee was set up as some members had alleged that the National Assembly had become a “dumping ground” for smuggled and refurbished automobiles.

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Don’t Allow External Forces Destroy Us, Allow Seed Of Peace Germinate —- Sanwo-Olu Begs Lagosians

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The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has appealed to residents not to allow external forces to destroy the wellbeing and security of the state.

He spoke on Tuesday during a stakeholders’ engagement, tagged, ‘Internal Security and Conflict Resolution in Lagos State.’

The meeting, which held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa, was also attended by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi; human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, among others.

Sanwo-Olu said the coordinated arson and destruction that trailed the #EdSARS protest was a wake-up call to all citizens and security organizations to be vigilant and move against actions that could affect the wellbeing and security of Nigeria.

He pleaded with residents to allow the seed of peace being sown to germinate, while also stressing the need to re-establish communication links between the government and the people.

He said, “We have to reignite the communication link between government and the people so that fifth columnists or conspiracy theorists will not be able to infiltrate and spread disinformation and misinformation that would jeopardize the future of our country or the opportunities available for our youths to contribute to the greatness of our country.”

The forum later moved into an executive session where discussions were held on ways out of the current situation.

The participants, in the 15-point communique issued after the meeting, called on the Federal Government to treat Lagos security as a national issue.

The group also called for increased intelligence gatherings by security agencies by working with neighbourhood security apparatus.

They urged job creation for the youth, including the reintroduction of value-driven programmes, such as Boys Scout, Girls Guild, “in our schools to meaningfully engage young people.”

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U.S Exempts Nigeria From Trump’s New $15,000 Visa Bond Policy

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The United States Mission in Nigeria says Nigeria is not currently part of the pilot visa bond programme.

The Trump administration had introduced a new temporary policy issued to discourage nationals of some countries with higher visa overstay rates.

Under the new policy, visitors to the US from such countries may have to pay up to $15,000 in bonds.

The visa bond pilot programme is said to target mostly African countries with high visa overstay — the visitors are believed to have entered the country legally on student, tourist, work visas and then stay past their visa expiration date.

According to data from the DHS, almost 30,000 Nigerians overstayed their B1/B2 visas in 2018, ranking as the 5th country with the most visa overstays in the US.

This makes Nigeria the African country with the most visa overstays.

In 2019, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had reported that Nigeria might be affected by the move of the Trump administration to check the tide of countries whose immigrants overstay their visas at relatively high rates.

On Monday, the US government announced that it had introduced the visa bond pilot programme for B-1 visas (for business travellers) and B-2 visas (for tourists).

It said the pilot programme will run for six months.

There have been concerns that Nigeria may be affected by the policy.

But in a statement on Tuesday, the US mission in Nigeria said the most populous black nation on earth will not be affected by the policy.

“In response to the April 2019 Presidential Memorandum on Combating High Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates, the Department and our embassies and consulates overseas conducted an in-depth analysis to identify and address root causes of overstays,” the statement read.

“Among other efforts to address this challenge, the State Department is considering additional steps to address overstays, including piloting a limited visa bonds program to test, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the operational feasibility of posting, processing, and discharging visa bonds as means to ensure the timely departure from the United States of certain travelers. Accordingly, the State Department will begin a limited six-month visa bond pilot program beginning on December 24, 2020.

“We are committed to combating visa overstays and making sure travelers to the United States respect our laws. The implementation of this pilot builds on our engagement with foreign governments in recent years and will ensure continued progress to reduce overstay rates. Nigeria is not included in this six months pilot program.”

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Family Of Slain Newspaper Vendor Demands N500m From Gbajabiamila

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The family of Ifeanyi Okereke, the vendor killed by a security aide of Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, is demanding N500 million from the number four citizen.

Last week, Okereke was shot by Abdullahi Hassan, a Department of State Services (DSS) operative attached to the speaker.

According to PUNCH, the demand was contained in a letter addressed to the speaker by Mike Ozekhome, counsel to the family.

In the letter dated November 23, the Okereke family said the demand is not enough to replace their son.

“Our clients have instructed us to make from your good self, the following modest demands: That you use your good offices to ensure the immediate prosecution of your security aide (Abdullahi Hassan), who went on a frolic of his own, clearly acted outside the purview of his duty and responsibility by shooting to death an innocent, harmless and armless citizen,” Ozekhome said.

“That you adequately compensate the Okereke family with a modest sum of N500m only.

“This monetary demand can never adequately replace or take the place of their son, husband, brother, and breadwinner’s life. But it will at least mitigate the obvious trauma and hardship the premature demise of their irreplaceable breadwinner has placed on them.”

The lawyer said if the speaker fails to accede to their demand in seven days, they would take legal steps.

“Take note therefore that it is our clients’ firm instruction that in the event that you fail, refuse and/or neglect to accede to or proffer reasonable compensatory terms to our above modest demands within seven days from the date of this letter, we shall without any further correspondences from us, take appropriate legal steps to enforce our clients’ constitutional rights,” he said.

Gbajabiamila said he has handed over the aide to the DSS for discipline.

He has also visited the family of the deceased to condole with them.

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