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BIG STORY

Magu To Open Defense Before Justice Salami Panel Today

Peter Okunoren

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After waiting for a copy of the allegations against him, the Presidential Investigation Committee on the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday agreed to give the suspended Acting Chairman of the agency Mr. Ibrahim Magu a report to enter his Defence.

The report is that of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets( PCARA), which contains all allegations against Magu.

But the Chairman of the panel, Justice Isa Ayo Salami extracted a commitment from the counsel to Magu, Barrister Wahab Shittu that PCARA’s report will not be leaked to the press.

Magu, who said all the allegations against him were false, is expected to open his defence today.

The suspended EFCC chairman was at the panel’s venue for about eight hours but he had a brief encounter with the team

Wearing a white Kaftan with a white cap to match, the suspended EFCC chairman took a 78-page response to the committee, bordering on a query by the AGF, PCARA’s report and other allegations in the public domain.

The committee, however, said it may accept Magu’s response only after serving him the issues in PCARA’s report.

A top source said: “After waiting for hours, the panel met with Magu for a few minutes. The committee later decided to make a copy of the PCARA report available to Magu to enable him to address all the allegations against him.

“It, however, gave a condition that PCARA report must not be leaked in any manner to the press to avoid the distraction of its activities.

“With the concession by the panel, Magu will now open his Defence from Thursday or thereabout. He will be able to tender his defence which has not been accepted by the panel because the allegations were yet to be served on him. This is a good dimension.”

A letter written to Salami’s panel by Magu’s counsel, Wahab Shittu, however, pledged that the suspended acting EFCC chairman will cooperate with the panel.

In the letter, Shittu said Magu had not at any time challenged the mandate of the panel or engaged in any boast or queried the panel.

The letter, which was submitted yesterday, reads in part:” We state for the records that we are not in a position to query the Honourable panel and certainly will never set out doing so.

“Rather, our intention was to draw the attention of the Honourable panel to persistent falsehood publications concerning our client being orchestrated consistently in the public space in a manner that could prejudice the proceedings of this Honourable panel.

“We apologize if any contrary interpretation of our intention is conveyed by the context in which the questions were raised in the referred letter. We hold the panel in the highest esteem.

“Our client wishes to place on record his appreciation to the chairman members of the panel for ordering his release from custody on the 15th day of July 2020 without any conditionalities.

“Our client appreciates this gesture given the fact that the panel has repeatedly stated that it did not order the detention of our client in the first place. Our client is grateful for the gesture.

“Our client while appreciating the panel offers full cooperation to the panel in the discharge of its assignment.

“Our client believes in the work of the committee because of his commitment to ridding the country of corruption.”

BIG STORY

Nationwide Strike: We’ll Enforce The Law, Police Warn NLC, TUC

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Ahead of the planned strike action and protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress from Monday over the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel price, the Nigeria Police Force has said it will enforce the law on the matter.

Despite two court injunctions restraining the unions and their affiliates from proceeding with the strike, the labour unions told newsmen on Friday that they would go ahead with the strike and protest from Monday as they had yet to be served the court orders. The labour unions had said they would only shelve the planned strike if the Federal Government reversed the recent hikes.

The National Industrial Court in Abuja had on Thursday granted an order of interim injunction restraining the unions from disrupting, restraining, picketing or preventing the workers or ordinary Nigerians from accessing their offices to carry out their legitimate duties on September 28, 2020, or any other date.

Justice Ibrahim Galadima, who also issued an interim order restraining the labour unions from embarking on the strike action, gave the ruling following an ex parte application filed by a group, Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association, through their counsel, Sunusi Musa.

The court also granted an order compelling the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, Department of State Services, to provide protection for workers engaged in their legitimate duties from any form of harassment, intimidation and bullying by the officers, agents or privies of the unions pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

Meanwhile, barely 24 hours after the ruling, the judge on Friday issued another order restraining the unions from going ahead with the strike, following an ex parte application by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

The Federal Government of Nigeria and the AGF are the plaintiffs in the second suit marked NICN/ABJ/257/2020. The ex parte application was signed by the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

In their reaction on Saturday, however, the police said they would be guided by the position of the law on the matter.

Force spokesperson, DCP Frank Mba, in his response to questions from one of our correspondents on Saturday, simply said, “What does the law say in this circumstance? We would enforce the law. That is the only thing I can say.”

The meeting between the labour unions and the Federal Government had been adjourned till Monday following the failure of the two parties to reach a compromise on the matter.

Police lack the power to stop labour’s protest, strike – Lawyers

Meanwhile, lawyers have said the police lacked the power to stop the union members from staging their planned protest.

The police had on several occasions disrupted protests and in some instances arrested some of the protesters.

Among several examples, armed policemen from the Lagos State Police Command on September 9 arrested several protesters and journalists during a protest against the hike in electricity tariff and fuel price. They also dispersed protesters at Ojuelegba area of the state.

But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Chino Obiagwu, said on Saturday that the police had no power to stop the labour unions’ planned protests or strike.

He added that the police could not confer on themselves the duty to enforce the court order restraining the labour unions from going ahead with the strike when the procedure for such had been stipulated in law.

He said, “The court order, according to a media report, is about NLC going on strike, it has nothing to do with the protest. The court did not say citizens should not go out to protest, it said the labour should not go on strike. So, it is a trade dispute. It is not a criminal matter. The police have no business in trade disputes. It is for the Nigerian government to go to court to obtain an order against whoever they believe has disobeyed the court order.”

The senior advocate explained that the only way to enforce court judgment “is to approach the court for the issuance of Form 48 and Form 49 and proceed judicially”.

He added, “The court will then make an order that the person who is in contempt of court be arrested; that is when the police will step in. It is not for the police to on their own say they want to enforce the order. Where has that happened?

“The Sheriff and Civil Processes Act provides for how court orders are enforced. In the case of All Nigerian People’s Party vs Inspector-General of Police, the Court of Appeal has said you don’t need a police permit to protest because the right to freedom of assembly and association is inherent. The ANPP was one of the parties that merged to form the All Progressives Congress coalition; they were the one that went to court.”

Another lawyer and activist, Inibehe Effiong, also argued that the police lacked the power to stop the labour from protesting as no court could have issued any order to stop any Nigerian from protesting.

Effiong said, “I do not think any court in Nigeria can give an injunction against people from protesting. That will be an affront to the constitution. If by Monday the police or the State Security Services say they are acting in furtherance to the order of the court to stop members of the labour movement from coming out to get their members to protest the hike in pump price and electricity tariff, it will be a flagrant attack on the constitution.

“There is no institution in Nigeria that can stop Nigerians from exercising their rights that have been granted them by the constitution.”

The lawyer also contended that the labour unions were justified to go ahead with the strike if they had not been served with the court order stopping the industrial action.

He, however, advised that if the labour leaders had been served with the court order, they should first take steps to have the order vacated.

Effiong, who expressed reservations about the court orders stopping the strike, noted that such orders had not always been effective in stopping similar industrial actions in the past. He advised that “the judiciary should be sensitive to these issues so that it does not put itself in a position where it would become a subject of public ridicule”.

Also, human rights activist and lawyer, Mr Jiti Ogunye, said inasmuch as court orders were bound to be obeyed, he wondered how the police would force workers who stay away from work to go to work.

Ogunye said, “As a lawyer, I have always questioned the appropriateness of dashing to court to obtain an ex parte order of interim injunction and use it as a tool of mischief or a tool to truncate a noble and just process.

“Our courts are courts of law; their decisions must be respected; their orders must be obeyed. However, our courts cannot behave like an ostrich and court disobedience of their own orders by granting orders like this in an obviously political situation like this.

“Workers are saying they want to go on strike and they are restraining them and those orders are expected to be obeyed. I am not saying as a lawyer that those orders should not be obeyed, but it will be interesting to see how the police will enforce the order. Will they go into the houses of people who do not want to go to work and compel them to go to work?”

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BIG STORY

A Leading Proponent Of Africapitalism, A Tenacious Personality” —– Dangote Showers Huge Accolades On Elumelu

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Africa’s richest man and President of Dangote Industries Ltd, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has showered huge tributes and unending accolades on the Chairman of United Bank of Africa, Mr. Tony Elumelu, on his emergence on the list of Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People of 2020, describing him as “giving a voice of hope to millions of youths across Africa”.

In a letter, dated 22, 2020, Dangote wrote: “A mere handshake says a lot about Tony Elumelu. His gritty grip underlines his charming, tenacious personality: a man who hardly backs down from any challenge. The same engaging qualities have propelled him from a modest beginning in Nigeria to becoming chair of the United Bank of Africa, and one of the most innovative and ambitious business leaders of his generation.

He is a leading proponent of “Africapitalism,” a belief that Africa’s private sector can and must play a leading role in the continent’s development through long-term investments, as well as entrepreneurship and regional connectivity.

After deepening the financial market in Africa, he has found an equally important niche: giving a voice of hope to millions of youths across Africa. Tony has harnessed Africa’s youth bulge to catalyze development and protect the future, committing to investing $5,000 each in 1,000 young entrepreneurs per year across 54 countries in Africa. Having come so far, Tony still forges on, striking a fine balance between personal satisfaction and societal impact.

Dangote is the president of Dangote Industries Ltd.

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BIG STORY

JUST IN: Many Missing As Truck Plunges Into Lagos River

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Many people have been declared missing after a truck fell off the Berger bridge into the Epe river in Lagos State on Friday night.

As at the time of filing this report, the number of persons in the truck was unknown.

However, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) confirmed the incident on Saturday.

Head, Public Affairs of LASEMA, Nosa Okunbor, said search and rescue operations are ongoing.

More to come.

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