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Senate President Bukola Saraki will on Tuesday lead a Senate delegation to Russia on a three-day visit. The meeting is aimed at strengthening the relationship between Nigeria and the European country.

Saraki is expected to address the Russian Senate, which is known as the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

The Senate President is also expected to hold meetings with the Council’s Chairperson, Ms. Valentina Matviyenko, Chairman of the State Duma, Mr. Vyacheslav Volodin and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Mr. Mikhail Bogdanov, to exchange views on issues of Nigerian-Russian cooperation.

According to statement, the senators would also hold side meetings with corresponding committees of the Federation Council of Russia.

The statement read, “Senators on the delegation include Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, Chairman, Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Duro Faseyi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Sports and Youth, Senator Obinna Ogba and the Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ibrahim A. Danbaba.

“Also on the trip is the Chief of Staff to the President of the Senate, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Special Assistant on Partnerships & NGOs/CSOs to the President of the Senate, Mr. Innocent Onah and the Special Assistant on Events to the President of the Senate, Ms. Eniola Shitta.“The delegation is expected back in the country on June 22, 2018.”

BIG STORY

INEC Awaits Buhari’s Nod On E-Transmission Of Results

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The Senate bowed to pressure from the public on Tuesday when it passed a bill that gave the Independent National Electoral Commission the sole power to determine the procedure for the transmission of election results.

The red chamber also approved direct primaries as the method to be adopted by all political parties to elect candidates for all elective positions.

The amendments were made on Tuesday by the Senate to some clauses of the Electoral Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2021, passed on July 15, 2021.

In its reaction, INEC told The PUNCH that although it had the capacity to transmit elections results electronically, it said it could only adopt the method after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had signed amendments to Electoral Act.

Also on Tuesday, the Peoples Democratic Party and civil rights groups faulted the approval of direct primaries by the Senate.

Justifying its U-turn on electronic transmission of results, the Senate explained that its decision to subject the amended clauses of the bill to re-committal was reached after a critical examination by the Senate Committee on INEC.

The chamber added that some fundamental issues which required fresh legislative actions were observed by the Senator Kabiru Gaya-led INEC Committee in the bill.

Accordingly, the chamber in a bill for re-committal, re-amended certain aspects of the bill contained in clauses 43, 52, 63 and 8.

The upper chamber in Clause 52 of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill passed almost three months ago, had approved that “the Commission (INEC) may consider the electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”

The Senate’s position contradicted that of the House of Representatives, which gave INEC the go-ahead to adopt electronic transmission of results.

The upper chamber was heavily criticized by INEC and other stakeholders over its decision in July

However, the Senate, on Tuesday amended the clause when the bill was subjected to re-committal to provide that, “subject to section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission (INEC).”

The Senate in approving direct primaries for political parties amended clause 87 which earlier allowed for either direct or indirect primaries.

Clause 87 has to do with the nomination of candidates by parties.

It now reads, “Clause 87. (1) “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the commission.”

In indirect primaries, party members elect delegates who in turn elect the party’s candidates on their behalf.

But in direct primaries, registered members of the party vote for who they want to be their candidates. Delegates are not involved.

Members of the Conference Committee on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, are expected to meet with their counterparts in the House of Representatives to harmonize the two versions passed by both chambers

The Senate decisions on electronic transfer of results and direct primaries attracted different reactions on Tuesday.

While the lawmakers were commended over the electronic transfer of results, they were criticized on the adoption of direct primaries.

A former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, commended the Senate for reversing itself on electronic transmission of results, saying it was a huge victory for the nation’s democracy.

Ekweremadu said the Senate’s action justified his assurances to Nigerians in July that all hope was not lost for the electronic transmission of 2023 election results despite the initial setback.

The Enugu West Senatorial District Senator stated this in a statement by his media aide, Uche Anichukwu.

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POLITICS

2023 Presidency: Igbo Candidate Can’t Be Trusted, IPOB Supports PDP —– Joe Igbokwe

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All Progressives Congress chieftain, Joe Igbokwe, says an Igbo candidate cannot be trusted in the 2023 presidential election.

According to him, nobody is going to vote for people who would use the same position to divide Nigeria.

Igbokwe, who is an aide to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, stated this in a PUNCH Live interview on Thursday.

He said the South-East geopolitical zone has indeed suffered “injustices”, adding that in “everything we share in this country, we get the least.”

He, therefore, urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to facilitate the creation of one more state to make states in the South-East six like other geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

States currently in the zone are Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Abia, and Ebonyi.

Speaking on the Live programme, the politician, however, noted that despite the “injustices”, violent agitations and killings were not the way to press for justice, equity and fairness.

Igbokwe lambasted members of proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra and other secessionists in the South-East geopolitical zone, saying they are going about their agitation in a wrong manner.

He alleged that IPOB members are supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, adding that the secessionists began agitations to leave the Nigerian entity after the PDP lost the 2015 presidential election.

The party stalwart said that only the PDP is currently campaigning in Anambra ahead of the November 6 governorship poll while other parties are allegedly being attacked.

He knocked Igbo leaders who are thirsty for the zone to produce a President in 2023, saying they should wake up and do the politicking and make friends in the other five geopolitical zones to achieve their goal.

As the 2023 general elections draw nearer, there have been intense political posturing, permutations, and fireworks, especially as the eight-year regime of Buhari, who is from Katsina State, winds down.

The clamour for an Igbo President has since resonated with some 18 months to the general elections. Apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, has been consistent in its demand for an Igbo President in 2023.

The 17 Southern Governors had also met twice in the year and demanded power shift to their region while the 19 Northern Governors also met last week, opposing such move and noting that the candidate with the highest votes will emerge as President in the next general elections.

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BIG STORY

BREAKING: Court jails Maina’s son, Faisal, 14 years for fraud

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Faisal Maina, son of the former chairman of the now-defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja gave the judgement on Thursday in the suit filed by the Federal Government against Faisal Abdulrasheed Maina, on money laundering charges.

Faisal, who is standing trial on charges of money laundering, had jumped bail refusing to attend trial since November 24, 2020.

For Count 1, Justice Abang ordered that he be jailed for five years. In count two, he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with effect from today.

The court also ordered that Faisal returns to the Federal Government, the sum of N58.1m and the company used, to wind up.

For count three, he was jailed for five years.

The court held that the terms would run concurrently.

Justice Abang further ordered the Federal Government to arrest Faisal wherever he is found in Nigeria and commit him to a correctional Center. But if arrested outside Nigeria, the FG has been asked to lawfully extradite him to face his sentence.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on February 24 alerted the court that Faisal was on the run to the United States Of America (USA).

Lawyer to the anti-graft agency, Mohammed Abubakar, had said from the information at the disposal of the commission, that Faisal Maina sneaked to the USA through the Republic of Niger despite his Nigerian and American passports still with the registry of the court.

“We have a bench warrant of the court for the arrest of the defendant and his apprehension before the court.

“We have been making serious efforts to execute the bench warrant but it has met challenges. The defendant has absconded to the USA,” the EFCC lawyer told the court.

Faisal Maina’s lawyer, Anayo Adibe, however, disputed the claim of the prosecution as he insists that his client was arrested by the Nigeria Police Force in Sokoto.

He urged the court to open an inquiry as to the true whereabouts of his client.

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