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Prosecution Team Members Disagree As Onnoghen’s Trial Resumes

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The prosecution camp in the trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, had a disagreement early on Monday, as proceedings got underway.

The Drama began when the prosecution led by Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), and the defense led by Mr. Okon Efut (SAN), announced appearances for their teams in readiness for the business of the day which was the adoption of final addresses.#
As Umar was making his announcement, a member of his team, Prof. Zainab Duke, attempted to speak to the bench but was shouted down by Umar.

Mr. Umar insisted that Professor Zainab must take permission from him, a stand which saw the situation further degenerate.

Duke sought the protection of the Judge as regards the issue and in response, the Chairman of the three-man bench, Danladi Umar called for tranquility and noted that the lead prosecuting counsel’s point is in order.

Mr. Danladi said, “only one counsel can speak for the team”.

Prof. Duke attempted to speak again, but she was cut short by Mr. Umar who appealed that the tribunal orders Duke to be sent out of the courtroom.

Following the application of the lead prosecution, the tribunal struck out the name of Professor Duke as a member of the prosecution team and advised her to either leave if she wants to or go to the back of the court.

The tribunal afterward started hearing the final submission of the parties in the suit.

Counsel to Justice Onnoghen Mr. Okon Effiong in his submission says that when the CJN said he forgot to fill his asset declaration form it was not a confession and cannot be held against him.

According to him, confession in law is not straight forward as writing that he forgot did not amount to an admission of guilt.

He also faulted the charge for not following the element of an offense as created by the law.

He also said that the prosecution failed woefully to prove the elements of the offense as contained in the 5th schedule of the constitution and urged that the charges be dismissed.

Addressing the court on a false declaration or false statement. He said the provision talks about a false statement and not a declaration.

He said a false statement that must be verified before it can be determined to be false or not. According to him, they established that there is a declaration but could not establish which if the statement were false cos it was not verified by a verifications authority as envisaged by law.

He concluded by saying they are defective and ought to be dismissed completely.
Responding, the prosecutor Mr. Aliyu Umar adopted the arguments in his final address as his submission and held that the prosecution has proven its case against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt and hold that he is guilty on all six charges.

He added that in coming to a decision whether a person is guilty or not it is the hard facts before the tribunal that will aid the determination.

He said it is a misconception by the defense to think that a charge is null and void because it was not elegantly drafted.

“The defense has not shown that the charges mislead the defendant in any way,” Umar said.

He further noted that the statement by justice Onnoghen that he forgot, is an admission of the offense.

Responding on point of law, counsel to Justice Onnoghen Mr. Okon Effiong said that by section 36 of the Constitution a person can only be found guilty and punished only based on the law.

He also said that “the law says substantial declaration and not total” adding that the law makes room for where there is an omission, a person can regularise his form.

Chairman of the Tribunal Mr. Danladi Umar wrote his ruling on the next step in the trial and reserved judgment to Thursday the 18th of April 2019 by 9 am.

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Buhari Approves N208bn for Varsity Infrastructure

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President Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday, said he had approved the disbursement of N208bn to federal universities for infrastructure.

The President said the approval was done under the 2019 intervention of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to “address the deficiencies in all the segments of our educational system.”

Buhari said these at the 23rd convocation of the University of Abuja, where he was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono.

The President, who is the Visitor to the school, said the university system must search for solutions to the nation’s developmental needs.

Buhari said, “The ability of Nigeria with its huge population to overcome its present challenges of development no longer depends on petroleum resources but on the ability of the country to develop its human capital. The present administration will continue to improve on the infrastructural facilities in the universities, promote teacher development and curriculum review.

“It is in furtherance of this that I recently approved the disbursement of N208bn to public tertiary institutions under the 2019 intervention of the TETFUND.

“The government will continue to look into the issues raised by the universities, especially regarding physical development and will equally monitor the universities closely.”

UNIABUJA Vice-Chancellor, Prof Michael Adikwu, said 4,946 students graduated from the institution with 24 first-class.

He said, “The total is made up of 4,725 undergraduates and 221 postgraduate students from the 2017/2018 session. We have 982 Second Class Upper and 2,498 Second Class Lower degrees. A total of 68 have doctoral degrees while 233 were awarded master’s degrees.”

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FG Admits Shortcomings of 2019 Polls, Vows to Act on EU Recommendations

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The presidency has welcomed the report of the European Union (EU) on the 2019 general election, promising to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations.

Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.

Shehu said the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and welcomed by the federal government.

He said this showed that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had “good intentions”.

In its report, the EU said there were marked improvements from previous elections, although it highlighted that more work needed to be done.

It also questioned the neutrality of INEC, condemning the violence witnessed in different parts of the country.

In its response, the federal government said it is working to address some of the concerns raised by the organisation.

“The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media, and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed,” Shehu said.

“It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report. The presidency assures that the commission is in safe hands and happy that they are currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.

“We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures. While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, we note however that none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.”

Shehu expressed delight that the EU did not question the results of the presidential election, describing this as a “further proof that the polls reflected the overall will of Nigerians, and that the world is solidly behind the election of President Buhari for a second term”.

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‘INEC’s Neutrality Questionable’ — 10 Highlights of EU Report on 2019 Polls

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The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria on Saturday released the final report gathered from its observation of the 2019 general election.

The report highlighted a number of issues regarding the polls and gave 30 recommendations to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The mission, which had in its preliminary report released in April, adjudged the polls as characterised by violence, underage voting, and vote-buying, however, said the election recorded some improvements compared to past ones.

“The systemic failings evident in the elections and the low levels of voter participation show the need for fundamental reform,” it read.

“Without this, there is a risk of unaccountable leadership and citizen disengagement. Such reform requires principled political leadership committed to the rights of Nigerian citizens and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts.

“This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.”

Below are some of the highlights from the report:

INEC RECORDED IMPROVEMENT

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) worked in a complex security and politically-charged environment, with its premises and officials subject to physical attacks and intimidation,” it read.

“INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures. INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory to accredit voters, but there were insufficient accompanying transparency measures.

“Other procedural weaknesses continued, including in regards to checks and transparency in the results process. Severe operational shortcomings resulted in the elections being postponed by a week just five hours before polling was due to start on 16 February.”

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

The report said the 2019 polls recorded transparency issues even though it was highly competitive.

“Nigeria’s 2019 general elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems, and low turnout. Positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability,” it read.

“The leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by supporters, and in abusing incumbency at federal and state levels.”

LESSER WOMEN PARTICIPATION

The EOM decried the decreasing participation of women in electoral positions.

“Nigeria has the lowest rate of women in parliament in Africa, with the number progressively decreasing since 2011,” it said.

“The number of women elected fell again. These systemic failings show the need for fundamental reform so elections better serve the interests of the Nigerian people.

“The proportion of women elected is well below the 30 per cent Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 35 per cent national targets. 203 Similarly, the proportion of female candidates for national and state-level elections generally reduced in comparison to 2015 by an average of two percentage points to 10 per cent”

SUSPENSION OF CJN ‘QUESTIONABLE’

It said the suspension of Walter Onnoghen, former chief justice of Nigeria, is questionable, adding that due process was not followed.

“It was seen by many as undermining the security of tenure, damaging judicial independence and compromising the division of powers. The suspension did not follow due process, was divisive, and undermined confidence in the electoral process and opportunity for remedy.

“The mission observed that questionable procedures were followed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The removal of the chief justice of Nigeria during the elections had an inhibiting effect on the judiciary.

“Very few electoral offences result in arrest or prosecution, and thus there is an enduring culture of impunity.”

OVER 100 ELECTION-RELATED DEATHS

Violence was recorded across some states, including Lagos and Delta during the polls, leading to loss of lives and property.

“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation. This harmed the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. Based on information available, around 150 people died in election-related violence during the campaign period and over the election days.

“Approximately 145 people were killed in election-related violence, 84 of which were in the South-South zone. This is a comparable figure to the 2015 general elections.

“However, exact numbers of incidents and fatalities are hard to obtain and there are different views on what is categorised as electoral and political violence.”

INEC’s CREDIBILITY QUESTIONABLE

“INEC’s neutrality and ability to withstand political pressure was increasingly questioned, particularly following the September 2018 off-cycle governorship election in Osun,” it said.

“INEC operated in a highly politically-charged and complex security environment. Its officials and premises were subject to physical attack, including abductions and intimidation, and there were also difficulties with some inter-institutional arrangements.

“A number of procedural weaknesses identified by previous EU election observation missions remained unaddressed, particularly regarding checks and transparency in the results process.”

‘BIASED’ MEDIA

According to the report, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was biased in its covering and reportage of the polls, adding that it gave preferential treatment to President Muhammadu Buhari.

“There was evident partisan programming by the NTA. The joint share of exposure for the president, the government and the APC was over 84 per cent.

“During the EU EOM’s 46-day monitoring period, President Buhari had two hours and eight minutes of direct speech within the news, while Atiku Abubakar had seven minutes,” it said.

“Except for federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at state level.

However federal government-owned TV clearly favoured the president and the ruling party.”

FAKE NEWS FACTOR

“Disinformation (fake/false narratives) was a key focus of political discussion with concern about its impact on the 2019 elections and risk of violence.119 Government officials repeatedly alerted the public to the risk of disinformation. People affiliated with both major parties posted false partisan information online.”

GUBER POLL MORE ORDERLY THAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

It judged the gubernatorial election as more orderly than its presidential counterpart.

“Polling was more orderly and assessed more positively by EU observers in comparison to the 23 February election day.”

TRANSPARENT COUNTING OF BALLOT

“Overall, the counting of ballots was transparent. In 25 out of 28 observed polling units, results forms were filled in completely. But in 12 cases collation was assessed as bad or very bad. In most cases, results forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelopes when delivered to collation centres.”

Meanwhile, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, has promised to ensure the implementation of the recommendations.

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