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Govt begins prosecution of INEC officials, others for electoral fraud

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The Federal Government through the Nigerian Bar Association has commenced the prosecution of some staff members of the Independent National Electoral Commission and political party members indicted for various electoral offences during the 2023 general elections.

Electoral offences remain a major threat to credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria, as they often heighten political tension and trigger violence.

Following the February 25, 2023, presidential and National Assembly elections, the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, said over 700 offenders were arrested by men of the Nigeria Police Force for violating electoral laws.

INEC had on May 2, 2023, said it would prosecute 215 handed over to it out of the 774 persons arrested for various electoral offences by the NPF during the polls.

The commission said it was partnering with the NBA, which offered pro bono legal services for the effective prosecution of the electoral offenders.

Out of the 215 case files received by the commission, 196 cases are electoral offences and are being handled by INEC and the NBA.

The National Publicity Secretary, NBA, Habeeb Lawal, told our correspondent on Friday that 196 suspects, including INEC officials and members of political parties, were being prosecuted for various electoral offences such as vote-buying, arms possession, and others committed during the 2023 poll.

Lawal noted that the prosecution was being carried out in magistrates’ courts and the high courts of the states and the Federal Capital Territory.

He explained, “A total of 196 suspects are being prosecuted for various offences by volunteering members of the Nigerian Bar Association, who are handling the cases pro bono.

“The offences range from dereliction of duty, criminal conspiracy and disorderly conduct at election venues, unlawful possession of arms on election day, snatching and destroying of INEC materials, electoral malpractices, unlawful possession of election materials, voter inducement and vote-buying, malicious damage and assault, and electoral violence.

“Some of the suspects are INEC officials, while others are political party members and people without determinable political affiliations.

“The magistrates’ courts and the high courts of the states and the FCT have jurisdiction over electoral offences by virtue of the Electoral Act.

“Therefore, the offences are being prosecuted by our members in these different courts all over the country, as there is hardly anyone state of the federation that the prosecution is not ongoing.”

When asked what impact the prosecution would have on future elections, the publicity secretary noted, “We believe that successful prosecution of electoral offenders will deter people desperate to assume political offices.

“We are hopeful that this modest effort will positively impact and sanitise our electoral system and culture.”

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, stated that the commission would not condone bad behaviour, adding that future offenders would be held accountable for their actions.

Oyekanmi said, “By engaging in the commendable collaboration with the Nigerian Bar Association to jointly prosecute electoral offenders, the Independent National Electoral Commission is reinforcing its resolve not to condone bad behaviour.

“It is also our strong message to aspiring offenders that they will be held accountable for their actions.

“While we have achieved some measure of success in prosecuting electoral offenders in the past, the NBA’s offer to assist us pro bono will further widen the scope and serve as a deterrent to others.”

The Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, stated that Nigeria would be free from election violence and corruption if electoral offenders were dealt with.

He stated, “As a way of sanitising the electoral process, there must be sanctions or penalties for people who break our law.

“Political parties will warn their members and supporters to stay off violence to avoid rubbishing the image of the parties once they are aware of the consequences of committing electoral offences.

“Nigeria will be free from manipulation, election violence, and corruption.”

A legal practitioner, Victor Giwa, said prosecuting electoral offenders would discourage election irregularities and produce credible leadership.

Giwa explained, “People prepare for rigging elections. They budget money for getting thugs, and bribing security agencies and INEC officials because these offenders are not prosecuted.

“But when Nigeria starts prosecuting electoral offenders, it will discourage election irregularities and reduce electoral offences. It will help to provide proper and credible leadership.

“When electoral offenders are not prosecuted, it reduces confidence in the electoral process.”

Reacting to the development, a rights activist and Chancellor, International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, Jackson Omenazu, said since it had become the norm for electoral offenders to rob the citizens, deny them their rights as stated in the Electoral Act, and violate the electoral laws of the country, the arrested offenders should be severely punished irrespective of their personality.

According to him, electoral offenders have gone scot-free over the years, adding that their proper prosecution would deliver a balanced electoral process in the country.

He said, “No armed robber can rob 10,000 persons at a stretch. An INEC official with criminal intentions can rob one million people at a stretch and get away with it and one of the biggest problems we have in this country today is that electoral offenders have gone scot-free all these years.

“These things are criminal and honestly, until electoral offenders are punished severely, we will not get a balanced electoral process in this country no matter who is involved. My advice to the media is that they should escalate the matter so there won’t be any chance for them to sweep it under the carpet.”

Also commenting, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Afam Osigwe, explained that the most important thing was to show Nigerians that there were consequences for all actions, adding that for the electoral process to have integrity, the arrested electoral offenders should be properly prosecuted.

He added that actions must be matched with words by ensuring that those who adhered to the electoral law and process had their gains in court, while offenders found culpable should be made to face the full wrath of the law.

Osigwe said, “I do not know who is involved but the important thing for me is that Nigeria must show that actions must have consequences and that for our electoral process to have integrity, those who are apprehended for all manners of electoral malpractices or offences should be prosecuted.

We should match action with words by ensuring that people who try to support the electoral process have their gain in court and that the full weight of the law is brought against those who are found culpable.

“We must show that we are a nation ruled by law and that the full weight of our law must be brought against those who breach them. For me, that is the important message that you will be passing if this prosecution is successfully carried out.”

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No Amount Of Foreign Aid Can Save Nigeria – Says Tinubu, Gives Reason

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday stated that no amount of aid from foreign countries or any other nation will fix Nigeria because “they take care of themselves first.”

The President said this when he appeared before a joint sitting of the National Assembly in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Tinubu’s visit to the lawmakers comes as the nation marked 25 years of unbroken democracy.

The President stepped into the parliament at 12:28pm, accompanied by the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima.

Upon his arrival, the lawmakers recited the new national anthem, “Nigeria, we hail thee” which the President had earlier signed into law.

He briefed the MPs and praised them for their efforts in preserving the nation’s democracy for over two decades.

He continued: “Out of respect, I want to say thank you very much. This is the institution building the country.

“Our friends, old and new, to every Nigerian, I say congratulations to 25 years of unbroken democracy.”

“You rang out the latest national anthem, ‘Nigeria, we hail thee’. This is our diversity, representing all characters and how we blend to be brothers and sisters.

“We have no other choice; it is our nation. No other institution or personality will help us unless we do it ourselves. No amount of aid from foreign countries or any other nation (will fix us), they take care of themselves first. Let us work together as we are doing to build our nation, not only for us but for generations unborn.”

The Senate and the House of Representatives had previously passed the legislation to swap the national anthem from “Arise, O Compatriots” to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” at separate sittings.

Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who lived in Nigeria during its independence, penned the lyrics for “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” while Frances Berda composed the music. The anthem played a significant role in shaping Nigeria’s national identity and unity during the 1960s and late 1970s.

He said, “Without this house (parliament), probably, I may not have found the path to the Presidency. It started all here. Please, continue to collaborate and work together. We have no other choice. It is our nation.”

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Reno Omokri Criticizes Tinubu Government: Calls Return of Old National Anthem a Step Backward and Unnecessary act

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

Reno omokri a former Aide to President Goodluck Jonathan had reacted to changing of the Nigerian anthem to the old anthem, In a tweet on X (formerly known as Twitter) , he said “My heart is very heavy about Nigeria right now because, in my opinion, we just took a giant step backwards in our national journey. Now, do not get me wrong, I support the current economic policies of my country. Fuel subsidy removal and Naira flotation are necessary policies that any lover of Nigeria should adhere to regardless of party affiliation.

One of the most unnecessary acts of governance in Nigeria in recent times is the law returning the old National Anthem. First of all, there was nothing wrong with the existing anthem. Secondly, with all of the multifaceted issues we face, it seems like we have a lack of priorities, when we major on such a settled issue as an anthem.

To me, it looks like a step backwards to discard the ‘Arise, O Compatriots’ National Anthem written by a collective of young Nigerians, including John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, B. A. Ogunnaike, Sota Omoigui and P. O. Aderibigbe in 1978, for ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’, written by an English woman, Lillian Jean Williams.

Does it not sound preposterous that a foreigner should write our National Anthem? Are we that shallow and uninspired that we cannot come up with our own indigenous anthem? You can imagine the land of such music icons, like Fela Kuti, Osita Osadebe, Dan Maraya Jos, and contemporary stars, like Sade Adu, Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid, importing music of national significance from Britain. As my Yoruba brethren will say, ‘O wrong now!’

Already, the name Nigeria was given to us by another English lady, Flora Shaw. And she named us in 1897 in much the same way you name a dog. She did it tongue in cheek, for an article she wrote for The Times of London.

We ought to have even changed that name to something indigenous, such as the Republic of Wazobia, as Ghana did in 1957 when she changed from Gold Coast to Ghana at Independence in 1957.

We should also have reverted to the original name for Lagos, Eko. Lagos is an imposed Portuguese name. The annoying thing is that the Portuguese who renamed Eko as Lagos were just opportunistic slave traders who did not set up any viable administrative structure.

Instead of undertaking these name changes, we are rather doubling down on another colonial relic by discarding the anthem written by our own citizens for one written by a foreigner.

I dare anyone reading this to name another country whose National Anthem was written by a foreigner. Even a Banana Republic would not do that!

In my humble opinion, President Tinubu ought not to have assented to that bill. Instead, he should have written a strongly worded letter to communicate to the National Assembly the implications on our sovereignty and national psyche to revert to an anthem written by a foreigner, which would make us a free nation that willingly chose to return to the yoke of imperialism.

Is it too late for the President to do what he ought to have done? No. He is our Head of State and has a duty to promote indigenous ideas over imperialistic ones”.

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APC Lawmakers throw weight behind Ado Bayero

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

As the emirship tussle continues in Kano State, the 12 members of the All Progressives Congress in the House of Assembly have pledged allegiance to the 15th Emir, Aminu Ado Bayero.

Led by the minority leader, Labaran Abdul Madari, the 12 lawmakers from APC paid homage to Ado Bayero at the Nassarawa Palace after the assembly’s plenary session on Tuesday.

Recall that a crisis has broken out since the reinstatement of Muhammadu Sanusi II as the 16th Emir of Kano at the weekend, after Governor Abba Yusuf repealed the five emirates council.

Both Sanusi and Ado Bayero have refused to bow to pressure of different court orders asking them to vacate the palace.

This has created tension in the city as different organisations including the police, ulamas, eminent figures, lawyers, politicians have tried to wade in to resolve the matter but the two sides refused to budge.

Meanwhile, as the APC lawmakers in the State House paid a visit to Ado Bayero, Kantin Kwari Market Traders Association did the same to Sanusi on Tuesday.

The delegation of the traders led by the state’s Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Adamu Aliyu Kibiya, was at the emir’s palace, Kofar Kudu to register their allegiance and loyalty to the monarch.

Sanusi enjoined the traders to uphold the principles of honesty and fairness in all their business transactions, noting that Kano remains a leading commercial centre, attracting merchants from outside the country because of the contribution of traders.

The emir has been receiving visitors coming to pay homage since Sunday when 40 district heads and title holders pledged their allegiance.

Findings showed that vigilante groups and local hunters (Yan Tauri) are still keeping vigil at the palace.

Five DSS operatives were seen manning an entrance to one of the offices of the emir at Gidan Rumfa.

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