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10 Things To Know About Lagos New Victim, Witness Protection And Assistance Bill

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The Lagos State House of Assembly led by Speaker Mudashiru Obasa recently passed a bill to protect and assist victims of crimes and accidents as well as witnesses who have genuine information which could help effective prosecution of cases.

Titled ‘a bill for a law to provide for the rights and entitlements of victims and protection of witnesses and for connected purposes’, the bill which has been described as one that would protect lives and property is geared towards creating a peaceful Lagos society in line with state’s advancement.

The bill with 71 sections, is the first to be passed by a Nigerian State House of Assembly and creates for the establishment of an agency that would assist to meet its stipulations and goals.

Designed to meet the Megacity, or if you like, Smart City drive of the government, the bill also states how the agency is to be run, the establishment of a Trust Fund and how resources that should make up the fund are to be sourced and utilised. The bill currently awaits the assent by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

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Below are 10 other things to know about the bill and the agency:

1. Provide necessary assistance to victims and witnesses including measures for treatment, reparation, restitution and rehabilitation.

2. Conduct research into ways victims and witnesses can be effectively treated, rehabilitated, assisted, compensated and protected.

3. Create a conducive environment for witnesses to make statements before law enforcement agencies without fear of any repercussions.

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4. Pay compensation to victims or witnesses for any physical or mental harm, loss or damages to property.

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5. A victim or witness shall be protected as far as practicable from unnecessary contact with the alleged offender and defence witnesses during trial and proceedings.

6. A victim or witness who suspects that harm may be inflicted on him due to his participation in any investigation can seek protection.

7. A victim or witness can be provided with security, temporary accommodation, permanent relocation, temporary or permanent employment or change of identity.

8. Victims of accident or crime must be assisted by the public or security agents and taken to the nearest hospital for treatment.

9. A hospital or facility that fails to treat a victim can face a N1m fine. If victim dies, the hospital or doctor faces prosecution.

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10. A private hospital that receives an accident victim with severe wound must inform the agency within 48 hours for reimbursement of medical expenses where family members are not known or where the victim is indigent.

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LG autonomy: 13 states rush to hold council polls

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LG autonomy: 13 states rush to hold council polls

No fewer than 13 states have fixed dates for Local Government elections in the aftermath of last Thursday’s Supreme Court judgement which prohibited federal allocation to council being administered by caretaker committees.

The states that have commenced council poll preparations include Kaduna, Kogi, Bauchi, Katsina, Osun, Enugu, Benue, Rivers, Jigawa, Imo, Kebbi, Abia, and Anambra states.

Also read: Just In: Protesting youths chase Rivers LG from council secretariat

On Tuesday, the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission scheduled the council poll for October 19, 2024.

The Supreme Court had declared it unconstitutional for state governors to hold funds allocated for the local government councils.

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In the judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the seven-man panel held that the 774 local government councils in the country should manage their funds themselves.

The court delivered the landmark judgment in suit: SC/CV/343/2024, filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) against the 36 state governors.

The AGF had sued the state governors through their respective state attorneys-general.

The apex court declared that the government is divided into three tiers: federal, state, and local governments.

S’Court verdict

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The court further declared that a state government had no power to appoint a caretaker committee and a local government council was only recognisable with a democratically elected government.

“A democratically elected local government is sacrosanct and non-negotiable,’’ the apex court declared, putting an end to the practice of appointing caretaker committees to run the councils by the state governors.

The court further asserted that the use of a caretaker committee by the state governments to administer the local government violated the 1999 Constitution.

The Supreme Court further affirmed that the local government areas should be governed by a democratically elected government but “The state by the abuse of their power has worked against this law.”

The court declared that the 36 state governors had no power to dissolve democratically elected local government councils to replace them with caretaker committees.

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“Such an act is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void,’’ Agim stated.

The apex court barred the state governors from receiving, retaining or spending the local government allocation.

It said the practice of receiving and retaining local government funds by the states had gone on for too long, describing it as a clear violation of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

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The court held that the 1999 Constitution states that any money leaving the federation account must be distributed to the three tiers of government.

It added that it is the local government administrations that should receive and manage funds meant for the local councils.

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Agim declared, “I hold that the state’s retention of the local government funds is unconstitutional.

“Demands of justice require a progressive interpretation of the law. It is the position of this court that the federation can pay LGA allocations to the LGAs directly or pay them through the states.

“In this case, since paying them through states has not worked, justice of this case demands that LGA allocations from the federation account should henceforth be paid directly to the LGAs.”

Following the verdict which was widely applauded, the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy Wale Edun, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) were reported to have scheduled a meeting for Tuesday (yesterday) with the Federal Accounts and Allocation Committee officials to discuss the implementation of the apex court verdict.

Theheute was unable to confirm if the meeting was held.

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Kaduna LG poll

Announcing the date for the council poll at a meeting with political parties and other stakeholders on Tuesday, the Kaduna SIECOM Chairperson, Hajara Mohammed, explained that the current council officials members were sworn into office on November 1, 2021, and would end their three-year tenure on October 31, 2024.

She said, “The current council members were sworn into office on 1 November 2021 and will end their three-year tenure on 31 October. KAD-SIECOM is responsible for organising the elections of chairpersons, vice-chairpersons, and councillors in the state.

“In consonance with the provision of section 25(1) of the KAD-SIECOM Law 2024, the general public is hereby informed that the LGA council election will be held in Kaduna on Saturday, 19th October 2024, between 8am and 4pm

“The commission issues the election timetable today, Tuesday 16th July 2024. The 2024 election guidelines have been released with the election timetable KAD-SIECOM is ready to conduct the election on the set date.”

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The Kogi State Independent Electoral Commission also announced October 19 for the local government election across the state.

Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting in Lokoja on Tuesday, the Chairman of the electoral commission, Mamman Eri, said the decision was in line with the provision of the Constitution and the powers vested in the state Independent Electoral Commission.

He explained that a comprehensive timetable and schedule of activities had been prepared to ensure a transparent, fair and credible electoral process.

“We assure you that these activities have been designed with utmost consideration for inclusivity, transparency and adherence to electoral laws,’’ he said.

According to the election timetable, a councillorship candidate will pay a N100,000 deposit while a chairmanship candidate will part with 250,000.

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It prohibits a candidate who has been dismissed from public service or private employment from contesting for any of the elective positions.

Also, anyone who has been found guilty of an offence involving narcotics or any other psychotropic substance by any court or tribunal cannot contest the poll.

Eri appreciated the continued support and collaboration towards the success of the election.

Also, the Bauchi State Independent Electoral Commission has fixed August 19 for the local government elections in the state.

The Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Ahmad Makama, who disclosed this at a news conference on Tuesday in Bauchi, said all necessary arrangements had been concluded to ensure free and fair elections.

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He reiterated the commitment of the commission to conduct a credible and transparent election, urging citizens to come out and vote for their preferred candidates across the parties on election day.

He denied alleged rigging plans, noting that previous elections were free and fair.

Makama said the commission had organised a series of meetings with political parties, security chiefs and relevant stakeholders, as part of the election preparations.

NAN quoted the chairman to have urged the public to support the commission to ensure hitch-free local government elections.

It was learnt that Katsina, Kebbi, and Benue have also set machinery in motion to conduct the local council polls.

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The exercise will take place in Enugu on October 5, while Benue will conduct the council poll on November 16.

Others are Kebbi, August 31; Rivers, October 5; Kwara and Imo, September 21.

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Katsina has announced February, while Osun will conduct the poll on February 22, 2025.

Ondo election postponed

However, the preparation for the council election in Ondo State has been put on hold

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Announcing this on Monday, the Chairman of the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission, Dr Joseph Aremo, regretted that no single political party complied with the guidelines of the proposed election, despite the issuance of guidelines for the election.

This would be the second time the commission would postpone the election earlier fixed for February and later shifted to July 2024.

Before the latest postponement, the commission had earlier scheduled the council poll for July 13, 2023.

Following the expiration of the tenure of the last executive of the local governments in August 2023, heads of local government administration had been at the helm of affairs in the 18 local government areas of the state.

Addressing stakeholders from various political parties in the state, in Akure, Aremo stated, “Ours is to conduct an election that will usher in a democratic government at the local level. It’s unfortunate that no single party complied with the guidelines for the election.

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“We have yet to receive the nomination of candidates, yet to verify and release it to the public for scrutiny.”

Aremo added that the commission would go back to the drawing board and make its position known at a later date.

Reacting, the Ondo State Chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Council, Adesanya Olaoluwa, admitted that all political parties agreed to the terms, knowing that no election could take place without them.

He said, “They now know our reasons. We want to see Mr Governor. It is not that we don’t have trust in ODIEC. We know that they can conduct credible election but we want to see Mr Governor,” he noted.

However, the People’s Democratic Party said that the ODIEC had postponed the elections because the All Progressives Congress was no longer popular in the state.

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The state Publicity Secretary, Mr Kennedy Peretei, said, “We knew all along that ODIEC will not conduct the LG election because the APC is not on the ground.”

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Kogi Commissioner hails Appeal Court’s verdict on Ododo’s election

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Kogi Commissioner hails Appeal Court's verdict on Ododo's election

Kogi Commissioner for Information and Communications, Hon. Kingsley Femi Fanwo has described as “sound” the judgement of the Appeal Court, affirming the victory of Alh. Usman Ododo as the democratically elected Governor of the State.

He said saying the judgement represents “echoes of the indisputable victory” of the All Progressives Congress in the governorship election.

 

Aso read: LP chairman accuses INEC of mismanaging 2023 elections

 

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Speaking to journalists shortly after the judgement, Thursday, the Kogi State Government Spokesman said the Governor will remain unwavering in his faith in the judiciary.

His words: “Today’s judgement represents echoes of our victory on November 11, 2023. We campaigned round the state and worked hard to reassure the people that our party is the most reliable to take the state forward.

“November 11 will continue to be remembered in Kogi State as the day that Kogites across the Senatorial Districts united to speak with one voice, birthing a resounding victory for the incumbent Governor.

“Today’s verdict has offered another great opportunity for those who lost at the poll and in the courts to join the Governor in moving the state forward”.

Fanwo said the court case did not in any way slow governance down, as the Governor has continued to “roll up his sleeves and deliver democracy dividends to the great people of the State.

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“The jubilation that greeted the verdict affirming the victory of the Chief Servant of Kogi State is a demonstration of the triumph of the people’s will”.

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Fanwo urged the people of the state to continue to support the governor in order to make the state the Confluence of Excellence.

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Reps panel quizzes minister, alleges N1.5bn diversion

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Reps panel quizzes minister, alleges N1.5bn diversion

A near physical confrontation between the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, and the House of Representatives Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development was averted on Wednesday at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, where the minister appeared to clarify the controversy surrounding the alleged diversion of N1.5bn, meant for the payment of contractors by officials of the ministry.

Matters got to a worse start when the committee asked the minister to account for the huge sum released by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for the payment of contractors.

 

Also read: Reps passed 89 bills, introduced 679 motions in one year, says Speaker

 

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While affirming that 30 per cent of the total contract payment was released to the ministry, Uju shocked the committee when she claimed that she couldn’t say much about the money because the President’s wife, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, advised her to mind her business.

She however blamed the non-payment of the contractors on the fact that the total amount was not released to the Ministry of Women Affairs.

“If not that the money for this year has been delayed, I’m sure we wouldn’t be here today because we could have paid out some of these liabilities. But since this year, no project money has been released to any ministry and that is a constraint,” the minister said.

A member of the committee, representing Brass/Nembe Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State, Marie Ebikake asked the minister to speak up on the N500m African First Lady Peace Mission project.

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“Honorable Minister and Permanent Secretary, when we came here on Thursday, we did raise an issue of the African First Lady Peace Mission projects. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any concrete answer on the issue. It was carried over to today (Wednesday).

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“Now that we are here, Honorable Minister, could you please educate the committee on the functions of the African First Lady Peace Mission projects, taking into cognizance the funds allocated for the project in the past. There was N500m in 2020, N225m in 2021, N500m in 2022 and N150m in 2023. Where is the office of this project situated and the organography?”

Responding, the minister noted that the sum of N150m was given in 2023, adding that the former First Lady, Aisha Buhari, collected the money which, she said, was meant for the purchase of a generator.

“About the First Lady’s funds and the N150m you were talking about, I wasn’t there when it happened. When I came in, I saw it in the Appropriation Act. And I went to my First Lady. We discussed. She said that particular money was not meant for her. She said it was meant for the former First Lady because it was during her tenure that the money was allocated. And the former First Lady later called me and said they wanted to use it and buy a generator. She then went out of the country.

“It took her a while but when she returned, she called me and she brought the person that was to get the generator. And I introduced that person to the procurement officer then, who is now retired. This was to enable them to work together according to the rules and regulations of procurement.

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“They’ve been on it and once in a while, I call the First Lady to find out what is going on,” Kennedy-Ohanenye said.

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In an attempt to explain her relationship with Mrs Tinubu, the minister said, “My First Lady will tell you, focus on your work and she focuses on her work. She advises me. I am not a First Lady and I can’t overstep my bounds. All I went to tell her was that there was some amount of money on the Appropriation Act for her office. I have no business much to do with the First Lady’s buildings because I have to only take directives when given.”

At this point, the Chairman, Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development, Kafilat Ogbara, asked the minister: “Are you saying that it was the former First Lady that requested that the money be used for a generator or the current First Lady?”

In response, Kennedy-Ohanenye said, “I’m not the accountant. I don’t usually know what you have. I don’t know how much they have in their bank statement. But I saw it (N150m) in the Appropriation Act. It was there in the last year’s budget.

“I can’t answer that question because I don’t know who requested for it. It was supposed to go to procurement. No First Lady called me, I called. I never said a First Lady called, I called to say this is what I saw on the Appropriation paper. That was what I said.

“Let me not be misquoted. I never said it was meant for the First Lady.”

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At this point, the Chairman of the Committee asked the procurement officer to explain to the committee how the money was spent but Kennedy-Ohanenye interjected, saying “I am not getting very comfortable anymore because I don’t even understand this question. I am not a procurement officer.”

Mrs Ogbara, citing confrontation with the adjourned the hearing till further notice.

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