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National Assembly ready to reconvene if necessary – Saraki

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Chairman of the National Assembly and President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, says the parliament is ready to reconvene if there are pressing national issues requiring the legislature’s attention.
Saraki said this while fielding questions from journalists at a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday.
There have been calls from the presidency for the assembly to reconvene to approve funds for the 2019 general elections as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 24.
The presidency is also saying that there other urgent matters needing the lawmakers’ attention, which if not treated, could affect the country adversely.
The assembly commenced its annual recess on July 24 to resume on Sept. 25 in line with its calendar.
Saraki, however, said it was difficult to understand why the nation would shutdown because the National Assembly was on recess.
He said that the assembly adjourned two days before the scheduled date but ensured that the Electoral Bill was passed.
Saraki said that the bill was the only pending issue before the assembly and that it was passed before the lawmakers commenced recess.
On the request for more funds for the Independent National Electoral Commission, he said it was amazing that people were not asking what INEC was doing that they did not submit their request until the lawmakers embarked on recess.
He said from January through June, the lawmakers were on ground and that nobody from the Executive made any request of additional funds for the INEC.
Saraki said that in the interest of the country, the leadership of the assembly would meet with INEC “and if there is need to reconvene, the legislators will”.
According to him, the plan of the assembly before security agents barricaded its entrance on Tuesday, preventing it from holding a meeting was to the urgent issues.
He said that the assembly “wants free and fair elections and allegations claiming that the institution is trying to sabotage INEC are not true”.
On the blockade at the Assembly Complex, Saraki said it was at times like that that the legislature played its role in fighting for democracy and the rule of law.
He said the assembly would continue to ensure that security agencies played their roles which were “to protect us and not to attack us”.
The president of the Senate said in cases where security agents went out of the ambits of the law, the legislature would take necessary actions that would ensure that they were called to order.
Saraki said: “This is why I commend the acting President for what he did. That action is long overdue; not just the DSS DG, a lot of the security agencies are doing things that are not in line with the Constitution.
“Several times we have summoned heads of security agencies to appear before the National Assembly in line with the Constitution but they do not.
“They should be sanctioned in the same way the DSS DG has been sanctioned. In Benue, security agents escorted eight members of the State House of Assembly to impeach the Governor, aiding illegality.
“The Executive knows what to do; we are saying that any security agency that acts against democracy should be sanctioned similarly and that is our position.”
On the absence of All Progressive Congress lawmakers at the complex at the time of the siege, Saraki said that lawmakers who arrived the complex in the morning and were denied access were told that there was a list of legislators that would be let in.
He alleged that the plan was to only allow certain APC senator to gain access, adding that that was why those whose names were not on the list were denied access.
Saraki explained that the reason the APC legislators were not on ground in the morning was because they were holding a meeting somewhere else before coming to the complex.
He said the meeting was inconclusive and it was adjourned to 11.a.m, adding that if they had concluded, they would have been at the complex.
Saraki said that members of other parties heard of the plot and decided to all turn up at the complex and that that was the reason APC lawmakers were not on ground.
He added: “We must protect this democracy, we must ensure the rule of law; if anybody is to impeached, the process in the constitution must be followed.
“If you have the numbers, go ahead and do it but if you do not have the numbers as required by the Constitution, do not turn us into a banana republic, Nigeria has passed that, we want a country everybody would be proud of.”

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INVESTIGATION

Insiders reveal: NHIS Chairman fighting Executive Secretary for exposing N1.5bn fraud, others

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The resolve of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf to re-accredit the Health Management Organizations(HMOs) and ensure the implementation of a security report which mandated the ES to recover the sum of N1.05 billion allegedly embezzled by some HMOs may have pitched him against the Chairman of the NHIS Council, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne, this newspaper has learnt.
The executive secretary was last Thursday reportedly suspended indefinitely on the order of the council chairman ostensibly to allow unfettered investigation into a petition said to have been written against him some staff of the NHIS.
In a letter signed by its Chairman, Dr Eyantu Ifenne, the Council said “in line with the public service rule 030406, has resolved to suspend you, Professor Usman Yusuf, indefinitely with effect from 18th October 2018 to allow for a comprehensive and unfettered investigation of the issues in the petitions against you.”
However, staff of the organization kicked against the suspension claiming it was a unilateral decision by the chairman as seven out of the 11 council members reportedly walked out of the meeting. A senior Director of the organization instructed to take over from the ES in acting capacity also reportedly declined the offer in solidarity with staff.
In his response to the letter of suspension, Prof. Yusuf stated that contrary to the claims of the council that the NHIS Act and the Public Service Rules no.030406 conferred on it the power to suspend the executive secretary, it had no such powers, stressing that only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could order the suspension or removal of the ES.
Insiders with knowledge of the in-fighting in the NHIS explained that there was no love lost between the chairman of the council and the executive for reasons many of the staff consider as self-serving.
The most obvious reason, according to sources, is an alleged collusion between the chairman and HMOs which has considerably weakened the scheme but benefitted the HMOs. Since resuming as ES in 2016, Prof. Yusuf had indicated interest to sanitize the scheme and stop an alleged racket which had ensured that HMOs to NHIS funds for as long as they liked without paying hospitals offering service to enrollees in the scheme.
An internal audit carried out by the ES had also revealed a staggering number of ghost enrollees and hospitals while the HMOs continued to receive huge illegal payments. The Department of State Services (DSS) had also investigated the Scheme from 2013-2015, and one of the recommendations in its report is that HMOs should pay back the sum of N1.05b that they were illegally paid in 2015.
But it was learnt that even though the ES sought and got the council approval to recover NHIS funds and re-accredit the HMOs, the Chairman never supported the move. The Chairman reportedly called a Council meeting one week after the go-ahead was given and asked a representative of the HMOs to address them on why they should not pay back the money.
“The meeting was attended by only four of the 11 council members, and after the presentation the Chairman asked the HMOs not to pay back any money to NHIS,” a senior staff explained. On several occasions, the Chairman had also allegedly circulated council meetings among certain HMOs, an action that was frowned upon by the ES who warned against given undue access and advantage to some HMOs above others at a time they were being accredited.
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NEWS

Lagos pepper seller dies in police custody

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The family members of a Lagos trader, Mrs Basirat Akinmushire, have demanded an investigation into her death while in the custody of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, Lagos.

They said the 54-year-old, who was arrested at a market on Isolo Housing Estate, Isolo, was hale and hearty until the police called to inform them that she had died.

Our correspondent learnt that a rights group, Network for Police Reforms in Nigeria, had written the Police Service Commission on behalf of the family, alleging that the suspect was extra-judicially murdered.

PUNCH Metro had reported that a man, Olatunde Adetunji, was arrested by the police team in the Ikeja area for alleged robbery and cultism.

Adetunji, an alleged member of the Eiye Confraternity, was said to have claimed that Basirat, aka Area Mama, kept the gang’s weapons.

The 31-year-old allegedly said they usually paid her N5,000 after every successful operation.

The pepper seller, who was subsequently arrested, was said to have told the police that she was coerced into keeping the guns used by the gang.

She allegedly confessed to have transferred two guns belonging to the gang to one Junior, aka Jungle.

Basirat, according to a statement she allegedly made to the police, said the gang threatened to kill her if she leaked their secret.

The police had claimed that the woman, while leading detectives to Junior’s hideout, attempted to escape and fell into a ditch where she got injured.

The deceased’s younger brother, Babajide Lateef, while denying the allegation of arms keeping, said the mother of three was arrested on September 13.

He said, “Since that Thursday that she was arrested, we started going to their office in Ikeja, but we were prevented from seeing her. This was ongoing when we read it in the newspapers that she was attempting to escape when she fell into a ditch.

“On Friday, September 28, the police called us and announced that she was dead. On October 2, we were taken to a morgue to see her corpse. We were told that it was when she was running away that she fell and she was taken to a hospital, where she was admitted to until her death.

“She was not the kind of woman that would keep guns for robbers. She was a gentle woman and did not make trouble with people. I am not saying this because I am a family member; ask from her church members and co-tenants and everybody will testify to her good character.

“Initially, we decided to take her corpse for burial after we were asked to write a letter for the release of her corpse; we had called a lawyer who drafted a letter for us. But when we were told to swear to an affidavit that after the body was released to us we would not make any trouble, we consulted some lawyers who advised against it because the police could use it against us and arrest family members.

“At this point, what we want is the help of the government to unravel the cause of her death and the reason for the affidavit.”

Lateef lamented the effect of the death on the deceased’s husband, a retired head teacher.

He said the widower, Samuel Akinmushire, was admitted to a hospital for three days and had suffered depression.

The National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Okechukwu Nwanguma, in a letter to the Chairman of the PSC, asked that an autopsy be conducted on the corpse.

“The police claimed to have carried out an autopsy, but the family did not know when and where this happened. The family demands a thorough and impartial investigation to unravel the actual cause of death. As part of this investigation, the family demands a transparent autopsy where the family medical and legal representatives will be present.

“NOPRIN calls on the PSC to ensure a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the cause of death and that necessary actions should be taken against any officer involved if a case of extrajudicial killing is established,” he said.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, said there was no foul play in the death.

He said, “The police were investigating a very serious case of armed robbery and gunrunning. Along the line, the woman became a suspect in the case. She was arrested on the suspicion that she was the gang’s armourer and she admitted to the crime.

“She mentioned the name of another suspect whom she claimed had some of the guns. She was taking police operatives to the place when she suddenly jumped out of the vehicle and started running. They chased her and she fell and broke her leg.

“She was taken to the Police College Cottage Hospital, Ikeja, from where she was referred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, for better treatment. LASUTH further referred her to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi. Days later, the woman died at the hospital.”

Oti explained that the affidavit demanded by the police was only a requirement by law to ensure the deceased’s family did not return to deny receiving the corpse.

SOURCE: PUNCH

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NEWS

EFCC investigates abandon projects in Nigeria

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The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) says it has set up a team to commence investigation of abandoned government projects across the country.

Acting EFCC Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Magu, said this would help the anti-graft agency to know the level of completion of the projects, as well as the funds being spent on them.

“The move is to ensure that the contractors complete the projects for the benefit of the people and the development of the country,’’ he said.

Magu said the agency was ready to fight corruption, but with the support of all stakeholders in the country.

The EFCC boss therefore called on Nigerians to identify such projects in their respective areas and report to the commission, for necessary action.

“This is where you can help us, if there is any abundant project we will go after them, because most people collect money and they don’t execute the contract,” he said.

According to him, some contracts were awarded without the intention to execute them. (NAN)

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