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Uproar over arrests of journalists by Nigeria Police, OPAN condemns action

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The assault and arrest of the publisher and editor of online news outlet, Elombah.com  by the Nigerian police was met with widespread condemnation on Tuesday.

The Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, OPAN, Nigeria’s premier association of digital/new media publishers’s has condemned the arrest of Mr Daniel Elombah and Tim Elombah. The group also expressed concerns about the Buhari administration’s -imposed restrictions on the media and plot to intimidate and suppress press freedom in the country.

“OPAN views the assault on Elombah.com as part of a sustained plot by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to intimidate and suppress press freedom. We wish to remind this administration that we are in a democratic dispensation. The practice of using security agencies to harass journalists, especially those operating in the digital media must STOP.”

“We implore this administration to respect free speech and protect the fundamental rights of citizens, whilst also urging the judicial arm of government not to allow its judges and courts become a tool in the hands of dictators and oppressors, to legitimize their abuse and violation of human rights.

“Independent finding shows that the arrest was premised on an opinion article titled “ IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies” written by Eboiwei Dickson, that was published on the website as well as dozens of other sites, which the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris found offensive, said OPAN president, Mr Austin Ogannah in a statement

The journalists were brutalized and arrested in the wee hours of New Year’s Day in their family home in Nnewi, Anambra State.

“The image of the country has been affected by this case. More pressure from the international community will come,” said a media advocacy group on Tuesday night.

“I awoke on New Year to the news that Nigeria’s security agents had snatched blogger Daniel Elombah and two or so of his siblings. There was little explanation for their arrest and detention beyond the alleged statement by the state agents that there were “orders from above”, said Okey Ndibe.

“That such Orwellian phraseology is still used to hound and harass Nigerians in the era of “nascent democracy” ought to disturb all who know the difference between freedom and serfdom. ”

“Since Obasanjo’s time as president—all the way to now—Nigeria has witnessed some form of repression masked as democracy. The incessant assaults inundate the lives of citizens, claw at their hearts, wear down their spirits, he said.

MEANWHILE, the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, OPAN, Nigeria’s premier association of digital/new media publishers, has strongly condemned the brazen arrest of the duo of Daniel Elombah and Tim Elombah, the Publisher and Editor respectively, of United Kingdom based online news website, Elombah.com by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, of the Nigeria Police Force on “Orders from Above.”

In a statement on Tuesday, signed by its President, Austyn Ogannah, who is also the publisher of THEWILL News Media, OPAN said, “Though the police has declined to publicly state why the journalists were brutalized and arrested in the wee hours of New Year’s Day in their family home in Nnewi, Anambra State, independent finding shows that the arrest was premised on an opinion article titled “ IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies” written by Eboiwei Dickson, that was published on the website as well as dozens of other sites, which the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris found offensive.

“OPAN views the assault on Elombah.com as part of a sustained plot by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to intimidate and suppress press freedom. We wish to remind this administration that we are in a democratic dispensation. The practice of using security agencies to harass journalists, especially those operating in the digital media must STOP.

“We implore this administration to respect free speech and protect the fundamental rights of citizens, whilst also urging the judicial arm of government not to allow its judges and courts become a tool in the hands of dictators and oppressors, to legitimize their abuse and violation of human rights.”

Recalls that Tim and Daniel were arrested in a Gestapo-like raid and transported to Abuja, but the latter was released late in the night following sustained pressure on the Inspector General of Police and the Nigerian government by members of OPAN as well as bloggers, public affairs commentators, human rights and press freedom groups.

Tim was Tuesday brought before a magistrate court in Abuja by the police seeking an order to remand him in prison custody for a period of fourteen (14) days pending the completion of police investigation and filing a former charge, but the court only approved seven (7) days, setting the matter for hearing on January 9, 2018.

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NHIS boss, Usman Yusuf suspended indefinitely

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The governing council, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has suspended the Executive Secretary of the scheme, Prof Usman Yusuf indefinitely to pave way for investigation into allegations leveled against him.

Meanwhile Prof. Yusuf has called off an earlier scheduled press conference. He was expected to react to the story during the conference.

The chairman of the governing council, Dr Eyantu Ifenne at a briefing in the scheme head quarter on Thursday said, based on the review of various documents on allegations leveled against him, they have resolved to constitute an administrative panel to investigate and submit their report in the next three months.

“The ES is suspended indefinitely to pave unfettered space for the committee to do thorough investigations into the matter.”

Dr Efene added that approval has been gotten from the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole.

“The council has also resolved that Dr Abubakar Sadiq Adamu immediately step into the acting capacity of the ES to allow activities to run smoothly.”

Prof Yusuf was suspended by the Minister of Health in July, 2017 but was called back by the presidency in February, 2018.

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Refuse: Lagos Assembly orders PSP to go back to work, disowns Visionscape

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The Lagos State House of Assembly has ordered the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state to call on the PSP operators in their areas to go back to work with immediate effect.

Speaker of the House, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, who gave this directive on Thursday on behalf of the lawmakers during plenary also ordered the Clerk of the House. Mr. Azeez Sanni to invite the Commissioner for the Environment, Hon. Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti to appear before the House on the matter next week.

This followed an Urgent Matter of Public Importance raised by Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu on heaps of refuse scattered all over the state.

The Speaker, Obasa  emphasised that the Lagos State Government does not know about Visionscape.

Obasa stated that there are three arms of government including legislative, executive and judiciary, and the state government ought to have consulted the House on Visionscape before they started operation.

“We insist that we don’t know anything about Visionscape because we were not consulted before they started work.

“We once wrote the Commissioner for Finance, Hon. Akinyemi Ashade not to pay Visionscape again and any money paid to them after our instruction would have to be returned to the State government.

“We will go back to that, when the time comes. We have to do the needful now.

“We are calling on the 20 local governments and 37 LCDAs in the state to have meetings with the PSP operators to go back to work and they should start paying them and make the residents to start paying the operators. We have to avoid epidemics and be proactive,” he said.

The Speaker also warned those stopping people from dumping refuse at the dumpsites to desist from doing so, adding that he saw a lot of refuse trucks in a bad state and that some of them have been abandoned.

He insisted that the House ought to have approved the refuse disposal policy before Visionscape started work.

“We are inviting the Commissioner for the Environment to come and report to us within one week. The Clerk should write all the councils to do the needful and the Commissioner for the Environment to work on this and report to us in a week,” he said.

Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu had said that there were still refuse on Lagos roads, adding that it was not like before “because some PSP are now working and the state government has bought some trucks- visionscape.

He said: “Some refuse are taken to Epe and Ikorodu but it is a bit far now as 300 instead of 800 trucks are disposing refuse now.

“We used to dump them in Olusosun, but the place was gutted by fire. “We can give the place to private stations.

“The sanitary land fill in Epe is not being utilised and the transfer loading stations too are not working effectively and the turn around time of packing the refuse is not being utilised. It is not all the PSP operators that are working. May be we can recall the PSP Operators to go back go work and reopen Olusosun and the land fill sites should be operated properly.”

The Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade from Ikorodu Constituency 1 revealed that refuse is worse in his area, and that for the state to have good sanitation,  a law on environmental sanitation was passed in Lagos State, but that it seemed it was not properly done after that.

“The refuse on the road and on the streets are hazardous to the people. Flies from the refuse mix with the food people are eating.

“One day, Olusosun would not be able to accommodate refuse any longer. If we can change our policy on refuse disposal it would be better.

“I will suggest that we should challenge those in the Ministry of Health and those in the Ministry of the Environment.

“We can invite the people in the Ministry of the Environment to know their challenges. This has become an eyesore in Lagos State. We should invite the people in charge,” he said.

Also speaking, Hon. Bisi Yusuff from Alimosho Constituency 1 revealed that eight people died in Igando, where they dump refuse in his area.

Yusuff stressed that Visionscape does not know the job, and that they did not even allow PSP operators to help the people.

“There are big rats on the roads now and they could even make a vehicle to stumble.

“We should look at it critically. They are not picking any refuse in the state. It is an important matter that should be handled urgently,” he said.

In his comment, Hon. Abiodun Tobun from Epe Constitueny 1 stated that Lagos State is dirty and that only God would help the state.

He stated that Epe is not benefitting in Epe from the system and that their water has been contaminated and that all their roads are now bad.

“There is no industrial estate in Epe, but they have in other places. “They cannot bring refuse dump to Epe, they can relocate it if that is what we are benefiting. We want better things in Epe such as industries and other things,” he said.

In Eti-Osa East Local Government, there are refuse there and in other places on my area. In the days of PSP, people knew when they would come and they prepare their refuse. We should invite both the commissioner and LAWMA officials as well as the local government. We should be able to do our best because we need the people’s vote now.

Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, in his submission said, “There are refuse in Idumagbo, Martins and other areas in Lagos Island. We should call on the government to clear the refuse as fast as possible. We should be proactive so that we would not go back to 1999 era.

Other lawmakers who contributed to the issue also corroborated the fact that there constituencies are facing the problem.

The House also ordered reopen of all dumpsites for the PSP operators.

It would be recalled that the spokesperson for the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria (AWAM), Olugbenga Adebola  reiterated the readiness and commitment of PSP in moving Lagos back to that part of honour, where several accolades were received by them and the government.

(more…)

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Police arrest ex-Emzor Pharmaceutical employee for selling codeine

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Operatives of the Lagos State Police Command have arrested a former employee of Emzor Pharmaceutical Limited, Maduike Chukwunonye, for allegedly selling a cough drug containing codeine to a correspondent of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Adejuwon Soyinka.
The ex-employee told the BBC in a video that was secretly shot, that he could get cartons of the drug for its undercover reporter, alias Mr. Nohson.
This was in the heat of the ban on codeine containing drugs by the Federal Government.
The arrest of Chukwunonye was made known to newsmen by the Commissioner, Lagos State Police Command, Edgal Imohimi, who paraded him on Wednesday.
The Commissioner said the police had been on the trail of the suspect since May.
Emzor had in the light of the report by the BBC reported to the police that several cartons of the drug were missing from its store.
Imohimi said Chukwunonye tried fleeing the country when he noticed he was being hunted.
Edgal said: “The company alleged that while in its employ, the suspect had access to limited quantities of its product with codeine for the purpose of distribution to licensed retail pharmacies under his assigned territory.
“But due to his greed, the suspect knowingly supplied the controlled drugs to persons who are not supposed to have access to them, contrary to the dictates of the laws.
“He has been on the run since May, but was eventually arrested at Idi-Iroko border, Ogun State by operatives of Area ‘D’ Command while he tried to flee to Cotonou in Benin Republic.
“In his statement, he averred that he was only trying to meet his sales target and that the BBC man was introduced to him by one Pascal as a genuine businessman without verifying the former’s identity as a pharmacist. He regretted selling the controlled substances to unauthorised persons.”
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