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GOVERNORS ARE NIGERIA’S BIGGEST PROBLEM – EX-MINISTER

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A former Minister of National Planning and Director-General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, the academic arm of the National Assembly, Prof Abubakar Suleiman, talks to LEKE BAIYEWU about the cost of running the National Assembly and governors’ influence in the polity, among other issues around the legislature

The National Assembly has been described as the most expensive in the world. Do you think that view is exaggerated or there is a justification for it?

If they say democracy is expensive, maybe we can start the conversation. But to single out the parliament and say it is expensive, I don’t know what it means. Let me give you a good example: there is this notion by some Nigerians that parliaments – to be precise, the National Assembly – are the ones that spend or take all our money. That has been the perception. Perhaps, it was this perception and misconception that informed the conclusion that having two arms (Senate and House of Representatives) at the national level is too much and, therefore, something needs to be done. I want to debunk that notion or that perception with some facts. One, the notion or the misconception that tends to believe that the parliament, especially the National Assembly, takes all our money; that they are thieves, that they are this and that…the question we have to ask ourselves is, ‘Which money are we talking about?’

What about their remuneration and welfare package widely called ‘jumbo pay’?

How much is the jumbo pay? Going by my background, I have been part of the executive, when I served as a minister, and here I am (in the legislature). As an intellectual from the university, I can make a scientific conclusion on it and I am not trying to defend anybody. As a minister, for instance, my entitlements in terms of remuneration – salary and everything (allowances) – may be less than N1m, but in terms of vehicles and other things, I don’t think any senator enjoys that. That is one. Two, in terms of privileges that we enjoyed as members of the Federal Executive Council, they (lawmakers) don’t enjoy it. Third, depending on the ministry you occupy, if you are a Minister of Works or Petroleum Resources or Defence or Transportation or Finance, one minister of these ministries is equal to 90 senators in terms of opportunities to acquire wealth if you want to. This is because a Minister of Works has the power to disburse up to N1tn, for instance. Yes, you will go through the normal procurement process but, at least, the buck stops with you. No senator, in fact the 109 senators don’t control N1tn. The entire budgetary provision for the entire National Assembly is not up to N300bn. This year alone, the Federal Government budgeted over N20tn (N21.83tn)), the National Assembly does not control N1tn. It does not get N300bn. So, if the executive is spending about N22tn and the National Assembly is getting less than N300bn, who controls the remainder? That fund is under the executive, but nobody talks about it. They are not expensive. They don’t steal. Our accusing fingers should not be pointed at them but at the people who control less than N300bn. If we ignore that organ of government that sits on over N20tn, and our focus is now on the organ that sits on N300bn, where lies the justification?

Talking about the amount allocated to the National Assembly, how is it spent?

Let us say N250bn was allocated to the National Assembly, out of that amount, don’t forget that we have two components of the budget – recurrent and capital expenditures. People have forgotten or are ignorant of the fact that the National Assembly comprises of about four agencies and all these agencies share this N250bn. Under the National Assembly, there is the National Assembly Service Commission, Public Complaints Commission, NILDS and National Assembly Budget and Research Office. Then, we have the National Assembly Management. All these are besides the parliamentarians – senators and representatives. All these, together, are the ones that share the N250bn. So, where lies the justification that they are too expensive? When you talk of oversight (of the ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government by the lawmakers), it is part of the N250bn. When you talk of training – some overseas, it is out of the N250bn. By the time you do the allocations here and there, I think you will sympathise with the parliament.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, has repeatedly claimed that the National Assembly is underfunded? Are you confirming this to be true?

You can make your deduction from what I have just said; if actually N250bn is what goes to all these five bodies as well as the lawmakers. Okay, if you want to carry out an oversight of the NDDC and the money budgeted for the oversight by a committee is less than N3m, how do you do an effective oversight? Is it hotel accommodation? Is it transportation? Is it the logistics? How do you do effective oversight? As long as the National Assembly or the parliament is underfunded, the vulnerability or propensity to be intimidated by the executive or the MDAs is high.

And corruption may set in, don’t you think so?

I don’t know what you mean but that is the tendency. If you are well taken care of, in terms of provision for recurrent (expenditure), operations and aides – I forgot to add aides to the list of beneficiaries of the National Assembly budget – things will go on well and this tendency for them to be lured by an MDA will not be there. Then the corruption you mentioned will be minimal.

If Nigeria is to continue maintaining the bicameral legislature, what would be your justifications for it?

I think we have the wherewithal. The founding fathers or initiators of bicameralism for Nigeria were not unconscious of the diversity of this country. They were not unconscious of the multiplicity of the ethnic and religious groups. They were not unaware of the country’s population and size. That was why they thought that for inclusivity and more participation of the different ethnic groups, the best bet was to have a bicameral legislature. When we are at peace we forget about our critical national crises that have led us to where we are today. Nigerians rarely quarrel or fight on the issue of economy. When you look at the various crises that have engulfed this country – the critical ones, they have to do with the question of inclusion, the issue of alienation and marginalisation. We rarely fight on economic-related matters. You talk of the Civil War, the post-June 12 (1993) crisis, all these religious and ethnic crises in Nigeria, they bother on inclusion. Some people believe they are marginalised or alienated. Look at the Niger Delta crisis, it was all about that.

How does this system address these issues?

The point I am making is that if we have more platforms or forums that give room for more inclusion of people, the better for us as a country. For instance, if it is about state creation, some minorities believe that they are being ‘swallowed’ by the majorities in some states; give them a state. Some people said ‘how can you elect three people from each state for the Senate and my ethnic people are not there?’ That is what the House of Representatives has addressed. While the Senate is about equity, the House of Reps is about going deeper into every nook and cranny of each society for them to be involved in lawmaking at the center. So, they have come to play two different roles. If we now say one should go, you have further increased the problems we are facing. Even if we can have three, as long as it will address the questions of injustice or having a say in governance, the better for us.

Will that not impose an additional financial burden on the country?

It is not a burden. Even if you look at the money we are spending now on the National Assembly, it is inconsequential when compared to what goes to other sectors in the executive. It is not a burden at all. It is about planning. The only thing you can say is getting these Houses to be more responsive, effective and efficient in discharging their duties. To me, that is (what is) important and these are the issues we should address.

What do you make of the call for a part-time legislature?

It does not make sense. Lawmaking is not the plenary you see (on the floor of the chamber); it goes beyond plenary. The real task of lawmaking is done at the committee level, and committees meet almost every week. Even when you see them go on recess, it is either they go for training or other things. It is only a few times that they have. Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges; there are many problems. This country of over 200 million people does not require part-time lawmakers. Our lawmakers must not sleep; the executive must not even slumber. So, having a part-time legislature, to me, does not make any sense. They were on break, so to speak, because of the election and all of a sudden the naira issue came up. For instance, they were on break and all of a sudden, we had this issue of fuel scarcity. So, the challenges before us are so numerous that we don’t need part-timers; we need people that will work 24-hours. If we can even deny them recess or holiday, it is better for us. People who are talking about part-time (legislature) are trivialising governance in Nigeria. In fact, they have trivialised the quantum of challenges we have in this country, maybe because of my background as a political scientist and a former minister; I have seen it all. We don’t require part-timers as lawmakers.

You recently criticised governors for using their domineering influence to cause high turnover of members in the National Assembly. What can governors do if party members decide to vote for their choice candidates at the primaries?

The governors are our major problem. When you want to rank problems and the actors that propel these problems, Nigerian governors are our problem. And if there is anything we can do to them, better for us?

How are they the problem?

They have created a lot of problems. When there are issues that bother on the plight of Nigerians, you hardly see them coming on board. But if there are issues that bother on their selfish interests, at times they hide under collective will to say ‘yes, we are patriotic; we are speaking for the Nigerian people.’ Look at the issue of constitution amendment: local government autonomy, state police and legislative autonomy, what has been their role? They stood against it. Are they representing the Nigerian people? Is that what their people have asked them to do? Since they control enormous resources, they use the resources to suppress the local governments. Most of them hijack the local governments’ allocation and give the local councils peanuts. That is why today, the local governments all over the country are no longer viable. Look at the issue of autonomy for legislature or state assemblies, they stood against it. Only a few of them allow the local governments access their funds from the first line charge. Look at the issue of the high turnover (of lawmakers); once they don’t like your face, no matter how vibrant a member of the Senate or House of Reps is, their will come to pass because they control resources and they use those resources to buy over their people. They starve their people and when the election comes, some of them roll out money to buy votes. When there are policies and laws that will serve the interest of the people in their various states, they stand against it. If a governor wants to remove his deputy, he lobbies the members (of the state House of Assembly), give them money to remove (the deputy). I can count and you know them – the numerous programmes, projects and initiatives of the Federal Government that governors have stood against.

So, when I talked about the issue of high turnover, the point I was making was that, must leadership recruitment or recruitment for the National Assembly and state House of Assembly be at the mercy of the governors? I can cite good cases from all over the states, including my state (Kwara) where an experienced senator who was a Majority Leader at the state level, a medical doctor, one of the best senators in the ninth Assembly had to be substituted for a novice. Both the experience you need in lawmaking and the qualification are not there. How do we explain the substitution of a medical doctor and former lawmaker who has done very well in the Senate with such a person, in a senatorial district like Kwara Central – Ilorin; a place that produced a former President of the Senate; a place that produced the current Chief of Staff to the President. It does not make sense.

How about these governors finishing their second term of eight years and finding their way to the Senate, where people now call their retirement home?

We have said that they should not turn the National Assembly into their retirement home, and that we should come up with a constitutional amendment or a law that will stop them from getting there. It is now left for the National Assembly and the state legislators to do something about it. When it comes to lawmaking at that level, it will get to a stage that they (lawmakers) won’t have power to even control them (governors). But a lot of them (lawmakers) too, because they are products of this poor governance, they believe if you are to advance this bill the governor will not return you (in the next Assembly). But there must be a way to stop these governors from turning the National Assembly, especially the Senate, into a retirement home. I have said this on several occasions and I am repeating it: they have not been adding value to what they (lawmakers) do there. Look at the array of ex-governors there now, hardly will you see two or three that have really added value. So, what are you coming to do? Must you, after leaving the state government, come to the National Assembly as a senator? Is it a must? Are there no people in your constituency or state that could represent the people? As I said, some of them do it out of ego and (superiority) complex. They believe that if a senator is there (from their senatorial district), they have to bring him back and go there too. ‘If I don’t go there, he will senior me.’ You know that as a fresher, you may not get the chairmanship of a committee. That is one. Two, some of them do not want to go there (Senate) and be sitting with other senators from their state who were selected by them. ‘I asked John to go there. How can I be sitting with him there?’ Some will say ‘I want to be senator. Come home, let me give you something.’ I think this needs to stop. If they are adding value, fine! But they are not adding value.

There are members of the National Assembly who have spent several terms running into over 20 years. There is a debate on whether lawmakers should spend longer time in the parliament to gain more experience or they should be replaced at intervals to allow fresh ideas in the chambers. Which is better for the country?

The more experienced lawmakers we have the better for us as a democracy.

Will spending more time, say 40 years, in the parliament not shut out other competent members of a senatorial district or constituency?

Given the nature of our politics, nobody should be allowed to be there for 40 years. As a matter of fact, nobody should be allowed to go for more than four or five times, because of the nature of our system. We are not the United States or the United Kingdom. The more experienced senators we have the better for us but there are some societies where it is about zoning and rotation, where you must allow for the formula to work. Where there is no problem about that; for instance, where they keep re-electing somebody so that they could be President of the Senate or Speaker of the House, if there is a consensus at that level and they see that the person is adding value, so be it. The point I am making is that while we should encourage having experienced senators, it should not be done at the detriment of rotation or zoning. We should allow other people in that state or constituency to have a say by making sure they too are elected into either the House or the Senate.

Should we have a law that puts a cap on terms?

No, I don’t think we should have such a law. It is about understanding. It is about convention, and I think we are getting towards this the way we are going in Nigeria. I don’t think we need a law for now. The more democracy evolves, I hope one day we shall get to that stage where law will not even speak but understanding will speak. And when understanding will speak, people will key into it.

There is another debate as to how to properly assess the performance of lawmakers. Is it about the number of bills or quality of debates on the floor of the chambers?

Two years ago, our institute conducted a research on public perception to know the opinion of the public about the ninth Assembly: what they (people) expected them (lawmakers) to do and what they are doing. Interestingly, most of the respondents believed that lawmaking is part of the responsibilities but almost 60 per cent of them believed that it is not just lawmaking, that constituency projects were also part of their responsibilities. ‘Give us something.’ ‘You have to bring something to our constituency.’ That is not the duty of a legislature, but because of our level of development, which is very low – underdeveloped, the constituents believe ‘we do not send you (to the Senate or House) to go and speak grammar.’ Yes, debate, discourse and contributions on the floor add to the quality of lawmaking. But to the constituents, that is not what is important. To constituents, how have you been able to facilitate road construction, provision of water, school or hospital for their area? To them, that is key. To some, how responsive are you to the needs of the constituents in terms of, ‘My mother’s burial is tomorrow, I need money’, ‘My baby’s birthday is tomorrow, what will you do?’, ‘I am sick,’ ‘I want to pay school fees.’ Some people believe these should be their role. But, in a normal and sane society, the indices with which one would adjudge serving parliamentarians is their contribution to lawmaking, be it through debates, motions or bills. Lawmaking is not just about one person; it is about one person with other people supporting and, through synergy, agreeing on which way to go.

What about the issue of oversight?

The extent to which you know a vibrant lawmaker is in their contributions in the cause of ‘oversighting’ the executive and other arms of the government. A lawmaker that is always very inquisitive, interrogative and investigative of what the MDAs do and is able to bring it to the other members of the National Assembly (via motions) is seen or adjudged to be doing well, efficient and effective in discharging their responsibilities. These indices, in addition to being critical of the MDAs, uncompromising and patriotic in judgment, could be used to judge who a good lawmaker is. Also, you judge a fine senator or House member from how representative they are in terms of standing up for their people. If a lawmaker could, through whatever means – motion or bill or lobbying –get so many projects for their constituents, in an African context, that is representation. These are the three indices we can use, not to go to the committee level because there are some committees that are very critical, like the Public Accounts Committee. There are some ad hoc committees too that are very critical. All these are subsumed under representation, lawmaking and oversight and anybody that has been seen to have discharged their responsibility in these three key areas effectively and efficiently, in a way that we are getting results, must have been seen to be a good lawmaker.

What is the specific role of NILDS in the National Assembly institution?

The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies was a creation of an Act of Parliament. It was established as an agency under the National Assembly to enhance the capacity of the parliament in Nigeria – the parliamentarians, the parliamentary staff and other critical stakeholders. It is a capacity-building institution, a think tank, a research institution and it is like a parastatal under the National Assembly with the mandate to develop the intellectual capacity of the critical stakeholders in our democracy, starting from the legislature. Initially, it started as National Institute for Legislative Studies in 2011, assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan then. But prior to that time, the institute was a metamorphosis of a policy and research project in a department under the National Assembly, and it was conceived to address the intellectual lacuna in our legislature, knowing full well that the legislature is a critical arm of the government. You cannot talk of dividends of democracy and good governance without the legislature. In fact, in ranking the various organs of government, the parliament comes first. But the same parliament has suffered a lot of travails on account of military intervention in Nigerian politics. Due to this instability, it could not garner the kind of experience and skills it should have. When democracy returned in 1999, people thought we must have a department or an agency that will train them (parliamentarians); enhance their capacity, put them through and serve as the intellectual hub of the parliament. That led to the establishment of NILS. In 2018, there was an amendment to the Act that set up the institute and this amendment came on account of the belief that we could not keep talking about training legislators and parliamentary staff without the other critical stakeholders in a democracy, like the political parties, the NGOs, CSOs and the electorate? What about the Independent National Electoral Commission? These brought about the 2018 amendments in 2018. Since then, the institute has been known as the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies.

What are the achievements so far recorded by NILDS?

Since its creation, it has performed wonderfully in fulfilling its functions. The achievements so far recorded have been very awesome. The institute started with the four major departments – Legislative Support Services, Research and Training, Administration and Finance and Democratic Studies – but it was able to expand. Today, we have nine departments. Through these departments and structures we have been able to actualise our mandates. We have trained a lot of legislators. At the point of entry, legislators need to be inducted; they need to be trained and exposed to the tasks ahead of them. Since 2015, our institute has been performing this role. We have provided technical assistance to the legislature in terms of drafting motions and bills, scrutinising briefs and presenting to them informed policy guides that will aid their discourses, debates and resolutions. We have provided a platform in the form of dialogues, conferences and workshops for them to critically look at issues so that they can come up with resolutions and laws that will be in tandem with the aspirations of Nigerians. The institute has also been a main researcher. Any policy, resolution or law made that is devoid of a serious research outcome is bound to fail. Our institute is the only organ under the National Assembly that conducts research for the parliamentarians.

Are there other things you do?

Most importantly, we conduct refresher training from time to time for the national, state and local government parliamentarians and their parliamentary staff via our Department of Training and International Cooperation. We conduct research especially for committees (of the National Assembly). Committees are the backbone of lawmaking. So, we conduct training for committees depending on their needs. These training are either demand-driven or supply-driven. For instance, the Public Accounts Committee; this is a very essential committee of the National Assembly or any legislature which requires exposure to know what to do. So, we assist such committees. We train members of the parliament, the parliamentary staff like the clerks, not only at the federal level but also at the state level. We conduct a series of training and workshops for members of the National Assembly Service Commission and the state Houses of Assembly Service Commission. Before now, our services were largely concentrated on the National Assembly, but in the last four years, we have done so much more for the state Assemblies than the National Assembly because we believe that politics and governance starts from the grass roots; it emanates from the local environment. So, if you don’t develop the capacity of the local parliamentarians and the parliamentary staff, you cannot get any result at the national level. We have done so much with about 22 state assemblies in the last four years. We do this directly on our own and we partner with donor agencies to actualise this.

One of the critical mandates of our institute, which has to do with training and capacity building, is the establishment of postgraduate programmes. When people hear ‘NILDS’ they won’t know that we do what a university does too. For the past seven years, we have been running postgraduate programmes and we are doing this in affiliation with the University of Benin. As of today, we are running about seven Master’s courses, including LLM, Master’s in Party Politics and Election Management, Master’s in Legislative Drafting; including programmes in official reporting. We have graduated about six batches of students at the Master’s level. We do HND too. In other words, anybody with at least a second class lower division and five O’Level (credits) is entitled to apply and the same requirements expected of you in any conventional university is what we accept too. Once you are able to scale through, you get the admission.

Should it be compulsory for a lawmaker to have a certificate from NILDS?

We encourage our lawmakers, those with first degree, to apply. We have PhD holders as students. They obtained PhDs somewhere but because of the specialised nature of our programmes, people want to learn more. Legislation is a specialised skill, endeavour and environment. You could be a professor, you need to know about how laws are made and how oversight is conducted. So, we encourage lawmakers and their staff, and quite a number of senators and House of Representatives members as well as parliamentarians from the state level have graduated from this institute. That is how far we have gone.

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HOW LUTH BED SPACE SHORTAGE ABORTED FEMALE STUDENT’S DREAMS

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Deborah-Doofan

Twenty-year-old Deborah Doofan had many dreams. She planned to graduate from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with honours in 2026, become a first-class banker in one of Nigeria’s prestigious banks at 25, get married two years after, and have a beautiful home with three lovely kids and a doting husband.

According to her elder brother, Prince, she vowed to help their family out of penury. But her dreams never materialised as her life was cut short by poor medical facilities.

Deborah was in an emergency and was rushed to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Surulere, Lagos, in the wee hours of Thursday, March 16, 2023, but the federal hospital could not provide her a bed space. She was left out in the cold; in the backseat of a car right in front of the hospital’s emergency centre, where she died.

Prince, who had yet to recover from the shock of the incident, said all his efforts to save his sister had been a waste of time and resources.

While fighting back tears, he said the family was still mourning their mother, who passed away last year and struggling to support their hypertensive father, when Deborah died.

He told Saturday PUNCH that when his father was informed about her death on the telephone, the handset slipped off his hand and the line went dead.

“I had to send somebody to check on him as I was told he almost collapsed. This is just too much for our family to bear,” he added.

On the circumstances surrounding Deborah’s demise, Prince said, “We got to LUTH around 2am and called the emergency number. The security officials at the emergency ward started asking what the emergency was about.

“A doctor later came out and I showed him our referral letter. He brought out his thermometer, checked her pulse and temperature, and returned inside.

“After a few minutes, he returned and told us that their beds were occupied and there was no bed space to treat her. I pleaded with him to give her first aid or something to stabilise her pending the time that there would be bed space for proper treatment to commence.

“But he said their policy does not allow them to give treatment outside the hospital. I then begged him that he should allow me to take her inside the emergency ward and that I would sit on the floor and carry her on my lap so he can give her first aid treatment, but he still said no. She died at the front of the emergency ward while I was looking for a bench or table to place her on.”

The beginning

 Deborah was a 100-level student in the Banking and Finance Department, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The 20-year-old was said to be studying in school when she collapsed and was rushed to the UNIPORT Teaching Hospital.

Prince said his sister was receiving treatment in the hospital when she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a medical condition associated with overactivity of the thyroid gland, resulting in a rapid heartbeat and metabolism. That was in January 2022.

According to him, she was to undergo treatment when medical workers discovered that she had a swollen heart and thereafter referred her to LUTH to see specialists.

He said, “So, she left Port Harcourt and came to Lagos on December 24, 2022. We called LUTH to know if their specialists were on the ground but we were told that the machine that would be used for the hyperthyroidism treatment was not working.”

LUTH was said to have referred her to the University College Hospital, Ibadan.

At UCH, Ibadan, a doctor reportedly recommended lots of treatment to bring her swollen heart down.

“The doctor said UCH had the machine for the treatment but specialists were not on ground and she needed to see a cardiologist to certify that her heart was in a good position for them to put her on a machine for the treatment,” he added.

The Benue State indigene said the patient was referred back to LUTH to see specialists.

“To see a specialist is very expensive and because my funds were trapped in banks (due to naira scarcity), it became difficult for her to continue seeing specialists and continuing the treatment. So, she was just taking oral drugs, but the tablets were not effective, so her condition started getting worse.

“Before that, the swollen stomach and legs were going down, and she was getting better. She woke up one day and became restless; we tried to sort out funds to see a cardiologist in LUTH, but when we got there, we were told to go to UCH to get her admitted for doctors and specialists to treat her and monitor her condition,” Prince said.

Prince said his sister was making plans to resume the treatment when she suffered a crisis and was rushed to the Epe General Hospital, from where she was referred to LUTH.

However, upon getting to LUTH at 2am, she could not get bed space.

She was preparing for resumption

Deborah’s course representative at UNIPORT, Favour Nkwocha, described her as a vibrant and loving student.

Nkwocha, who spoke to our correspondent on the phone, also said fellow students had yet to recover from the shock of her death.

He said, “We gained admission in 2020 into UNIPORT, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, we started lectures in 2021. After our first-semester examination in late August 2021, we went on a six-month holiday because the school calendar was not balanced. Before we could resume, ASUU started an eight-month strike. So, we stayed at home for 14 months.

“When we resumed last year November, Deborah was healthy. She was not a noisy person, but very outspoken. We even had a group presentation and she spoke very well.

“In December when the school went on Christmas break, she gave me money to buy textbooks for her and I did because our second semester examination meant to start this January. But she called me and said she would not be coming to class early and that I should help her with attendance and talk to some lecturers too. I asked her what the problem was, and she told me that she was sick and would be going for surgery in Lagos. I even asked her if she would make it back to school before the exam started and she said yes.

“But the exam started and she was not back; her brother then called me to know if the school would allow her to sit the exam later and I told him yes, but with good reasons, and if he would write to the appropriate bodies. He sent a letter and other documents, which I submitted.”

Nkwocha disclosed that the school Christian fellowship organised a prayer session for Debby and wished her a quick recovery.

“During the exam, I spoke to her brother once and he told me that she was getting better; we even discussed her resumption.

“I haven’t spoken again with the brother until Sunday when I opened my WhatsApp and saw the message ‘Debby died on Thursday.’ I couldn’t respond to the chat. I didn’t know what to say. I was shocked. I am still feeling the pain.

“This is a start of a new session and we ought to have resumed the 200 level with her but we lost her,” he added.

Hyperthyroidism

According to medical experts, worldwide, thyroid disorders remain the second-most common endocrine disease, after diabetes.

The Chairman, Medical Art Centre and President, Academy of Medicine, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, said thyroidism could be caused by Graves’ disease.

He said, “Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in front of your neck. It makes hormones that control the way the body uses energy. These hormones affect nearly every organ in your body and control many of your body’s most important functions.

“For example, they affect your breathing, heart rate, weight, digestion, and mood. If not treated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious problems with your heart, bones, muscles, menstrual cycle, and fertility. But some treatments can help.”

According to Ashiru, hyperthyroidism will not kill once a patient seeks medical attention on time, adding that patients can live up to 90 years of age.

No bed space

The healthcare sector has always been plagued with the problem of poor infrastructure.

Nigerians regularly lose their lives after being denied adequate medical attention due to lack of bed space and sometimes non-availability of medical personnel.

A Lagos resident, Opeyemi Babalola, recently lost his loved one after the patient was reportedly turned back from both General Hospital, Ifako, and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, due to lack of bed space.

In pain, he stated, “May Nigeria not befall you and yours.”

The Deputy Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Dr Dele Omojuyigbe, narrated to the Sunday Telegraph how he navigated five Lagos hospitals in seven hours to save his dying wife from the no-bed-space syndrome.

“We had traversed five Lagos hospitals in seven anxious hours. Sadly, we got the same cold, lethal refrain, ‘There is no space,’” he stated. The woman later died

The Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee, LUTH, Prof. Wasiu Adeyemo, said the Federal Government was building a new facility in LUTH, which would give the hospital more space.

“But population is increasing; the problem is not limited to us,” he added.

Speaking on Deborah’s death, he said, “We won’t say because it is an emergency, we will then chase admitted patients away. As a policy, we have a very effective way of communicating with our patients; it is quite unfortunate that this patient died.

“In a few months, all these will be solved. We have many of our wards under renovation, and there is another building being constructed in the hospital. By the time we are done, we would have more space and avert possible dangers of this sort.”

He, however, noted that emergencies deserved attention irrespective of space or payment.

“When we see a patient like that, what we do is to investigate; patients sometimes come and there are no bed spaces and what we do is to refer them. But for a really serious, critical emergency, we inform them immediately that there is no space and give them options of where to go or take them to other wards. With or without money, it is the responsibility of the hospital to treat emergency patients in line with the policy of the Federal Government,” he added.

According to a biochemist at Green Springs Wellness and Maternity, Dr Nnaemeka Iwunze, the challenge of insufficient bed space in hospitals can be resolved if the government equip primary health care centres to detect and treat cases that usually develop into emergencies.

He said, “If the primary health care centres are properly developed and equipped, these emergencies that get to the general hospitals will not get to that level.

“These primary health care centres should have qualified and well-trained doctors to handle issues so they won’t get to emergency stages.

“Also, the government should develop the natural health sector. It’s been over 20 years since the World Health Organisation declared that this sector should be developed to help the health centres, so we will have a robust health sector and prevent these emergencies because the natural health sector has the potential to treat these chronic emergencies.

“The government should also construct more emergency wards in the various state and federal hospitals.”

Iwunze advised that doctors should be allowed to treat emergency patients outside wards and in temporary tents.

“Our policies should also be changed to accommodate the immediate action of a doctor to attend to an emergency irrespective of where the patient is, as far as the patient has been brought into the emergency centre.

“Setting up a temporary shelter can save a life in emergency situations within minutes when the wards are full. This is what we see outside the country; patients can be treated from anywhere,” he added.

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BUS-TRAIN ACCIDENT: LAGOS TO CHARGE DRIVER WITH MANSLAUGHTER

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Train-vs-Bus

The Lagos State Government is set to charge the driver of the staff bus involved in a collision with a train, Oluwaseun Osinbajo, with manslaughter.

The collision occurred on March 9 at the PWD railway crossing in Ikeja, the state capital.

The bus, which had employees of the state government onboard, was then dragged by the train which eventually came to a stop in the Sogunle area of the state.

The incident left six persons dead and 96 others injured and hospitalised across government hospitals in the state.

Osibanjo was immediately apprehended and handed over to the police for investigation and possible prosecution by the state.

According to a statement issued by the Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, at the end of investigation, findings were forwarded to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for further statutory actions.

“Upon the receipt and review of the case file by the DPP, a prima facie case of manslaughter, and grievous body harm was disclosed against the driver of the staff bus. Accordingly, he is to be charged with six counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of grievous body harm. Both offences are contrary to Sections 224 and 245 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

“The Office of the DPP will immediately file charges against the driver. However, his arraignment before the High Court of Lagos State shall be delayed until he is fully fit to stand trial, having sustained serious injuries during the accident,” the statement read.

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JUBILATION IN OSUN STATE AS APPEAL COURT RESTORES ADELEKE’S MANDATE

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Oyetola-Adeleke

*Join hands with me to build state, dancing governor tells Oyetola

There was wild jubilation across Osun State yesterday following the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which nullified the judgement of the election tribunal that voided the election of Ademola Adeleke as governor.
On the same day, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja gave the go-ahead to three presidential candidates – Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Chichi Ojei – to serve their suit against the outcome of the February 25 election on the winner, Bola Tinubu, through his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu held that the tribunal erred in law in arriving that Adeleke was not lawfully elected as governor in the July 16, 2022 governorship election in Osun State.


Adeleke had on February 9, appealed the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Tribunal which nullified his election on grounds of alleged over-voting.
The tribunal in a two-to-one decision had in January held that the petitioners; immediate past Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, proved their case of non-compliance and over-voting in some polling units in favour of Adeleke and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Tertsea Kume, who read the majority judgment had disclosed that the excess votes were deducted following which Oyetola won the election.


Specifically, Justice Kume, noted that after deducting the over-voting figure, Oyetola scored 314,921, while Adeleke polled 290,26Justice Kume subsequently ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Adeleke and issue a fresh one to Oyetola as the duly elected governor of Osun.
But Adeleke in his 31 grounds of appeal argued that the majority judgement erred in law in holding that Oyetola was the lawful governor-elect at the July 16, 2022 guber election and subsequently prayed the court for “an order setting aside the whole decision of the tribunal.”
Oyetola, APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were 1st to 4th respondents respectively in the suit at the Appeal Court.
Delivering ruling in the appeal yesterday, the appellate court in a unanimous judgement held that the tribunal was wrong in holding that there was over-voting in some polling units when such allegations were not proved.


According to the panel, before a case of over-voting can be established, the person making the allegation must present the Voters Register, the Bi-modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) – which contains the information of accredited voters, votes cast in each polling unit, results as entered into the forms EC8A, amongst others.
The panel further faulted Oyetola and the APC for hinging their allegation of over-voting on only information they obtained from a secondary source (INEC back-end server report).
Faulting further the tribunal’s decision on over-voting, the three justices in their separate judgments pointed out that the failure of Oyetola and APC to call witnesses, especially polling agents who witnessed the voting, was fatal to their case.


On the issue of jurisdiction raised by the appellant, Justice Shuaibu while observing that the law allows the tribunal to suspend decisions on Preliminary Objections until the end of the matter, faulted the tribunal for not showing in writing that it considered Adeleke’s preliminary objection in its merit.
Regarding Adeleke’s qualification to contest the July 16 2022 Guber election, the panel held that the tribunal was right in holding that Adeleke was qualified to contest the election, adding that allegations of supplying false and forged documents must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, which the 1st and 2nd respondents failed to prove.
Similarly, the appellate court added that since the Court of Appeal had since ruled that Adeleke was qualified, until a higher court rules otherwise, that is the position of the law.


However, the panel disagreed with Adeleke that the majority judgement was a nullity because the second judge on the panel, Justice Rabi Bashir, failed to write her opinion as required by Section 294(2) of the Constitution.
According to Justice Shuaibu, there is no law that mandates the judge to write a separate opinion, adding that the signature of the second judge appended in the face of the tribunal’s judgement document was enough evidence that she agreed with the lead judgement.
Similarly, the panel held that Adeleke failed to prove his allegation of bias against the tribunal.
Justice Shuaibu stated that although Justice Kume’s comments on Adeleke’s proclivity for dancing and particularly the Buga song, is “unwarranted and condemnable”, it does not in any way, prove bias against the appellant.


Having decided five of the eight issues raised in favour of Adeleke, the panel held that the “appeal on the whole is meritorious and is accordingly allowed.
“Judgement of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal is hereby set aside.”
The panel slammed a cost of N500,000 fine in favour of Adeleke.
Meanwhile, the appellate court in other judgements allowed the appeals filed separately by the PDP and INEC against the decision of the tribunal.
It however, dismissed the cross appeal filed by Oyetola and APC challenging the refusal of the tribunal to disqualify Adeleke on account of alleged provision of false and forged documents to INEC in aid of his qualification for the election.
The panel held that the issue surrounding Adeleke’s qualification was already resolved by the appellate court and was yet to be set aside by a higher court.
INEC had returned Adeleke as the winner of the poll.


INEC said Adeleke polled 403,371 votes, to defeat incumbent Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the APC, who got 375,027 votes.
But Oyetola and the APC rejected the result of the poll and headed for the tribunal.
In its January 27, 2023 majority verdict, the Justice Tertse Kume-led tribunal annulled Adeleke’s victory and declared Oyetola the winner of the poll.
However, a minority judgment by Justice B. Ogbuli affirmed Adeleke as the winner of the poll.
Displeased, Adeleke and the PDP headed for the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal heard the appeal on March 13 and reserved its judgement.

Jubilation in Osun State

There was wild jubilation across Osun State yesterday after the Court of Appeal in Abuja, upheld Adeleke’s victory at the July 16, 2022 governorship election.
Many residents of Ede, hometown of the Osun State Governor, thronged his residence in jubilation.
Also in different parts of Ede town, residents trooped to streets to celebrate Adeleke’s victory.
The jubilant residents, who were also sighted around Oja Timi, Oke Gada and Total-all within Ede metropolis, were singing Adeleke’s praise.
In Osogbo, the state’s capital, it was also jubilation galore.

Join Hands with Me to Build State, Adeleke Tells Oyetola

Governor Adeleke has extended an olive branch to the immediate past governor, Oyetola, asking him to join hands with him in building the state.
Adeleke made the call after the Appeal Court reinstated him.
He said: “Let me use this opportunity to extend sincere hands of fellowship to former Governor Oyetola and the APC. Let’s build the state together. Let us unite for the good of our people. The State needs leaders across party lines to join hands for robust and accelerated development of the state.
“As brothers and sisters, we are all requested to start the process of healing. Forget party politics as the election is over. All members of the political class in Osun state should join hands with me to take our state to greater heights.”


Adeleke added, “I thank God Almighty and our good people of Osun state. I dedicate this victory to God and my people. This judgement confirmed my earlier position that the judgement of the Tribunal is a miscarriage of Justice. The judiciary has right the wrongs of the lower Court. This has rekindled the confidence of the nation in the integrity of the judiciary as the stabiliser and the last hope of the common man.
“I am particularly glad that the Court of Appeal has ruled that the BVAS machine and voters register are the primary sources, not the report from the server. This has strengthened our democracy and removed a time bomb which the judgement of the Tribunal had planted for our democracy.


“I appreciate Osun people for standing by me and my party through repeated validation of my governorship mandate at the recent federal and state elections. My party won three straight elections from July 16th 2022 to March 18th ,2023. It was a resounding vote of confidence in my governorship by the people of Osun State. The judiciary has now confirmed the will of the people that I am the validly elected Governor of my state.
“My appreciation goes to the civil servants, artisans, market people, clerics, students, women and youth. Osun people defended the mandate from 2022 to date.
“I commend the judiciary for resisting all pressure. Rule of law is strengthened when judgement affirms the will of the people. On behalf of the Osun people and my party, the PDP, we appreciate the judiciary and the men of conscience on the bar and the bench.”

Remain Calm, Oyetola Tells Party Members

Meanwhile, Oyetola has appealed to members and supporters of the APC to remain calm and not to be discouraged by the Appeal Court’s ruling, saying his abiding faith in God to reclaim his mandate remains undoubted.
Reacting to the Appeal Court judgement which overturned the decision of the Tribunal, Oyetola in a statement by his media aide, Ismail Omipidan, noted that his belief in the judiciary also remained unshaken.
He further said: “We have heard the judgement of the Appeal Court, but we are yet to receive a copy of the judgement.  
“However, from the snippets we are getting, we believe we have a potential ground to approach the Supreme Court. Our belief in the judiciary remains unshaken, just as my abiding faith in God’s promise regarding the reclaim of my mandate remains undoubted.
“I, therefore, appeal to our supporters and party members to remain calm as we take the next step.”

Court Grants Obi, Atiku Permission to Serve Petitions on Tinubu

A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, has given the go-ahead to three presidential candidates to serve their suit against the winner of the presidential election, Tinubu, through his party, the APC.
The panel, led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, gave the permission yesterday, while ruling in three separate exparte applications brought by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr Peter obi and Princess Chichi Ojei of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) and the Allied People’s Movement, respectively.
The applications which were predicated on alleged inability to serve their suits personally on Tinubu as required by law, were supported by affidavits of non-service.


While that of Atiku was filed and argued by Mr Etitayo Jegede, SAN, that of Obi and Ojei were filed and argued by Mr Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN, and Mr O. Atoyebi, SAN, respectively.
In a short ruling, Justice Ikyegh granted their request as prayed by ordering that the suit challenging the election of Tinubu be served on him through his party, the APC.
Atiku, Obi, Ojei and candidate of the Action Alliance (AA), Solomon Okangbuan are challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential election.
Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had on March 1 announced Tinubu as winner of the presidential poll and accordingly issued him with a Certificate of Return.


According to Yakubu, the APC’s presidential polled 8,794,726 votes to emerge victorious.
While Atiku who came second scored 6,984,520 votes, Obi scored 6,101,533 votes, to come third.
However, dissatisfied with the outcome, five political parties had subsequently dragged the electoral body, Tinubu and the APC to court.
The first was the Action Alliance (AA) and its presidential candidate, Solomon Okangbuan with suit number: CA/PEPC/01/2023; and while the second is unknown as at press time, the third is the Allied People’s Movement (APM) and its presidential candidate, Princess Chichi Ojei with suit number: CA/PEPC/03/2023.
While the fourth; that of the Labour Party and Peter Obi is marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, that of Atiku is marked: /PEPC/05/2023.


The petitioners have anchored their individual cases on alleged non-compliance with the electoral laws, as well as with the guidelines of INEC.
The petitioners also alleged that the February 25 presidential election was characterised by huge irregularities and electoral malpractices following INEC’s failure to electronically upload results immediately from its polling units to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IREV).
While some of the petitioners are asking the court to, on one hand, declare them as the authentic winner of the February 25 presidential election; on the other, they are asking for the cancellation of the entire poll and an order for fresh election.

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