SERAP SUES LAWAN, GBAJABIAMILA OVER FAILURE TO CUT N228.1BN N’ASSEMBLY BUDGET
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a suit against the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila over their failure to cut National Assembly budget of N228.1 billion, including the N30.17 billion severance payments and inauguration costs for members.
The suit followed the move by the National Assembly to increase its 2023 budget from the N169 billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to N228.1 billion. The approved budget showed an increase of about N59.1 billion. The country’s budget of N21.83 trillion was based on a N10.49 trillion revenue and N11.34 trillion deficit.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/152/2023 filed last Friday, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP sought an order of mandamus to direct and compel Lawan and Gbajabiamila to review and reduce the budget of N228.1 billion the leadership and members of the National Assembly allocated for their own benefit.
SERAP also sought an order restraining and stopping Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing to the National Assembly the budget of N228.1 billion, until an impact assessment of the spending on access to public goods and services and the country’s debt crisis, is carried out.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Atinuke Adejuyigbe, read in part: “The budget should reflect national development priorities, and not serve as a tool to satisfy the lifestyle of lawmakers or provide them with severance payments or parting gifts.
“Rather than exercising its oversight functions to check the persistent borrowing by President Muhammadu Buhari, and scrutinising the apparently unlawful overdrafts and loans obtained by the federal government from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the National Assembly is increasing its own budget.
“The increase in the National Assembly budget, including the unnecessary proposed spending of N30.17bn on ‘severance payments’ and ‘inauguration expenses’ is a fundamental breach of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations.
“It is unjustifiable and unreasonable for the National Assembly to arbitrarily increase its own budget when the Federal Government and many of the 36 states are clearly in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.
“The National Assembly budget of N228.1 billion would increase the country’s borrowing and debt crisis. Growing debt burdens and debt repayment difficulties will have negative impacts on the ability of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to enjoy basic socio-economic rights.
“Long-term unsustainable debt can be a barrier to the government’s ability to mobilise resources for human rights, and may lead to taxes and user fees that impact negatively on poor and vulnerable Nigerians.”
HOW LUTH BED SPACE SHORTAGE ABORTED FEMALE STUDENT’S DREAMS
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.”
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.
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.
BUS-TRAIN ACCIDENT: LAGOS TO CHARGE DRIVER WITH MANSLAUGHTER
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.
JUBILATION IN OSUN STATE AS APPEAL COURT RESTORES ADELEKE’S MANDATE
*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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