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Okorocha to remain in EFCC custody till May 30

 

Detained former Imo State Governor, Anayo Rochas Okorocha is to remain in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) till Monday, May 30, when he will be arraigned in court over the N2.9 billion money laundering criminal charges brought against him by the Federal Government.

 

Okorocha, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is to be arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja on the date.

 

He was forcefully arrested on Tuesday in his Abuja residence by operatives of the EFCC after over nine hours of siege on the residence.

 

EFCC’S legal department sources revealed on Wednesday that the anti-graft agency arrested Okorocha as a proactive measure to make him appear in court following his persistent refusal to honour court to take his plea in the money laundering charges.

 

Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja had on Monday, March 28, threatened to strike out the N2.9 billion money laundering charges against Okorocha should the Federal Government fail again to cause his appearance in court.

 

The judge had threatened to throw out the charges following the inability of the Federal Government to serve charges on Okorocha as required by law.

 

At the March 28 proceedings, the Federal Government, for the second time through its counsel, Mr Cosmos Ugwu, had told Justice Ekwo that he has not been able to see Okorocha and serve him with the charges.

 

The cousel had informed the court that Okorocha had been evading service, but that he would make efforts and would continue to make efforts until he succeeds in serving the former Imo State Governor with the court papers.

 

He had subsequently applied for another adjournment to enable EFCC do everything within its power to serve the court papers, in line with provisions of the law.

 

His excuse for not being able to reach Okorocha did not go down well with the Judge who reminded him that same story was played out on February 22 when Okorocha ought to have taken his plea.

 

Justice Ekwo had said categorically that he was not going to continue to take flimsy excuses from the EFCC and would not help it to do its job.

 

The judge grudgingly granted the request for the second adjournment and warned the EFCC to demonstrate seriousness or else, the case would be struck out.

 

EFCC’S sources informed our correspondent at the Federal High Court premises that the anti-graft agency was forced to apply force against Okorocha as he allegedly refused bluntly to honour invitation extended to him thrice to appear at the Commission’s office in Abuja just for purpose of serving him the charge.

 

“EFCC is a civilized organization and would not take laws into its hand but suspects, especially highly placed ones should always try as much as possible to respect the law and due process so that the law can protect them.

 

“Arraignment in court is not a death sentence, so no one should take court for a ride or for granted. In Nigeria today, suspects can only run but cannot hide as in the case of Senator Okorocha,” he said.

 

The source, who did not want his name mentioned, said that nobody would be allowed to bail the Senator until after his appearance and arraignment in court on Monday.

 

Efforts to get EFCC’S lawyer, Mr Cosmos Ugwu comment on the matter were unsuccessful.

 

The Federal Government’s charges against Okorocha dated January 24, 2022, was signed by one A.O Ikota on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

 

Okorocha, who is currently a Senator representing Imo West in the National Assembly, is to face trial alongside six others in the N2.9 billion money laundering criminal charges.

 

The Senator is being put on trial by the Federal Government on 17-count charges involving criminal diversion of public funds and properties.

News

Ethiopia unhappy over Abiy’s portrayal in Time 100 list

Mr Abiy said he would not enter dialogue with Tigray leaders until the rule of law is restored

Ethiopia says it is outraged with the way the US magazine, Time, depicted the country’s leader when it had announced the list of influential people of the year.

Time magazine has included Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopian-born US citizen and computer scientist Timnit Gebru in the latest list of 100 most influential people of 2022.

Time said Mr Abiy’s peace treaty with Eritrea ”planted the seeds for an Ethiopian civil war’.’ It also stated that Mr Abiy, together with Eritrea’s leader, ”launched a military campaign against” Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders.

In a letter to the magazine Mr Abiy’s office said they are ”dismayed” with the way he has been represented as well as the portrayal over who started the country’s civil war.

It describes his depiction as a ”character assassination” and accuses it of echoing the narrative of the TPLF – the regional party that has been fighting federal troops in the north.

It has requested the magazine give an explanation. There has been no immediate comment from publication.

All warring parties have been accused human rights violations in Ethiopia’s civil war.

The conflict in Ethiopia started on 4 November 2020 when Mr Abiy ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray after TPLF forces seized a federal military base.

News

Ethiopia unhappy over Abiy’s portrayal in Time 100 list

Mr Abiy said he would not enter dialogue with Tigray leaders until the rule of law is restored

Ethiopia says it is outraged with the way the US magazine, Time, depicted the country’s leader when it had announced the list of influential people of the year.

Time magazine has included Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopian-born US citizen and computer scientist Timnit Gebru in the latest list of 100 most influential people of 2022.

Time said Mr Abiy’s peace treaty with Eritrea ”planted the seeds for an Ethiopian civil war’.’ It also stated that Mr Abiy, together with Eritrea’s leader, ”launched a military campaign against” Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders.

In a letter to the magazine Mr Abiy’s office said they are ”dismayed” with the way he has been represented as well as the portrayal over who started the country’s civil war.

It describes his depiction as a ”character assassination” and accuses it of echoing the narrative of the TPLF – the regional party that has been fighting federal troops in the north.

It has requested the magazine give an explanation. There has been no immediate comment from publication.

All warring parties have been accused human rights violations in Ethiopia’s civil war.

The conflict in Ethiopia started on 4 November 2020 when Mr Abiy ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray after TPLF forces seized a federal military base.

News

CAN condemns killing of women, children in South-East Nigeria

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State has lamented the massacre of Fatima, her unborn child and four children by criminals and terrorists in Anambra as a dangerous omen for the sustenance of Nigeria’s peace and unity.

A statement by Rev. John Joseph Hayab, CAN Chairman in Kaduna said, “CAN see the massacre of Fatima, her unborn child and four children by criminals and terrorists in Anambra as bad for Nigeria’s peace and unity.”

The Christian body said it read the story of the killing with sadness and disappointment, noting the extent to which evil activities have expanded in the country while good people are divided and silent.

The association regretted that killings of human beings are no longer a serious matter, lamenting that the people have been divided by tribe, region, and religion which has made it impossible for them to collectively condemn the evil around them or fight the evil they are seeing as a united force.

He lamented, “We have read the story of the Killing of Fatima, her unborn child, and four children in Anambra with sadness and disappointment about how evil activities have expanded in our country while good people are divided and silent. Life in our country has become so cheap with the raising of many evil criminal groups in every part of the country.

“Killing of human beings is no longer a serious matter because the people have been divided by tribe, region, and religion which has made it impossible for us to collectively condemn the evil around us or fight the evil we are seeing as a united force.

“CAN cannot keep quiet when evil is destroying the land. We all must know that when there is an injury to one then that injury is to all and evil only triumphs when good people keep quiet and look the other way.”

The group urged the federal government to go after Fatima’s murderers and all others who have killed any Nigerian from any region or of any identity.

“Until our government and our law enforcement agencies go after all criminals and murderers and justice is seen to have been done on all murderers this evil will not stop and the murderers will not see their crime as evil but instead, they will smartly make us fight amongst ourselves and pay less attention to their crime,” the statement reads.

The body commiserated with Fatima’s family and prayed to God for comfort, saying that CAN would also continue to preach peace, pray for peace, and speak truth to power and against every wrongdoing in Kaduna State and Nigeria as a whole.

News Politics

E.I 144 is in breach of Act 925 – Minority on declassification of Achimota Forest

The Minority in Parliament has asked President Akufo-Addo to revoke Executive Instrument 144 which seeks to declassify some portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve.

Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu in a statement on Tuesday noted that Executive Instrument 144 is in breach of the provisions of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925).

He explained that per the Act, the regulation of land use and spatial planning in Ghana is not conferred on the President.

He contended that the President’s exercise of power for the issuance of the Executive Instrument 144 pursuant to section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157) is untenable as “Section 90(1) of Act 925 provides that: Where a provision of this Act is in conflict with any other enactment relating to land use, the provision of this Act shall prevail.”

“The Executive Instrument numbered 144, the Forests (Cessation of Forest Reserve) Instrument, 2022 issued “By Command of the President” and signed by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, claims to be made in exercise of the power conferred on the President by section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157). However, the current law regulating land use and spatial planning in Ghana is the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925). It is clear that Executive Instrument 144 is in breach of the provisions of Act 925,” portions of the statement read.

For this reason, the Minority wants the President “to do what is right and proper by respecting the provisions in the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925) and the letter and spirit of the 1992 Constitution of actually holding public lands on behalf of, and in trust for, the people of Ghana.”

“It would be in the President’s own interest and the interest of his Government simply to revoke the E.I. 144 instead of, once again, showing contempt for the laws of Ghana and the interest of the Ghanaian people,” the statement from Minority read.

The Caucus said Section 93(4) of Act 925 which relates to the change or use or re-zoning of a public space requires Parliament’s approval before such action. Thus, they believe once Parliament has not given approval to such action, government cannot declassify the Achimota Forest reserves land.

“Section 93(4) of Act 925 which relates to the change or use or re-zoning of a public space, states unequivocally that: “the change of use or re-zoning of a public space shall be subjected to approval by Parliament.

E.I 144 is in breach of Act 925 - Minority on declassification of Achimota Forest
Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel A. Jinapor

“Therefore, besides the role of the District Spatial Planning Committee, Parliamentary approval is, therefore, a requirement for the change of use or re-zoning of the Achimota Forest Reserve area. Section 96 of Act 925 requires that the re-zoning to be done before Government can convey the land to any person.”

Background

Last week, the President signed an Executive Instrument to declassify the Achimota Forest.

The Instrument gazetted on behalf of President Akufo-Addo by the Lands Minister, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, stipulated that effective May 1, 2022, the land on which the Forest is located shall cease to be a forest reserve, pursuant to Section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157).

The cessation, per that document, was to be effective on May 1, 2022.

However, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has said the government is not selling the land.

According to him, plans are rather afoot to upgrade the Achimota Forest into a world-class asset.

Addressing the press on Tuesday, May 17, the sector Minister emphasised that widespread reports about the supposed sale of the Forest are false and baseless, as government has no such plans.

“The government intends to enrich the Achimota forest, revamp it and hopefully, in the not too distant future, transform it into the likes of High Park of London and Central Park of New York, where Ghanaians can go and enjoy the beauty of nature and forest reserve as it happens in other parts of the world”.

News

‘Charity begins at home; comply with asset declaration law’ – Speaker tells MPs

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, has charged Members of Parliament to strictly comply with the asset declaration law.

In his view, MPs can only hold members of the Executive accountable if they comply with the law.

“Parliament must be open, transparent and accountable to the people. As the saying goes, charity begins at home.

“As the Constitutional and Legal Head of the institution of Parliament  … I pledge to lead this effort by example,” he said.

According to him, “he will take up this role together with the leadership of the House “initiate discussions with relevant state actors to put in place measures and systems to ensure that all members and staff of Parliament comply with the declaration of assets, tax obligations and honour all outstanding issues of overpayment and underpayment reported on by the Auditor-General, from 2001 to 2008 and 2009 to 2016.”

The Speaker added that he would ensure the process begins soon.

'Charity begins at home; comply with asset declaration law' – Speaker tells MPs
Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin chairing Parliament proceedings.

“Sooner than later, members will be informed through the usual channels about how this will be done. The proposal is to put a team in place to liaise with the state and non-state actors to smoothen the compliance of this initiative,” he said.

Mr. Bagbin said Parliament in its second session will take “further vigorous steps to strengthen the hand of the House to hold government and state institutions accountable for the people for the power, trust, resources and hope reposed in us.”

“The Executive President assisted by cabinet and state …shall be called upon to account for the stewardship of the country to succeed to implement this agenda.”

He also observed that a mechanism will be put in place to ensure MPs who received double salaries refund the monies to the state.

On his part, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu also asked for a review of the asset declaration law to robe in MMDCE’s and other public officials such as; the Council of State and Special Prosecutor.

According to him, the assets declared per the Constitution of Ghana in Article 205 or 206 “have to be lodged with the Auditor-General.”

“The rationale for this is for the Auditor-General to interrogate assets acquired by public officers. Unfortunately, the construct of the Constitution is such that once they are lodged with the Auditor-General, he himself is disabled from opening the assets so declared, to ensure that people who have acquired assets respond to their tax liabilities. It is the reason why the assets are lodged with the Auditor-General, for whatever reason, our Constitution threads on a different path, Deposit it with the Auditor-General and that is the end of it” he said.

News Politics

E.I 144 is in breach of Act 925 – Minority on declassification of Achimota Forest

The Minority in Parliament has asked President Akufo-Addo to revoke Executive Instrument 144 which seeks to declassify some portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve.

Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu in a statement on Tuesday noted that Executive Instrument 144 is in breach of the provisions of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925).

He explained that per the Act, the regulation of land use and spatial planning in Ghana is not conferred on the President.

He contended that the President’s exercise of power for the issuance of the Executive Instrument 144 pursuant to section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157) is untenable as “Section 90(1) of Act 925 provides that: Where a provision of this Act is in conflict with any other enactment relating to land use, the provision of this Act shall prevail.”

“The Executive Instrument numbered 144, the Forests (Cessation of Forest Reserve) Instrument, 2022 issued “By Command of the President” and signed by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, claims to be made in exercise of the power conferred on the President by section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157). However, the current law regulating land use and spatial planning in Ghana is the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925). It is clear that Executive Instrument 144 is in breach of the provisions of Act 925,” portions of the statement read.

For this reason, the Minority wants the President “to do what is right and proper by respecting the provisions in the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925) and the letter and spirit of the 1992 Constitution of actually holding public lands on behalf of, and in trust for, the people of Ghana.”

“It would be in the President’s own interest and the interest of his Government simply to revoke the E.I. 144 instead of, once again, showing contempt for the laws of Ghana and the interest of the Ghanaian people,” the statement from Minority read.

The Caucus said Section 93(4) of Act 925 which relates to the change or use or re-zoning of a public space requires Parliament’s approval before such action. Thus, they believe once Parliament has not given approval to such action, government cannot declassify the Achimota Forest reserves land.

“Section 93(4) of Act 925 which relates to the change or use or re-zoning of a public space, states unequivocally that: “the change of use or re-zoning of a public space shall be subjected to approval by Parliament.

E.I 144 is in breach of Act 925 - Minority on declassification of Achimota Forest
Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel A. Jinapor

“Therefore, besides the role of the District Spatial Planning Committee, Parliamentary approval is, therefore, a requirement for the change of use or re-zoning of the Achimota Forest Reserve area. Section 96 of Act 925 requires that the re-zoning to be done before Government can convey the land to any person.”

Background

Last week, the President signed an Executive Instrument to declassify the Achimota Forest.

The Instrument gazetted on behalf of President Akufo-Addo by the Lands Minister, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, stipulated that effective May 1, 2022, the land on which the Forest is located shall cease to be a forest reserve, pursuant to Section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157).

The cessation, per that document, was to be effective on May 1, 2022.

However, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has said the government is not selling the land.

According to him, plans are rather afoot to upgrade the Achimota Forest into a world-class asset.

Addressing the press on Tuesday, May 17, the sector Minister emphasised that widespread reports about the supposed sale of the Forest are false and baseless, as government has no such plans.

“The government intends to enrich the Achimota forest, revamp it and hopefully, in the not too distant future, transform it into the likes of High Park of London and Central Park of New York, where Ghanaians can go and enjoy the beauty of nature and forest reserve as it happens in other parts of the world”.

News

Memorial lecture to be held in honour of Kojo Bentsi-Enchill Letsa

The Bentsi-Enchill Letsa and Ankomah Law firm is set to hold a memorial lecture in honour of the founder of the firm, Kojo Bentsi-Enchill.

The event comes off this Thursday, May 26 at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra.

A Partner of the firm, Frank Nimako Akowuah, speaking on the Super Morning Show on Tuesday, noted that “we at the law firm credit him for three things; innovation, mentorship, and research. He was noted “for creating and developing systems for the practice of law.

Memorial lecture to be held in honour of Kojo Bentsi-Enchill Letsa

“He was also concerned with training and mentorship and has trained many Ghanaian lawyers who are doing very well. He was also big on legal research and so it is only relevant that the inaugural lecture we are instituting in his honour is about the history of Ghanaian Commercial Law.

The event will be held on the theme: “the Evolution of Regulation of Commerce in Ghana.”

Memorial lecture to be held in honour of Kojo Bentsi-Enchill Letsa

Retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Prof Samuel Date-Bah will grace the occasion as a speaker.

The lecture, which will commence at 8:00am, is strictly by invitation. However, interested parties can participate via zoom and other social media handles of the law firm.

News

It’s too late to sign electoral act amendment, poll observers advise Buhari

 

The Coalition of Election Monitors and Observers (CEMO), an organisation made up of 24 election monitoring groups, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign a bill amending the electoral act.

 

Addressing a press conference on Monday in Abuja, Idris Yabu, convener of the coalition, said if the president signs the bill, it would be “counter-productive”.

 

The national assembly had passed an amendment to the electoral act allowing statutory delegates to vote in the primary election or convention of political parties.

 

Section 84(8) of the current Electoral Act 2022 does not allow statutory delegates to participate in conventions of political parties.

 

But Yabu said signing the bill now would be “changing the rules in the middle of the game and disjointing the entire electoral process”.

 

“It is now too late since political parties have already commenced activities for the 2023 elections under the provisions of the extant law,” the convener said.

 

“After a very extensive review and consultations on the issue, we submit that the amendments sought to Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022, as desirable as they may be, have been overtaken by events leading to the 2023 general elections.

 

 “It is instructive to note that political parties, especially the two major political parties in Nigeria have already started the electoral processes under the timelines, schedules and rules prescribed by the provisions of the extant electoral act 2022.

 

“More importantly, it must be noted that political parties have already structured their timetables, sold nomination forms, screened aspirants, conducted congresses, elected delegates, with major parties already holding primaries and candidates already emerging under the rules provided for in the current electoral act, 2022.

 

“In this regard, any alteration or amendment to the electoral act, at this moment, will amount to changing the rules in the middle of the game. Such will be dangerous and counter-productive to our democratic process. It will trigger widespread political crises and result in litigations that can derail the 2023 general elections.

 

“Our observation shows that political parties, aspirants and the electorate have already adjusted to the current provision of section 84 of the electoral act. Candidates are already peacefully emerging. Any alteration at this moment has the propensity of dislocating the current political tranquility in the country and disrupting the entire electoral process.

 

 “CEMO therefore urges President Muhammadu Buhari to save the nation from a serious political crisis at this moment by returning the amendment bill to the national assembly for reprocessing for future elections.”

 

News

Most by-laws are enforced against the poor – Private Legal Practitioner

A private legal practitioner, Dennis Adjei Dwomoh, has said many by-laws in the country are implemented against poor people, although it is the rich who mostly violate the laws.

He observed that “the people who are building or violating the zoning policy are not the poor; the people who are violating the building permits are not the poor” yet they are mostly at the suffering end.

In an interview on JoyNews’ The Law on Sunday, May 22, he expressed worry over the wrongful applications, which he believes creates a system of injustice in the society.

“The most important thing is that it is dangerous for people to keep by-laws in their pockets when some of these by-laws have penal effects. Most of these by-laws, sadly, when they are enforced, they are enforced against the poor.

“It’s enforced against people in lower classes in society; it is not enforced on the rich; so, you see that in terms of the application of these by-laws, it’s actually applied in such a way that the lesser society are the people who are mostly affected,” he argued.

The Managing Partner of LawPlus noted that most of the by-laws are not arbitrary but standard ones, which mostly look at sanitation issues.

“Apart from sanitation, sometimes on liquor and licencing issues, and entertainment. The Local Government Act, one of them has listed the areas in question that it takes care of. Already, there’s a guide that Assemblies have to follow and most of their by-laws take account of it.

Most by-laws are enforced against the poor - Private Legal Practitioner
Samson Lardy Anyenini hosts Dennis Dwomoh and Kweku Dwomoh on the Law.

“Apart from that also, the Minister of Local Government is empowered to pass model by-laws if he thinks that issue affects almost all the assemblies and call all the assemblies, depending on area. For instance, like the Minister for Greater Accra has done through the model by-law of Operation Clean Your Frontage, he has made sure that that particular law applies to Greater Accra Region,” Mr Dwomoh added.

Background

Recent research conducted by Corporate Secretarial and Training Services (CSTS) has revealed that as many as 155 Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs) are operating without by-laws.

It stated that 109 MMDAs were found to be gazzetted, three sets have lost their validity and fallen into desuetude since their geographical areas of jurisdiction have been re-demarcated and ceased to exist in their original form.

Most by-laws are enforced against the poor - Private Legal Practitioner
Dennis Dwomoh is a Managing Partner for LawPlus

“Thus, only 105 sets of by-laws at the various levels of local governance have been validly passed and are effective for application.

“By this finding, the study concludes that a total of 155 out of 260 MMDAs, representing 59% of the various assemblies in Ghana are operating without legitimate and valid by-laws,” the research highlighted.

Among other reasons, the researchers sought to examine whether the assemblies complied with the provision of Section 182(4) of the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936).

Most by-laws are enforced against the poor - Private Legal Practitioner
Kweku Attakora Dwomoh is a Lawyer and Consultant at CSTS

The law stipulates that a by-law shall not have effect until it has been posted on the premises of the District Assembly concerned and in at least one other public place within the district.

It adds that such by-law must be published in a daily newspaper of national circulation or in the Gazette.

News

155 MMDAs operating without by-laws – Study reveals

More than half of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the country are operating without authority.

This was disclosed through a research conducted by the legal research portal, DennisLaw. The study reveals that out of the 261 MMDAs in the country, as many as 155 are operating without by-laws.

Therefore only 41 percent of MMDAs are operating with gazetted by-laws.

Also, 53 District Assemblies operate with gazetted by-laws and 91 District Assemblies operate without by-laws.

This means these assemblies have no legal backing to penalize wrong acts or ensure that the right things are done in their districts.

Speaking on the Legal show, THE LAW, Sunday, Legal Practitioner, Kweku Attakora Dwomoh explained that the situation renders the actions of some MMDAs illegal.

“Today, most of them are just barking. If they see that you know your right, there is nothing that can be done to you. So quite clearly, most of the actions that are being taken by the MMDAs are illegal and invalid in law. So if they come demanding for a fee or they come demanding for a fine or a rate to be paid and there is no law to that effect, it means they have no authority,” he said.

Speaking on the implications, Managing Partner at LawPlus, Dennis Adjei Dwomoh is worried that lack of legal departments in MMDAs is detrimental to their functions.

“If you look at the Ghana Bar portal that we have studied, based on the statistics, majority of MMDAs do not have a legal department. They do not have in-house lawyers so sometimes they want to rely on Attorney-General’s office.

“It is actually risky on the part of any Chief Executive Officer not to have a lawyer who guides him through the processes, because the issues relating to procurement, the issues relating to public funding are all legal issues which actually increases your criminal risk,” he explained.

News

Civil Society Organisation kicks against declassification of Achimota Forest Reserve

A Civil Society Organisation, Mass Action Committee, has kicked against government’s decision to declassify the Achimota Forest Reserve.

According to the Organisation, the move is unacceptable and must not be allowed to materialize.

The Executive Secretary, Atik Mohammed in a signed document, described as disappointing, the issuance by the government of Executive Instruments 144 and 154 relative to the Achimota Forest Reserve.

“This singular action by government does not only offend our collective effort at environmental sustainability, but it undermines our commitment to major international instruments, protocols and agreements. One such instrument that leap readily to mind is, SDG 15.

“We are enjoined by this goal among others, to sustainably manage our forests, halt and reverse land degradation. In particular, we are expected to achieve the 0.0 target in permanent deforestation – permanent deforestation is described as “tree cover removal for urbanization, commodity production and certain types of small-scale agriculture”.

“Ghana’s performance on this indicator stood at 0.8 as of 2018 (Sachs et al 2021). This reflects how badly we are protecting our forest cover. With this state, it is expected that government’s actions toward the few urban forest reserves we have especially Accra’s, would be to achieve one end only-their protection. That is why we find the Executive Instruments obnoxious in the superlative.”

The Committee also believed that the Owoo Family do not deserve any parts of the Reserve.

According to them, the reserve is the common resource and cannot be sacrificed in part or in whole to satisfy any private claim especially when such claim is not grounded in law.

“All leases allegedly granted to that family must be revoked. We must guard and preserve the entire reserve for our own benefit and the benefit of future generations.

“Meanwhile, we reject the apparent notion loudly, albeit subtly articulated by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources that, because they find no evidence of any compensation payment to the Owoo family for the 1927 acquisition, grant of the so-called leases and the subsequent Executive Instruments have a fair grounding.”

This follows the wide circulation of an eight-page document on social media, which purported to mean that the classification of the Achimota Forest Reserve has been lifted to pave the way for a possible redevelopment for other purposes.

The Instrument gazetted on behalf of President Akufo-Addo by the Lands Minister, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, stipulated that effective May 1, 2022, the land on which the Forest is located shall cease to be a forest reserve, pursuant to Section 19 of the Forest Act, 1927 (CAP. 157).

The cessation, per that document, was to be effective on May 1, 2022.

However, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has said the government is not selling the land.

According to him, plans are rather afoot to upgrade the Achimota Forest into a world-class asset.

Addressing the press on Tuesday, May 17, the sector Minister emphasised that widespread reports about the supposed sale of the Forest are false and baseless, as government has no such plans.

“The government intends to enrich the Achimota forest, revamp it and hopefully in the not too distant future, transform it into the likes of High Park of London and Central Park of New York, where Ghanaians can go and enjoy the beauty of nature and forest reserve as it happens in other parts of the world”.

News

155 MMDAs operating without by-laws – Study reveals

More than half of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the country are operating without authority.

This was disclosed through a research conducted by the legal research portal, DennisLaw. The study reveals that out of the 261 MMDAs in the country, as many as 155 are operating without by-laws.

Therefore only 41 percent of MMDAs are operating with gazetted by-laws.

Also, 53 District Assemblies operate with gazetted by-laws and 91 District Assemblies operate without by-laws.

This means these assemblies have no legal backing to penalize wrong acts or ensure that the right things are done in their districts.

Speaking on the Legal show, THE LAW, Sunday, Legal Practitioner, Kweku Attakora Dwomoh explained that the situation renders the actions of some MMDAs illegal.

“Today, most of them are just barking. If they see that you know your right, there is nothing that can be done to you. So quite clearly, most of the actions that are being taken by the MMDAs are illegal and invalid in law. So if they come demanding for a fee or they come demanding for a fine or a rate to be paid and there is no law to that effect, it means they have no authority,” he said.

Speaking on the implications, Managing Partner at LawPlus, Dennis Adjei Dwomoh is worried that lack of legal departments in MMDAs is detrimental to their functions.

“If you look at the Ghana Bar portal that we have studied, based on the statistics, majority of MMDAs do not have a legal department. They do not have in-house lawyers so sometimes they want to rely on Attorney-General’s office.

“It is actually risky on the part of any Chief Executive Officer not to have a lawyer who guides him through the processes, because the issues relating to procurement, the issues relating to public funding are all legal issues which actually increases your criminal risk,” he explained.

News

Why National Assembly frowns on corruption –Senate President, Lawan

 

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has assured the judiciary that the National Assembly is determined to provide any possible support to enable it to discharge its mandate and tackle corruption in Nigeria.

 

This is as he also said that the National Assembly had been at the forefront in the fight against corruption in the country, adding that the 9th Senate particularly frowns at corruption.

 

Lawan stated these at a capacity-building workshop for Judges and Justices which was organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute in Abuja on Monday.

 

“We are determined in the National Assembly, even though we have only one year to go, to give you any possible support to ensure that you have the wherewithal to discharge your mandate,” Lawan told a gathering of judges and justices.

 

The Senate President told the judicial officers with emphasis that “we are determined as an Assembly to work with the Judicial arm of government just like we are working with the executive arm of government.

 

“What we need is a collaboration that will make the judicial arm of government stand on its feet. The resources so far given to this arm of government cannot be said to be sufficient but I believe that we can do better.

 

“I want a situation where in 2023, even before then, if the opportunity arises, that we make resources available to the judicial arm of government especially those courts that need the kind of support for them to prosecute those offenders who have taken our money.”

 

Lawan said the National Assembly, had been at the forefront in the fight against corruption in the country.

 

“This is because the laws have to be made before they are implemented or actualised by our anti-corruption agencies. So we are fully and completely involved in the fight against corruption in our country.

 

“And the ninth National Assembly particularly distinguishes itself by being anti-corruption. Recently, we passed two very important bills and I’m happy that Mr President signed them into law – The Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act and the Proceeds of Crimes, Prevention and Prohibition Act.

 

“We are determined in the National Assembly, even though we have only one year to go, let me assure the Judicial arm of government, that we are determined to give you any possible support to ensure that you have the wherewithal to discharge your mandate.

 

 “I’m taking the opportunity here to charge the Attorney General of the Federation that, let make 2023 appropriation, a year for the judiciary in Nigeria to always remember.

 

“I want to make this promise here that we are going to make your budget better than 2022 and probably better than at any other time in 2023.

 

“One thing is clear if we are talking about the judiciary dynamism, the judiciary must have the resources to be that independent and efficient and effective.

 

“Without resources, no matter how hard we try, we cannot be at the best that we want to be. So it’s about getting more resources and using them judiciously and I’m sure that that is not the problem. The problem is, let’s have the resources and I’m giving you that promise.

 

“Taking those involved in financial crimes to the courts and prosecuting them and maybe jailing them is supposed to be the last resort.

 

“We need to do more in the areas of fighting against the causes of corruption. I will commend the EFCC especially the chairman for having a record of prosecution of over 2000 last year and already as you will even have a better outcome or result for 2022.

 

“But I believe there are causes of corruption in Nigeria and those of us in the legislature and the executive arm of government are supposed to do a lot more to ensure that people don’t find it easy to be corrupt.”

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Anambra community accuses monarch of murder, petitions IGP

 

The traditional ruler in Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, has been accused of allegedly killing one Phillip Dilibe from Umugama Village, Ukwulu.

This is contained in a petition to the police boss by the solicitor to the deceased, Obinna Modebelu.

The petitioners called on the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Akali, to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, bring justice to the deceased, and prevent breakdown of peace.

According to the petition written by the law firm, Obinna Eloka Modebelu And Associates, and made available to journalists in Awka on Monday, the late Dilibe was said to be on his way home in the company with his friends when they were accosted by men on two motor bikes who forced them into the bush along Ukpo/Ukwulu road and attacked them with heavy sticks and cutlasses.

Part of the petition captioned ‘Murder, threatening violence, occasioning conspiracy and conduct likely to cause breach of peace’ read, “Late Dilibe died after he was stabbed with screwdriver on his face while the other three persons sustained serious injuries.”

The petitioners said the late Dilibe became a target after he objected to the way the traditional ruler of the town was meddling and trespassing on portions of community land.

The traditional ruler was alleged to have committed the crime on May 4, 2022.

“The deceased was dumped in the bush off the express road and the other three persons were driven off to an uncompleted building where ransom was collected before they were left to go,” the petition stated.

It added, “We are using this opportunity to plead with the IGP Usman Baba Akali to use his good offices to immediately intercede in this case so that justice will prevail for the deceased who died unjustly by bringing the murderers to book, while also ensuring that your good offices and integrity will not be rubbished in the mud by name droppers.”

News Politics

Suspended Catholic priest breaks silence, states reasons for joining guber race

Hyacinth Alia, a suspended priest in the Catholic diocese of Gboko, Benue, says he joined the state’s gubernatorial race to effect change.

 

Alia, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was suspended by the church after his declaration.

 

The priest has since submitted his gubernatorial expression of interest and nomination form to the APC.

 

In a post on his Facebook page, the priest said: “From the day I took the decision to answer the overwhelming calls of my people to contest the governorship of Benue with the aim to rescue our people from the shackles of maladministration, I was fully aware of the sacrifice I was going to make.

 

 “And I am convinced that it is worth the cause I am fighting to serve the souls of Benue people and the state. I remain resolute and please don’t be anxious either because I am well prepared and focused.

 

“More importantly, I am more charged because I have seen the genuineness in the agitations for me to step in and help salvage the already sorry situation the state has found itself for some time.

 

“As stated in the last paragraph of the suspension letter, I shall return to the public pulpit after I must have served out my mandate as the Governor of Benue state.”

 

The priest also commented on the position of William Avenya, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Gboko, who said the canon law of the Catholic church forbids clerics from being involved in partisan politics.

 

Speaking through Donald Kumun, his media aide, Alia said the canon law did not imagine salaries and gratuity of citizens would not be paid.

 

“They never imagined that there would be a governor who would refuse to listen to a Catholic bishop begging for the payment of workers’ salaries in the way and manner that Bishop Avenya (Catholic Bishop of Gboko) has done in Benue state,” he was quoted as saying.

 

“They never knew it would be possible for a governor to stay in power for almost eight years with literally nothing to show for it by way of infrastructural development.

 

 “They never thought of a situation where a state would produce numerous raw materials with practically no industry to process them; while the government plans to sell the existing state-owned industries.

 

“They never imagined that poor farmers, who are not benefiting anything from the government, would be made to pay cut-throat taxes on their farm produce.

 

“None of the drafters of the code of canon law imagined that a state will deliberately increase school fees in government-owned tertiary institutions in a way that makes it impossible for the children of the poor to go to school.

 

“Certainly, they never knew there would be a state in Nigeria where a government would deliberately and consciously impoverish its citizens just to make them politically pliable.

 

 “The canon law never envisaged a state that would turn her highly intelligent youths into political thugs instead of engaging them productively just to mention but a few.” 

News

Deborah: CAN demands security for Kukah, others

In the face of the recent killing of Deborah Samuel, a student of College of Education, Sokoto for alleged blasphemy, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has called on government to beef up security around Rev. Fr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto and other Nigerians, to avoid further break down of law and order in the country.

The charge was given on Sunday in Kaduna, by Rev Chris Annge, Kaduna State Vice-Chairman of CAN.

He spoke on the sideline of peaceful protest organised by CAN, at Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, Sabon Tasha. Hundreds of Christians participated in the protest.

“When we learnt that a Catholic church was attacked in Sokoto, It’s very clear that that attack was on Bishop Matthew Kukah because he’s the one who’s like a voice to the voiceless in this country. He’s speaking truth to power every day. So that attack was directly or indirectly on him.

“We are calling on the Nigeria government to charge those in charge of carrying guns or agencies responsible for taking care of us, to be up and doing and protect the life of Kukah and every believer as well as every Nigerian from this menace. It’s unacceptable.”

Annge noted that Nigeria is a secular state with laws that guarantee freedom of association for all citizens and reiterated the need for religious tolerance. He emphasized the need for prayers.

“We are people of God and we are to thank God for what recently happened in Sokoto, Deborah Samuel, who was gruesomely killed by Islamic extremist on account of blasphemy.

“So we are here to first pray for the survival of those who are alive and also let the world know that it’s not the best way to go by killing because we are living in a country where there are rules as in the constitution. I think as patriotic Nigerians, we have what is guiding us that has to be respected,” he stated.

News

Protection Act: FG may fly prosecution witness abroad for safety reasons

 

In an effort to protect Nigerians who provide information to security agencies during an investigation and prosecution of offences, the Federal Government has made a provision that allows Nigerians to be kept in foreign countries under witness protection.

 

Similarly, there is a provision that allows foreigners to be kept in Nigeria under witness protection.

 

This is according to the Witness Protection Act 2022, which President Muhammadu Buhari, had recently assented to and passed into law.

 

Under Section 17 of the Act titled ‘Agreements with international bodies, institutions, organisations or foreign countries’, it stated that the relevant security agency would require the approval of the Attorney General before making any arrangement with a foreign country or organisation.

 

The Act read in part, “The relevant agency may, with the approval of the Attorney-General, make an arrangement with a foreign state, international body, institution or organisation on any matter relating to cooperation between Nigeria and that State, international body, institution or organization relating to witness protection.

 

“The relevant agency may enter into an agreement, either in general or on specific terms and conditions with a competent authority in a foreign country in order to (a) place a protected person under a witness protection arrangement administered by that country; or (b) admit a protected person to witness protection arrangement under any law applicable to that country.”

 

The provisions of this Act are applicable to the investigation and prosecution of offences relating to terrorism, money laundering prevention and prohibition, and economic and financial crimes.

 

Other areas of offence include corrupt practices and other related offences, drugs and narcotics and their trafficking, trafficking in persons, criminal and penal code offences, and Customs and excise management.

 

It also covers any legislation dealing with proceeds of crimes, confiscation and forfeiture of assets, and such other offences as may be contained in enactments enacted by the National Assembly and designated by the Attorney-General by an order published in the Federal Gazette.

 

To qualify as a witness under this Act, a person is required to have information about the commission of an offence or wrongdoing, and has given, is giving, or agreed to give evidence on behalf of the state in the proceedings for the trial of the offence, or hearings or proceedings relating to the offence or wrongdoing before an authority which is declared by the Attorney-General by an order published in the Federal Gazette to be an authority to which this paragraph applies.

 

A witness can also be a person who has made a statement to the Inspector-General of Police or a member of the Nigeria Police Force, or a law enforcement officer, in relation to an offence in contravention of law in Nigeria.

 

It can also be a person required to give evidence in a prosecution or an inquiry held before a court or tribunal outside Nigeria for a number of stipulated purposes; or who has given, is giving or has agreed to give, the evidence before an investigating authority, a commission of inquiry or tribunal.

 

The family member or anyone in a relationship with a witness may require protection or other assistance under this Act.

News

FG moves to impose new tax regime on telephone calls

 

A ploy to cater for the health needs of Nigerian citizens considered to be most vulnerable to health challenges, may see the Federal Government injecting a new tax on phone calls in the country, soon.

 

This is coming despite recent increment by telecommunication companies for the price of their services as a result of harsh economic operating conditions.

 

The new telecom tax which is coming in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is meant to boost sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the vulnerable group in Nigeria.

 

The information was contained in the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari recently.

 

The act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that the source of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund includes telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

 

The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said, “S.26 of this new law imposes a telecommunications tax of not less than 1kobo per second on GSM calls. With call rates at about 11kobo per second, this translates to a 9 per cent tax on GSM calls.

 

“The tax is one of the sources of money to the Vulnerable Group Fund to subsidise the provision of healthcare to the group defined to include children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.”

 

According to the act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.

 

For funding, the act provides several options such as basic health care provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

 

It also stipulates that money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the Government; mostly that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.

 

Also in the new act, every citizen in Nigeria is expected to obtain a health insurance policy.

 

The telecom operators also had cause to write to the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission, on the conditions of the industry.

 

The operators under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria had proposed a 40 per cent increase in the cost of calls, SMS, and data owing to the rising cost of service provision in the country.

 

Most mobile phone users have also observed the poor service provision from service providers, a situation many attribute to high cost of energy.