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Senate wants public officers to operate foreign accounts

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A bill seeking to alter the constitution to allow public officers own and operate foreign bank accounts is currently being considered by the Senate.

The Senate Bill number 347 sponsored by Senator Solomon Olamilekan was obtained by THE PUNCH, in Abuja, on Wednesday.

Entitled, “An Act to Alter The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 To Permit Public Officers to Maintain or Operate a Bank Account In Any Country Outside Nigeria; And For Related Matters,” the bill seeks to alter a part of the fifth schedule of the constitution.

In an explanatory memorandum attached to it, the sponsor of the bill said, “This bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, in order to delete the provision in the Code of Conduct for public officers which forbids them from operating a bank account in a bank outside Nigeria.

“This is owing to the fact that the prohibition does no accord with the current realities where the world has become a global village, where illicit funds could easily be tracked.”

Specifically, the bill seeks to alter Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution on the Code of Conduct of Public Officers by deleting paragraph 3.

Reacting to this development, the Executive Director of the Civil Societies Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwual Musa-Rafsanjani, said the bill in question was self serving.

He said, “I don’t know if our present crops of legislators are in the National Assembly to serve themselves or to serve Nigerians. Are these the kind of bills they should be dissipating their energy on at this time of economic emergency?

“I think Nigerians have a duty to rise up and let these people know that there is hunger in the land and that what we expect are practical solutions to our economic challenges.”

Olamilekan has also sponsored another bill in which he is seeking to alter the constitution to allow lawmakers to share powers with the President on the issue of removing of non-performing ministers from office.

The Bill is entitled: “An Act to Amend The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 To Provide For The Consent Of the Senate/State House of Assembly For the Removal Of A Minister Of the Government of the Federation/ Commissioner Of the Government Of A State.”

The bill seeks to alter Section 147 of the Principal Act by inserting a new subsection (4).

If passed into law, Section 4 will then read: “Any person appointed to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation may be removed from such office (by) the President for inability to discharge the functions of the office in question (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body) or for misconduct or for contravention of any Act of the Federation: Provided that the Senate concurs with such removal by a unanimous vote.”

The President currently reserves the right to fire ministers as he deems fit without recourse to the National Assembly.

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Army withholds salaries of 45 soldiers in Borno

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Authorities of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, have withheld the salaries of 45 soldiers, according to sources.

The soldiers, who were among the 149 troops of the 153 Task Force Battalion withdrawn from Marte, Borno State, after spending three years in counterinsurgency operations, were accused of for abandoning their duty posts.

The battalion came under attack on three occasions during which several soldiers were killed while a range of weapons, equipment and vehicles were either carted away or destroyed.

The battalion was overhauled after the last attack in February.

A source said necessary changes were made and troops who served with the battalion were moved to different formations in Maiduguri before a new deployment was made.

“Some of the soldiers who were not seen at their new units were believed to have gone on AWOL (Absence Without Leave). Their salaries accounts were not credited in April,” he said.

But one of the affected soldiers said the allegation of desertion against them was untrue.

“We were not given our salaries and when we asked our supervisors in the 7 Division, we were shocked to hear that we had forfeited all our entitlements over desertion.”

Attempts to get the response of army authorities were not successful.

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EFCC goes after top officials of PDP over N10bn scandal

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The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has invited officials of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for questioning over alleged criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of funds and fraud.

This is coming barely a month after a chieftain in the PDP, Kazeem Afegbua, petitioned the anti-graft agency to scrutinise the Secondus-led National Working Committee on financial misappropriation.

In the letter of invitation dated May 17, 2021, and addressed to the Prince Uche Secondus, the EFCC said the need to obtain certain clarification from the party has become imperative.

The agency, however, requested the party’s National chairman to release the National Auditor, National Organising Secretary and Director of Finance to report at the EFCC headquarters from May 19th to 21st 2021.

The agency also requested the national officers to honor the invitation with relevant documents relating to sole of forms into the party’s elective positions from January 2017 to date.

Kazeem had in his petition alleged that much of the financial transactions of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus has been shrouded in mystery, accusing the leadership of deliberate attempt to shortchange the party in the build up to the 2023 general elections.

However, Secondus had since denied the allegation and filed a N1 billion suit against the petitioner, Kazeem Afegbua.

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Nigeria’s drug control agency approves new COVID-19 vaccine

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has granted approval for the conditional emergency use of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is the third vaccine recommended for administration in the country.

The director-general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojiola Adeyeye, in a statement on Tuesday, said information on the vaccine shows it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.

She said, “The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a single dose. Results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.

“The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.

According to her, the trial showed a 67 per cent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.

On the vaccine safety, Adeyeye said NAFDAC, in line with its pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, will closely monitor and subject the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine which Nigeria has been giving out has garnered many sceptics internationally after some recipients of the vaccine died.

At least 16 countries including Germany, France and Sweden have suspended the use of AstraZeneca, which put on the Nigerian government to suspend it.

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