Rivers Governorship Tribunal: Court Dismisses Wike’s Application

WikeThe Rivers State governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has dismissed the motion filed by Governor Nyesom Wike, challenging the power of the Tribunal to sit in Abuja instead of Port Harcourt, the state’s capital.

The Tribunal headed by Justice Muazu Pindga on Monday, ruled that the motion by the Governor and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lacked merit and substance.

Governor Wike and his party wanted the Tribunal to hold in Port Harcourt, where the election in dispute was conducted.

The Governor claimed that the sitting of the Tribunal in Abuja was in breach of section 285 (2) of the 1999 Constitution and provisions of the Electoral Act 2010.

However, in his ruling, Justice Pindiga held that the Tribunal had not violated any provision of the law since the relocation to Abuja was based on security reasons

The Justice disagreed with the claim by the Governor on proximity and accessibility, as the two major factors that ought to have determined the venue of the sitting.

He said: “proximity and accessibility cannot be determined in the absence of security of the Tribunal members and litigants”.

Justice Pindiga also said that the President of the appeal court acted within the ambit of the law which laid emphasis on ensuring a conducive atmosphere for the Tribunal to hold proceedings before it could be set up.

The All Progressives Congress in Rivers State and its candidate in the April 11 governorship election, Mr Peterside Dakuku, had dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission, the PDP and the Governor of the state, Mr Wike, before the Tribunal to challenge his victory at the election.

SURE-P Probe: Ministers, Kolade Shun Reps

The absence of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke and the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Tuesday stalled the probe by the House of Representatives into the implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).

Other Ministers and government officials who were absent include the Minister of Labour and Productivity, the Minister of Transport and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, alongside ministers of health, Onyebuchi Chukwu; transport, Idris Umar; labour, Emeka Worgu, were scheduled to give testimonies at the House of Representatives hearing on the controversies over implementation of SURE-P.

The Accountant General of the federation, Jonah Otunla, was also to appear at the sitting conducted by the House joint committees on downstream petroleum, finance, states and local government.

All the officials, including Christopher Kolade, who heads the federal government SURE-P, boycotted the meeting, forcing the lawmakers to reschedule the hearing.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (downstream), Peterside Dakuku accused the abstaining ministers and government officials of “deliberate contempt’ for the parliament.

“This intentional act of disrespect will not be condoned,” he said.

President Goodluck Jonathan had established the SURE-P as a palliative after the January 2012 demonstrations which opposed government’s removal of the subsidy. The programme was to convert funds recovered from the subsidy scrapping, into tangible infrastructures and jobs.

Under the scheme, every state of the federation and the federal capital, Abuja, is to provide a minimum of 10,000 jobs, while new rail, and power projects, are to be implemented with the monies saved from the partial removal of fuel subsidy.

The House of Representatives had accused the subsidy committee of duplicating projects with the ministries, and defrauding the nation by making double payments for projects also financed by the ministries.

The lawmakers were told how the Kolade-led committee spent N2.2 billion on “secretariat services” and another N75 million on travels between July and October.

Another N27 billion was also spent on “Public Works for Youths”, and N8.9 billion for the purchase of 800 buses. Details of how the monies were allocated were not provided to the lawmakers.

For 2013, SURE-P is to spend N273.52 billion.

Laws On Pipeline Vandalism Not Strong Enough – Lawmaker

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources, Peterside Dakuku has said that the laws prohibiting the vandalisation of petroleum pipelines in Nigeria are not strong enough to deter oil thieves.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Dakuku said nobody has either been successfully prosecuted or convicted for pipeline vandalisation in Nigeria.

He said, “we need to strengthen the laws. The punishments are not adequate that’s why it has been slightly difficult to prosecute people successfully. I agree that the laws may not be the only challenge but the current laws need to be strengthened.”