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I need more time to account for spending on water projects, minister tells court

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6.3m children died in 2017

The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, has told the Federal High Court in Lagos to “grant the ministry more time within which to compile and furnish Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) with information on the spending on water, and locations of specific projects, in view of the high volume of the information involved.”

Mr Adamu said, “It is not true that millions of Nigerians are drinking water from contaminated sources. It is not the duties of the Ministry of Water Resources alone to provide drinking water for the citizens.”

The Ministry of Water Resources stated this in court in its reply to the Freedom of Information suit number FHC/L/CS/632/18 filed in April by SERAP requesting Mr Adamu and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh to “explain why millions of Nigerians have to resort to drinking water from contaminated sources with deadly health consequences, despite the authorities claiming to have spent trillions of naira of budgetary allocations on the sector since 1999.”

However, while Mr Adamu has promised to render account on spending on water projects and is now asking the court for more time to do so, Mr Ogbeh has so far failed, refused and/or neglected to respond to SERAP’s request and has not filed any paper in court to counter the suit filed by the organization.

But Mr Adamu through a counter-affidavit dated September 7 and sworn to by Kwushue Abolaji, Legal Officer at the Ministry of Water Resources, said, “The delay in furnishing SERAP with the requested information is not deliberate. The information will soon be ready and it will be forwarded to SERAP without further delay. We humbly urge the court to grant us more time within which to do this.”

The Written Address signed by M.C. Mbam, counsel to Mr Adamu, read in part: “The Ministry of Water Resources did not refuse or decline to furnish SERAP with the requested information but was only unable to furnish it within the stipulated timeframe. We have already agreed in a letter dated 12 March 2018 to provide the information.”

“The inability of the Ministry of Water Resources to furnish the information is not deliberate rather it was because of the enormity of the materials required which could not be collated easily because more than one department is involved. Under the rules of this court, the judge may as often as he deems fit and either before or after the expiration of the time appointed by the rules extend or adjourn the time for doing any act or taking any proceedings.”

“The Ministry is still compiling the information and has written to various departments to provide the information for onward transmission to SERAP. We need more time to compile and transmit the requested information to SERAP. It will not be in the interest of justice to grant SERAP’s reliefs.”

It would be recalled that Justice Shagari had in June granted the order for leave following the hearing of an argument in court on exparte motion by SERAP counsel, Bamisope Adeyanju.

Before the suit was filed, Mr Adamu had agreed in a letter to “publish details of spending and locations of projects on water and sanitation for periods covering 2010—2016, as well as details of allocations to the 36 states of the federation.”

Mr Adamu in a letter with reference number FMWR/LU/S/374/I, and dated March 12 and signed by P.C. Mbam, Acting Director (Legal) of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources said, “We will work hard to provide SERAP with the details of spending, and the information requested as they relate specifically to Water and Sanitation projects from 2010 to 2016.”

Mr Adamu also said, “The Federal Ministry of Water Resources was demerged from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010. A copy of your letter will be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for action on the other years before 2010. For emphasis sake, we advise that SERAP should send a separate request directly to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the period (1999-2010) outside the purview of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources’ projects.”

SERAP also then welcomed “the firm commitment by Mr Adamu to explain to Nigerians what exactly has happened to trillions of naira budgeted for water and sanitation across the country between 2010–2016. Mr Adamu’s commitment is refreshing, especially coming at a time many public institutions and ministries such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are rejecting public requests for information and making information on the spending our commonwealth harder to access.”

SERAP said it would now file a reply on points of law in court to the counter-affidavit filed by Mr Adamu. The organisation criticised Mr Ogbeh for so far failing to respond to its FOI request or reply to its suit.

It would be recalled that SERAP in its FOI request dated 2nd March 2018 claimed that, “Many toilets in public offices are out of order because of lack of water while millions of Nigerians remain desperate for water in their homes, often resorting to contaminated sources and drilling their own boreholes that can become easily mixed with sewage, with negative environmental impacts, and devastating for people’s health.”

SERAP’s FOI request read in part: “We are concerned that millions of Nigerians do not have access to clean and potable water and adequate sanitation. There is no water to show for the huge budgetary allocations and purported spending and investment in the sector since the return of democracy in 1999. Successive governments have failed to improve affordability of water for millions of low-income Nigerians, thereby denying them access to water.”

“Contractors handling water projects are reportedly engaging in schemes like the deliberate use of substandard pipes, among others, to make profit, leading to loss of water. This dearth of water also affects sanitation. The large number of broken down water facilities across the country has hindered effective water supply to the citizens.”

“We urge you to use your leadership position to provide within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter detailed information on the spending on specific water and sanitation projects and their locations carried out by the Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development for the following years: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (1999-2016); as well as details of allocations to the 36 states of the federation.”

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Aisha Buhari’s Akwa Ibom visit sparks row over senator’s vehicles

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Aisha Buhari’s Akwa Ibom visit sparks row over senator's vehicles

The Akwa Ibom state government has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state of “hijacking” the planned visit of the first lady, Aisha Buhari, to the state.

Mrs Buhari is visiting the Akwa Ibom this Friday to flag off her pet project, Future assured, a nongovernmental organisation advocating the wellbeing of women, children, and adolescents in Nigeria.

Ita Enang, an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, while briefing reporters on Thursday, said the flag-off ceremony will take place at the Nsima Ekere Campaign Ground in Uyo.

He said about 10,000 youth in the state are expected to receive interest-free loans, grants, and various forms of training from the Future Assured, together with its partners, which include the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and two senators from the state – Godswill Akpabio and Nelson Effiong.

The Akwa Ibom government said the APC was planning to “hijack” the protocols associated with Mrs Buhari’s visit in order to make political capital out of it.

The government specifically accused Mr Akpabio, a former governor of the state, of wanting to use the visit to blackmail the state government.

“The struggle for the soul of Akwa Ibom State come 2019 is becoming dirtier,” said a statement forwarded to PREMIUM TIMES, Friday, by the Commissioner for Information in the state Charles Udoh.

“The office of the First Lady had written to the State Government informing it of her visit to the state and the government is said to have made adequate arrangements befitting of her status and office.

“Suddenly, former governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio is alleged to have taken his personal vehicles to the DSS office in Uyo preparatory to the visit of the wife of the president.

“We have been rightly informed of this plan by Senator Goodwill Akpabio to deliberately blackmail the State Government by bungling the protocols of this visit, embarrass the State Government by creating a climate of odium and despair and thereafter rejoice over such failure,” the statement said.

“We will resist that,” it added.

The statement said the president’s wife, irrespective of what she was coming to do in the state, ought to be a guest of the state government and that it was customary for the state government to make arrangement for such a visit.

The statement said it was “ironic” for the State Security Services (SSS) to accept to use Mr Akpabio’s private vehicle to ferry the first lady.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Akpabio’s spokesperson, Anietie Ekong, he declined comment on the matter, saying it was a protocol matter between the presidential villa and the Akwa Ibom Government House.

The SSS director in the state, Malam Waziri, told PREMIUM TIMES, Friday morning, the claim by the state government was not true.

Mr Waziri said Mrs Buhari, while in Uyo, would be using two of her official vehicles brought in from Abuja.

He said the first lady is to be accompanied by the wives of three state governors. The governors’ wives, he said, have also sent in their vehicles in advance.

The SSS director said the Akwa Ibom government sent in vehicles too, which would be used in the first lady’s entourage.

“You will be able to verify what I am telling you if you will be present at the airport when the first lady lands in the state,” he said.

But a source who works as an aide of Mr Akpabio and is privy to the issues surrounding the visit confided in PREMIUM TIMES that Mrs Buhari would indeed be riding in Mr Akpabio’s private car – Mercedes S500 bulletproof – when her flight touches down in Uyo.

The aide, who did not want his name mentioned in the story because he did not have the permission to speak on the matter, said Mrs Buhari would visit the senator’s country home in Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government Area of the state, after the flag-off of the Future Assured project in Uyo.

“We have not hijacked the visit,” Mr Enang told PREMIUM TIMES, Friday morning while reacting to the state government’s allegation. “We are only providing an enabling environment to receive the wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Mr Enang said the state government, having been “duly” informed, is obliged to receive Mrs Buhari and also be part of her programme in the state.

“APC has not done anything to prevent the governor, his wife, or the state government from receiving and hosting the first lady.”

Mr Enang said the flag-off ceremony is holding at Nsima Ekere Campaign Ground because the state government, according to him, refused to grant permission for the use of the Uyo Township Stadium. “They told us the stadium was being renovated,” he said.

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INEC denies planning Chad, Niger voting centres

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INEC denies planning Chad, Niger voting centres

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that there will be no diaspora or out-of-country voting in the 2019 general elections.

The commission said this in a statement by its national commissioner and chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.

This followed a conference on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) voting held by the commission on Wednesday.

At the conference, the commission had spelt out the procedure it would follow to accommodate internally displaced persons in the presidential election.

On Thursday, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) in a statement by its spokespersons, Ikenga Uguchinyere, alleged that INEC wanted to open polling units in Chad and Niger Republic with a view to adding five million votes to the tally of President Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election.

“The attention of the CUPP has been drawn to credible intelligence and reports in the media of the opening of voting centres by the INEC in Niger and Chad under the pretext that the centres are for IDPs to vote. It was more worrisome that the report quoted the Chairman of INEC as having made this declaration in a public forum,” Mr Ugochinyere stated on Thursday.

“Following the report, the Intelligence Unit of the CUPP has since uncovered the massive mobilisation of Chadian, Nigerian and Sudanese citizens preparatory to their participating in the February 16th Presidential elections. We have also uncovered that the plot is targeted at generating nothing less than five million votes for President Buhari in the election.

“It has now become clearer to Nigerians and the entire world the reasons why President Buhari refused to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill presented to him by the National Assembly which would have made the Card Reader the only means of accreditation of voters for the election. His only options now include allowing non-Nigerians to participate in an election to determine Nigeria’s President and without accreditation.

“We hereby urge the INEC Chairman to retrace his steps and stand with the Nigerian people in these trying times as our electoral laws till date prohibit diaspora voting as no elections for the purpose of electing any public office holder in Nigeria can be held outside the geographical boundaries of the country. If any electoral staff or materials have been deployed outside the country for the purpose of these illegal and unlawful voting points, they should be returned to the country without any further delay.

“Finally, we call on all Nigerians of goodwill to voice out now and condemn this act and caution the President that his disposition of do-or-die is heating up the polity and that he has the example of former President Goodluck Jonathan to guide him in his actions as the elections draw nearer.”

In an apparent effort to dispel such views, INEC in its statement by Mr Okoye said that only voters in Nigeria on election day will be eligible to participate in the elections.

“The Commission wishes to state unequivocally that there will be no Diaspora or Out-of-Country voting for any Nigerian,” the commission stated.

It said in accordance with extant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1979 (as amended), only duly registered IDPs within Nigeria will be allowed to vote.

According to INEC, “the Framework and Regulations for IDP Voting were presented and validated by stakeholders at a conference held In Abuja on Wednesday, November 12.

In the INEC chairman’s speech and all the deliberation at the conference, which was reported by PREMIUM TIMES, there was no reference to diaspora voting.

The conference explained that IDPs currently residing in states where they registered can vote in all elections while those displaced from their states and are currently in states other than where they registered can only vote in the presidential election.

“INEC also said the validated framework is in consonance with the provisions of Section 26 (I) 0f the Electoral (Amendment Act 2015) which provides that “in the event of an emergency affecting an election, the Commission shall as far as possible ensure that persons displaced as the result of the emergency are not disenfranchised.”

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How I discovered my daughter Ochanya had been repeatedly raped by her uncle

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How I discovered my daughter Ochanya had been repeatedly raped by her uncle

The father of the late teenager, Ochanya, has narrated how he discovered that his teenage daughter had been repeatedly raped by her guardian.

Ochanya Ogbanje, 13, died of Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) in October, eight years after she was in 2010 taken to live with Andrew Ogbuja whose wife, Felicia Ogbuja, is an aunt to the deceased. Her death followed a series of rape allegedly perpetrated by Mr Ogbuja and his son, Victor.

Narrating the sad events that resulted in his daughter’s death in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Ochanya’s father, Michael Ogbanje, said he only got the clear picture of his daughter’s type of infection, after he decided against the plan of Mrs Ogbuja, and brought his daughter to a caregiver who took her for medical tests for the umpteenth time.

“We started the treatment at a local government clinic. From there, we were referred to Saint Mary’s hospital. In February, Mr Ogbuja’s wife, Felicia Ogbuja, came to me and told me that my daughter’s case had gone beyond what will be treated at Saint Mary’s.

“I gave them money, N16,000 and fuelled their car which was used in taking my daughter to the hospital that day. They were admitted till April. The entire hospital bills were paid by me. Yet Mrs Ogbuja made sure to keep the test results from us.

“We have been the ones paying her school fees. We even buy things and take to her occasionally,” Mr Ogbanje added.

The victim’s mother, Rose, who went with their daughter to the hospital, added that she made several demands for the details of the problem, but her requests were never granted.

“Each time I ask, they will tell me that my daughter will be well. Even when they discharged her, my daughter could not walk. When I enquired to know why she could not walk since they said she was better, they told me she would soon walk again,” the aged woman added, in pidgin English.

But days ran into weeks and nothing changed. Mr Ogbanje said he later asked his wife to question the girl when they noticed that she was passing out faeces and urinating uncontrollably.

“It was during that interrogation by her mother that my daughter confessed that she was sexually abused by Mr Ogbuja and his son.”

Mr Ogbanje’s immediate reaction was that of utter dismay and confusion, to the point of assuming his daughter was going mad.

“I was surprised when she told me who had raped her. I asked her, “are you mad?” but she insisted that she was telling the truth.

“I called her elder one and asked her to repeat what she had told me and she did so. Then the following day I took her, very early to Mr Ogbujah and asked that she narrates the story she had told us.”

Mr Ogbanje added that when Mr Ogbuja denied assaulting his daughter, the 13-year-old girl stated the places and the times when she was allegedly assaulted by the 51-year-old suspended lecturer and knight of the Catholic Church.

“But he insisted that only his son had an intimate meeting with my daughter. I then asked him what would happen next, given the state that my poor daughter was in and his wife told me that we should come back the following week so that they would go with us to the hospital and check to know if it is the incidence of rape that resulted in the problem my child is having.

“This happened on a Monday. But I thought to myself that I could not watch my daughter for another week without knowing how to help her. That was when I took Ochanya to the caregiver, Enuwa Soo, who went with my wife to run some tests at a hospital and all the results came out. That was the first time we knew what was really wrong with my daughter,” Mr Ogbanje said. “This was in June,” he added.

Mr Ogbanje further narrated that Mr Ogbuja later came with his wife, kneeling and begging them to avoid reporting the matter to relevant authorities.

“The first time he came, he was in the company of his wife and some men. They brought some kolanuts and knelt down, saying I should understand that the deed is already done. They offered to continue treating my daughter and refund the money I had spent on her treatment in exchange for my silence, but I refused,” Mr Ogbanje said.

Mrs Ogbuja was reportedly the first to discover the heinous crime perpetrated then, by her son, Victor. Rather than ensure it did not repeat itself, the Ogbuja’s family watched the menace continue till it caused the13-year-old her dear life, Mr Ogbanje said.

The death of Ochanya has attracted widespread condemnation, with many demanding a thorough prosecution of Mr Ogbuja and his son, Victor.

While Mr Ogbuja has been arrested and detained by the police, Victor is still at large months after the matter was reported to the police.

The spokesperson for the Benue State Police Command, Fatai Owoseni, did not respond to calls and text messages when contacted about an update on the whereabouts of Victor by this newspaper on Thursday evening.

The Catholic Church, in a statement issued in November by members of the Knight of Saint Molumba, suspended Mr Ogbuja from the order of Catholic Knights, pending the outcome of the matter.

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