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Appeal Court affirms Alia’s election as Benue governor

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja has dismissed an appeal brought before it by the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Titus Uba challenging the election of Hyacinth Alia as the elected governor of Benue State.

Alia, a Roman Catholic priest, won the election on the platform of the APC, defeating his closest challenger, Titus Uba of the PDP.

Uba is the immediate past Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly.

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Onyekachi Otisi dismissed Mr Uba’s appeal against the judgement of the Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

In September, the tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain pre-election issues raised by Mr Uba.

Dissatisfied with the decision, the PDP candidate appealed, seeking to overturn Mr Alia’s victory.

However, in a unanimous decision on Monday, the Court of Appeal resolved all the issues in favour of the governor, including the alleged non-qualification of Mr Alia and his deputy, Sam Ode, to vie for the 18 March election.

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Ms Otisi said the PDP governorship candidate failed to prove the allegation of forgery of INEC’s documents levelled against Mr Ode.

The Court of Appeal also held that the issues of non-qualifications were pre-election matters which can only be challenged at the Federal High Court instead of the election petition tribunal.

Unlike in the past, the Electoral Act 2022 confers exclusive jurisdiction of hearing pre-election suits on the Federal High Court.

The court further noted that a pre-election case challenging the authenticity of a candidate for election can only be instituted within 14 days.

She added that Mr Uba as a member of the PDP lacked the right to challenge the emergence of Mr Alia who was the flagbearer of the APC.

Ruling on the issue of APC’s failure to submit Mr Alia’s name to INEC within the statutory 180 days before 18 March, the appellate court said the primary election that produced the APC governorship candidate was sanctioned by the Federal High Court in Makurdi, the state capital.

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Good morning! Here Are Some Major News Headlines In The Newspapers Today: Gunmen kill Police inspector, three others in Abia

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1. A police Inspector and three civilians were confirmed killed by armed men on Sunday morning in Aba, Abia State. The state Commissioner of Police, Kenechukwu Onwuemelie, in a statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Maureen Chioma Chinaka confirmed the incident.

 

2. President Joe Biden has endorsed Kamala Harris, his deputy, as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the November 5, 2024, election. He made the announcement in a tweet shortly after declaring that he was quitting the presidential race.

 

3. Bello Turji, leader of a group of outlaws operating in northern Nigeria, has blamed Minister of Defence (State), Bello Matawalle, for not handling banditry effectively when he was governor of Zamfara State. In a video released on social media, Turji linked the escalation of banditry in Zamfara and other Northwestern states to the policies mapped out by Matawalle when he was governor.

 

4. The Nigerian Army (NA) has reiterated that the ban on the unauthorised use of military camouflage remains in full effect. The Director of Army Public Relations, Maj.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said this in a statement on Sunday while reacting to a video depicting a soldier molesting a civilian for wearing Army Desert Camouflage uniform.

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5. The Federal Government, through the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, is expecting fresh reports to confirm the real sulphur content of the diesel produced by the Dangote refinery as the company debunked claims of inferior fuel production.

 

6. The Federal Government says it will spend an average of N36bn to convert 30,000 petrol or diesel-powered vehicles to start running on Compressed Natural Gas in the next 90 days. The government stated that it had acquired 30,000 CNG conversion kits for distribution free of charge nationwide within the period.

 

7. Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, says one of his friends who started investing abroad four years ago, has been taunting him over the back and forth with the government in recent times. Dangote has been having issues with the government over his refinery project in Lagos.

 

8. A gruesome incident has occurred in Zaria, Kaduna State, where some applicants vying for a spot in the Nigerian Army Depot allegedly hacked a fellow applicant to death. It was learnt on Sunday that the victim, who hailed from Gombe State, had reportedly received nearly N1m from his parents to facilitate his recruitment.

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9. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, has foiled attempts by drug syndicates to smuggle cocaine and loud consignments, a synthetic strain of cannabis concealed in incense candles, game packs, dry hibiscus leaves and ladies’ native wears in and out of Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, by some courier firms in Lagos.

 

10. The Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission, EBSIEC, on Sunday declared the All Progressives Congress as the winner of Saturday’s local council polls in the state. Chairman of the commission, Mr Jossey Eze, who announced the results in Abakaliki, said the party won all the 13 Chairmanship seats and 171 Ward Councillors.

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Dangote offers to sell 650,000 bpd oil refinery to NNPC

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Africa’s wealthiest man Aliko Dangote says he is willing to give up ownership of his multibillion-dollar oil refinery to the state-owned energy company NNPC Limited.

 

The billionaire spoke as a new dispute with one of the key equity partners in the plant heats up in the latest phase of a bitter row with regulatory authorities in Nigeria.

 

The 650,000 barrel-per-day refinery, which came to life last year after a decade of prolonged construction, cost $19 billion, more than double the initial estimate, promising to help wean Africa’s biggest oil producer off its reliance on fuel from overseas and save up 30 per cent of the total foreign exchange spent on importing goods

 

While speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, Dangote reportedly said: “Let them (NNPCL) buy me out and run the refinery the best way they can. They have labelled me a monopolist. That’s an incorrect and unfair allegation, but it’s OK. If they buy me out, at least, their so-called monopolist would be out of the way,”

 

“We have been facing fuel crisis since the 70s. This refinery can help in resolving the problem but it does appear some people are uncomfortable that I am in the picture. So I am ready to let go, let the NNPC buy me out, run the refinery.”

The multisectoral investor’s big bet on oil and gas, which he ventured into following years of relatively stress-free dominance of Nigeria’s cement, salt and sugar industries, is turning out problematic in its early days.

 

Set for its first roll-out of petrol to the Nigerian market in August, the mammoth plant has been operating just above half its capacity since the January start of refining operations, constrained in part by difficulties in sourcing crude from international producers.

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Dangote Refinery said those companies are either demanding outrageous premiums before agreeing to supply crude or simply claiming the product is unavailable.

 

NNPC, once a sweetheart of the refiner before the current dispute soured relations, had delivered only 6.9 million barrels of oil to the plant as of May since last year, according to S&P Global Platts, a tracker of supply data.

Dangote Refinery

NNPC Limited has a supply deal with the company dating back to the commencement of operations and previously agreed to a 20 per cent equity participation, the refinery saying only 7.2 per cent has been fully paid for before the deadline issued to the company to acquire the stake.

 

Starving the refinery of the feedstock required to keep it running at present capacity means it has turned to countries like Brazil and the US to bridge the gulf in supply.

 

“As you probably know, I am 67 years old, in less than three years, I will be 70. I need very little to live the rest of my life. I can’t take the refinery or any other property or asset to my grave. Everything I do is in the interest of my country,” Dangote said.

 

“This refinery can help in resolving the problem but it does appear some people are uncomfortable that I am in the picture. So I am ready to let go, let the NNPC buy me out, run the refinery. At least the country will have high-quality products and create jobs,” he added.

 

 

Dangote said the obstacles his refinery is facing seem to have vindicated friends and associates who conselled him to tread with caution as he pumped billions of dollars into the Nigerian economy.

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“Four years ago, one of my very wealthy friends began to invest his money abroad. I disagreed with him and urged him to rethink his action in the interest of his country. He blamed his action on policy inconsistencies and shenanigans of interest groups. That friend has been taunting me in the past few days, saying he warned me and that he has been proven right,” the businessman said.

 

Last month, Devakumar Edwin, who serves as the vice president, oil and gas, at the Dangote Group accused the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) of allowing marketers to import dirty fuel into the country.

 

That has drawn a reprisal from the main watchdog of Nigeria’s midstream and downstream operations whose chief, Farouk Ahmed, claimed diesel from the plant as well as the one from modular refineries like Waltersmith and Aradel contain high sulphur levels.

 

A high sulphur content in fuel could be injurious to vehicle engines and is known to be harmful to the environment in that it further heats up the fast-warming climate.

 

“The AGO quality in terms of sulphur is the lowest as far as West Africa’s requirement of 50 parts per million (ppm). Dangote refinery, as well as some major refineries like Waltersmith refinery, produce between 650 ppm to 1,200 ppm. So, in terms of quality, their quality is much more inferior to the imported quality,” Mr Ahmed told journalists last Thursday.

 

On Saturday, Dangote debunked the claim during a tour of both Dangote Petroleum Refinery and the Dangote Fertiliser Limited complex by members of the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas and other members.

 

The company in a statement said the representatives observed the testing of Automotive Gas Oil (diesel) from two petrol stations alongside Dangote Petroleum Refinery, praised the company for its significant investments and contributions to Nigeria’s development.

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“The Chairman of the House Committee on Downstream, Ikenga Ugochinyere, and Chairman of the House Committee on Midstream, Okojie Odianosen, oversaw the collection of samples from the Mild Hydro Cracking (MHC) unit of Dangote refinery for testing of all the samples,” the statement said.

 

 

Dangote openly challenged the regulator to compare the quality of refined products from his refinery with those imported, advocating for an impartial assessment to determine what best serves the interests of Nigeria.

 

On Saturday, the businessman announced plans to halt his investment in Nigeria’s steel industry to avoid being accused of monopoly.

 

“You know, about doing a new business which we announced, that is, steel. Actually, our board has decided that we shouldn’t do the steel because if we do the steel business, we will be called all sorts of names like monopoly. And then also, imports will be encouraged,” Dangote said.

 

 

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‘We’ll dialogue with Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger’ — Tinubu presents state of ECOWAS report at AU meeting

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President Bola Tinubu has presented the state of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) report at the mid-year coordination meeting of the African Union in Accra, Ghana.

 

The mid-year coordination meeting, initiated in 2017, serves as the principal forum for the AU and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to align their work and coordinate the implementation of the continental integration agenda, replacing the June/July summits.

 

This year’s meeting, themed “Educate and Skill Africa for the 21st Century,” brought together the Bureau of the AU Assembly, RECs chairpersons, the AU Commission, and regional mechanisms (RMs) on Saturday. 

In a statement on Sunday, Ajuri Ngelale, presidential spokesperson, quoted Tinubu, who is the chairman of ECOWAS, as saying the community “has activated a standby force to counter-terrorism and will continue to explore funding options”.

 

He added that ECOWAS has actively supported member states in enhancing electoral and governance processes, recently deploying election observation missions to Senegal and Togo, both of which were deemed “peaceful, transparent, and fair”.

 

He highlighted the facilitation of the national unity agreement signing in Sierra Leone, while noting that ECOWAS will continue to work with stakeholders to implement the agreement’s provisions.

 

The president said consultations are ongoing to revise the ECOWAS 2001 Supplementary Protocol on democracy and good governance.

 

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On economic integration, Tinubu stated that ECOWAS has consolidated the free trade area, customs union, and common market through various activities.

 

“We supported six Member States in ratifying the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, and thirteen Member States have ratified the AFCFTA agreement,” Tinubu said.

 

“The ECOWAS interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT) is also operational in twelve Member States.”

 

On the humanitarian and social development front, Tinubu noted that ECOWAS has allocated $9 million to assist refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers.

 

“The frontline Member States in the fight against terrorism have also been supported with USD4 million under the ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Humanitarian Response,” the president said.

 

“On education, the West African Network of National Academies of Sciences, and the African Forum for Research and Innovation have been established.

 

“Our regional academic mobility scheme has continued to equip the youth with practical skills and is harmonizing education systems.

 

“While in the area of health, ECOWAS continues to provide support to women with obstetric fistula, empowered women entrepreneurs in agribusiness, and focused on gender equality in education and the green economy.”

 

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Tinubu highlighted progress in energy, mines, and agriculture, with ECOWAS advancing electrification efforts in The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and Mali through the ECOWAS-Regional Electricity Access Project (ECOREAP).

 

“It is also implementing the Regional Off Grid Electricity Access Project (ROGEAP). Thirty-two Solar Off Grid SMEs have been approved, including nine SMEs led by women. A total of 3 million US dollars will be disbursed to finance the SMEs. More than 400 SMEs in 13 countries were trained in 2023 and 2024,” Tinubu said.

 

“To achieve sustainable electricity access within the ECOWAS and Sahel countries, we will provide a total grant of 38 million US dollars to SMEs in Member States. ECOWAS will extend this to Mauritania, Central African Republic, Chad and Cameroon through Commercial and Financial Institutions. An additional loan of 140 million US dollars will also be made available to the solar SMEs.

 

“Within the period under review, ECOWAS has supported Experts from Member States in international meetings and negotiations on environmental issues, including environmental governance. We provided support to our members in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the establishment of a regional carbon market.

 

“With respect to food security, the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) has approved the instruments to operationalize the Regional Fund for Agriculture and Food (RFAF). A Regional Food Security was developed to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.

 

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“Furthermore, our support for pastoralism in the Sahel has targeted the improvement of animal health, with a record vaccination of over 490 million livestock. We have established common rules for controlling veterinary medicine products at borders. In addition, ECOWAS launched a project for Member States to access the Green Climate Fund. This will promote climate-smart agriculture through the use of technologies.”

 

Tinubu noted that the sixth legislature of the ECOWAS parliament elected Maimunatu Ibrahim, its first female President from Togo.

 

He added that the ECOWAS community court of justice reviewed fifteen new cases, held thirty-three court sessions, and delivered eleven judgments.

 

However, the ECOWAS chairman warned of multiple threats facing the bloc, including member states withdrawing, geopolitical rivalries, terrorism, food insecurity, climate change, and the spread of misinformation.

 

He assured that ECOWAS will continue dialogue with Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger to maintain unity and will convene a special extra-ordinary summit on the future of the community.

 

On the sidelines of the AU meeting, Tinubu held a bilateral meeting with Ismail Omar Guelleh, Djibouti president.

 

 

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