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Lawan appoints Senator Biobarakuma as Chairman of new Committee

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President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has appointed Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eriemenyo as the first Chairman of the Oil, Gas and Host Communities Committee.

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Biobarakuma who represents Bayelsa East Senatorial district, is from the South South geo-political zone of the country.

The Committee is a new Committee of the upper chamber.

Lawan unveiled the Committee in an announcement moments before the upper chamber adjourned plenary on Tuesday.

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The announcement of the new committee comes a week after the Senate amended its 2015 Standing Rules.

Prior to the amendment of the Rules, Lawan had explained that the exercise was intended to accommodate Committees hitherto created under the 8th Senate and not captured in the Standing Orders.

Chairman of the Rules and Business Committee, Senator Sulieman Sadiq Umar, on his part, said the amendment of the rules by the chamber was “to accommodate issues that will make such Orders dynamic to facilitate effective legislative process.”

According to the new Rules, Senators can be members of not more than seven Committees at a time, while committee membership consist of not less than seven members and not more that twenty members at most.

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Nigeria Newspapers

NLNG, NMDPRA partner do boost domestic gas supply

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From Uche Usim, Abuja

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The Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Mr Farouk Ahmed on Tuesday gave assurances that the Authority was ready to partner with the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) towards solving Nigeria’s poor energy nightmare; by boosting local cooking gas supply and assuring that other fuels required for  transportation and power generation were also in adequate supply.

Ahmed gave the assurance when he received the management of the NLNG on a courtesy visit to his office.

He commended the NLNG for its focus on prioritizing domestic supply which has had a significant impact on deepening gas consumption in the country.

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The NMDPRA helmsman reiterated the Federal Government’s goal of deepening LPG/CNG especially for Autogas as an alternative to Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to cushion the effect in a situation of upward spike in oil prices.

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Meanwhile, the Managing Director, NLNG, Dr Philip Mshelbila, said the Company will continue to prioritize the growing domestic LPG market and increase utilization by supplying 100%, it’s Propane and  Butane production.

Mshelbila also revealed the ongoing plans of the NLNG to commence operation for the Nigerian domestic LNG market this year,  in line with the government’s plans to boost local consumption.

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He explained that the move was part of the NLNG’s dedication to participate in industrializing Nigeria by providing efficient energy in line with the Federal Government’s developmental initiatives and as one of the two focus areas of the company. Their other area of focus is to remain globally competitive.

He pledged the Company’s dedication and commitment to making Nigeria an energy-sufficient nation.

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Nigeria Newspapers

Osinbajo task Judiciary on Speedy trial, appointment of Justice, salary structure 

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According to Osinbajo, “there is also no question that the expeditious delivery of justice cannot wait any longer. The reputation of our system for repeatedly resulting in what the UK court of appeal described as “catastrophic delays” must be reversed.

We can do better. We have to do better. Our problems are ours, not for spirits, to solve. We must be deliberate in our approach. We must rediscover those attributes that made Nigeria’s judiciary a supplier of high caliber judicial personnel to other countries on the continent.

“Devising workable solutions to the problem of delays in the justice delivery system and the implementation of a court monitoring scheme are the remaining areas of focus.”

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The Vice President said that the system in the welfare conditions of the judicial officers must be strengthened to make them live above board and to also attract the best brains into the bench.

He challenged the bar to use the summit to address the issue of long delay in the disposal of cases in the nation’s court, as such he stated goes a long way in determining how other nations see Nigerian and want to invest in the country.

The VP faulted the way and manner appointees are been scrutinize, adding that the take-a-bow policy be discarded, adding that appointment issues should no longer be treated with kids’ gloves.

On the question of appointments, I think it is fair to say that for practically any job at all, no matter how menial or exalted, it is the norm that the applicant will go through some process of evaluation and interview. The rigour of such processes usually depends on the enormity of the responsibility the applicant is to bear, and ultimately, the outcome considered reasonable from such an exercise is that it is the best from amongst the applicants that will emerge successful.

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This is why it is quite frankly stunning that the process for evaluation and interview of judges, men and women statutorily empowered to literarily determine the lives and livelihoods of others is one of the least rigorous processes imaginable.

In the United Kingdom from where we derive most of the structures of our judicature, applicants to judicial office in superior courts go through several screening processes, at some point, it was 17 stages, including written examinations, interviews and role-play exercises. They are subjected to rigorous background investigations covering professional credentials and abilities, public records, judicial pronouncements, and personal financial affairs; evaluation by the Bar Association on Integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. And in the US, Supreme Court appointments involve rigorous public screening by the Senate, which sifts through the entire public, and sometimes private lives of candidates. That is the nature of the rigour that anyone who should hold the power of life and death, and power over other people’s livelihoods, should go through. It shouldn’t be a “take a bow” situation at all. It must be rigorous because the moment the person is appointed into a high office of that sort, they are unleashed as it were on the rest of us.

The robustness and transparency of the processes in these jurisdictions provide comfort to the candidates of the fairness of the selection process and enables the public to have front-row seat in some of these processes.”

Also, while we ask for the best from our judicial officers, we must equally ensure that the conditions under which they operate are not only befitting but are good enough to attract the best of minds in our profession. Judicial remuneration and welfare are critical. Why should a judge earn so much less than a federal legislator?  There is no basis for it whatsoever. We should in fact benchmark without necessarily creating fresh new legislation because the Legislature doesn’t have any legislation about their own salaries.

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If we benchmark what a federal judicial officer/Court of Appeal Judge earns to what a House of Representatives member earns, you’d find a startling difference. If you benchmark a Supreme Court Justice to what a Senator earns, you’d notice the difference. If we start that quick process now, we would not have to go through the rigorous process of legislation. We would just benchmark the salaries even if we are going to call it allowances.

The truth of the matter is that the responsibilities of the judge or justice of the Supreme Court/Court of Appeal are such they must be well remunerated. They are such that when they retire, they must be able to go to homes that they own in decent places where they live. That’s the way it should be. We shouldn’t have a situation where judges are anxious that when they retire, they won’t have homes to go to, because their salaries today can’t build anything decent.  We must ensure that these are the conditions that are met.

Also speaking at the event, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), called for more transparency and openness in the administration of the budgets of both the Judiciary and Legislative arms of government.

The AGF who was responding to questions at the opening plenary, noted that the judiciary has consistently lamented poor funding and yet no one can tell how the money allocated to them was been expended.

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He further stated that for the issue of inadequate funding to be addressed in the judiciary, there must be a system in place that will allow the financial books to be opened. “The starting point is transparency and accountability … let the books be opened”, he said.

According to the AGF, even though the budgetary allocation of the judiciary is higher than that of the National Assembly, the lawmakers seem to be better off than the judiciary, so there is the need to know how much is provided and how it is applied.

The same way that the executive opens its books for public scrutiny, the same way the legislators and the judiciary should open theirs”, he stated.

On the issue of appointment of judges, Malami advocated the need for a legislation that will remove all bottlenecks that take away merit in the process of selecting and appointing judicial officers.

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He maintained that the current guidelines used in selecting and appointing judges promote incompetence, adding that the consideration of federal character principle further robs the bench of merit when appointments are been made.

Meanwhile, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba who described Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as one of his heroes commended him for his contributions to the transformation of the Lagos State judiciary during his tenure as Attorney General.

Agbakoba recalled the efforts made by Professor Osinbajo in driving judicial reforms in Lagos and described him as his hero especially in leading the charge for justice sector transformation in Nigeria.

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According to him, “two heroes that I have, one is actually the Vice President, as Attorney General of Lagos State, you delivered quick and straight to the point, and things worked.”

The former NBA President noted that as Attorney General in Lagos State, Osinbajo won the hearts of many through his pragmatic leadership of the justice sector in the State.

In similar vein,  Justice  Amina Augie of the Supreme Court,  noted that during his tenure as Attorney General of Lagos State, the VP “did a wonderful job and things worked well at the time.”

The Justice of the Supreme Court explained that “in those days when our Vice President was Attorney General of Lagos State, I participated in at least 3 stakeholders’ forum in which papers were presented on what the government wanted to do in the justice sector in Lagos. Each time before he came up with a new law like the one on Civil Procedure and the rest of them, they held stakeholders’ forum and got contributions from everyone.

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They had a sort of synergy and it worked for everybody, and before you knew it, Lagos State would have come up with a new law that becomes a template that other states now followed.”

Earlier in his  welcome address,  President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olumide Akpata, noted that the declining state of the nation’s justice sector was the major reason for the convocation of the summit.

“Today, I believe that our call to action must begin from our admission of the state of affairs of our administration of justice that we are thoroughly dissatisfied with. There is a convergence of opinion of both the Bar and the Bench that the Nigerian justice delivery system is not operating at its optimal best”, he said.

Among the issues the NBA President said would be looked into at the summit, is the process of appointment into the bench of various courts in the country which “must be manned by not just the best hands we can find but also by incorruptible minds”.

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He urged stakeholders to commit to statutory and constitutional reforms, institutional and funding reforms, and manpower reforms for the desired change to take place.

“The lips service that we have paid to these reforms over the years must stop from today”, he said, while appealing to both the bar and bench to uproot every divisive tendency that is hampering the effectiveness of the justice sector in Nigeria.

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