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Boris Johnson to back bid to overturn Owen Paterson lobbying inquiry


Boris Johnson to back bid to overturn Owen Paterson lobbying inquiry

Boris Johnson will back an unprecedented bid to overthrow an independent inquiry that found the former cabinet minister Owen Paterson committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules.

Tory MPs will be instructed by party whips on Wednesday to avoid imposing an immediate 30-day suspension on their colleague by backing a motion that argues the initial probe by the parliamentary standards commissioner was flawed. Instead, a new committee would be set up to review the evidence.

The body would be chaired by the Conservative backbencher John Whittingdale and consist of four other Tories, three Labour MPs and one from the Scottish National party tasked with examining ways of overhauling the standards process, including giving those accused the power of appeal and making it more consistent with the “principles of natural justice”.

Andrea Leadsom, the former Commons leader, will propose the amendment during a debate on Wednesday about Paterson’s conduct and it is understood the chief whip, Mark Spencer, will tell other Tory MPs to support it.

Last week an investigation by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, concluded Paterson “repeatedly” used his position as an MP to benefit two firms who paid him as a consultant. Her report said he worked for Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods and had made approaches to the Food Standards Agency and Department for International Development ministers about the companies.

Paterson said he was not guilty and “a fair process would exonerate me”. He described the process as “a major contributory factor” in the death of his wife, Rose, who killed herself last year.

A number of MPs are supporting Paterson and trying to overturn or dilute the standards committee recommendation of a 30-day suspension from parliament.

The amendment set to be proposed by Leadsom tomorrow will say that a new committee should report its findings by the start of February 2022, with a motion proposing changes to the standards committee system presented to the Commons within five days.

Other bids will also be launched to spare Paterson a long ban from parliament that could trigger a byelection. Tory MPs Dr Julian Lewis, William Wragg and Peter Bone have proposed he face no sanction “on compassionate grounds” related to his wife’s death.

Whether the amendments are selected will be a matter for the Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle. He will announce on Wednesday afternoon which – if any – will be voted on when MPs begin a 90-minute debate on the report into Paterson released last week.

Bernard Jenkin, one of four Tory MPs who sits on the standards committee, recused himself from discussions during the investigation as he is a close friend of Paterson’s. Jenkin was said to have played a role in mobilising MPs to vote to prevent his suspension. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative party leader, has also tried to drum up support for Paterson among the 2019 intake of Tory MPs.

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP and chair of the standards committee, said Leadsom’s amendment would be unjust. He told the Guardian: “The definition of injustice is you change the rules in the midst of the process. This would create a special system for one person and is completely unfair.”

His committee found Paterson broke multiple rules when he lobbied the government on behalf of Randox, a clinical diagnostics company, and Lynn’s Country Foods, a processor and distributor of meat products. The committee’s report said: “No previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests.”

Paterson claimed he was acting as a whistleblower when he raised concerns about bacon and milk standards with the Food Standards Agency and Department for International Development but the commissioner said his mitigation “did not meet the conditions for this exemption”.

On only two occasions since the second world war have suspensions been contested in the Commons, it is thought, but never has one been downgraded or removed. A senior Tory MP said: “It’s a question of tempering justice with mercy. I do wonder – in the context of what he’s been through – if triggering a recall petition is an appropriate sanction.”

Thangham Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the Commons, said if Leadsom’s amendment passed, it would signal a “return to the worst of the 1990s Tory sleaze culture”. She added: “The Tories want to jettison the systems that has served us well and which has been a vital part of rebuilding public trust after the dark days of Tory sleaze this government seems determined to return to.”

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Chief Of Defence Staff Says Military Under Pressure To Compromise 2023 Polls

The Nigerian military on Thursday revealed that despite the fact that it is facing constant pressure to compromise the 2023 elections, it will continue to be neutral.

General Lucky Irabor,  Chief of Defence Staff disclosed this to journalists at the 61st session of the State House Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

According the him, military personnel face pressure through inducements, but the armed forces would remain apolitical as it is taking the necessary measures to ensure compliance with the directive of the President Muhammadu Buhari  to maintain neutrality.

Irabor added that personnel are being trained to be more professional even as the rules of engagement have been codified for distribution before, during and after the elections.

The CDS also revealed that several military rescue operations and negotiations have led to the freeing of at least 300,000 people from the hands of their abductors since 2014 while refugees who fled the North-East due to insurgency, have started to return.

He said that former insurgents, now being trained, would graduate in February next year before their reintegration into the society. He added that the military is recruiting more personnel into all branches of the security services.

The goal, Irabor said, is to increase the number of on-the-ground personnel to combat insurgency and banditry and curtail oil theft which will eventually lead to increased crude oil production.

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ICPC Arraigns NSCDC Official Over N12m job Scam

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has arraigned a Superintendent of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Solomon Ogodo, over allegations bordering on forgery, employment racketeering, and fraud.

ICPC, in charge no: CR/503/2022 brought before Justice M.S. Idris of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting in Jabi, Abuja, accused the defendant of defrauding unsuspecting job seekers the N12.2 million.

In the five-count charge, the commission told the court that the accused person on different occasions hoodwinked members of the public into parting with different sums of money in the guise of securing employment for their relatives in the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCoS).

The court was further informed of how Mr. Ogodo, with the intent to commit fraud, forged offers of provisional appointments for some applicants into the Nigeria Correctional Services.

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Okonjo Iweala Makes Forbes List Of World’s Most Powerful Women

A former Nigerian minister of finance and current Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been named one of Forbes’s World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2022.

Forbes, an American business magazine owned by Integrated Whale Media Investments and the Forbes family, has a particular focus on business, technology, communications, science, politics, and law.

The African leadership person of the year awards are vote-based and reserved yearly for leading Africans who are making positive impacts and promoting a favourable image of the continent.

Okonjo-Iweala polled over 60 percent of the 15,000 votes in the category at the close of the poll on 2nd of December 2022.

Forbes said, “The World Trade Organization head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (No. 91 of 100) continue to play a crucial role in providing financial assistance and promoting global trade as the threat of a global recession rises.”

Recall that Okonjo-Iweala was recognized by another media platform, Time magazine as one of the world’s most influential people in 2021.

This would be Okonjo-Iweala’s 6th recognition in her career.

Okonjo-iweala reacted on Twitter, saying that she was excited by the awards she had received in her career.

“An honour and a privilege to be part of this list of a very distinguished group of women for the 6th time in my career, Congratulations to my other sisters. Let’s continue to show that good governance, good public policy and a people-centered approach to work matters,” he said.

Winners for the 11th edition of the award shall be presented with the honour on 16th of February 2023, at a ceremony scheduled to be held in Port Louis, Mauritius.

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