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Government ‘rows back’ on PM’s pledge to sanction tech bosses

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Government ‘rows back’ on PM’s pledge to sanction tech bosses

Government sources have rowed back on Boris Johnson’s apparent commitment to criminal sanctions for tech company bosses who fail to tackle harmful or illegal content.

However, the new culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, who has first-hand experience of online abuse, is minded to take a tougher approach on sanctions than her predecessor Oliver Dowden, though she is still taking advice.

During prime minister’s questions, Johnson appeared to agree with Keir Starmer that the delayed online harms bill would include a commitment to possible criminal sanctions.

The proposals already include deferred powers on new criminal offence and the bill already contains the power to issue fines, but any change to immediately implement criminal sanctions would be a significant hardening of the proposals.

Johnson promised to present the bill to parliament before Christmas in the wake of the killing of Sir David Amess. That prospect was also later played down by Whitehall sources, saying that would give them just five days to re-draft the bill between the pre-legislative scrutiny committee reporting and the bill being presented.

Pressed by Starmer on what measures he would take, Johnson agreed with the idea of a cross-party approach but also peppered his responses with partisan criticisms, prompting some shouts of complaint in the Commons.

Starmer began his questions by noting the tributes to Amess, the veteran Conservative backbencher who was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery on Friday, given by MPs from all parties in the Commons on Monday.

“I want to see if we can use that collaborative spirit to make progress on one of the issues that was raised on Monday – tackling violent extremism,” Starmer said, asking about progress for the online safety bill, first mooted three years ago.

Starmer said: “Will the prime minister build on the desire shown by this house on Monday to get things done, and commit to bringing forward the second reading of the online safety bill by the end of this calendar year? If he does, we’ll support it.”

Johnson replied by initially pledging the bill would complete all its stages before Christmas, before correcting himself – seemingly at the prompting of the home secretary, Priti Patel, who was sitting next to him – to say he would “bring it forward before Christmas in the way that he suggests – and I’m delighted that he is offering his support”.

Starmer then pressed on potential changes to the proposed bill, saying: “Tough sanctions are clearly needed, yet under the government’s current proposals, directors of platforms failing to crack down on extremism would still not face criminal sanctions. Why is that?”

In a later answer, Johnson appeared to agree to this, saying: “And yes, of course we will have criminal sanctions with tough sentences for those who are responsible for allowing this foul content to permeate the internet.”

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Bauchi pays N3.418bn in outstanding gratuities

The Bauchi State Pensions Board has announced that, from May 2019 to date, the state government has paid N3,418,288,11.68 in outstanding gratuities owed to retired civil servants.

The Chairman of the Board, Senator Bala Adamu Kariya, made the disclosure at the ongoing ministerial press briefing in Bauchi, held at the State Secretariat.

Although Senator Kariya did not specify the total gratuity backlog, he noted that it exceeds N20 billion.

He stated that since the inception of the current Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration in 2019, a total of 4,273 people have retired, and 677 have died while in service, out of 4,948 files processed.

“The Board processes the files of civil servants due for retirement. We are the custodians of the processed files of all state civil servants who have retired,” the chairman stated.

Senator Adamu, however, said that in order to avoid further accumulation of pension and gratuity liabilities, the state government intends to commence the implementation of the proposed contributory pension scheme on June 30, 2021.

“As a sign of commitment, His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, appointed a 20-member committee, including a staff member of Messrs Premium Pension Ltd for technical guidance under the chairmanship of Mr. Abdon Dalla Gin (Special Adviser on Civil Service Matters).”

“In line with the Terms of Reference to the Committee, a final report with a draft bill has been carefully produced, tapping from the 2004 Act, 2014 revised Act, and previous efforts of successive state administrations like the 2005 and 2017 draft bills, and was presented to His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, as appropriate.”

He recalled that Governor Bala Mohammed had presented the report to the State Executive Council for consideration and approval, following which a draft bill was forwarded to the State House of Assembly for further legislative process in line with the laid down constitutional procedure.

“After gathering the necessary stakeholders’ input, the State House of Assembly then ratified the draft and returned the same to the Executive Governor for assent. Consequently, on August 5, 2022, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, assented to the bill enacted by the State House of Assembly.”

“It was named the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme. The law also provided for the establishment of the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Commission.”

“The state governor approved the constitution of another high-powered committee under the chairmanship of Ibrahim Muhammad Kashim, the Secretary to the State Government, to facilitate the full implementation process of the new scheme in the state.”

Kariya further explained that prior to this development, the state government appointed two firms of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), who have now engaged stakeholders in a massive sensitization, advocacy, and enlightenment of the scheme across the state.

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Two-storey building collapses in Abuja

A two-storey residential building in Phase 2, site 2, Kubwa Abuja has collapsed

The building collapsed on Saturday morning at about 7:00am.

It was learnt that the building was formerly a hotel, Al-Hilal, but was converted to a residential apartment.

It was gathered that several people are currently trapped in the rubble.

As at time of filing this report, emergency responders and security personnel were at the scene.

 

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Police to enforce e-CMR compliance from July 29

The Nigeria Police Force have given all motor users 14 days to register their vehicles with the newly-introduced digitalized Central Motor Registration (e-CMR), which will end on July 29, to begin the enforcement of its compliance in order to checkmate the rate of vehicle-related crimes and other offenses.

In a press release, the Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, informed that the move is part of the efforts of the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun, to enhance the security of lives and property and significantly boost the nation’s safety.

The release further stated that the exercise is an advanced form of helping security agencies, mostly the Police Force, in their investigations and operational activities to combat vehicle-related crimes, including terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other social vices.

It also stated that the introduction of the e-CMR digitalized system will help streamline the documentation and verification process for vehicle ownership and related transactions.

“Following the directives of the IGP, services such as change of ownership, change of license number, change of engine, and change of chassis/body would become seamless as the e-CMR system would ensure the validation of vehicle genuineness and ownership, enhancing the ability to track and recover stolen vehicles effectively, and preventing the purchase of stolen vehicles by innocent buyers.

“Prior to the enforcement itself, the IGP has ordered full publicity of the e-CMR and its enforcement to all members of the public, intimating them of the requirements, processes, and the enforcement procedures. Members of the public are urged to obtain the digitalized CMR certificate online at https://cmris.npf.gov.ng.

‘For further inquiries, individuals can contact the CMR Command Centre at FHQ Abuja (08117777666, 09169892000) and FHQ Annex Lagos (08117777555, 09169891000). Technical support is also available at cmftech@npfcmr.ng,” the release partly stated.

Following this new development, the Nigeria Police have enjoined members of the public to participate in the exercise by ensuring that all vehicle users comply with the new directive, maintaining that the initiative, which is in line with modern technology, remains a strategic approach to enhance public safety and national security.

ACP Adejobi further stated that the enforcement of the e-CMR is necessary to ensure a safer and more secure environment for vehicle ownership and to decimate the trend of vehicle theft by greatly reducing the possibility of selling stolen vehicles in the country.

“We therefore urge all vehicle owners and users to embrace and participate in this initiative promptly for optimum safety and security,” he stated.

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