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Ministers’ conduct needs to be properly policed, review says

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Ministers’ conduct needs to be properly policed, review says

The prime minister should no longer be the only person who can give permission for ethics investigations into his own conduct and that of ministers, according to a wide-ranging review by the independent committee on standards in public life.

The committee, chaired by former spy chief Jonathan Evans, found that the rules around the conduct of ministers need strengthening, arguing they currently fall “below the bar” for effective standards regulation.

In its “landscape review” of standards in public life, it made nine recommendations, including major changes to the ministerial code of conduct, which is overseen by the prime minister.

It follows widespread calls for reform of the system after Boris Johnson’s previous adviser on ministers’ interests, Sir Alex Allan, resigned after a report into the conduct of Priti Patel, the home secretary, was ignored.

Following an investigation into allegations that Patel engaged in bullying behaviour, Allan found she had “not consistently met the high standards expected of her”, but a government statement said the PM had full confidence in her and considered the matter “closed”.

Since then, Johnson has appointed a new adviser, Christopher Geidt, a former senior aide to the Queen, whose first task was investigating the controversial Downing Street refurbishment that involved Johnson borrowing money from a Tory donor via the Conservative party.

Lord Geidt concluded that Johnson had acted in an “unwise” manner without having breached the rules.

At the moment, the PM is the only person with the power to order investigations into the conduct of ministers, including himself, and is the one to appoint the independent adviser who carries out investigations.

However, the committee on standards in public life said the independent adviser on ministerial interests should instead be appointed by a panel made up predominantly of independent members.

It also recommended that the adviser should be able to initiate their own investigations, have the authority to determine breaches of the code and see their report published within eight weeks of submission to the PM.

On the ministerial code itself, the report said it needed to have a constitutional footing laid down in law, with any revisions subject to advice from the independent adviser, and possible sanctions for breaches should be set out including apologies, fines and asking for a minister’s resignation.

The committee also recommended a strengthening of the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba), which governs the revolving door between government and the private sector by advising on lobbying and jobs taken on by former ministers and officials.

It said the current ban on officials and ministers lobbying for two years after leaving their post should be able to be extended to up to five years, and any work for a lobbying firm should be included in the ban, rather than just a prohibition on direct lobbying.

“The lack of any meaningful sanctions for a breach of the rules is no longer sustainable,” the report said, suggesting injunctions against lobbying work could be sought or means of recouping severance or pension payments.

Thirdly, it said there needed to be further reforms to the powers of the commissioner for public appointments, which oversees jobs for top civil servants and at public bodies, to make sure appointment panels are independent.

Evans, a former director general of MI5, said the committee had concluded that the “current system of standards regulation is overly dependent on convention”. The recommendations were necessary to “restore public confidence in the regulation of ethical standards in government”, he added.

In response, Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union for senior civil servants, said the recommendation that the independent adviser should be able to initiate investigations was “essential if the code is to have a meaningful independent function”.

“There can be no hiding from the fact that the current prime minister has undermined confidence in the ministerial code as a meaningful regulator of ministerial conduct,” Penman said.

The recommendations were endorsed by Sir John Major, the former Tory prime minister who first set up the committee.

In a foreword, Major said the committee “makes many important recommendations that I hope will be approved by the government – and, where necessary, parliament – and then implemented”.

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, said her party welcomed the report, and many of its recommendations had previously been called for by Labour.

“Boris Johnson and his Conservative colleagues’ actions have repeatedly undermined standards in our public life,” she said.

“The system that is supposed to uphold the ministerial code, lobbying rules, business appointments, public appointments and transparency is clearly unfit for purpose.

“Ministers have disregarded the rules and it is about time for a radical overhaul of the system.”

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I Will Soon Start Signing Death Warrants- Bala Mohammed

Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed has disclosed that he will soon start to sign death warrants.

Mohammed made this known on Friday in Bauchi while signing the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill and a bill for the establishment of the Bauchi state penal code, into law.

In Nigeria, state governors are legally backed to sign the death warrants.

Since 2012, no governor has been reported to have signed death warrants.

“We will soon be signing some death sentences because there are many and because of justice which has to be taken to a logical conclusion

“I know some governors are running away from signing the death sentences because they exercise restraints on the basis that there may be some element of error.

“But to me, I will leave it to my lord (the chief judge) who will prosecute. It’s not my fault. If it is brought to my attention, I will do it.”

“As for the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, we know that we are the first in the northern part of the country to enact the law, which is a member’s bill incidentally from the honourable speaker, and it has earned us a lot of respect in the country.

“But because of some noticed gaps, it was taken back and it was corrected. We thank the house for making the corrections.”

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Court Sacks 13 Ebonyi LG Bosses, 171 Councilors

A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki has again nullified the Ebonyi Local Government Elections and sacked all the 13 Council chairmen in the state.

The court also sacked all the councilors and 171 ward chairmen of the state.

The court had on Aug. 25, nullified the council polls of May 31.

Ruling on the matter with suit NO: FHC/AI/CS/224/2022 on Friday, Justice Fatun Riman ordered the seizure of the monthly federal allocation of the chairmen pending when rightful Chief Executives were elected into office.

Fatun restated that the councils election by the State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) on May 31 was illegal and unconstitutional.

Mr Mudi Erenede, Counsel to the plaintiff said he was happy over the judgment and commended the court.

“In the judgement today, the court has agreed that the Ebonyi State High court has no powers to override or set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court because it is not an Appeal Court.

“Those people, who are parading themselves as chairmen are not there legally.

“They were appointed by whoever that appointed them. CBN, Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance are all defendants in this suits,” he stated.

The counsel to Ebonyi State Government, Mr Roy Nweze, said there was no need responding to a judgment that had already been delivered by the court.

Nweze said that the matter would be appealed without delay.

(NAN)

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Naval College Graduates 245 Officers, Personnel

The newly graduated personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 of the Nigerian Naval Engineering College (NNEC), Sapele in Delta, have been urged to remain committed to the service of the nation.

Rear Adm. Monday Unurhiere, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Naval Training Command, made the plea at the graduation ceremony of the 245 Under Training Personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 in Sapele.

Unurhiere, represented by Rear Adm. Baratuaipri Iyalla, said that the call became necessary in view of the security, economic and social challenges currently facing the country.

The naval chief urged the graduands to make deliberate efforts to improve themselves on the job by way of taking advantage of modern technology and also tapping into the wealth of experience of their superiors.

“Let me remind you that as officers of the Nigerian Navy, you are charged with enormous responsibility and your unswerving allegiance is to the Nation.

“The confidence reposed in you must not be taking for granted, especially at this time that our national aspirations are being threatened by numerous security, economic and social challenges.

“As such, you may find yourself being called upon to serve beyond your technical capability due to the prevailing situation in the country,” he said.

Unurhiere acknowledged the efforts of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, for creating the enabling environment for training and continued financial support to NNEC.

According to him, this has helped the College to contribute more to the technological advancement of Nigerian Navy and the nation at large.

He urged the graduands, especially the under training personnel, to maintain the current tempo in sustaining training and other naval activities.

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