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PM urged to enact ‘David’s law’ against social media abuse after Amess’s death

David’s law

PM urged to enact ‘David’s law’ against social media abuse after Amess’s death

Boris Johnson is facing calls to enact “David’s law” to crack down on social media abuse of public figures and end online anonymity in the wake of the killing of Sir David Amess.

Dozens of MPs paid tribute in the House of Commons on Monday to the veteran Conservative backbencher who was stabbed to death on Friday, shedding tears, sharing uproarious anecdotes and venting anger over his death.

While police are investigating whether there are any links to Islamist extremism and have not connected the killing to the targeting of MPs online, allies of Amess said he had voiced growing concern about threats and toxicity within public discourse as they demanded a crackdown.

Campaigners have warned, however, that ending online anonymity could put whistleblowers and pro-democracy campaigners in authoritarian regimes at risk. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told the Commons that “civility in politics matters” but “we must not lose sight of the fact that David’s killing was an [alleged] act of terror on the streets of our country”.

Mark Francois, who described Amess as one of his closest friends and his political mentor, vowed he would dedicate his time in parliament to overhauling the rules governing social media.

Francois told the Commons he was “minded to drag Mark Zuckerberg [CEO of Facebook] and Jack Dorsey [CEO of Twitter] to the bar of the house … if necessary kicking and screaming so they can look us all in the eye and account for their actions or rather their inactions that make them even richer than they already are”.

He said MPs should radically toughen up the pending online harms bill to prevent trolls and other abusers hiding behind pseudonyms. “In the last few years David had become increasingly concerned about what he called the toxic environment in which MPs, particularly female MPs, were having to operate in,” Francois said.

“He was appalled by what he called the vile misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me very recently that he wanted something done about it.”

Francois, the MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, which neighbours Amess’s Southend West constituency, added: “I suggest that if we want to ensure that our colleague didn’t die in vain, we collectively all of us pick up the baton, regardless of our party and take the forthcoming online harms bill and toughen it up markedly.

“Let’s put, if I may be so presumptuous, David’s law on to the statute book, the essence of which would be that while people in public life must remain open to legitimate criticism, they can no longer be vilified or their families subject to the most horrendous abuse, especially from people who hide behind a cloak of anonymity with the connivance of the social media companies for profit.”

Bernard Jenkin said MPs should also examine themselves when discussing civility in politics, a nod to some of the disturbing language used during Brexit debates. “Which of us has never felt fallen prey to feelings of contempt or lack of respect or unkindness towards those who oppose us? Which of us can honestly say we cannot do better?” He said kindness should be added to the seven principles of public life. “Henceforth, let kindness be known as the David Amess principle of public life.”

Amess, an MP for 38 of his 69 years, was stabbed to death while holding his constituency surgery in an Essex church. Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was arrested at the scene and continues to be detained under terrorism laws.

The government intends to pass an online safety bill introducing new obligations on social media companies to regulate illegal and harmful material – though there has been significant controversy over how that can be defined. Compliance will be monitored by Ofcom and the bill is expected to start its passage after pre-legislative scrutiny set to report back in early December.

Paying tribute to “one of the nicest, kindest and most gentle individuals ever to grace these benches”, Johnson said Amess’s killing struck at the heart of the ordinary democratic work of MPs. “That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this house but not one day in ministerial office tells everything about where his priorities lay,” he said.

“He was not a man in awe of this chamber, nor a man who sought patronage or advancement. He simply wanted to serve the people of Essex, first in Basildon, then in Southend. And it was in the act of serving his constituents that he was so cruelly killed.”

Starmer said: “Even as a political opponent he was a man and a politician we could all learn much from. I use that phrase – ‘political opponent’ – very deliberately. Because David held his beliefs passionately but gently. I believe that not only can we learn from that but that we have a duty to do so. Civility in politics matters.”

Starmer spoke to the parents of Jo Cox, the Labour MP murdered by a far-right terrorist in 2016, on Friday, he said. “I knew they would be reliving that terrible day. They said to me they were thinking of David’s family and how their lives would be changed forever,” he said.

Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, also said it was a moment to reflect on political discourse and a “day-to-day brutality with which our political debate is conducted, from increasingly regular death threats to online abuse”. The police team convened after his wife’s murder to investigate threats against MPs found 582 reports of malicious communications and handled 46 cases of harassment between 2016 and 2020, he said. Nine cases were classified as terrorism-related.

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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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