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Lawan laments senators’ violation of social distancing rule

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Ahmad Lawan

Bill on virtual court sitting passes first reading
FRSC arrests 396 vehicles, 2,422 passengers for safety breaches

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday expressed concern over senators’ violation of social distancing directive during plenary.While reading votes and proceedings of last Tuesday’s sitting for adoption, Lawan admonished senators at the back role to sit far apart from one another in line with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC’s) precautionary measures against spread of COVID-19.

He specifically cautioned Uche Iyom Ekwunife (PDP Anambra Central) that she was sitting too close to Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC Delta Central), adding that senators should ensure that they wear their face masks at all times in the chamber.

He temporarily halted proceedings to rebuke his colleagues who had been breaching the social distancing rule, stressing that any senator who must speak, should do so with full complement of face mask.

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Besides, in its determination to prevent delay in the dispensation of justice, the Senate passed the first reading of a constitution amendment bill seeking introduction of virtual court sittings in the country.

The Bill titled, “1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2020 (SB. 418),” sponsored by Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), aimed at ensuring amendment of relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, in giving legal teeth to virtual court proceedings.

Provisions of the bill reviewed section 36, stating, “Nothing in this subsection shall invalidate proceedings of a court or a tribunal relating to matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section (including announcement of court or tribunal decisions) where same is held through remote hearing or any virtual means now in existence or yet to be developed.

“Section 36 subsection (12) is hereby amended by adding the following subsection (13): In this section, “remote hearing” means proceedings or hearing of court conducted via zoom, skype, Whatsapp video or any other social media platform or technological innovation.”

Bamidele further explained that section 36 (3) is controversial enough now in terms of requirement of public hearing and determination of disputes, adding, “This endangers the results of proceedings eventually held virtually.”

He stressed that except the amendment was done urgently, judicial functions in the country would remain paralysed, saying, “The bill, being an urgently needed one, needs to be expeditiously considered and passed.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has arrested 396 vehicles conveying over 2,422 passengers in the 12 zonal commands across the country, for violation of directives on physical distancing in vehicles.

A statement issued by the Corps’ Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, disclosed that the highest arrests were recorded in Rivers, Enugu and Kwara states, while Ekiti and Niger states recorded the least arrests.

He gave the breakdown of the arrests as Rivers 67, Enugu 48, Kwara 47, Sokoto 37, Adamawa 36, Delta 31 and Oyo 23. Others are, Kaduna and Bauchi with 16 arrests each, Ebonyi 14, while Lagos and Ondo recorded 11 arrests each.

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