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When Senate moved to improve health funding

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When Senate moved to improve health funding

CHUKWU DAVID reports the concerns raised by the Senate on the pathetic state of the primary health centres across Nigeria and the need to increase the funding of the various health centres in the country

 

 

In its early moves to begin to impact positively on the polity, by coming up with legislations or policies towards delivering good governance to the people of Nigeria, the Ninth Senate last Thursday, made far reaching resolutions on how rejuvenate the primary health centres across the country.

Consequently, during its plenary session, the apex legislative chamber, resolved to increase the budgetary allocation for management of primary health care, as a means of reviving the sector, which is currently comatose.

As part of its holistic proposal to rejuvenate the primary health care delivery in the country, the Senate also urged the Federal Ministry of Health to create awareness on the benefits of health and life insurance to the people of Nigeria, and the need for them to embrace the policy.

The Upper Chamber further directed the Ministry of Employment to put policies in place to ensure that every employer of labour has insurance package for employees, as this is currently not the case in most establishments, particularly the private sector in the country.

The apex legislative chamber also directed the Ministry of Health to ensure that government-backed Health Insurance Scheme was accessible to all citizens just as it also urged the same Ministry at the federal and state levels to encourage medical technological innovation in primary health facilities.

The Senate made these resolutions while considering a motion entitled, “the need for increased funding to primary health care”, sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, representing Lagos Central on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and co-sponsored by 106 other senators.

Leading debate on the motion, Senator Tinubu noted that primary health care is a grassroots, community based initiative that provides health care services to communities, asserting that it was universally accepted that access to health care for all was only possible through prevalence and accessibility of Primary Health Care.

Tinubu further recalled that the Primary Health Care in Nigeria was adopted in 1988 by the National Health Policy to provide promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services, expressing concerns that a lot of the problems in Nigeria’s Health Sector could be traced to low performance of the Primary Health Care facilities.

The politician pointed out that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Primary Health Care would meet 80 -90% of a person’s health needs over the course of their life.

She expressed worries that the World Bank Service Delivery Indicators Survey showed that though available, performance of the Primary Health Care was hampered by lack of financial resources, infrastructure deficit, insufficiency/ lack of drugs, equipment and vaccines, among other encumbrances.

The politician drew the attention of the Senate to an information in a health journal, published by Frontiers in Public Health, which claimed that only about 20% of the thirty thousand (30,000) Primary Health Care Centres in Nigeria were working, with most of them lacking capacity to provide essential health services.

Tinubu lamented that due to the failure of Primary Health Care and the belief that it was for lower-income earners, there had been an influx of patients to Secondary and Tertiary Health Care Facilities in the country, which had in turn, exposed this level of health care system to undue pressure.

Contributing to the debate, Senator Chimaronke Nnamani, representing Enugu East on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who also seconded the motion, said that the primary health centers came about as a result of the Alma mater declaration of health for all by the year 2000.

He lamented that the primary health care centres had been abandoned by successive government, thereby making it difficult for the sector to accomplish the purpose for which it was set up.

He said: “the problem with the primary care centers is that they are orphaned institutions. Nobody has been able to appropriate ownership of these health centers; is it the local government, state government or the National Primary Healthcare Agency which also takes care of immunization through NDI?

“As the 9th assembly unfolds it’s legislative agenda in the area of health, we hope that the primary healthcare that forms a certain geographical area will form a nexus for integrated healthcare which will in terms of health, cover maternity services, follow the index child through immunization up to age five eight, follow that child through to age 18”.

All other senators who contributed, supported the motion and commended Senator Tinubu for coming up with the initiative, urging that all relevant stakeholders in the country should join hands and work towards proper funding of the Primary health care, for accessible, affordable and efficient service delivery to Nigerians.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, stressed the importance of the primary health care to Nigerians particularly the rural dwellers, noting that the last assembly acknowledged this by appropriating 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the health centre.

He however, urged that there should be prudence, transparency, probity and accountability in the way and manner the resources were deployed, so that the purpose of providing additional funds to the health sector would be actualised.

His word: “I want to commend all of us for our various interventions and support for this very important motion by Senator Oluremi Tinubu. I know that in the Eight National Assembly, we passed additional funding for the health centre; one percent of the consolidated revenue fund. That has brought about N60 billion into the health sector.

“However, I believe that the health centre needs more. But it is also important that there is prudence, transparency, probity and accountability in the way and manner the resources are deployed.

“The primary health centres are at the grassroots where our constituents ought to benefit from the social funding of the centre. When our standing committee on health is reconstituted, it is something we have to oversight very well. We must ensure that everything is streamlined”.

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We stopped fulanisation of the South in the First Republic, we’ll do it again –Amaechi

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We stopped fulanisation of the South in the First Republic, we’ll do it again –Amaechi

Chief Mbazulike Amaechi was a Minister of Aviation during the First Republic. He spoke with KENNETH OFOMA on the spate of insecurity in the country amidst the RUGA controversy. Excerpts…

 

What is your take on the recent killing of the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti?

 

I am very concerned about the statement by the Commissioner of Police, that she was not killed by Fulani herdsmen, but by other kidnappers and armed robbers, when the police had not even started investigation. I have been telling people; this Fulani thing is sponsored by some people in government, it is part of an agenda; fulanisation of Nigeria. I have been saying it, they started this thing at the time of Uthman Danfodio, it stopped at Lafia. Again, in 1962, some people wanted to extend the fulanisation agenda to Benue and from Benue to Nsukka, Cross River and Ogoja area. But because we were in government, we stopped it, and particularly with the help of the then Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, who did not support the Sardauna’s programme.

 

The thing stopped. Now, there is a Fulani man who fanatically believe in the resuscitation of Uthman Danfodio’s conquest, and he wants to extend the whole thing, using some minions in the South. The government of Nigeria is responsible for what is happening and they will be held responsible if they break up this country.

 

They are moving towards breaking up this federation.

 

But the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, also said the Fulanis should not be stigmatised for the killing. Don’t you agree with him?

 

Who is taking Tinubu seriously?

 

Apart from being a governor in Lagos State, what is Tinubu in Nigeria? Nobody should take Tinubu serious at all.

 

Your friend and contemporary, Tanko Yakassai, was quoted to have said that Ndigbo should support the RUGA settlement or forget 2023 Igbo presidency. How do you see that?

 

The Igbos should first of all get ready to fight for presidency in 2023.

 

Are they seriously working towards it?

 

 

They should start first of all now to organise and mobilise; I have asked them to come to me, they don’t want to listen.

 

Each person is pursuing his own life; presidency cannot just come to them because they said we want to be president. You have to organise, you have to work, you have to strategise, you have to mobilise and they are not doing that.

 

But should the Igbo support RUGA settlement in the South East even when they don’t have land for it?

 

Of course it cannot be. The Fulani RUGA cannot work. Our governors are playing hide and seek game but if they fail to oppose it, the people of Igboland will fight to protect their territory.

 

We have done it before and we stand to do it again.

 

Since the suspension of the RUGA programme, some northern groups, youths and elders have taken up the fight, issuing threats, ultimatum and quit notices. Aren’t you worried about this development?

 

It is for the Nigerian people to decide. By their action, they are provoking action.

 

They are provoking a rebellion in the country and the rebellion or revolution might come. Nobody wants it, I don’t want it; I fought for the freedom of this country, for the unity of this country. I believed in a party that had the slogan of one Nigeria, we never wavered, I believe in that. But not in a one Nigeria where I will be a slave.

 

No.

So, what they are doing now, they are already telling the people of Southern Nigeria that its either they accept the position of slavery or whatever happens, let it happen.

That is the policy now. That the people of Southern Nigeria, including the Middle-belt area, the Christian areas of Nigeria should accept the position of slavery or colony in this country, but it will never happen!

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Baylesa guber: Intrigues as PDP ticket tears Dickson’s group apart

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Baylesa guber: Intrigues as PDP ticket tears Dickson’s group apart

PAULINE ONYIBE writes that the coming Bayelsa governorship election has put so much unrest in the Seriake Dickson camp and that some PDP bigwigs seems not to be on the same page as far as the choice of who succeeds Dickson is concerned.

 

Since the last governorship election in Bayelsa State in 2015 which brought the incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson back to Creek Haven, plans had been on to pick someone who succeeds him as the restoration government rounds off. Political pundits have analysed that the incumbent governor wants to pick his successor by all means to indirectly continue having a voice after his tenure but other powers that be are blocking that. They believe that he has not done so well to bring in a successor.

 

Ofcourse that has created a very big space in the PDP family as the ticket to Creek Haven is now being sought by every Tom, Dick and Harry, something that had never happened in the history of Bayelsa politics.

 

Already so many persons from the restoration government had purchased nomination forms including the Deputy Governor, Gboribiogha John Jonah, a decision Bayelsans believe must have created a negative impact in the government. Others that have also purchased the form include Ambassador Boladei Igali, Barrister Kemela Okara, Chief Benson Agadaga, Honourable Konbowei Benson, the immediate speaker of the state House of Assembly from Southern Ijaw local government.

 

Others are Senator Douye Diri, Talford Ongolo, the chief of staff to the governor, Dr. Franklin Erepamo Osaisai, Fred Agbedi, Reuben Okoya, Pastor Kenebi Okoko, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe and Joshua Maciver. Yet others are on the way as it has been alleged that the person the sitting governor wants to hand over to is yet to pick the form in the person of Dr Nimibofa Ayawei the chairman of Bayelsa State board of internal revenue, who is from Southern Ijaw and a cousin to Dr. Ereepamu Osaisai.

 

Also in the race is Kemela Okara the current Secretary to the State Government, who incidentally is from Bayelsa central and a son of Ekpetiama kingdom where Architect Reuben Okoya and Keniebi Okoko hail from.

 

Another person is Talford Ongolo the Chief of Staff Government House also from Bayelsa Central Southern Ijaw local government who is adjudged by many as not well known and might had been put in the race to dislodge those from that axis. Then comes Douye Diri an incumbent senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District at the 9th National Assembly who also is from central from the same local government with Timi Alaibe who has already bought form. PDP in the state as we know has two camps; that of Jonathan and that of Dickson.

 

While the former president seems to be supporting some aspirants, the governor has his own people that he is supporting. Of course, the APC had earlier opined that the PDP was in disarray but the umbrella party had refuted the allegation saying the party was in order until the recent intrigues that exposed and confirmed the allegation.

 

The restoration government through the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Affairs, Fyneman Wilson, had recently mentioned some names that are being supported by the restoration government.

 

All these are happening after the conclusion of praying and fasting organised by the restoration government to choose the next governor of the state.

 

This, according to some people is an attempt by Dickson, technically trying to dislodge men that have already bought forms as he had repeatedly said that people cannot be outside watching while others are busy making the party attractive only for them to come and pick tickets to become governor. In less than a month, the national secretariat of the PDP has raked in about N364m from the sale of forms, in a state where there had been cry of hunger and poverty.

 

However, the Special Adviser on Political Matters to the Governor, Fyneman Wilson, described the increasing governorship aspirants on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as healthy process to filter the best from the pool.

 

He told journalists in Yenagoa that every member of the party who has the requisite qualification is entitled to contest that election, stating that the party has no preferred candidate in the upcoming election. He said that it is in Dickson’s interest to have as many persons that are willing to contest the election and that they must not be intimidated by others who claim to have been anointed.

 

He denied rumours making the rounds that the restoration government and the PDP has banned people who recently decamped from opposition parties from contesting the election.

 

But a staunch PDP member of the restoration government and Dickson’s representative in Southern Ijaw Local Government, Chief Frank Dogood Bekebo, lamented the nature and manner in which Dickson wants to bring up his successor. Bekebo advised Dickson to be weary of those he called the enemies of the party whom he said the governor has anointed to take over from him both at the local government and state levels.

 

Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, Bekebo advised the governor to remember those that worked for him during his last governorship election instead of trying to anoint those that didn’t work for him. He knocked the governor and the party for denying him the opportunity to test his strength during the forthcoming local government election disclosing that instead of the party to make the buying of the form open, they sold the forms to only one candidate from each of the local governments.

 

He therefore wondered why the PDP now made the picking of the governorship form open for every body adding that they should have also made the local government form open too. In his words, he said: “The government that we supported betrayed my right by appointing people that did not even bring one vote and made them to be flag bearers of the party.

 

We are the people that worked for Dickson to make him governor. When came on board, people were afraid of the governor at that time and we came up and worked for him and places that did not even bring one vote, those are the areas the governor is looking unto. “But we that went and faced the guns, today we are not being carried along. That is not good. First tenure, we worked for him, the second tenure, ward 15 brought the second highest votes in the whole of Bayelsa and I was the ward coordinator. Nothing to show for it. “People that he appointed as commissioners and caretaker chairmen didn’t even bring one vote for him.

 

And if they had killed us that time, our families would have lost us. I wanted to contest for local government election as chairman and to my greatest surprise, I was denied the privilege to buy form

. If they had been stopping people from buying forms in the past, would he have been the governor. It is my right. “I even pity the former speaker, some hoodlums wanted to kill him and he ran to my place and those places did not even bring votes.

some hoodlums wanted to kill him and he ran to my place and those places did not even bring votes. Let him go to his records; how many wards brought votes in his second tenure and people that betrayed Mr Speaker during House of Reps election, those are the people that want to contest election.

 

“Then they expect us to come and work for the party. How can we work for the party? If you want to consider somebody, if he wants to do the real thing, the first person the governor should consider is kombowei, but today we have not seen anything even among the three persons he selected, his name was not there. “Upon all he did to kombowei and his group, today they don’t have anything to say.

 

A serving speaker cannot even install a local government chairman in his own local government. He does not even have one person in the cabinet. That is not the way politics is played. If somebody worked for you, you have to consider those people. “And even him too, they betrayed him in is election and the assembly election. If not because of him, the assembly member would not have won.

 

He brought almost 8,000 votes. Even Douye Diri failed in Kolokuma Opokuma in his own place. He failed in Yenagoa local government, then speaker begged that he can’t disappoint his governor and Douye Diri became the flag bearer. He is in the Senate but Mr speaker’s own, they betrayed him. It is now that he is going to court. If I were him, I will leave this case for the party.

 

“When army came to Ogbimbiri, governor was talking to me, after the election. Governor’s Rep that he gave to me, am I really representing the governor, governor’s Rep is only in salary and the salary too is not encouraging. That is not the way to do things. “He supposed to consider those that fought for him. If we were killed at that time, the governor would not have come out to do anything for us. It is not good. Let him try to consider those people that fought for him. Not the people that betrayed the party. Those people that are contesting election now those people betrayed the party and it is not fair.

 

“At that time if you go Southern Ijaw constituency four, you can hold on to Kombowei and you can hold on to Frank Dogood Bekebo. We were putting heads. Which other person in Southern Ijaw that will come and boast that he brought votes in constituency 4 today we have seen thousands of people. “We are the giant of Southern Ijaw where were they when we brought these votes. We went to the lion’s zone. We frustrated all our business because of this party my businesses have been frustrated nobody helped me. Im a friend to David lion but because of party issue we are no longer close. I have now seen that if you listen to this party (PDP) your family will suffer. Now we have served him for eight years we that brought the votes what did we achieve

 

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Edo people are firmly with Obaseki –Onobun

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Edo people are firmly with Obaseki –Onobun

Honourable Marcus Onobun is one of the inaugurated members of the Edo State House of Assembly, representing Esan West constituency. The former Special Adviser to Adams Oshiomhole is now a diehard supporter of Governor Godwin Obaseki. In this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke on the current political brawl between the godfather and the godson. Excerpts:ß

 

You were known to be a staunch supporter of the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, but you are now on the side of Governor Godwin Obaseki. What is your take on the conflict of interest between the duo over 2020 guber?

 

I don’t want to believe that there are issues between the governor and his predecessor. What we are seeing is the handiwork of some people beating drums of war, dropping names and saying, ‘oh, that is involved, this is involved’. I have worked with the former governor and by the grace of God today, I am a legislator under the present governor, who I understand meant so well for Edo State.

 

The former governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has contributed his quota and the present governor has taken off from where comrade stopped, and he is doing very well. Edo people are happy with him. If there are issues, the party has its own internal mechanism to deal with those issues.

 

The situation in Edo today is not above the APC National Working Committee, it is just that some people are trying to be more holier than God Himself.

 

But I want to assure you that at the end of the day, the issues will be finally settled and those of them who want APC to be scattered will be put to shame.

 

Do you support the call for the abolition of godfatherism in our political system?

 

Nigerian electorate are becoming politically conscious of their environment.

We cannot continue to be slaves to a particular system. So if the people of Edo State are saying no to godfatherism, who am I to say no.

 

You are acclaimed to be the youngest lawmaker in the 7th Assembly of Edo State. How do you feel having your dreams fulfilled as a politician?

 

I feel very elated to be a part of the 7th Assembly in Edo State.

 

It is something one has always wished to be part of. If you take a critical look at this 7th Assembly in Edo State, it is full of young and talented men, full of wisdom and knowledge, people that God has sent to help our amiable governor, Godwin Obaseki achieve the set out goals of taking Edo State to its pinnacle.

 

After such a long wait, I am thankful to God that at the end, I have joined my colleagues to commence the work we were elected to do. I feel good because it has given a good opportunity to get closer to my people and at the same time, give my best to the people, because it is said that to whom much is given, much is expected.

 

 

My people have already lifted me now, it is my own responsibility to give them the best of representation.

 

You are still in your young element, do you think you can surpass the records of your predecessors?

 

I wouldn’t want to go into records of those that have represented this constituency before.

 

What is most important to me is going there to do a good job and surpass their records. I make bold to say that I will surpass their records. Among all the legislators that had represented Esan West in the past, the difference is that, I am a young man. This is the first time my party is winning Esan West, and we won overwhelmingly.

 

So, I am here with a burning desire to give my best, and I believe that by the end of the day, I would have surpassed the records of the past legislators. Again, being the party in government, I am going to collaborate with our governor to see how we can bring about the dividends of democracy to the entire Esanland.

 

 

Now that Esan has the speakership of the state assembly, can you still complain of marginalisation?

 

I want to say that the outcome of the 2019 general elections in Edo State is an attestation of the good work the governor is doing in the state. This is why you see almost all the representatives of Esan land supporting the governor because that is what gave us the gateway to coming to the House of Assembly.

 

The entire people of Esan voted for us because they want us to come and join hands with the governor to take Edo State to an enviable level, so that by the time we leave office, our names would go into the good book of records. And now that Esan people have clearly show to the governor that we love him, Esanland will be better for it.

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Buhari should retain top performing ministers –Olokoba

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Buhari should retain top performing ministers –Olokoba

Comrade Razaq Olokoba is the National President, Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG), a coalition of over 70 civil society organisations. In this interview with some journalists in Lagos, the pro-democracy activist took a critical look at the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, among other issues. OLALEKAN OSIADE brings excerpts…

 

Now that President Muhammadu Buhari is set to appoint ministers and properly kickstart his second term, what is your assessment of his first term, especially in terms of infrastructural development?

 

We must first appreciate the challenges we have in Nigeria about the state of infrastructure. There are data that were put out by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, that they have constructed over 4000 kilometres of roads.

 

That is the distance between Nigeria and London! That is in a way comical and confusing to Nigerians. But at the moment, the Ministry of Works under Babatunde Raji Fashola has constructed over 1000 kilometres of roads besides rehabilitation and repairs across the nation and that is huge. It is huge because of the peculiarity of the moment, the challenge of fund.

 

 

We are at a time when Nigerian government declared to be broke because in terms of prosperity, the prosperity of Nigeria has not been this bad giving the income we are making from oil, $14pb, $26pb. It kept fluctuating.

 

What that means is that the expenditures were in trouble, and budget ran into crisis. So, even within this financial turbulent, the Buhari administration was able to tar over a thousand kilometres of road and also repaired some. That is huge for the kind of purse of the Federal Government. So, what I am saying in essence is that, it doesn’t stop there.

 

There are also mass action programme that is going on across the country. There is no state in this country that is not going through Federal Government’s mass action programme, except Lagos State that is yet to give land to the Federal Government.

 

What I am saying in essence is that, this technical intelligence to infrastructure is unique and peculiar.

 

Whatever it takes, Nigeria should support President Muhammadu Buhari. There is also a nightmare that Nigerians pass through during rainy sessions just as the situation we find ourselves now across the country.

 

There are crises on the Badagry Road and other places because of the rain. But our consolation is to look at where we are coming from. Five years ago, when the rainy session was not as disturbing as now, the last administration could not achieve much.

 

And today, the story of good roads might had been forgotten if not with the effective efforts of the Buhari administration. So, people should be assured that any road that had not been done is definitely on the list of those to be done. If you look at difficult terrains that are enjoying good roads now, what comes to mind is that the past administration was governing as if development is not possible in Nigeria.

 

In your opinion, should Buhari bring back some of his old ministers?

 

Buhari’s team should be empowered more and given more support this time to do more. Some of them are exemplary. This is possible because Buhari gave us some good guys. In his first term, he would have done better than this if we had a patriotic parliament.

 

In the first instance, I will not want Buhari to dismantle the winning team. The first term of Buhari enjoyed the services of a winning team from the president to the cabinet members, his advisers and by extension many of the public officers and the civil servants. They were fantastic. And when you are in that situation, it is not tactical, it is not strategic, and in governance, it is not proper to assume that changing those winning hands is the best thing to do. He gave us somebody with mathematical knowledge of road construction and repair in person of Babatunde Fashola (SAN).

 

Even as a lawyer, he did well in the Ministry of Works, and because of Fashola’s example, you would not be shocked if you see a medical doctor doing well in the field of environment. Fashola, a lawyer, has done equally well in the field of engineering just as a qualified engineer could have done.

 

So, there is a bigger assurance now that infrastructure development will be sped up now than the first term because the challenges are over. He should hit the ground running now. That should be the target now because there will not be budget delay.

 

Lagos/Ibadan Expressway was spilt into three sections. By now, we would have got a brand new road between Ibadan and Lagos but it was sabotaged by the immediate past parliament.

 

What I am saying in essence is that the required level of understanding should be given to the Federal Government by the people so that it will be able to double what it has done in the first term.

 

Are you implying that Fashola has the record of performance to return?

 

We must not deny the efforts and foresight of Mr President who saw the quality in Fashola.

 

So, immediately we appreciate that, we have to also commend the role of the immediate past Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola. He is a very patriotic public officer. He did very well and many people are not surprised about his superlative performance in office. He did same when he was the governor of Lagos State.

 

So, it is not a surprise to an average Nigeria that he performed wonderfully as a minister. I was not surprised either because immediately he was appointed Minister of Works, Power and Housing, I knew bad roads, and pot holes in Nigeria were in big trouble.

 

We must also commend the civil servants for giving him the needed support to excel.

 

Other people should learn from what the President and Fashola did by giving the public officers and civil servants the right environment, right motivation, right encouragement and right tools to work. Such attitude would bring out the best in them and the country will be better for it.

 

 

With right leadership, Nigerian public officers will perform well like their counterparts anywhere in the world. The President, the minister and public officers in the three sectors, Works, Power and Housing should also be commended for a job well done.

 

But there are still challenges with our roads. Don’t you think so? The appeal I will make to Nigerians is that there is no 100 per cent solution for traffic challenges all over the world wherever roads are under construction. And so, we should bear with the government when some roads are partially closed against the traffic now. There must be a sacrifice for development.

 

The second Niger Bridge will be beneficial to all after completion but people should exercise patience because there is always pain before gain.

 

By saying that he will only appoint the people he know, do you think the President has preference for some people in the yet to be constituted cabinet?

 

From the public assessment that we have seen, there were top ministers that have done fantastically well. Fashola was one of them. Rotimi Amaechi was one of them.

 

The Minister for Agriculture was one of them. Abike Dabiri, Boss Mustapha are also there without forgetting the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

 

And that is why our group and other civil society organisations worked assiduously and vigorously to mobilise Nigerians, to mobilise the youth and I travelled virtually to all the states of the federation to campaign for Team Buhari on the platform of our organisation. Our structure is still intact. Before the election, we organised several rallies. During the electioneering, we went round to test Buhari’s popularity and discovered he was a God-sent leader.

 

The impressive feedback we got even from difficult terrains like the South-South and South-East showed that Buhari did not do it alone.

 

It showed he did it together with all his team members. Against this backdrop, Buhari should parade many of his first term team members so that this second term would witness triple performance and surpass first term achievement in multiple folds. That is my candid advice to Mr President on his new cabinet composition.

 

If per chance he wants to return some of them, would you advise that they retain their old portfolios?

 

We are not supposed to mystify governance. President of Nigeria oversees all the ministers.

 

He oversees all the advisers. He reads security reports from Police, from DSS, from border intelligent personnel, from the army and so on. And the President has 24 hour a day like other Nigerians.

 

He does so many things within a day. So, if the job is not too much for the president and is not too much for the governor that oversees the affairs of the state, how then can only three portfolio be too much for a minister like Fashola, who had been tested, trusted and had done so well? Let us look at where we are coming from on power. Let us watch clearly the improvement.

 

 

It is not proper for people to pretend as if there is no improvement in all the sectors in the country! Such pretence confuses the government. There are fundamental advancement in power sector apart from some apparatus like DISCO and others that are not doing well. There is tremendous improvement in power. Again, there is a mass housing programme that has not been pursued for over 30 years.

 

The last administration that has pursued mass housing scheme was Shagari administration. At the moment, a mass housing programme is going on in all the sections of the country except Lagos. Then, if you look at roads, it is difficult for you to pretend as if you don’t notice what the ministry of works has done throughout the federation. There is a long list of what they have done across the nation.

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Plateau LG polls: Election Appeal Tribunal declares PDP candidate Lantang-North winner 

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Plateau LG polls: Election Appeal Tribunal declares PDP candidate Lantang-North winner 

From Musa Pam, Jos

 

The Plateau State Election Appeal Tribunal on Friday declared Mr. Ubandoman Joshua-Laven of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) winner of Langtang North Local Government polls conducted on the October 10 last year.

Chairman of the Appeal Tribunal Justice Arum Ashom made the declaration in an over eight-hour judgement on the appeal filed before it by Joshua-Laven.

PDP Chairmanship candidate, Joshua-Laven, had challenged the declaration of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Kparnim Nanloh-Amos, by the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC), as winner of the poll.

But the Election Petition Tribunal, led by Mr. Jovita Binjin  had, in a six-hour judgement delivered on May 25 this year, dismissed PDP’s only surviving Langtang-North petition for lack of merit.

Dissatisfied with the ruling of the lower tribunal, PDP and Joshua-Laven, had approached the Appeal Tribunal and appealed against it and asked the tribunal to declare him winner alleging that he won the highest votes of the elections.

Consequently, the Chairman of the Appeal Tribunal, Justice Ashom, while delivering the judgement at the High Court on Friday, said the lower tribunal goofed when it dismissed their petition.

According to the Appeal Tribunal, several mistakes were made by the lower court when taking decisions on some of the exhibits presented before it by all the parties involved.

The Appeal Tribunal faulted the lower tribunal for accepting a baseless result hurriedly presented by PLASIEC after the petitioners had completed their prosecution.

It described that result as worthless when compared with what were compiled at the various polling units as authentic results at the 17 wards of the area.

The tribunal gave the actual results for both APC and PDP as 14, 708 and 19, 599 votes respectively.

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Why I withdrew my suit against APC-Shittu

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Why I withdrew my suit against APC-Shittu

A former Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, on Friday said he voluntarily withdrew his suit against the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Supreme Court.

The former minister made the disclosure in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday.

Shittu had challenged his disqualification from participating in the APC governorship primary at the High Court and Appeal Court.

The case, which was hinged on his non participation in the NYSC, was dismissed in both courts having been instituted outside the stipulated time frame allowed by the Electoral Act.

Shittu said: “When the appeal came up before the Supreme Court on Thursday, and before same could be heard, my counsel stood up and voluntarily withdrew the appeal.

“It must be noted that the dismissal of the suit was based on the application of my counsel and same was not predicated on the decision of the case on the merits.”

Shittu said that he listened to the advice of his counsel who made reference to the decision of the Court of Appeal in Dapo Abiodun’s case.

He hinted that the Appeal Court held categorically that the possession or non-possession of an NYSC discharge or exemption certificate was not a prerequisite for contesting elections in Nigeria.

“Therefore, the Appeal Court has already laid the issue to rest effectively and there is therefore no need to flog a dead horse,” he said.

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My political career guided by Mandela’s principles – Kalu

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My political career guided by Mandela’s principles – Kalu

The Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, has said that his political career has always been and would be guided by the ideals and principles of former South African President, Nelson Mandela, who gave a voice and a future to the people of South Africa

He declared this yesterday in Abuja, while delivering a lecture titled “The Mandela I Know,” to mark the Nelson Mandela International Day organised by the South African High Commission in Nigeria, in partnership with the University of Abuja.

The Nelson Mandela International Day, which is marked every July 18, is a day set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the life, struggles and achievements of the former South Africam president, who spent 27 years of his life in prison fighting for the rights of his people.

Kalu, a former governor of Abia State, noted that as a result of the quality mentorship he enjoyed under Mandela, his political decisions  including his withdrawal from the race for the Deputy Senate President of the 9th Assembly, are always geared towards respecting the decisions of his political party, rather than giving in to his own desires.

According to him, his close relationship with Mandela did not only serve as a great source of inspiration and strength, but it exposed him to other South African political gladiators to whom he had offered a sense of direction riding on Mandela’s ideals when the need arose.

His words: “Nelson Mandela was an outstanding champion of human freedom and liberty, an anti-apartheid crusader who sacrificed the best years of his life to secure the emancipation of his people from the degradation and humiliation of inferiority status imposed on them by a wicked, hateful, abominable and lawless regime.

“As we all know, Mandela was not just a revolutionary leader; his record of philanthropic commitment to not only South Africans, but to citizens of many other nations around the world was quite exceptional. He taught the world the meaning and essence of humility, forgiveness, acceptance, perseverance and tolerance not through precepts but through an incredible force of personal example that probably has no parallel in human history.

“As a prisoner at Rhodes Island, Mandela brought to bear on his terrible and negative experience, exemplary and positive qualities of discipline, endurance, patience, hope, fortitude and remarkable stoicism. The Nobel Prize winner who became the first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa at the age of 77, retired after only a single tenure in office in 1999, setting a challenging example to other depraved African leaders who turned their offices into imperial bastions of maladministration, oppression of their own people and corruption.

“Madiba’s quest for comprehensive emancipation that encompassed political, mental, economic and physical dimensions led him to embark on charitable engagements, raising stupendous sums of money for schools, hospitals, sporting activities for the benefit of the desperately deprived black communities of South Africa.

“His hunger for the freedom of South Africa, somehow, became the hunger for the freedom of all irrespective of their tribe, colour and religion. He took on a campaign that set the leadership bar for African leaders and Africa’s leadership.

“I am a beneficiary of Mandela’s mentorship. I would say that God specially created the great man to tutor and shape me into responsible, industrious and disciplined man with a commitment to the welfare of my people and to humanity in general.

“I recall my personal interactions with him especially during our national struggle to force President Olusegun Obasanjo to drop his plan to amend the constitution of the Federal Republic and secure an extension of his tenure of office. Disturbed by the details, Mandela placed a call to President Obasanjo and told him in clear terms that whatever his plans were, it was neither desirable for Nigeria nor Africa. That intervention, proved strategic to the leadership question in Nigeria at the time leading to elections in 2007. As the say, the rest is history.

“As a politician and businessman, I met Mandela on several occasions. I must confess here that he inspired me a lot. He introduced me to the leaders of the great African National Congress (ANC), with whom I have maintained a very robust relationship. Through him, I met with President Thabo Mbeki, who is now a dear friend and a brother. I also met President Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe, former National Secretary of ANC who held sway for six months following the decision of the ruling party to ask President Mbeki to step aside.

“Of course, I met President Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa who is now tasked with the responsibility of leading the great vision that Mandela had for South Africa.Nothing can demonstrate the level of intimacy I enjoy with Mandela’s family than the warm treatment I get from the matriarch of the house, Gracia, each time I visited. She always ensured that I lacked for nothing and that I felt at home.

“The bridge Madiba built that connected me with South African political gladiators is still sustained till date. I am still a strong member of the ANC family, just as I am still an ally of former and incumbent President of the country. Only few months ago, I undertook a trip to South Africa and visited the three ex- presidents. I particularly spent a quality time with my friend, President Mbeki who was then giving cold hands to political activities in his party, ANC. I reminded him of the political philosophy of Madiba. And that did a lot of magic. That sentiment I expressed steered him out of his earlier disposition. He saw the need to join forces with ANC for the campaign. Of course, that decision played a big part in ANC triumphing at the poll.

“I make bold to say that I learnt at Mandela’s feet. During one of our meetings, he told me that he wanted Cyril to be his deputy but the party leadership thought otherwise. One thing he told me that he did was that he respected the decision of the party because party is supreme. I imbibed that education and have lived by it in my political pursuits in Nigeria.

“It may be recalled that recently I made an attempt to contest to become the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate. I however withdrew from that contest as soon as the party’s decision was conveyed to me. I stood down because having learnt from Mandela the dictates of party supremacy, it would amount to a betrayal of my learning to go against the party’s consensus.

“I also believe that as an evolving democracy, one with a history of military adventurism with the attendant destruction of political ethos and institutions, Nigeria will fare better if politicians, irrespective of their party affiliations, respect party supremacy. That way, we will be able to build a political culture that derives its powers from the party manifesto and programmes.

“Today, South Africans are enjoying apolitical culture that developed out of Mandela’s love for his party, the ANC, and his respect for its decisions. That is what it means to give your people a voice and a future. Shouldn’t we be asking for more ‘Mandelas’ for Africa?

“When Mandela left his abode in prison and became a president, many expected him to use his official powers as president to enact revenge and payback those who set about to destroy his life and his family. He had it in his powers to do so. He could have used the South African police or military to deal with those who saw him as an enemy because of his guts and imprisoned him.

“He could have used the South African secret police to eliminate them. It was within his powers to also go after their businesses and asphyxiate them economically. It was also possible that some of those persons had prepared themselves for exile. The world watched as he put out a raging fire and calmed the storm by publicly declaring his forgiveness for past misdeeds against him and against the South African people. Instead, he opted for peaceful co-existence.”

Insisting that Africa needs more of Mandela, Kalu said it is unfortunately that Africa of the post-Mandela era does not seem to appreciate the former South African president brought to life to the continent.

He said: “We must all know why the world still worship Mandela today and will quite certainly do so for eternity. Nobody would have believed that he would allow his predecessor and erstwhile leader of the apartheid regime, Mr. Pieta Botha to live peacefully and die a natural death in South Africa. Even Botha himself, I’m sure, would be shocked that he was handed such forgiveness.

“I doubt if there is any other African leader that would have been so large hearted. It goes to show how Mandela lived a practical Christian life. He showed that with forgiveness, you would achieve more than any weapons could. He left us with the understanding that forgiveness frees you to pursue more noble and worthwhile objectives.

“For this singular act, the world loved him more. He placed South Africa on the global map and the world was attracted to South Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Prize winner for Peace because of this rare demonstration of love. You will recall that his funeral attracted leaders from all parts of the world. They came in honour of a man who, with a single act, changed the story of South Africa.

“Today, Africa is replete with leadership that is neither visionary nor forgiving. From one country to another, we are seeing a return of the sort of leadership that irked Mandela. Mandela opted for only a single term in office. He voluntarily opted out of a second tenure. Out of office, he became more powerful and more significant as a global force than he was while in office. With that, he demonstrated that one does not necessarily need an endless term of office to positively impact on his society or to remain relevant.

“Today, we are seeing African states being gradually torn apart because of one man’s decision to retain power even when his leadership has lost all relevance to his people. We now see a growing tide of nationals rising up to chase their leaders out of power. It tells me that somehow, we have lost the significance of Mandela’s mission in politics. His mission was to liberate and not imprison the people. If leaders in Africa cannot liberate their states and people from oppression, corruption, hunger, poor infrastructure, insecurity, disease, homelessness, poverty of the mind and of the pocket and lack of education, at least, they should not compound these problems.

“Africans have suffered so much under visionless and oppressive leadership that the people are looking forward to another Mandela to give them hope for tomorrow. Therefore, on this day, my family and l remember Mandela with nostalgia. I remember the times we shared at his home. I remember the warmth, the joy, the reception by his family and I pray that his soul continue to rest peacefully with God.

“As we begin to implement the Nigerian mandate from the 9th Senate of the Federal Republic, I pledge myself, my family and my constituents to be guided by those eternal principles that Mandela lived by and ultimately bequeathed on humanity. I make a pledge to work for the peace and progress of Nigeria. I pledge to work for the peaceful co-existence of all Nigerians irrespective of their tongue and colour. I make a pledge to work for the common good and greater unity of our country. Afterall, those are the tenets Mandela lived and died for. And they are the core values he taught everybody that had the fortune encounter him.

“One of the many admonitions of Mandela that I engraved in my heart is his counsel that ‘we must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past.’”

Also speaking, South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, challenged Africans to live by values of Mandela by doing simple things for humanity in order to change the world.

Moroe also called on Africans to honour the 67 years Mandela spent in fighting for social justice in dedicating 67 minutes of each day in showing goodness to people around them and humanity in general.

“Today is a good day to do good for humanity. It is important we live everyday a Nelson Mandela Day; we should make sure we share our goodness with people around us,. We should do our bit to change the world, it is in our hands to make sure that we do the simple things for humanity,” he said.

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Govt shouldn’t jeopardise national security because of Shi’ites – Tsav

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Govt shouldn’t jeopardise national security because of Shi’ites – Tsav

Former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, is opposed to the protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) for the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky who has been in detention since 2015. Tsav, who is an immediate past commissioner at the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), in this interview with CEPHAS IORHEMEN, also speaks on Federal Government’s anti-corruption fight and other national issues

 

How would you react to the protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) over the continued incarceration of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, which has led to the killing of some innocent people and destruction of property?

You see, first of all Nigeria has its own laws and regulations and every person in the country is bound to obey the laws. This man (El-Zakzaky) is accused of culpable homicide and other offences inimical to national security. There are some of these offences that the courts have no rights to grant him bail on, especially the case of culpable homicide. When you are taken to court you remain there until a court of competent jurisdiction decides whether you should be admitted on bail or not. But in this case, these people (the Shi’ites) have constituted themselves into a band of criminals and are demonstrating. Yes, by law they have the right to demonstrate, but to demonstrate in Nigeria, you need the support of the police to allow you to do so peacefully. But, where that demonstration turns into violence, the police will then use available powers within their reach to disperse such assembly, which has turned a violent assembly.

So, if the government had yielded to their demands then, the government would be laying a dangerous precedence because other activists in this country are also watching the situation. Because a Tiv man may be arrested tomorrow and denied bail, we will also do the same thing and if the government fails to release them, we will make noise and this is similar to a Yoruba man or other people in this country. The idea of constituting themselves the way they did is not good; they should follow due process of the law. We have lower courts and superior courts. If they have any reason why they should fight for the release of their leader, they should go to court and the court will direct or order the release of the person or not.

Again, if the offence touches on national security, the security agencies have the right to continue to hold such a person in their custody using their laws. If I was the Inspector General of Police (IGP), I would have aimed at the ring leaders and deal with them seriously because they are the ones misleading their people and I think they have external connections aiding or financing them.

When there is an issue over national security and the rule of law, which of these do you think should take precedence because the Federal High Court had ordered that El-Zakzaky should be released and it’s over a year now and he has not been released?

Security agencies like the Department of State Services (DSS) have information on security of this country and the information they have is not what they can divulge to the citizenry and if anything affects the security of the country they try to prevent it. We also have other security apparatuses, so if they have a case like that, the court cannot compel them to release that person or to go against their own law.

Don’t you think that the continuous detention of El-Zakzaky is a violation of his right?

Look, if the security agencies reason that releasing him will cause a security threat to Nigeria, it is more grievous and they know why they think so. If you release El-Zakzaky and he goes out to cause trouble, it will tell on the lives of many innocent citizens of the country. That will not be good and I think security agencies are working towards that.

What would you suggest as the way out of this impasse?

The Shi’ites should go to court. They have not even gone to the Supreme Court. If the High Court ruled that El-Zakzaky should be allowed on bail and the government says no, they should go to a superior court and whatever the Supreme Court says, the Federal Government will uphold it.

On the part of the government, what measures should it adopt to curtail the activities of the Shi’ites?

The Federal Government should arrest leaders of this group and deal with them and it should speed up the trial of El-Zakzaky. To be in prison custody since 2015, is too long a time. The ring leaders of the group, who are causing trouble, impeding the flow of traffic, assaulting security officers, destroying people’s property should be identified and charged to court. That’s the only thing that will bring them back to their senses.

What is your take on the group’s protest at the National Assembly?

These Shi’ites people are sponsored by a foreign country, I think Iran. They are the people financing them. The unfortunate thing is that the Shi’ites are from the Northern part of the country, where we also have Boko Haram and where massive kidnapping, killings and the rest of these criminal offences are perpetrated. It is because we have so many idle persons in the North because their leaders refused to train these people by giving them education and jobs. That is why they are idle and are doing what they are doing. If you look carefully among the Shi’ites group, many young girls are among them and one wonders why their parents will allow them into such gatherings.

You talked about foreigners been the major financiers of the Shi’ites movement. Does it mean that Nigeria cannot curb activities of these financiers as well as those infiltrating the group?

You see, the President cannot go on the boarders and control this situation. It is the fault of the security agencies, especially the Customs, Immigration, the Boarder Police, among others, and all these things have their roots in corruption. You cannot built a wall round Nigeria because if you go to the boarder you cannot find any mark dividing Nigeria and other countries. It is only assumed that Nigeria starts and ends on this point. So, people come in and go out like that. If the government can spend enough money on security, put enough patrol men, give them equipment, they will be able to solve this influx of foreigners into this country.

You talked about corruption and just recently the Independent Corrupt and other related offences Commission (ICPC) revealed that over $90 billion exited Africa through Nigeria. Similarly, Transparency International also reported that the Police and politicians are the most corrupt in Nigeria, do you agree with that?

They are not fair to the police. Where you can notice corruption in the police is on road blocks and the crime investigating unit. There is more corruption in some agencies than in the Nigeria Police Force. People think that the police are corrupt based on what they see happen at the road blocks and in crime investigation, they don’t allow you on bail until you pay money. I am aware of this.

If they say there is corruption in the police, may be it involves the top hierarchy of the police and this may be connected with contracts and other major projects. In any case, the police which have the responsibility of arresting and prosecuting people should not be seen to involve in corruption at all and I believe that if we have a clean police force and upright judiciary, the country will be good and straightforward.

Do you see President Muhammadu Buhari succeeding in the fight against corruption?

You know that Buhari has no friend and he himself is not corrupt and he’s fighting corruption to the best of his ability. He has a lot of enemies; a lot of people don’t like him, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo. These people are colluding with fraudulent officials to smear him. Chief Obasanjo for instance keeps saying that there will be war in Nigeria. He has been a military head of state in this country and a democratically elected president.

As one of the country’s leaders, if he knows that something is coming to destabilise the government, why can’t he tell the government that there may be war if this or that happens. Is he helping the nation? He is not. You tell the press or you go outside and tell foreign authorities that this is what is happening in Nigeria instead of going to the President to tell him that this is what is going to happen. Let us save this country and you don’t do that by being a prophet of doom.

Do you think that restructuring is the solution to Nigeria’s problems as former President Goodluck Jonathan has canvassed that the report of the 2014 Confab report be adopted to address the plethora of challenges of our country?

Let me tell you something, he (Goodluck Jonathan) was the one who ordered for that conference and he handpicked people who attended. He selected the people and they submitted the report to him. Why didn’t he take action on the report before he left office? As far as I am concerned, he is talking rubbish.

But do think that restructuring is Nigeria’s problems?

The solution to Nigeria’s problems is peace and unity. Once we are united and talk less about ethnic and religious tendencies, everything will be good. However, they should strengthen the police and judiciary.

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Obaseki blames Oshiomhole for Edo Assembly crisis

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Obaseki blames Oshiomhole for Edo Assembly crisis

…as Senate committee arrives Benin

 

Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, yesterday blamed the inability of his predecessor and National chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adam Oshiomhole, to properly understand issues in the Edo State House of Assembly as reason for the lingering crisis in the state.
This is as the Senate fact-finding committee on the crisis in the state Assembly, arrived Benin, the state capital, yesterday, with a promise to ensure stability and peace among the 24 members of the legislature.
Obaseki, who spoke when members of the Senate committee visited him at the government house, attributed the crisis to the obvious failure of Oshiomhole to properly address the salient issues that led to the imbroglio.
Thanking the senators for their visit to the state, the governor said the crisis would not have degenerated to the level it is at the moment if the national leadership of the APC had done the right thing when the matter started.
Obaseki stated that he has performed his constitutional duty by issuing a proclamation letter and that the Clerk of the House of the Assembly undertook the processes as deemed fit. He explained that there are issues within the legislature and that the members of the House have gone to the judiciary.
His words: “When people arbitrarily make up their minds because of some predetermined outcomes and make statements and conduct themselves, this is what it leads to. I issued a proclamation. Consultations were held before the proclamation was issued. Various party organs met before decisions were reached. As far as I am concerned, I abide by the constitution and issued a proclamation. I believe in separation of powers.
“Whatever the outcome, we expected that if a higher authority were concerned about the fate of this state, they would have called to see how to resolve the issue, but that wasn’t done. The matter has moved to court and all parties are in court. I have done by own beat. Within the legislature, there are issues and they have gone to the judiciary and the constitution provides for clear separation of powers. We have evidence that people are under pressure. Look at this matter in the interest of our country and in defence of our democracy.”
Chairman of the seven-man Senate committee, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi (APC, Niger North), said the body has onerous task of unraveling issues surrounding the crisis with a view to bringing all the parties amicably together.
He disclosed that the committee will visit all the key stakeholders aimed at ascertaining the relevant facts towards presenting its report within the time frame specified by the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
According to him, the Senate is concerned about restoring peace and order as provided for in the constitution. He also pointed out that there was no clash with the House of Representatives ad hoc committee as their duties are seen as a function of the National Assembly.
“The civility of Edo people is not in doubt. Edo State has a long history of parliamentary civility. I think everybody who loves this state will want to ensure that nothing short of that prevails. I want to assure you that we will do what the constitution allows us to do.
“The House of Representatives committee was here and we are here because it is a bi-cameral legislature. Ours is to articulate and prepare the facts before colleagues. I know that the 109 will do justice to any matter before them. I assure you that we are out for the good of the state and its people,” Abdullahi said.
Members of the Senate committee, besides meeting with Governor Obaseki, also met with the Speaker of the state Assembly, Hon. Frank Okiye and eleven members of the Assembly as well as the Clerk of the House, Alhaji Yahaya Omogbai.
Senator Abdullahi, who briefed the legislators on his committee’s visit, said: “Like you very well know, parliamentarians are guided by the constitution just like any other institutions in a democracy and there are sections of the constitution that are of interest within the context of why we are here. Section 105 (3) talks about the issuance of proclamation by the governor, section 93 (6) talks about quorum, then section 11 (4 and 5) talks about the need for the National Assembly to step in if we view there is a threat to public order and security.
“In a democracy, the rule of law should guide our actions and even inactions. So, we are here as a fact finding committee of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I want to assure members that we have a duty and that duty requires that we will give you confidence. We are not here to witch-hunt anybody; we are not here to do anything other than that very mandate we were given, which is fact finding mission; to find out what is happening in Edo State House of Assembly and that is what we are going to do.
“I want to tell you that, yes, in every crisis, you intend to hear all kinds of insinuations, all kinds of stories; we are not here to work with stories. That is why in line with the provisions of the constitution that calls for fair hearing, we came down to the seat of the crisis to listen to the parties involved, so that we can understand what has happened and what needs to be done, so that sanity and stability can be installed, so that everybody will carry on his constitutional duty without any hindrance and the good people of Edo State will get the benefit of their investment in voting in the honorable members and even the government of the state as a whole.
“I want to give you our word of assurance. All of us are men of integrity; the 109 senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are not people who will take to frivolity. Whatever we find out here will be laid to the table and each and every member will make contribution, so that at the end of the day whatever is done would be in the interest of our people. That is the mandate we have been given and that is exactly what we intend to do.”
The Senate committee later visited the Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare 11, as well as other core stakeholders.

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Okowa’s experience reflects on governance in Delta – Okumagba

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Okowa’s experience reflects on governance in Delta – Okumagba

Chief Emmanuel Okumagba is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State. The septuagenarian politician, in this interview with Ola James, speaks on governance in the state, particularly the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. Excerpts:

 

How would you assess the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa?
Okowa has gone through the political ranks from his local government as chairman to the state government, where he became a commissioner. From being a commissioner, he became the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and from there to become a senator. To be sincere with you, anyone who can be SSG for a tenure as was his case, be rest assured that he can rule the state because that is the fulcrum on which the governance of the state is oiled. Having served as senator, he came back to be governor of the state. Of all the governors that had ruled Delta State, he is the only one who amassed an overwhelming political experience before becoming the governor and that has reflected in the governance of the state.
That is why with lesser financial resources, he has been a very good manager. At 60, age is still on his side. I believe he will return to national politics, maybe in other capacities that you can never imagine now because governance is all about experience. I told a few persons, those who cared to listen, that Great Ogboru is not a match to Okowa. Delta State is a microcosm of Nigeria, so we are with him in our prayers as he continues in his second tenure. We hope he will do even better for a stronger Delta State as he has promised.

You have recounted the governor’s achievements in the first four years, but he has however promised to do more in his second term. In which specific areas are you expecting him to place emphasis?
Well, he has started the Asaba Capital Development Authority. Before now the drains in Asaba were badly constructed. Today, he has a masterplan, which empties water into the River Niger. I can attest to the fact that during his town hall meeting last year at the Federal Government College, Warri, some of us made presentations bordering on the status of the town, Warri, one of the 26 provincial headquarters in Nigeria. Today, it is the only provincial headquarters that is not a state capital. So, we raised the issue as Warri people that the governor should make a deliberate effort and provide an annual fund to elevate Warri to somewhere near the status of a state capital that it could not get.
We also made it clear that Warri problem borders on lack of drains, which make it impossible for the roads constructed to stay. Several other requests were made to him, but I recount this because I was at the vanguard of that request. Behold, at the end of the question and answer session, while responding, he made a pledge, an effective promise, that what we have requested shall be considered. I also made a graphical presentation of the waterways that have now been blocked by buildings, debris and what have you. I traced them because I’m a native, I know the terrain.
I think I must have impressed him by my description of the place. And while responding, he did say, yes, something will be done and that the Asaba situation was one in which so much has been wasted until he decided to provide a consultant to do a proper survey of the place and made recommendations, and that he was going to do a similar thing in Warri given the scenario captured by us to him. The other promise he made was that, because I know the terrain so well, a small committee will be set up and he will be asking me to be a member of that committee.
Barely a few months later, he did set up that committee and we were two persons appointed to represent the Itsekiris and Urhobos interest. And he named it Warri/Effurun and Environs Committee. We went round Warri for several weeks. Twice a week we were in Warri to go round the City, Effurun and part of Udu Local Government Area. That assignment took us about three months. Eventually, we presented our report. And modestly speaking, I think that project will cost about N30 billion. And because he is a very serious-minded person, he was very clear to us at the submission that it is a big project.
He said he will not be able to provide for it at a go in a single budget. It is going to be broken down in the order of priority and that each sector of the drains and roads will be prioritized. If you look at his empowerment programme, it is painful that the buoyancy of the Ibori era is no more there, if not, with the caliber of the person of Senator Okowa at the helms of affairs, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Delta State becomes the El Dorado of Nigeria. We pray that the finances improve; we will keep asking our people to pay their taxes and to raise internally-generated revenue (IGR). With that, money can be made available to execute all these laudable projects.

You have just alluded to the fact that resources accruable to the present government compared to what previous governments got, have been very lean as it were. You also attributed Okowa’s success to his experience and ability to manage the lean resources. Would you by that suggest that the previous governments were not economical enough with the huge resources they got?
I don’t want to say so because in the first place, the people came on board and they applied their experience to the resources available to them. But there exists a whole world of difference between them and Okowa, in the sense that a man who has gone through the mill, he knows all the potholes, the bends and all that because of his experience.
Like I said before, the opportunity to become the SSG is a training ground for governance of the state. This is coupled with his role at the local government council as a former chairman. The local government administration is a replica of the government of the state and so, when you have a learning process from the local government level, it is bound to reflect in your governance of a bigger concern like the state.
Finally, he left for the Senate where people of varied experiences meet learn from one another. It was an advantage for him like nobody had ever had. So, you reap what you sow and Deltans are reaping from the experience of Governor Okowa.

You also harped on the governor’s ability to create jobs by way of empowerment programmes, but there have been complaints from many quarters that the level of joblessness, especially youth unemployment in Delta State is very much on the high side compared to other states in the country. Are you very sure the empowerment programme is actually addressing the unemployment problem in the state?
Let me give a more vivid situation. Today, the state government inherited a bloated civil service. You know, the presidential system of government is very expensive. So much goes into the payment of salaries of aides as per the provision of the constitution. You can imagine what the Senate president, Deputy Senate president, the senators, the speaker and other members and their aides receive. All of these suck our money dry. So, the allocation that comes to the state is very meager, except where you already have established industries where you can tap into to increase your Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) like in Lagos State.
When there is serious tax drive, it aids governance. Like I said, we have a very bloated civil service. Walk into any ministry; if you see 10 staff, seven are just loafing. Secondly, Delta State is one of the educationally advantageous states and so, we produce graduates massively annually. But there are no commensurate opportunities by way of industries to take up these graduates.

You just spoke about the bloated civil service which the governor, according to you inherited. But it is evident that in his first tenure, the governor made massive political appointments to the extent that some of them had no offices or job schedules. Would you still advice the governor to go on with such heavy burden of political appointments as was in his first tenure?
While I would not completely agree that the governor made bloated political appointments, I also believe that in his second tenure, it will not be business as usual. This is more importantly because, he is already trying to cut his coat according to his cloth. You can see that he started with just eight commissioners, not the omnibus thing that we had in the first tenure even though he may still wish to increase the number. Again, like I have said before, this presidential system of government is superfluous in terms of providing for cronies and those who make it possible for politicians to win election.

There have been complaints from some quarters since the governor commenced appointment of his commissioners to the effect that he is recycling the old cabinet members with little consideration to new blood. What is your take on that?
You see, any governor worth his salt, especially an experienced one like Governor Okowa, knows that when you have a square hole, you have to find a square peg that will fit in. He worked with several commissioners; he did not pick all of them. He is picking those he believes in and whose capacities he trusts. If you want to flood the place with neophytes, people who have no experience, then you are also nailing your coffin of poor performance. So, taking key players in his last regime is a deliberate attempt to ensure continuity of his excellent performance.
I know that, as a Road Master, his Commissioner for Works and his retinue of staff returning will enhance governance and road construction. I know that the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice has been returned. He is familiar with that terrain. For me, those are areas of special interest. And when you look at the state as it is, you need experienced hands. He is able to do what he is doing because of his own experience. So, he is also looking out for those who worked with him and who have also acquired experience. That is what matters to Deltans and not just bringing a floodgate of neophytes. I know there will be a mix breed and I still believe he will add a few more, but not a bloated one.

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