CHUKWU DAVID examines the threat by the Senate two weeks ago to take over legislative functions of the Edo State House of Assembly if Governor Godwin Obaseki fails to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Assembly within one week
he Ninth Senate commenced sitting in a very harmonious atmosphere, unlike the Eighth Senate that started with crisis and remained rancorous till its expiration on July 11, 2019, when the current Assembly was inaugurated.
What made the difference was the way and manner the presiding officers of the apex legislative chamber emerged. The leadership of the Eighth Senate emerged out of “rebellion” to the whims and caprices of the leadership of the ruling party and the presidency.
In the emergence of the leadership of the present Senate, the powers that be had their way in determining who occupied the presiding and principal offices, a development that resulted in a rancor-free commencement of the new legislative session in the National Assembly.
However, this initial harmony was almost truncated two weeks ago, precisely on Tuesday July 30, when the Senate had its last plenary before embarking on its annual recess. That was the same day the Upper Chamber concluded the screening and confirmation of ministerial nominees by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Chamber had smoothly completed the screening and confirmation of the 43 ministerial nominees, when a sharp division suddenly erupted among the senators, following the presentation and consideration of the report of the Senate ad hoc committee on the Edo State House of Assembly crisis.
The Chairman of the ad hoc committee and Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger North), had presented the report for consideration and adoption by the Red Chamber. The committee made three recommendations to the Senate, suggesting that Governor Godwin Obaseki should issue a fresh proclamation letter for the proper inauguration of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly.
It also recommended that the Clerk of the Edo Assembly should formally inform all the 24 members-elect of the new proclamation through media adverts in print and electronic media in conformity with parliamentary best practice.
The panel further recommended that, in the event that a new proclamation was not issued as recommended within the period of three weeks (later amended to one week), the National Assembly is at liberty to invoke Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
In adopting the recommendations, the Senate issued a one week ultimatum to Governor Obaseki, to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assemly, threatening to take over the functions of the Assembly if the governor failed to adhere to the directive.
Sections 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, empowers the National Assembly to take over the functions of any state House of Assembly in the country that is incapable of carrying out its functions as assigned to it by the laws of the land.
In the course of their contributions to the debate on the report, some senators supported the recommendations, while others saw it as undue interference in the state Assembly by the National Assembly. Senators mostly involved in the divisive argument, were mostly former state governors.
For instance, the former governor of Imo State, who represents Imo West Senatorial District on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Rochas Okorocha, kicked against the recommendations, describing the decision of the Senate as unnecessary meddling in the internal business of Edo State government.
While Senators Adamu Aliero and Sam Egwu, former governors of Kebbi and Ebonyi states, respectively, condemned Obaseki for not issuing a proclamation properly for the inauguration of the House of Assembly as specified by law, Okorocha indicted the Senate for demonstrating eagerness to hastily take over the affairs of the crisis ridden Assembly.
Egwu and Aliero urged the Senate to go ahead and approve the recommendations of the committee, but Okorocha placed a serious caution on the dangers of the National Assembly meddling in the affairs of Edo politics.
He argued that the National Assembly should leave Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other stakeholders to sort out their differences and resolve their internal political wrangling rather than for the apex chamber to jump into the matter.
His words: “From the onset, from what I have heard, it looks like we are eager to take over the activities of Edo State House of Assembly. Looking at the report of the ad hoc committee, both the party, the Clerk of the Assembly and all that, it looks like that is a family affair of the APC, which the leadership of the party should have found a way to resolve and not us stepping into the matter that I think we do not have jurisdiction to handle.
“There is no proof whatsoever that Edo State House of Assembly is not functioning. We have had cases, where the Mace of the Senate was taken away and no other National Assembly took over the Senate. I think those of us who are in the caucus of APC in the Senate should handle it is a party matter rather than making it a National Assembly issue. We should not be eager to go and take over the activities of Edo House of Assembly.
“What happened in Edo Assembly is a break of relationship and we should find a way to resolve it than for us to stand here and talk about giving three weeks ultimatum for compliance and if the governor does not approve it, we will take over. I was also a governor and it would be insulting to the Edo State governor for us to sit here and force him to comply within three weeks. It is not proper.”
However, Senator Egwu (PDP, Ebonyi North), said: “I support the recommendation of the ad hoc committee. I was a governor too. I think the governor should not lead the House to do the wrong thing given the situation, where the Clerk recorded that the governor directed that the inauguration should be done by 3.pm, but the report by the Commissioner of Police said the inauguration was done by 9.pm.
“Something done in the night is a secret meeting. It is suspect, it is undemocratic and there is a purpose for that which was not good. For me, I think the governor did the wrong thing by inaugurating the Assembly in the night.”
The Red Chamber had actually got set for altercation, bickering and perhaps a rowdy session, but the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, quickly intervened and used his prerogative of office to calm the situation by not allowing further contributions on the matter.
The perceived use of fiat to address the matter by Lawan, really sparked off a lot of murmuring among the senators, who were not allowed to openly contribute to the debate as the President of the Senate did not give room for the pending pandemonium to happen.
As the recommendations of the panel were being considered, the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North) amended one of the three items, reducing the ultimatum from three weeks to one week.
Also, in an obvious move to approve the recommendation without opposition, Lawan did not allow the amendment to be seconded, when he put it to voice vote, and therefore, did not wait to properly determine the winner between those who supported and opposed the motion. So, he hit the gavel, approving the amendment automatically.
At this point, Senator Orker Jev (PDP, Benue), raised a constitutional point of order, drawing the attention of the Senate to apparent constitutional error in one of the recommendations of the ad hoc committee.
He said: “There is nothing that indicates in this constitution that the proclamation ought to be published in the media. The fact that such was not done does not infract on the constitution. As a lawmaker and lawyer, I am always bothered about the implementation of whatever comes out of any legislative house.
However, while he was still speaking, Lawan interjected, saying: “Let me rule. As far as this issue is concerned, this has been laid to rest. The Senate has taken a decision and it is in conformity with that of the House of Representatives two weeks ago. I believe that our colleague, Jev, can bring this point of order at an appropriate day if it would do any good. I believe that these resolutions should be sent immediately, so that the one week is not reduced by keeping the letter here.
“The National Assembly must insist on the right thing to be done even by state governors. This is the home of democracy; it is the highest legislative chamber. When the National Assembly queries decisions by the president, I don’t see the reason why when there is an error or misjudgement or something undemocratic that the National Assembly should stay away from it.
“This motion was taken on July 10. We had three weeks to allow for some political process. I believe that has proved impossible. I want to congratulate the Senate for coming to the rescue of democracy and I believe that the message is very clear. We want this issue resolved. We are not in a hurry to take over. The one week is to allow for the proper thing to be done.”
Since the ultimatum elapsed last week Tuesday, nobody has heard anything from the Senate, as to whether or not it has taken over the functions of the turbulent Assembly as it threatened. Nigerians are eagerly waiting for the country’s highest lawmaking body to implement its threat else the Senate might be seen and branded as a toothless bulldog, which can only bark without the corresponding power to bite.
2020: National Assembly raises own budget by N3bn
The House of Representatives on Thursday raised the National Assembly’s budget by N3 billion increasing it from N125 billion to N128 billion.
This is the earliest budget to pass by the National Assembly since 1999. The 2020 budget was presented to the National Assembly on October 8, 2019 and passed on December 5, 2019. It took one month and 27 days to be passed.
In the 2017, 2018 and 2019, the National Assembly budget was kept at N125 billion from the N150 billion, which had existed for years.
Explaining the reasons for the increase in the budget, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on media and public affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) said with the increment, “it is now clear that we are not a rubber stamp legislature as many people thought.”
Balarabe: Nigeria risks a social revolution if…
Alhaji Balarabe Musa was governor of old Kaduna State in the Second Republic. He speaks in this interview with Felix Nwaneri on the state of the nation and the need for Nigerians to liberate themselves from the grip of the ruling class
What is your assessment of the recent governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states?
The elections were the worst that we have so far experienced, but we are going to continue to experience such in future elections unless something is done urgently.
Who would you blame for the ugly experience; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies or the political parties?
The blame should be on the system itself because it was money and power that decided the outcome of the two elections. The violence, malpractices and other forms of irregularities that characterised the elections were as a result of money and power.
Reacting to the outcry by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the election, President Muhammadu Buhari advised the party to seek redress ion court. Do you see his advice as the best way of curbing the worrisome trend?
The President adopted that approach because his party was declared the winner of the two elections. They made sure that they were declared winner by any means and when those who were dissatisfied with the process protested; they said ‘go to court.’ They know that even if you go to court, they will take care of what will come out of the court, using money and power.
What does this worrisome trend in the electoral process portend for Nigeria’s democracy?
We are just deceiving ourselves; we have never had democracy. We have only had democratic aspiration, but we never had democracy. Democracy means more than what we have today. Democracy means the supremacy of the will of the people as demonstrated in the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections. Have we ever had that?
Some people will say that Nigeria experienced free, fair and transparent elections under the Prof. Attahiru Jega-led INEC…
Anyone who says that is deceiving him or herself because we’ve never had free, fair and transparent elections and there is no future for Nigeria until we do the right thing. We must ensure that there are free, fair and transparent elections that will lead to legitimate administrations at all levels of government. To ensure this, we must have a situation, where the voter freely decides the fate of political parties and their candidate during elections without being financially induced.
How feasible is that given the role money has played in the country’s elections of late?
We have to insist on that because other countries had the same problem at one time or the other, but they dealt with it and they now have peace, unity and progress.
Issues were raised about the card read after the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections and INEC even admitted that the card reader was circumvented by some politicians. Does this mean that the card reader has outlived its usefulness?
In the first place, the card reader was designed by those who are interested in winning elections at all cost. In any case, was the card reader used everywhere during the 2019 elections? I will tell you that it was not used everywhere because I voted without being accredited with the card reader and my polling unit was in an urban area. If the election took place in such an area without the card reader, you can then imagine what happened in the rural areas. I raised this issue then even before the media, but nothing was done about it.
Would you then suggest that the card reader should be jettisoned in future elections?
The issue is not the card reader itself; the problem is that everything about our elections is now decided by power and money and those in control of power use it to ensure that they are returned to office by any means.
That means you share the views of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who said that politicians are resorting to electoral coups to remain in power?
Didn’t Jonathan and others before him superintend over similar elections? We’ve been witnessing such elections under successive administrations, so we shouldn’t waste our time listening to people like Jonathan, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida because they are responsible for the negative state of the nation and they are directly benefitting from that negative state. But the question is: As Nigerians; are we prepared to protect our interest by any means or we want to remain as slaves forever?
When you say Nigerians should protect their interest by any means, are you joining those calling for revolution?
I said by any means because that was what citizens of other countries did to liberate themselves. Countries like the United States, Britain, Russia, China and Germany, among others, didn’t get to where they are now by sitting down and wishing it. They sat down and prepared to go the whole hog for their freedom, which in turn, guaranteed their progress.
Do you see that happening in a complex nation like Nigeria?
Forget about that. Is Nigeria more complex that any of these countries that I just mentioned yet they sat down and insisted on democracy and national unity. Let’s go back to history; how did the countries of Europe – Britain, Germany and France, among others secure the right of the people to elect their representatives in their respective parliaments? Was that move not opposed by the monarchy that held sway then, but the people insisted on the right of the people to elect their representatives. In America, where there was no monarchy, the people had to fight slavery and British colonialism, and they used all means.
So, you can see that there is no country that is free now that didn’t pass through what Nigeria is experiencing at the moment, but they sat down and used all means to get to where they are presently. Do you know how China became a Peoples Republic in 1949? Did they just sat down and celebrated those who opposed the people’s freedom? No! They did what was required. So, we have to also do what is required. We have to it because Nigeria has virtually reached the end of the road. Nothing is working in Nigeria. Law and order no longer work; what is working now is balance of terror and you can see that clearly.
Even soldiers, policemen and personnel of other security agencies that are supposed to protect the people are being killed in their numbers these days. What is working in Nigeria today is balance of terror or what one will equally describe as bureaucratic anarchy, waiting for social anarchy to come about. Remember how Somalia got to where it is today. Today, nobody can stand up in that country because anything can happen at any time. Are you saying that we will not reach to that level? No, we will reach there unless something is urgently done to stop Nigeria’s continued slide to anarchy.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is likely to disagree with you that Nigeria is on the road to Somalia…
Forget about the APC and the other opposition parties because they are the same. All the 91 political parties in Nigeria are the same except the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) because of the party’s commitment to socialist reconstruction of Nigeria, starting with the leading role of the government in the economy to ensuring peace, justice, equality and even development of the country. This makes PRP unique, but the party is ignored because it doesn’t have money. Why is it that the media don’t take on the parties, analyze what the stand for and present them before the people?
The issue is that parties come with great ideas, but most times a different thing is seen when they get to power…
But that was not the case when the PRP came to power in Kaduna State in 1979. Didn’t you see the difference during the four years PRP was in power in Kaduna State? For instance, immediately we were sworn-in on October 1, 1979, we identified that the poor state of the education sector as the fundamental problem of Nigeria and Kaduna State in particular. In terms of educational development, we identified that there was a forty years gap between the North and the South, and we Kaduna State committed ourselves to bridging that gap in 20 years.
We planned to reach the level of educational development of Oyo State, which was the number one in the country then within 20 years and we started the journey from day one by increasing the number of secondary schools in Kaduna State from 100 to 200. Was there any state government that adopted such a revolutionary step then? Why is the media ignoring that? I know that it is in the interest of other parties to ignore that, but why is the media also doing so? Within four years, we built 13 roads that linked the various local government areas of the state; we built 13 small scale industries that all started production, but later packed up because those who took over from us messed up everything.
What is your take on the threat by the PDP to pull out of future elections given what happened during the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states?
What is the difference between APC and PDP? The PDP is even worst and that was why in 2015, they preferred not to win the presidential election. They sabotaged themselves in different ways because they preferred the APC to take over from them, knowing very well that APC will not last in power and that Nigerians would end up, saying that PDP should come back. That is what is happening in Nigeria today. Today, in terms of governorship, representation at the state and national Assembly as well as administration at the local government level, what is the difference between APC and PDP? They are neck-to-neck.
In 2015, PDP knew that if they continue to stay in power, there would be a social revolution that will wipe them out, so they preferred to defeat themselves. Their strategy was to allow APC, which they knew will not hold on to power for long to take over and they took over, knowing that after some time, people will start saying that even PDP was better, which is happening today.
Do you see the social revolution, which you said the PDP averted, happening given the way things are with the APC-led government?
Of course, it will happen because Nigerians are fed up with the present negative state of the nation and there will come a time, when the people will not take that any more. And you know that history has proved that slaves never remain as slaves forever; one day slaves will rise up to free themselves. In Europe and America, didn’t people fight against slavery, totalitarianism, monarchy and colonialism? Even in our history in Nigeria, didn’t we fight colonialism and saw to the end of it? What is the difference between what is happening now and during feudal times; the days of the emirs and chiefs, during the days of British colonialism and during the days of military dictatorship?
Some years ago, a farmer can survive on the income he makes from his farm produce and still have some to spare. Is there any farmer who can do that now except the big thieves, who have big and mechanized farms? Until the military came in 1966, a farmer anywhere in Nigeria survived on income from his farm and even had something to spare. When I started work in 1953, it was messengers who helped us out before we received our first salary. The salary of a messenger then was enough to sustain him and his family, and there was even something left to help others.
I started work as a clerk in 1953, but coming to city for the first time, I borrowed money from a messenger in order to survive, pending when I received my first salary. I didn’t borrow from a permanent secretary, but a messenger. Even when I was the governor of Kaduna State, you would be surprised to know how much I spent to take care of myself and my family. If I remember correctly, I spent about N6,000 monthly because I have a small family – myself, three children and two domestic staff.
How did the nation get it wrong and why is that President Buhari seems to be finding it difficult to reverse the trend despite the promises he made?
Things have gone from bad to worse and you will be deceiving yourself if you rely on those promises. Find out the reality on ground and compare it to the promises and you will realize that the promises were lies and deception.
Despite the picture you’ve painted about Nigeria, some politicians have kick-started the campaign for the 2023 elections…
What they are doing is all about gambling with the future of Nigeria and her over 180 million people. So, let us wait for the worst to happen or we stand up and prevent the worst from happening. The people of other nations, at a time in their respective histories, witnessed what we are experiencing now, but they stood up and freed themselves. So, it is left for us to stand up and liberate ourselves.
Do you see liberation coming through the ballot?
We know the reality, so let us not deceive ourselves. We know the level of poverty in Nigeria at the moment; the level of insecurity is clear; the level of dominance by the ruling class is clear; the level of looting of our common wealth is clear; the level of domination of our economy by a few imperialists is clear. All these negative indices are clear, so let us stand up and solve the problems by whatever means if we are people worth our names.
When you say by whatever means; some people called for revolution and the state moved against them and they are still in detention?
Those who freed the countries of Europe and America; was that not what they did? Why can’t we do that?
Are you not worried that the Hate Speech Bill that is pending in the Senate is part of the plot to gag Nigerians from speaking truth to power?
That is part of the plan by the ruling class to put opposition in check, so that it can remain in power. But, such did not start today. Even in feudal and monarchical times, those who advocated for freedom of speech and expression were arrested and shot. Even the religious bodies collaborated with the authorities by describing those advocates as heretics. So, those who are opposed to the Hate Speech Bill should know that there is a price to pay, but I will advise them not to give up.
How can a government that claims to obey the rule of law think of gaging the people with what it describes a Hate Speech Law, when the constitution provides for freedom of speech? We know the plan; the ruling class wants to remain in power, so opposition should not be tolerated and that is the reason for the Hate Speech Bill.
What are your thoughts on the rumoured third term plan for the President, which he has come out to disclaim?
What is strange about it? Haven’t we seen in the past, a man that wants to perpetuate himself in power, kick-starting the plot by organising groups to campaign for him to be given a third term.
Nigeria’s electoral process has been monetisied – Agoro
Dr. Olapade Agoro, a former presidential candidate and National Chairman of the National Action Council (NAC), in this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, speaks on the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, electoral reform and 2023 presidency, among other issues
As a former presidential candidate and National Chairman of the National Action Council (NAC), what is your take on the recent governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states?
You asked a question that is salient to the socio-political issues that is on ground now in Nigeria. I must let you that I am not one of those who want to live in the rough fight of the political situation of Nigeria. If that is the type of election we want in Nigeria in year 2019, then I will say leave me out of it. I felt very bad about the violence and killings that took place during the Kogi State governorship election. I felt bad that a woman, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Woman Leader was burnt to ashes with her properties because of election. How can we recover that woman burnt because of politics?
You will recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan once said his election victory must not be built on the blood of anybody. With the killing of the PDP Woman leader and so many other people in Kogi and Bayelsa states in just one election, we must ask ourselves some questions: Are we animals in human skins? Do we have human blood in us? Do we have human feelings? How can someone win an election on the blood of people? That is my reaction. I don’t think it is an election one want to discuss. It is an election built on sham.
With what happened in Bayelsa and Kogi, are you not worried about what lies ahead of the 2023 general election?
I don’t think offering oneself for serve worth shedding of blood. Why should I kill anybody because of a dream? It is rather unfortunate that at the end of the day those who killed will also die one day. Look at what happened to former President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who died at the age of 93. Look at the ruin he ended up leaving Zimbabwe with. Zimbabwe is now a ruined country and dilapidated nation. So, when you talk about Africans in politics, you are talking of animals in the jungle. We have no common sense and feelings for humanity.
Politics is all about service, but what do we get; you want to kill somebody else because you want to be in a position? Why should that be? Why must you believe that you must kill somebody because of ordinary position that is ephemeral? So, forget about 2023. If you don’t have today, you can’t expect to have tomorrow. We have not gotten today right, so thinking about tomorrow, we are wasting our time.
But some people have already started campaigning for 2023…
We are in 2019; we don’t know who will see 2020. I read something in the newspaper that made me puke. Some people are saying that the presidency of this nation should be limited to the North. That is sad. Is the presidency the property of some people? The belief that only people from a catchment area have the right to leadership is wrong. I think that may determine what we have to do with Nigeria. If I as a person cannot even dream of becoming a leader of my country; that leadership of this country has been arrogated to a catchment of an area; I think that is wrong. I think that is silly and playing God.
Are you invariably saying that the North should retain the presidency in 2023?
Why should it go to the North? That is the problem we have in this nation. We believe in leadership by right. If Barrack Obama, a black man could become president of United States; president of a white dominated nation, then I believe anybody should aspire to leadership anywhere in Nigeria. So, there is a need for us to sit down and call a national debate. Do we want Nigeria as a nation? If we don’t get it, then we need to decide the step we must take. Why should some people believe that leadership is their birthright just because of geographical difference? That is silly and talking nonsense. I believe God can use the youth of today to become leader tomorrow. I believe anybody can aspire to become the leader of this country any day, any time.
Muhammadu Buhari became president in the last election. He is a friend and I love him, but then he should ask himself, did he win the election freely and fairly? The election was marooned with unquantifiable quantity of naira. Nobody can say this is the actual money that was spent for the election. Is Buhari leading us right? The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cannot sit down and say this is the actual amount of money that was spent for the election. A candidate must have spent about N20 billion for one election. That is wrong, silly and madness. There is nothing to rejoice about. That is telling you that Nigeria as a nation is not meant for a poor man.
Should the presidency return to the South in 2023 as being demanded by some southern leaders?
I don’t believe in the idea that a president should come from a particular area. The next president of Nigeria should go to a highly qualified person. We need quality in service. We need offering of quality not offering of naira. Barrack Obama was the poorest among those who have been contesting for the presidency of the United States, but he has the determination and courage and packaged everything he can, and suddenly started gathering money from here and there. At the end of the day, he won the election. But in Nigeria, we had somebody contesting election and spending money in billions just because he wants to be a leader.
What is your take on the speculation that President Buhari is seeking a third term despite the president denying it?
I know Buhari and I will not allow anybody to talk evil of him. Buhari will never seek for anything called third term. He is lucky that he is even alive. You can contest election even if you are 80 years if you are still strong and healthy. During his first time in office, Buhari spent over three months in London; he went to hospital in London for treatment. Is that the man you want to say should be junketing about with a third term idea? I don’t believe Buhari is going for third term. I am sure immediately his tenure ends, Buhari will head to United Kingdom. He has a very good friend now in United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Given what happened in Kogi and Bayelsa states during the November 16 governorship polls and other previous elections under the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC, what should Nigerians expect in 2023?
As far as I am concerned, INEC is what you will call Nigeria. INEC is Nigeria, where nothing good works. Let us just forget about 2023 now and reform our electoral system. I will want to say that Buhari should give us reformed electoral system. We should sit down and work things out. The noise people are making now about Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is nonsense. Buhari should call his aides and assistants to order; they shouldn’t mess up with the vice-president. Osinbajo saved this nation when Buhari was not around. He did his best for Nigeria. So, those trying to push him out should please be told to watch it. All his aides, who were sacked, should be reinstated. Osinbajo is a professor of Law, so people should not toy with him.
Will you support the call for deregistration of some political parties, considering their poor performance in the last general election?
As far as I am concerned, having so many political parties in Nigeria without taking care of money in politics, we are wasting our time. What will the parties do without money? The 2019 presidential election cost All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) about N50 billion. Tell me other parties, which can raise N1 billion for an election? There were 71 political parties that contested the 2019 presidential election and 69 political parties scored less than one million votes, while Buhari and Atiku had over 27million votes. That will tell you that we have not gotten it right. We are not talking about the issue of political parties; we are talking about the system. The system has been ganged up in money. We are not voting in Nigeria, we are buying votes. So, when you talk about voting, we are wasting time; people buy votes in Nigeria. The more you have, the more you can get.
We have not gotten to the stage where you will have an idea of building a nation based on ideology. Which ideology do we have in our system? Buhari supported Governor Yahaya Bello in Kogi State and also supported David Lyon in Bayelsa State. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and former Bayelsa State governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, also supported Lyon and you think Governor Seriake Dickson will prevail. The governor should have known that he was fighting a wrong battle. That is it. Buhari has decided that he has a stake in the political system of Nigeria. So, we have militarized and monitised Nigeria’s electoral process.
You hail from Osun State and recently three Chinese investors were kidnapped in the state. What is your take on this ugly incident?
The kidnap of the three Chinese investors and killing of a Police officer at Itagunmodi in Atakumosa area of Osun State is sad and embarrassing. Such should not be allowed to dampen the good work being done by the government of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola. Rather it should be seen as a surmountable challenge with good and strategic planning. The killing of a police officer in the incident should be seen as an affront at the law enforcement agencies with evil intention to discourage and disorganise them. The work of insiders must not be ruled out to prevent further occurrence. I am happy to learn of the release of those kidnapped yet the guard should not be let loose until the State of Osun can be safety quarantined for all and sundry.
Scrutinize Dickson’s accounts, Lyon urges transition committee
Chief David Lyon the governor elect of Bayelsa State on Wednesday urged the transition committee set up by the All Progressives Congress to scrutinize the accounts of Governor Henry Dickson’s administration urging them to identify failures of the outgoing administration.
Inaugurating the committee in Yenagoa, the state capital, David Lyon urged them but also proffer possible solutions to tackle economic, security, development, infrastructure and the several other areas that often put the machinery of government in the negative perspective.
Lyon also set out a 12-point term of reference for the committee including the close monitoring of Dickson’s dealings with banks and financial institutions and scrutinise bills passed into law within the past four years.
Among other terms of reference are for the committee to interface with the out-going Administration for purposes of a smooth hand-over/take-,over and receive hand-over documents from Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Chief Lyon, in his speech, also noted that though the challenges before the APC and the incoming administration is enormous, “No doubt, there are enormous challenges facing us as a people. Some of you here have witnessed these challenges before and may have, in your heart, been thinking of what you would do to address them if given the opportunity.
“Some others are here to contribute fresh ideas towards addressing the issues before us. We have often talked about the failures of the outgoing government and its inability to solve the problems bedeviling our state.
“The onus now lies on us to bring to bear those solutions that we have, for long, kept in our hearts. You must remember that the task before us is enormous and must, therefore, bring your utmost best in proffering solutions to our numerous challenges.”
He also pointed out that the size of the transition committee is made up of a “group of people with common dreams and ideologies who share common pains, aspirations and goals.”
Speaking, the Chairman of the Transition Committee and former Acting Governor, Werinipre Seibarogu, thanked the party and the Governor-elect for the opportunity to serve and vowed to fulfil the terms of reference handed the committee.
South West PDP asks NASS to revisit electoral bill
- Says Nigerian elections no longer command respect
The South West zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Wednesday, asked the National Assembly to urgently revisit the electoral bill which was “curiously” vetoed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The party said the bill represents an immediate panacea to the growing malpractices and irregularities rocking the nation’s electoral process.
Rising from a stakeholders meeting held in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, the PDP leaders bemoaned the alleged surreptitious plot by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to subvert the mandate of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
The party leaders also condemned the alleged use of security agencies to compromise election results in favour of APC in the recent gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.
In attendance at the meeting were Governor Makinde, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Chief Bisi Ilaka; former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, former presidential spokesman, Dr Doyin Okupe, former House of Representatives member, Oladipupo Adebutu, and former Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ibrahim Kazaure.
Others include the PDP Deputy National Chairman (South), Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, PDP National Secretary, Ibrahim Tsuari, National Vice Chairman (South West), Dr Eddy Olafeso, and Lagos State chairman of PDP, Chief Deji Doherty.
Some of the PDP leaders took turns to express concern over the political situation in the country, saying it was degenerating under Buhari’s watch.
The party chieftains observed a minute silence for the late PDP Women Leader in Kogi, Mrs Salome Acheju Abuh, who was burnt to death recently.
In a communiqué issued after the meeting, the South West PDP renewed calls for urgent review of the electoral process towards sanitizing it to command respect.
It will be recalled that the 8th Assembly under the immediate past Senate President Bukola Saraki proposed an Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill but it was not assented to by the President.
Reps: How lawmakers passed finance bill in a week
Philip Nyam reports on how the House of Representatives conducted a public hearing and passed the finance bill in less than two weeks
he House of Representatives kept to its promise by passing the finance bill last Thursday. The report of the committee on finance on the bill was laid same day and considered immediately at the committee of the whole.
The bill titled: “A bill for an act to amend the companies income tax act, value added tax, customs and excise tariff etc. (Consolidation) act, personal income tax act, capital gains tax act, stamp duties act and petroleum profit tax act to provide for the review of tax provisions and make them more responsive to tax reform, and for related matters,” is an executive proposed legislation.
Part of the amendments approved in the bill by the House according to the chairman of the House committee on media and public affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, is the stripping of the Nigerian Postal Commission (NIPOST) of the responsibility of collecting N50 stamp duties and transferring it to Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The N50 one-off stamp duty, however, exempts all electronic receipts or transfer of money deposited in any bank or with any banker, on any type of account, to be accounted for amounting from N10,000 upwards except monies paid into one’s account or transferred electronically between accounts of the same owners by the owner within the same bank.
The House also approved the increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) from five to 7.5 per cent. On sanction, the bill provides that a taxable person who fails or refuses to register with FIRS within the time specified in the bill shall be liable to pay N50,000 fine for the first month and N25,000 for each subsequent month of default.
“Where a taxable person permanently ceased to carry on a trade or business in Nigeria, the taxable person shall notify the Service of its intention to deregister for tax purposes within 90 days of such cessation of the trade or business.
“Nonresident company is also under obligation to be taxed on invoice for the supply of taxable services while the person to whom the services are supplied in Nigeria shall withhold and remit tax directly to the Service in the currency of payment.
“Any taxable person who fails to notify the Service of a change of address of business or trade shall be liable to fine of N50,000 for the first month and N25,000 for subsequent month of default.
“Any taxable person who fails to submit returns shall be liable to a fine of N50,000 for the first month and N25,000 for subsequent month of default,” the bill provides.
On the amendment to the Customs and Excise Tariff, etc (Consolidation), Act, the bill provides: “Goods manufactured in Nigeria and specified in the Fifth Schedule to this Act shall be charged with duties of Excise at the rate specified under the Duty Column.”
It also provides that goods imported and those manufactured in Nigeria shall be charged with duties of Excise at the specified rates in the Duty Column.
The provision is aimed at protecting local industries and to make their prices competitive, while avoiding double taxation. The Companies Income Tax amendment also affects real estate investment companies, dividend, interest, rent or royalty paid by companies. Section 23 of the report however exempts profits of any company being a statutory or register friendly society in so far as such profits are not derived from a trade or business carried on by such society.
Others include profits by a cooperative society, profits of any company engaged in ecclesiastical, charitable or educational activities of a public character, company sponsoring sporting activities and profits generated by registered trade unions.
In a bid to encourage diversification of the economy, the bill also provides for incentives for “any company engaged in agricultural production and processing in addition to other incentives. An initial tax free period of five years which may be subject to satisfactory performance of the agricultural business be renewed for an additional maximum period of five years.”
The public hearing
Before the House passed the bill on November 28, it held a public hearing on November 25, where stakeholders were invited to make inputs. While declaring opened the exercise, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila stated that the Tax and Fiscal Law (amendment) Bill before the National Assembly would determine the nation’s capacity to fund the 2020 Appropriation Act.
He said: “The Tax and Fiscal Law (Amendment) Bill which we have gathered here to consider and to contribute to, will determine amongst other things, our ability as a nation to fund the 2020 budget, meet the obligations of government and implement policies to build infrastructure, tackle insecurity, grow the economy, and provide jobs that pay a living wage and lift families out of poverty.
“It is an important piece of legislation, deserving of thorough consideration, and reasoned debate by the parliament of the people, acting in the best interests of the people. We have a responsibility as legislators to meticulously review and examine every aspect of this bill to ensure that we produce a legislative document that is clear in its objectives, thoughtful in the mandates it imposes and reflective of the best aspirations of all our citizens.”
On her part, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, explained that the Financial Bill 2019 seeks to promote fiscal equity by mitigating instances of regressive taxation; reform domestic tax laws to align with global best practices and introduce tax incentives for investments in infrastructure and capital markets.
She said the bill also seeks to support small businesses in line with ease of doing business reforms and raise revenues for government, by various fiscal measures, including a proposed increase in the rate of VAT from five to 7.5 per cent, while the Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) seeks to improve revenue by removing the tax exemption granted for dividends or income received from companies charged under PPT.
In his intervention, Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, informed lawmakers that over 40,000 registered businesses do not pay requisite taxes in Nigeria.
Chairman, Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Paul McGrath, argued that stiff business environment left Nigeria with only three per cent out of the $73 billion of major project investments in Africa from 2015 to 2019.
According to him, OPTS represents 29 independent, indigenous and international E&P companies which operate about 90 per cent of the oil and gas production and have invested on average $15 billion per year in Nigeria over the last five years with significant benefits to the economy.
He, however, acknowledged that some sections of the composite bill seeking to reform the tax regime by amending several acts, namely Petroleum Profit Tax Act (PPT), Custom and Excise Tax Act, Company Income Tax Act (CITA), Personal Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax Act, Stamp Duties Tax Act, and Capital Gains Act, are geared toward encouraging small to medium companies flourish and also digitalize communications, especially the exemption of small to medium companies from VAT, as well as a 1-2 per cent bonus for medium-sized and large companies that pay their income tax liability early under the CITA.
He observed that certain provisions in the composite bills such as the proposed increase from 7.5 to 10 per cent withholding tax on dividends paid out of petroleum profits, which he argued “represents another layer of tax on the pre-existing 85 per cent petroleum profit tax rate will erode investment and investors’ confidence.
While cautioning against policy somersault, he observed that when Section 60 of PPTA was put in place, it was widely understood that Nigeria’s PPT rate of 85 per cent was very high when compared to other countries. “Therefore, the exemption of dividend payments from withholding tax was put in place to reduce the burden caused by the high tax rate,” he said.
He maintained that the additional tax will further erode returns on investment and will have a negative impact on Nigeria’s attractiveness as an investment destination, to the advantage of other countries, adding that the proposed hike will in the “short-term increase in revenue from all these provisions puts at risk Nigeria’s ability to sustain its current production through new investments.
“Without new projects, Nigeria’s production will be subject to a 15 per cent annual natural decline,” he said.
On the other hand, he urged that the proposal be removed from the Bill, and instead considered within the wider context of a Petroleum Industry Bill, so that its full implications for all stakeholders can be assessed and decided upon.
Speaking on the proposed 7.5 per cent VAT rate as contained in Sections 35 & 38 of the bill, McGrath kicked against the imposition of VAT on invoices and similar transactions which he stressed will “widen the operating expenses base, thus, increasing industry operational costs.
“Again, OPTS recommends the adoption of globally-accepted industry practice of exempting intra-company at cost services,” he said.
Despite the laudable objectives of the Nigeria Economic Reform Growth Plan (ERGP) aimed at building a competitive economy through improving the Nigerian business environment, he maintained that one of the proposed amendments would defeat this objective.
“It is noteworthy that total contributions from our operations have consistently constituted over 70 per cent of government revenue and 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange. This translates to cumulative $425 billion contribution to Nigeria’s revenue between 2007 and 2018,” he observed.
On her part, President/Chairman, Chattered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), observed that most of the provisions that the bills seeks to amend have become obsolete in terms of global practice and have become practically difficult to implement in the Nigerian context.
According to her, “these have given rise to many loopholes that are exploited in widening the tax avoidance gap in Nigeria.”
The institute also commended the proposed amendment to the excise duties on goods imported for export oriented activities, just as it called for careful definition of the “range of products so charged as part of strategies targeted at aiding the country’s migration from net-importer to export-oriented nation.”
With the expeditious passage of the bill, it is expected that President Muhammadu Buhari will assent to it immediately it is forwarded to him by the National Assembly.
Kano: Ganduje boosts state’s education status with France visit
Recently, Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, was in France to stimulate the state’s relationship with France on educational development. During the visit, much was done, including the signing of an bilateral educational agreement. MUHAMMAD KABIR reports
here is no doubt that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s visit to France has attracted lots of goodies to Kano State, especially as regards to educational development.
During the visit, Ganduje renewed an educational agreement between the state and French Government under the Kano, France Governments Scholarship Agreement for five more years from 2020, when the existing agreement comes to an end. The current agreement was signed in 2016.
The governor said the extension for a period of five years was to enable those who would run doctorate degrees to have enough period to complete their studies in case of an extension of their academic engagements due to the peculiarity of their chosen fields of study.
Commending the existing academic partnership between Kano State government and the French Government, Ganduje said: “What we are doing now is targeted at educational programmes. In this programme for example, we target lecturers of our tertiary institutions, who will come back and impart what they were taught and trained on to their students.”
He made the disclosure, when he visited Kano students, sponsored under the programme at Campus France in Paris, while explaining that his administration accords priority to all stages of the education sector.
Campus France is a body that shoulders responsibility of managing Kano France Governments Scholarship Programme among others across the globe. The body currently has 4,000 students under its watch. It works by way of collaborative effort with all institutions of higher learning in France.
Ganduje, who expressed his believe that the education sector needs to have complete overhaul, said: “That is why we said for basic education; let us have free and compulsory primary and secondary education. A policy we have since started implementing. Because of the quality of students that are going to be produced from our primary to secondary schools, we now said that we have to prepare for quality tertiary institutions.”
According to him, the need to quip lecturers of institutions of higher learning, explained why they were encouraged to further their studies under the French programme. “It is not an issue of taking people to places without any direction. In our effort to prepare our tertiary institutions for quality response, we came up with this educational programme,” he said.
Speaking during the governor’s visit, the Director-General of Campus France, coordinating the programme, Beatrice Khaiat, who expressed satisfaction over what she described as exceptional performance of the Kano postgraduate students, numbering 26, out of which, 19 are running masters programmes and seven, doctorate programmes, informed Ganduje that more French universities are willing to accept more students from Kano.
Khaiat disclosed that Kano has set a standard by sending students for postgraduate studies in France. “What the Kano State government is doing by sending students, who are selected on merit, is extremely good for state, Nigeria and the world in general,” she said.
Noting that the Kano students are taking the lead in all their choice areas, she said the initiative of the Ganduje-led government will contribute to the development of the state and would be reflected as part of the legacies of his administration.
Governor Ganduje was in the course of the visit invited by the French Education Attachee at French Embassy in Nigeria, Mrs. Laila Matthew, to facilitate the participation of Kano State in the upcoming Nigeria Day in France, when Nigerian institutions of higher learning would be in France to meet with French institutions to explore opportunities for postgraduate studies.
“Kano is doing well in this agreement that was first signed in 2016. It is indicative to note that this agreement with the Kano State government opened doors for Nigeria as some other schools started showing interest in this great programme. So, Kano is a pacesetter. It may interest the governor to also know that most of the awardees, who are sponsored through the Petroleum Trust and Development Fund (PTDF), come from Kano,” Matthew disclosed.
She further revealed that at that commencement of the agreement with Kano State, it was predicted that many Nigerian states would follow suit. She therefor congratulated Governor Ganduje for the exceptional performance of the Kano students sponsored under the programme, noting that some of the PhD students are doing exceptionally well.
“We have a Kano student, who was even selected for a renowned international conference, where he did well as well,” she said.
As a show of appreciation and encouragement to the Kano State government, the French Committee of Vice Chancellors, which was represented at the visit, also acknowledged how Kano State students under the scholarship programme are excelling in French universities.
Meanwhile, after meeting with the officials, Ganduje had special a meeting with the Kano students. In his remarks during the meeting, the governor commended them for being good ambassadors of Kano State and Nigeria.
“While commending you for your exhibition of good character, I am also on behalf of the government and good people of Kano State, commending you profusely on your giant strides and performance in your fields of study,” he said.
While reiterating the commitment of his administration to provide quality education at all levels, he said: “We started with the accreditation of our higher institutions of learning. We then said education is now free in both primary and secondary schools. But that is not enough for us. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the French government in 2016 and we said this time around it must be a targeted educational programme.
“We found it extremely necessary to inform you first before doing that. Being stakeholders in this effort, as education is dynamic, we found it necessary to help you go deeper in global learning. We are also thinking of increasing the number of studenta and lecturers coming here for postgraduate studies,” he said.
The governor received a standing ovation, when he mentioned that.. Another standing ovation was accorded to the governor when he mentioned before the students that he doesn’t care about political party affiliation, when it comes to the selection process of beneficiaries.
The Chairman of Kano State Joint Scholarship Awardees, Bashir Ado, commended the governor for the untiring efforts. He revealed that they do not face any form of difficulty in their stay as students in France.
“We do not experience any hitch in any payment. We are comfortably facing our studies. For your information sir, Kano has the highest number of students studying in France among all other states in Nigeria. We are grateful for that,” he said.
The students’ body crowned Governor Ganduje with an Award of Excellence and Performance, as an appreciation of his effort in the education sector. The students emphasised that, when Nigeria is blessed with leaders like Ganduje, the country would, within the shortest possible time, compete with other big nations on earth.
“We do appreciate His Excellency’s committed commitment, dedication, patriotism and above all political will. We will not complete our remarks without thanking the Vice Chancellor of Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil, Prof. Shehu Alhaji Musa for his unrelenting support and encouragement. So also the Coordinator of the programme, Dr Usaini Jarma, who has also being up and down to make sure that the programme succeeds and all other officials who give their support in one-way or the other,” they declared.
They also decorated Prof Musa and Dr Jarma with Awards of Excellence, with the permission of the governor, as protocol arrangement of such gatherings and meetings demands.
At CY Universite Cergy-Pontois, Ganduje was briefed by the Political Affairs Officer of the university, Clara Doly-Tacconi; Joelle Gury of International Relations department and Joachim Amdreas Honecker of Master Physics and was acquainted with the need for global partnership between the university and the Kano State government.
An MoU that was already signed between Kano and French governments would also include the university for the establishment of the vibrant synergy for the advancement of education in the state, where the state would be sending students to further their education at both masters and doctoral degree programmes.
Tacconi said their dream was to develop campuses in Nigeria and other African countries, adding: “We have found good partnership with the Kano State government. And looking at the high ranking nature of the university among others, calls for our serious partnership with the state government.”
In his remarks, Governor Ganduje assured them that the university would be part of the institutions to be considered in the already signed MoU between the French government and Kano State, which provides for the sending of lecturers from institutions of higher learning in the state.
His words: “We will be good partners in the area of education, especially looking at your position in the education ranking in the world. This university will be part of our MoU. And our target is to let our lecturers improve in their areas of specialty and capacity and to also expose them to research world.
“The state is tilting towards science and technology, so that we can continue to have productive manpower. While on urban development, as you have just briefed us, we need that in place. Kano being a mega city, there are issues like that of security, sanitation and transportation. So, for us, demographic studies is important.”
The need a population that is an asset, not a liability in the state, was what governor Ganduje assured that he would make the synergy between work, adding that “we are after affordability, accessibility and sustainability, that is why we are executing free and compulsory primary and secondary education policy in the state.”
Governor Ganduje and his entourage later proceeded to EPITA Bilingual School of Engineering and Computer Science, the first of all universities in France in the area Engineering/Computer Science. The school has working synergy with over 2,000 companies.
The Director of the institution’s International Programmes, Prof. Rabid Haddad, commended the Kano State government for its effort in sending postgraduate students the under Kano France Joint Scholarship Programme, where lecturers from tertiary institutions of learning are being send to further their studies at the postgraduate level.
On the entourage of Governor Ganduje were the Vice Chancellor of Kano State University of Science and Technology (KUST), Wudil, Prof. Shehu Musa; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Higher Education, Dr Binta Umar Bala; Executive Secretary, Kano State Scholarship Board, Abubakar Zakari and Usaini Jarma, former Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Higher Education, who is also the Programme Coordinator of the French/Kano Governments Foreign Scholarship Programme.
Others are the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Auwalu Iliasu Riruwai; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Garba Ahmad; Managing Director, State Water Board, Tukur Makama Getso and Managing Director State Refuse Management and Sanitation Board (REMASAB), Abdullahi Mu’azu Gwarzo.
Lalong vs Useni: One more hurdle to cross
The battle for the soul of Plateau State has moved to the Supreme Court after both the tribunal and appellate court validated Governor Simon Lalong’s victory in the March gubernatorial election, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in that poll, Senator Jeremiah Useni, is yet to give up, Wale Elegbede reports
hen the septuagenarian senator and retired Army General, Jeremiah Useni, emerged as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State in 2018, not a few predicted that his military upbringing of doggedness will form part of his dexterity to rule the north-central state.
Although he lost the election after two ballots, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) wouldn’t renege, so he decided to exhaust all legal options at his disposal despite the ecstasy that followed the validation of the election of the incumbent governor, Simon Lalong of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at every stage of verdicts.
Nicknamed ‘Jerry Boy’ during his heydays, Useni has a record of being one of the most enduring military figures in the country. By February 2020, he is going to clock 77. He represented Plateau South Senatorial District in the Eight Senate and he was the military governor of the old Bendel State (now Edo and Delta states) between 1984 and 1985.
Whilst his emergence as PDP governorship candidate came as a rude shock to many owing to the clamour for a generational power shift which brought about the recent Not Too Young To Run law, some other people averred that he rode on the back of the contentious zoning debate in the state.
For Governor Lalong, the journey to his reelection bid was made easy by his commendable performance during his first term. For many Plateau citizens, his all-inclusive governance style that promoted unity, security and economic buoyancy was the forerunner for his second term bid, and he did have the reelection despite the close markings by the PDP.
After the March 9 election, the Independent Electoral Commission Headquarters (INEC) declared the Plateau State governorship election inconclusive as the margin of lead was less than the cancelled votes. A total of 48,828 votes across 49 polling units were disputed, a figure that was more than the 44,929 votes that Lalong led Useni with.
The supplementary election was then held two weeks after the conduct of the first ballot. In the supplementary election in nine local governmet areas of Langtang South, Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Bokkos, Jos North, Kanam, Mangu, Shendam and Pankshin, Lalong still led Useni, polling additional 12,327 votes against Useni’s 8,487 votes.
Lalong was therefore declared winner and returned elected as the governor of Plateau State for a second term. According to the Returning Officer, Prof Richard Anande Kimbir, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State, Lalong polled 595,582 votes to defeat his closest opponent, Senator Useni of the PDP who polled a total of 546,813 votes.
To many, the eventual victory of Lalong was not really a surprise, considering that he was already leading Useni with 44,929 votes in the earlier election before it was declared inconclusive. But for the former General and his supporters, it was daylight electoral fraud, hence, the resolve to contest the declaration in court.
“I want to give you my word that we would pursue this matter and recover our stolen mandate. I assure you that it is not yet over; we have just entered the critical phase. We are approaching the tribunal to seek legal redress,” Useni vowed after the election.
But responding, the State Commissioner of Information, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said in a statement that Plateau people spoke loud and clear through the ballot by voting overwhelmingly for Governor Lalong.
Making good his threat, Useni headed to the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to challenge Lalong victory, praying it to declare him winner of the election on the basis of an alleged disparity in the names supplied by Governor Lalong in form CF001.
After the legal fireworks at the tribunal, a panel of three justices led by Justice Halima Salami, in October, held that the petitioners did not adequately prove their case, thereby validating Lalong’s election.
It also held that the information made in form CF001 by Lalong bothering on the disparity of name was not fundamental in nature. The tribunal also posited that the petitioners failed to prove their allegation of electoral irregularities bothering on falsifications of results and over voting against Lalong and APC.
The tribunal described the petition as “incompetent” and “lacking in merit” and expunged all the evidence presented out of its record.
Reacting to the ruling, the miffed Useni claimed, “Something was amiss. But these things are just a test. I will pass my test. I will not fail this test. Within two weeks, we will file the appeal. And we will go even up to the Supreme Court. The war is not over yet. No soldier loses one battle and runs away,” he said.
Expectedly, the hugely disappointed Useni, who had been counting his chicken before it hatched by already giving out blueprint on how he will run state if the tribunal confirms him as governor, swiftly headed to the Appeal Court through his legal team led by two senior advocates, Mike Ozekhome, and Edward Pwajok. They filed a notice of appeal and formulated 21 grounds of appeal to overturn the verdict of the tribunal.
Delivering judgement last Friday on the appeal, the court in a unanimous decision read by Justice O.A. Otisi, dismissed the appeal by Useni and upheld the judgment of the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had validated Lalong’s victory in the March governorship election.
The appellate court also held that Lalong has the educational qualification to contest in the election and also awarded the sum of N200,000 as cost to be paid to the respondents.
As if already envisaging the outcome of the appellate court ruling, Useni, few hours after seeing his governorship dream dashed, headed to the Supreme Court to challenge the verdict of the appellate court.
Useni’s Media Consultant, Mr Yiljap Abraham, confirmed the move in a statement in Jos on Friday after the ruling. He said: “The governorship candidate of the Plateau PDP in the 2019 election, Lt. Gen (rtd) Senator Jeremiah Timbut Useni, has instructed his legal team to prepare and proceed to the Supreme Court immediately to challenge Friday’s judgment of the Appeal Court, which affirmed the decision of the lower tribunal. The decision was taken during a review meeting with the legal experts and General Useni.”
Describing the judgment of the appellate court as a surprise, especially having dismissed the two cross-appeals of the cross appellants as lacking in merit and an abuse of court process, Useni further said: “Our cause is the right cause. We should not make the law look as if it is not important. Let the Supreme Court declare whether lying on oath is not against the law.”
But, extending a hand of fellowship to all citizens of the state including Useni after the ruling, Lalong said his reelection as governor is based on the wish of the people of the state, adding that Useni should have allowed his daughter, who was his classmate, to challenge him in the election.
Speaking in Jos with newsmen on Friday after the ruling, Lalong said the validation of his reelection by the appellate court is “very sweet.”
“As far as I am concerned, the main election was more important for me. I did the election, I did a runoff, we went to the tribunal the first time, we went again for the second time. Well, I don’t know whether he is going for the third time,” he said.
“One thing I am very sure and with the confidence I have in Plateau people, I know that this victory they are very happy about it. They have prayed about it and the victory is very sweet.
“I will say it again here; his (Useni) daughter was my classmate. I have told him several times that his first daughter was my classmate. So, at this stage, I would have been expecting his daughter to contest for governor and not him.
“His daughter was my classmate, we went to school together and so why should we be fighting? Fighting him is like fighting a father, it’s unfortunate, but for me, I say my focus is Plateau State. We have done that in the first election, he was defeated, he said no, they will go back for a re-run, I said let’s go back for rerun.
“We went back for rerun I defeated him, he said no he was going for the tribunal. We went to the first tribunal, he said he is a general, he doesn’t fight and retire, he will go to the Supreme Court. That I think is to make me lose focus but I have not lost any focus in Plateau State. As he is moving, I am becoming more determined because just before the judgment I think he will say go to Plateau State.”
Clearly, governance, especially in a state like Plateau is not a tea-party, hence the need for absolute concentration for whoever is sitting as governor at the Rayfield Governor’s Office, but with the incessant political and judicial distraction by the opposition led by Useni, it takes something extra to maintain full awareness.
However, until when the apex court decides on the matter, the people of Plateau expect Lalong to stay focus to the mandate given to him on March 9 and already affirmed by both the lower and appellate courts.
Lagos: Assembly’s quest for a working mega city
hat every society, whether in the developing or advanced economies of the world, face all manner of challenges in their dynamics and evolution , cannot be over emphasised.
However , the truth is many of these challenges have been overcome, even in the so – called third world thus precipitating the changes in people’s form and standards of living.
Such feats were not accomplished by luck , magic , drama or wishful thinking but by focus, conscious and concerted efforts as well as can – do -spirit of both the leaders and the led to engender the desired changes.
This is the major reason a country like Rwanda, which many used to refer to as “war torn” is today receiving global acclaim.
Though, it is not yet Uhuru in that country, the fact that it is has become a reference point in global politics and economy can not be trivialized having rose from the abyss of a mindless war that threatened the very foundation of its existence.
To the eternal credit of Rwandans, the once crisis ridden country is now standing on its feet, a pointer to the fact the black man can achieve whatever goal he set for himself, not minding the odds.
For Lagos, the heartbeat of the economy of West Africa and the nation’s economic capital, that the state can do far better than its currently doing in view of its potentials is a great possibility.
This was clearly manifested by the iconoclastic and trail blazing national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu who gave the state’s economy the quantum leap when he held sway as helmsman .
Leveraging on his extensive experience in the corporate world , Tinubu, it was who catapulted Lagos internally generated revenue from less than three hundred million that he inherited to the billion naira monthly benchmark.
Ever since, the story of Lagos has never been the same, .Successive administrations all being of common tendencies have no choice than to build on that redefining foundation.
However, the world owes its development to the adventurous rather than the complacent , hence the need for contemporary administrators of Lagos to draw inspiration from the courage of Asiwaju nd in fact capitalize and advance on it. Nature has no regard for permanence. Every living thing ; plant or animal either blossom or plummet into ruins . In the thoughts of Einstein ,one can not persistently do a thing the same way and expect a different result. The prognosis of stagnation therefore shall be retrogression Thus there’s no marking the time on a spot. We either advance or relegate.
Leadership is by courage not by sentiments. Therefore , we need to take our people out of the woods and break new grounds contemporaneous with world best practices subject however to the dictates of our economic realities.
Nevertheless the narrative needs to change, especially in the area of transportation, which is at the heart of economic development, but a major headache in Lagos. It is one of the major index of a smart city. Surely with functional and modern transportation systems , we can evenly distribute the populace and functions across the metropolis thus making life more abundant
With a population of over 20 million , dependence on road transportation, which is the most common for movement of people and goods, needs to be reviewed for social and economic prosperity.
This is in view of the fact that Lagos records the most visits, from across the country averagely 5, 000 daily with not less than 600 of that number staying put and taking a residence in spite of the state’s disadvantaged position in land mass.
It was therefore very thoughtful of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Rt. Hon Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, when he suggested other means of mass transportation in the state, especially rail, at the presentation of 2020 budget by Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu recently
Obasa equally admonished Governor Sanwo-Olu to take advantage of the state’s aquatic endowment by embracing water transportation.
The spontaneous and thunderous applause which greeted these suggestions from Obasa, by Obas, Chiefs, top politicians, critical stakeholders, the intelligentsia artisans, activists and citizens across societal spectrum was an unstated endorsement.
Indeed it was as if Obasa, who was also Speaker of the immediate past Assembly, spoke their minds, and this is understandably so as every Lagosian, irrespective of status is negatively affected by the “go slow’ syndrome.
That the speaker hit the nail on the head of the nagging issue which also has negative consequences on the health of the citizenry as a result of stress is not surprising. He has overtime manifested genuine and sterling qualities of a populist and progressive politician with the welfare of the people always uppermost in his words and deeds.
Under his speakership, the phenomenon of constituency stakeholders” meeting which allows residents of the forty constituencies across the state to have an input into state affairs annually and simultaneously has been on in the last five years.
Obasa who is also the Chairman of Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures recently recorded another feat with the financial autonomy granted to state Legislatures after many years of wrong constitutional arrangements.
Living up to his popularly acclaimed democratic prowess and practice , Governor Sanwo – Olu manifested his leadership qualities by doffing his hat for the Speaker when he acknowledged to his audience the benefits of the constituency stakeholders’ meeting enunciated by the Speaker.
For Lagos to retain its leadership seat in the comity of states, it has to continually break new grounds Leadership they say is by example and not by precepts.
Upward mobility from a level of survival to the next level of comfort or abundance is somewhat strenuous, stressful , beleaguered and sometimes avoided as unnecessary However, we roll backward when we fail to move forward.
In view of the background of the Obasa – led Lagos Assembly as a deliverer on its promises, there is no doubt that work will soon be completed on the budget in the overall interest of Lagosians who desire the translation of those lofty ideas of Mr. Speaker into real time action. As representatives of the people, this is the least we can do, in conjunction with the executive, based on our avowed commitment to make life more abundant for Lagosians What is worth doing at all is worth doing very well in good time.
With the redefined synergy and unity of purpose between the Lagos lawmakers and the Executive , Lagosiams are definitely in for a better deal
•Tunde Braimoh is the Chairman Lagos State House Committee on Information, Publicity and Strategy
LG polls: Police assault Channels Television reporter, cameraman in Niger
Barely a week after the National President of Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) Chris Isiguzo adjudged Niger State as one of the journalist-friendly states, men of the state Police Command on Tuesday assaulted the state correspondent of Channels Television, Mr Emperor Simon.
Also the organisation’s cameraman attached to the Niger State office, Abdullahi Egba was assaulted and whisked away by the police.
According to Simon, the Channel’s team were in Tafa Local Government for a follow up story on the disappearance of the Returning Officer for the local government in the Saturday’s council election when the incident happened.
He said the team ran into a protest by youths who were expressing their misgivings over the cancellation of the outcome of the poll over the alleged disappearance of the Returning Officer and was caught in the commotion.
“No sooner had the protesters started blocking the Kaduna Abuja highway that the Policemen at the Tafa Local Government Secretariat started shooting sporadically into the air to disperse the crowd.
Accordingly, he said: “The police used ‘canisters, live ammunition’ to disperse protesters, adding that “they also beat me up with stick and gun butts. They whisked my cameraman and he is being held at the Divisional headquarters in Sabon Wuse.”
The State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) condemned the “harassment” and “intimidation” of its members who are on lawful duties.
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