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Sunday Extra

We’ll do things differently in Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls –Okoye

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We’ll do things differently in Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls –Okoye

The November 16 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states are just over three months away. Festus Okoye, National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, speaks to ONYEKACHI EZE on the commission’s preparation for the elections in the two states and sundry issues

 

Now that we are done with the 2019 general elections, INEC is faced with Kogi and Bayelsa governorship  polls fixed for November 16, how prepared is INEC for them

 

 

The Commission is gradually getting ready for the conduct of the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections. We have delivered all nonsensitive materials required for the conduct of governorship election in Bayelsa State. Before this week runs out, we will deliver all nonsensitive materials required for the conduct of Kogi governorship election. So we don’t have challenges in delivering nonsensitive materials required for elections in this two states.

 

 

Secondly, we have started training of some of ad hoc staff that will be involved in the conduct of the two governorship elections. Our alternative dispute resolution officers have also gone to these two states to conduct trainings. We are going to do things differently this time around in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

 

 

In terms of lessons learnt from the 2019 general elections, some of the positive lessons in the general elections will be devolved into the conduct of Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls. Some of the loose ends in the conduct of the 2019 and some of the challenges we had in certain things, we are going to do things differently in Kogi and Bayelsa this time around.

 

 

You will notice that we are yet to announce the date for the collection of permanent voter’s cards in this two states. Within the next one week, we are going to announce the resumption of collection of PVCs for these two states. We are going to train the ad hoc staff that will conduct these elections very well. Previously we had complaints with the timeline for the training of ad hoc staff, which most of the trainers said were inadequate. We are going to make out adequate time for the training of ad hoc staff so that those who are going to be in charge of smart card readers will be trained well; those who are going to conduct the elections as presiding officers will also be well trained. We are taking the issue of training very seriously.

 

 

We are also collaborating with critical stakeholders in these two states to do voter education and sensitisation programmes so that when we get into the elections the quantum of ballot papers that will be spoilt due to people’s inability to recognise logos of political parties, and so on, will be reduced to the barest minimum.

 

 

Usually, INEC test run some technologies to be used in general elections during off-season elections. Are we expecting any new technology during the elections?

We are not going to use any new technology for the conduct of the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections. Definitely, the Commission will deploy smart card readers for the conduct of these elections. And the Commission will not, under any circumstances and under any guise, allow or tolerate any presiding officer to arbitrarily and without authorisation, jettison the use of smart card readers for the accreditation of voters.

We are going to make it very clear to all presiding officers that they are under a statutory obligation to conduct the elections in the manner prescribed by the constitution, the Electoral Act, our regulations, guidelines and manuals. So we are going to use smart card readers for the conduct of 2019 off-season governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

 

 

Secondly, we also noticed that we have challenges and problems with some of our collation officers during the 2019 general elections. In terms of recruitment of collation officers, we are going to do things differently this time around. We are going to screen, authentic, the quality, the competence, the neutrality and non-partisanship of the collation officers that will be deployed for the conduct of elections in this two states.

 

 

We believe that the technologies we are using presently are adequate for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. So we are not going to deploy any new technology. We are going to insist is that the technologies that we are going to use should be used in the manner as prescribed by the commission. The commission will not tolerate where any individual or group of individuals will bye pass this technologies and do things not in accordance with the prescribed guidelines and the regulations.

 

 

INEC had expressed concerns over the security situation in these two states given what happened in 2015 when elections were conduct there. What assurances that there will be adequate security to men and materials during the elections?

 

 

The Commission has met severally with the leadership of the various security agencies at the level of Inter-Agency Consultation Committee on Election Security. The Commission has in consultation and conjunction with these security agencies, reviewed the conduct of the 2019 general elections. We have noticed the areas where we have positives and also the areas where we have negatives. We are working with these security agencies to make sure that this off-season elections that adequate security is going to be provided for voters, election officials and election materials.

 

 

Bayelsa has a very peculiar terrain. That presupposes that we are going to hire gun boats to protect our personnel and materials on the high seas. We have started discussing with the navy both at the state and local government levels for their services in this area.

 

 

But ultimately, the political elite must accept responsibility for some of the security challenges we have during elections. INEC does not have security outfit of its own. We rely on the professionalism and the ethical conduct of security agencies recognized by the constitution for the conduct of elections.

 

 

Our appeal to the political parties is to conduct the primary elections in the way and manner provided for, and recognised by section 87 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Political parties should also conduct the primary elections that will lead to less acrimony because INEC will use its constitutional and statutory power to monitor the conduct of those primary elections. INEC will not accept list that would be generated by any political parties that does not emanate from the conduct of credible primary elections as envisaged by the law.

 

 

Secondly, it is against the democratic spirit and the democratic values for any political party or individual or group of individuals to arm political thugs for the purposes of disrupting the electoral process. The conduct of elections is the ordinary constitutional responsibility of INEC while voting is a civic responsibil   ity of the individuals. We appeal to the political parties that are going to contest this elections to allow the will of the people to be the only major determinant of who gets elected and who does not get elected.

 

 

The political parties should allow voters to go to the polling units unmolested. In other words, they should not arm political thugs to go and disrupt the elections or to compromise INEC officials. If political parties conduct themselves well, INEC will conduct elections everybody will be proud of. We are going to deploy election materials and personnel on time, and we are going to make sure that nobody takes control of any the collation centre to do things that are unethical.

 

 

The conduct of elections is a cyclical thing. It involves political parties conducting themselves well, it involves security agencies acting professionally and ethically, it also involves the civil societies and organizations to conform with their code of conduct in observing the elections. It also beholds traditional rules and religious leaders and institutions of government to carry out robust voter education for our people. It also involves the media in sensitising and enlightening people on the best practices in the conduct of elections and in democratic practices and procedures.

 

The 2019 general election was conducted some few months ago now. Definitely, there are some lessons INEC learnt from the conduct of the elections. What are the lessons learnt and how does INEC going to apply it for the conduct of Kogi and Bayelsa polls?

 

 

One of the things we are going to do differently is that we are going to commence the distribution of permanent voter’s cards to the people of Bayelsa and Kogi states. And when we commence, we are going to bring new approaches and new innovations to the distribution process. At the end of the day we are going to ensure that any individual who wants to collect his or her permanent voter’s cards do so.

 

 

Secondly, we are going to ensure that our officers who are well trained are sent to monitor the conduct of party primaries, and their report will be acted upon. So we assure the Nigerian people that we are going to act on the reports of our monitors who are going to monitor the party primaries.

 

 

The third issue is that we are not going to have any challenge with the procurement of sensitive materials. We are going to procure the materials for the conduct of this elections on time, and we are going to make sure that we energies our registration area centres and make sure that we deploy our personnel and materials on time. The moment you don’t deploy on time, you create security challenges at the polling units.

 

 

We also noticed that the political parties and their candidates are paying too much attention to our collation centres. We are going to make sure that we secure our collation centres in such a way that no individual will take control of our collation centres, and no individual will hold our collation officers hostage to declare a results that are not part of the polling units and from our registration areas.

 

 

One other thing we are going to do differently, we are going to make sure that we harvest our collation officers from places political parties cannot reach them. Since we harvest our collation officers from universities and tertiary institutions within the state, some political parties have also go to this institutions to compromise them. I’m not going to reveal what we are going to do but our resolve is that we have learnt good lessons from the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

 

 

Some of these lessons are from our own internal review from the conduct of our electoral officers in the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, election observers, the media and also from the documents and recommendations made to us by both domestic and foreign observers.

 

 

We are going to act on the ones we can act on, the ones that are actionable, we act on them. The ones we can implement administratively, we will implement them, and the ones that need legislative intervention will meet with critical agencies that can either altering the law or amend the law.

 

 

Kogi and Bayelsa are peculiar states. For instance, Bayelsa State in riverine. About 80 percent is covered by water, while Kogi State has a large land mass. Last time INEC postponed elections was because materials could not reach the polling units on time. What effort is INEC making this time around to make sure that materials reach polling units only?

 

 

We have had several meetings with the Resident Electoral Commissioners and with the Administrative Secretaries. On the 5th of August we had a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners and Administrative Secretaries of this two states. All this meetings are aimed at fine-tuning preparations for the conduct of this two elections. They have given us the figure of the number of personnel that they need to deploy for the conduct of the elections.

 

 

For Bayelsa State, we have a figure with which to hire gunboats. We are also meeting with officers from the Navy who are going to assist in security our officers and materials. We assure the Nigeria people that we are going to move the sensitive materials to the locations on time. Bayelsa has eight local government areas, so the methodology of deploying materials and personnel to polling units in Bayelsa may likely be different from the methodology we will use in deployment in Kogi State. So we are taking into consideration the issue of landmass in Kogi and the riverine nature of Bayelsa. We are doing deferential appresial of this two states.

 

 

We have conducted elections in this two states before, then we had inconclusive elections on account of violence. So, based on this, the Chairman of INEC will begin robust consultations with the political parties, traditional and religious leaders, professional groups and organisations in this two states in October. We are going to conduct elections that everybody will be proud of.

 

 

INEC has received reports of the observers who monitored the 2019 general elections. Some of them did not give INEC a pass mark.  Has INEC accepted its shortcomings?

 

 

Before we received the report of some of the domestic and international observers, the commission on its own, decided that it needed to review its conduct of the 2019 general elections. We started this review at the state level. Every National Commissioner went to the state where he or she is supervising, to go and review the conduct of the elections. And we met with so many of our presiding officers; we met with some civil societies and organisations; we met with members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers because they are the ones who provided the bulk of the vehicles we use to transport election materials and personnel. We also met with the security agencies at the base level to understand some of the things that happened at the polling units – some of the challenges that they have and some of the positives that were recorded in some of the states.

 

 

Thereafter, we brought all the 774 electoral officers in all the local government areas to Abuja in two streams. We reviewed the conduct of the elections with them.

 

 

So, some of the things pointed out by the local and foreign observers, we are already aware of some of them, because some of them were pointed out by our own officials during our own internal assessment.

 

 

We have taken some of the recommendations of domestic and international observers into consideration. The critical ones that we believe that are honest, the critical ones we believe we made out of genuine intention to improve our electoral system, we have taken them on board. Those that require legislative intervention, we are going to work with critical stakeholders to make sure that we get a very good law. Some of the recommendations that require administrative intervention, we are going to input them into our administrative framework.

 

 

There are some of the recommendations that do not take into consideration some of the improvement, some of the accountability and openness made by INEC before the 2019 general elections. For instance, it was not part of the law or part of any regulation when we designed a form that enabled every presiding officer at a polling unit, to record the result and paste at a conspicuous place, for the purposes of accountability and transparency.

 

 

Secondly, it was the innovation introduced by the commission to get two collation officers for the first set of elections – the Presidential and National Assembly.

 

 

The Commission has conducted its internal evaluation, the different political parties that contested this elections should also do their own internal review and evaluations, both at party and inter-party advisory levels, and admonished themselves on some of the things they did during the elections.

 

 

INEC is not a vote buyer and not a vote seller. It is the political parties that do those things. INEC does not train and deploy political thugs. It is the political parties that do that. Let them do their own evaluation and commit to a new electoral and democratic process.

 

 

We also called the security agencies to do their own evaluation and see whether their men did the right things during the elections. There were some security agencies that acted professionally and ethically. There were also some that crossed the line.

 

 

If all of us do our own internal evaluation we will know where we have positives and where we have negatives, and when we harmonise all these things we will have a new Nigeria and a new political and democratic order.

 

 

This particular Commission accept criticisms and we accept our mistakes, and where we make mistakes we have no problems in accepting that.

 

 

Is INEC worried with the number of petitions at the tribunals, compared to the number we had after 2015 general elections?

 

 

No. If you look at the figures, for pre-election matters, involving the conduct of party primaries, we have 809 matters in court. For election petitions, we have 800 matters in court. So the challenge is the conduct of party primaries by political parties.

 

 

So we have less number of election petitions arising from the conduct of election generally than preelection matters arising from party primary elections. So, I think we did well with the conduct of the 2019 general elections. We conducted elections that were credible, and we conducted elections that reflected the voting patterns and the wishes of the Nigerian people. But that does not mean we didn’t have challenges in the elections. We have accepted these challenges, and one of those challenges was the rescheduling of the elections. We have addressed the Nigerian people and we made the necessary amends so that we don’t have such time of postponement this time around. But in terms of number of election petitions in court, we are not worried about that.

 

 

Some of this election petitions also revolved around whether the person declared as a winner was even qualified to contest the election. So have of this 800 has nothing to do with the conduct of the elections. Under the law, the issue of qualification is both the preelection matters and postelection matter.

 

 

Those who promulgated our electoral act and those who designed the constitution know that there will be problems, and based on this, they designed a mechanism for the resolution of this problems and some of these challenges.

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Tears, blood, anguish as government bulldozers move into Lagos markets, shanties

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Tears, blood, anguish as government bulldozers move into Lagos markets, shanties

…says they’re hideout for hoodlums that attack motorists, commuters

 

Traders, artisans and shops owners along Orile – Badagry and Oshodi – Abule Egba corridors lament demolition of market stalls, shanties and parks across Lagos, accuse the State Government led by Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of insensitive to the plights of the masses. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

“Ewo oo, I borrowed money to build this kiosk; how do I pay back?” was the first reaction of Mrs. Bukola Olaiya, who had her two hands on her head when she rushed to the scene of demolition with her seven month-old-baby on her back and found her kiosk smashed by government’s bulldozer. Bukola had borrowed N31, 000 earlier from a money lender to build the smashed kiosk with the hope to pay back from the business’ proceeds as it begins to flourish. Little did she know that misfortune was lurking. Though she cried but that didn’t change anything as the deed had been done; she was left with the option of gathering the remnants of the wreckage.

 

“I’m supposed to pay back the money by  August ending. I’m dead, I’m finished, who will hear my voice ooo,” she continued wailing at the First Gate where she sells fruits. Nobody attended to her as everyone was running helter skelter from the full government’s arsenal deployed for the operation and struggled to save their usable rubble from scavengers who were feasting on the site. Bukola, a mother of three, who was backing her third child (Girl), when she got to the scene, is married to her bricklayer husband who didn’t have much to support her after he had given all he had.’

 

Unfortunately, her cries didn’t attract any sympathizers except for a woman who helped her to carry her baby while she was crying and lanmenting her continuous suffering in the hands of the council and the state government. For David Ibe, a trader at Alafia, along the Orile -Badagry Expressway, the Lagos State government should think of ways to cushion the effects of bad policies in the country targeted at further impoverishing the masses and making them face the worse state of suffering amids economic bastardisation of Nigeria.

 

David, other traders and artisans who ply their businesses along Orile – Badagry Expressway and Oshodi Abule Egba Road, whose businesses and stalls are currently facing heavy demolition exercise by the Lagos State Government led by Mr. Babajide Sanwo–Olu said the government’s action is insensitive of the people’s plight in the state. He said instead of the government taking actions that would calm down the heavy blow the masses get from the hostile policies and activities of the government at the centre which have been killing and suffocating the masses and killing the economy, the new government decided to aggravate their sufferings and agony. “How would the first government action in power be anti masses? How would these actions affect or improve the lives of the people? Do stores and buildings along these areas disturb Sanwolu’s administration?” he queried. He continued: “I do not know why the state government always treated the people with an act of cruelty, especially attacking the masses source of livelyhood. “Do these people want us to starve to death? The other time, it was Fashola and Yaba traders. After that, it was Ambode who collapsed Oshodi electronic market while their goods were in side.

 

“Lagos State is very insensitive to the plight of the people. In all these things, they do not touch the rich man’s property. It’s only the poor masses that face the cruelty of those in government. Badagry Road that has been killing people is where a government tries to frustrate the masses the more.” David doesn’t consider it sensible for a government to start off a new administration with cruelty targeted at the poor people, saying that every sensible government would look for ways to address the suffering of its subjects and making policies that will make it buy masses’ hearts.

 

“As long as I am concerned, this action is needless and does not add any credit to Sanwo–Olu’s administration. It’s baseless and unwarranted.” he added. Thus, traders and residents along Orile – Badagry Expressway and Oshodi Abule Egba Road, are currently groaning under what they described as the insensitivity of Sanwo-Olu’s administration by demolishing market stalls, shanties and all attachments to main buildings along the axis.

 

They lamented that in the midst of Muslim celebration, Lagos State government sent its squad to spoil their joy by embacking on the operation demolish shanties and stalls on these main corridors as pilot operation which will spread across the state afterwards. During Sunday Telegraph’s visits to the scene, directly affected traders were seen running helter skelter to salvage their wares and preserve the materials which they used in building their shops and stalls in the market while the property owners were also panicking on what to do.

 

Scavengers were seen feasting on the rubbles and other materials such as corrugated iron ore (zink), woods of different kind, iron rods trampled under by the bulldoser’s chain wheels as well as boards among others. Some were seen buying polines and used plywoods. During the demolition exercise, which was witnessed by Sunday Telegraph, the demolition tasksforce came in their full strength and arsenal including the police, Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Soldiers, Lagos State Vigilante, the Neighborhood Watch Safety Corps, Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and some staff of Lagos State Ministry of Works among others.

 

Recall that Governor Sanwo–Olu had on assumption of office, May 29, 2019, declared zero tolerance on all traffic impediments, road pot-holes, and environmental degradation, such as indiscriminate refuse disposal when he signed three Executive   Orders, aimed at enhancing the free flow of traffic, environment across the state.

 

Also, recall that he had earlier in June, during an inspection of the dilapidated state of the road on the axis, directed relevant agencies to ensure removal of all illegal shanties, shops and other illegal structures impeding movement of traffic, constituting security threat as soon as possible to allow for smooth operation of the ongoing road rehabilitation project.

 

Sequel to this, the state government issued a seven-day ultimatum to owners of illegal trading kiosks and shanties along Lagos- Badagry and Oshodi-Abule Egba corridors to vacate the routes for a clean-up exercise aimed at reclaiming rights of way for free passage of vehicles and salvaging the aesthetics of the environment.

 

After the elapse of the seven-day notice, on Tuesday last week, the demolition started on the two major routes, affecting linear settlements obstructing free flow of traffic along the corridors.

 

According to Lagos State, the clean-up intervention is part of implementation of the Executive Order declaring zero tolerance for traffic management, public works and indiscriminate dumping of refuse, which was signed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on May 30, 2019. Permanent Secretary, state Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Taiwo Salaami and Chairman of the state Task Force, Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP, Olayinka Egbeyemi, led the enforcement team which commenced exercise from Eric-Moore Orile-Iganmu, area of Apapa. Salaami, who addressed the media, explained that the state government had earlier issued a notice of ‘Removal Order’ to all owners of illegal structures which include; shanties, Kiosks and makeshift shops along Okokomaiko to Badagry and Iba-LASU road on the need to immediately relocate as taskforce had been mobilized to embark on demolition exercise of such structures.

 

On notice of ‘Removal Order,’ he said; “The Governor was touched by the discomfort being experienced on a daily basis along the axis as a result of these bad roads and vowed to ameliorate the sufferings of residents, commuters plying the Okokomaiko to Badagry Express-way by rehabilitating the road. “Therefore, we have to embark on general demolition exercise of all the shanties, kiosks and makeshift shops within these areas starting from today, Tuesday.” Egbeyemi stated that criminals seized the opportunity to hide in some of the kiosks and shanties to carry out their nefarious acts, especially at night, hence, the need to clear the structures with immediate effect.

 

“There were several complaints and reports of armed banditry along the axis where motorists and commuters were being attacked and dispossessed of their valuables, as well as maimed in the process,” he added. Salaami who frowned at the indiscipline attitude of converting walkways and setbacks into shops and abodes, noted that the act undermines Government’s huge investment in social infrastructure. According to Salaami, the cleaning exercise has no time frame for operation, saying it would be a continuous exercise until the area has been cleared of all illegal structures.

 

However, the traders, artisans and property owners feel that the exercise is uncalled for, given the suffering in the land, which according to them, orchestrated by the All Progressives Congress’ next level agender. They said with the situation of the economy of Nigeria, the masses will be expecting strategies to cushion its effects on the people and not bringing in policies that will further impoverish the masses which add no value to the country. “What will this project government is heeping too much money on do for the country which will be abandoned midway anyway. This is a misplacement of priorities. I stand to be corrected that nothing will come out of this shadow chasing. “We have obeyed the initial other from state government but we are going to resist this.

 

We are collecting names of the owners whose property fall within the area they want to de molish, which have Certificate Of Occupancy to find a lasting solution to this,” said one of the Orile landlords, Mr. Babatunde Faseke.

 

He noted that Fashola had taken a reasonable portion of their lands and such will not be allowed again. At Agboju Market Festac, which was recovering from the previous demolition barely a month ago, the buldozer’s blade didn’t spare it as it fell under the blade of the state government’s bulldozer. Not even the newly rebuilt foundation at the market was spared at some metres off the Expressway.

 

Though their products and wares were not destroyed this time around but the traders lament that their machines with which they saw their woods are now left in the sun and rain as the roof upon them have been removed. Sunday Telegraph observed that the mainly affected area of Agboju Market were those areas where furniture, plywoods, polines and zink are milled and sold. In fact, where building materials are sold at Agboju market. According to Joseph Obong, they were asked to remove all zink on the roads as the government does not want to see zink on the road while traveling on the Express except umbrellas.

 

Wondering the basis for that and why umbrellas were preferred, he said every government has its policy, whether good or bad, it will be implemented with use of force and the poor man is always targeted. He said: “What does the government want to achieve with this exercise even when the   road construction has been in a mess.

 

Anyway, this is the APC next level of suffering. Fashola did is own but with some respect to certain metres away from the road but in this one, we don’t even know their measurements. “We tried to remove our structures, push our stalls inward but when they came, they further pushed us inward. Every structure they met on their way were removed and destroyed. “They do the same all over Lagos. A month ago, they gave us seven days notice for us to move. My brother at Ajah told me that they did the same at Ajah but that of Aja started after the end of the seven days notice.

 

“On this axis, they started scattering things all the way from Orile and today is our turn. They will continue in this manner until they get to Badagry and turn to the other side of the road and start coming back to Orile again. “All those buildings under the high tension will go down.

 

That is where they have more work.” Recall that Fashola had approved the demolition of some buildings on this road when the road construction started. Some of the buildings which partly fall within the demolition plan were destroyed while some buildings were chopped off by the bulldozer. Other buildings which suffered such partial collapse were yet to recover from it before this exercise came up again.

 

Some transport companies and some hotels where partly chopped off and were reconstructed. Also, Alaja Aisha Sadiq, one of the traders said she parked her plywoods in the bush, praying that rain doesn’t fall and destroy them as at Friday afternoon when Sunday Telegraph visited Kpako area to determine what extent the demolition has gone. Mrs Faith Ugwu, who had buyers for plywood said she can’t bring in more goods until the team finished its work. “With this thing happening, I won’t be able to bring in more goods.

 

I want to first of all finish the 4mm plywood that I have here before going to get 6mm for you,” she hesitated. However, the Managing Director, Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Mr. Ola Oresanya, described the cleanup exercise as ‘obligatory’ for government, stressing that the two routes had been ‘heavily commercialised.’

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Sunday Extra

Anambra traders at war over union’s secretariat

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Anambra traders at war over union’s secretariat

Anambra traders are currently at each other’s throat over the leadership of the Anambra Market Amalgamated Traders Association ASMATA -the umbrella body of all the market Associations in Anambra State.

 

The union was formed in the 1980s, but became prominent during the reign of three notable leaders -Chief G.U Okeke, Chief Pius Ozoanekwe and Hon Okwudili Ezenwankwo, now member representing Orumba Nort and South in the Federal House of Representatives. Okwudili had, during his tenure, acquired the association’s Secretariat at the tune of over hundred million naira.

 

The rift over who occupies his office rose shortly after the expiration of his tenure. The Honorable member had fixed July 5 for the election into the offices of the association but the state government suddenly placed a ban on the election.

 

Irked by the action of the state government, some members of the Board of Trustees, BOT, went to court. Their stance was that the state government should not meddle in the running of the Association, claiming that it is an NGO. While the crisis deepened, the state government appointed a 15-member caretaker committee to take over the administration of the market leadership.

 

Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu, an Uncle of the wife of the Governor of Anambra State was made the chairman. Also, the state government in July, mobilized security agents who stormed the office and sacked the remaining officers of the association who were laying claims to the office. Following this development, the traders organised a press conference where they claimed to have suspended the immediate past president of the association, Hon Ezenwankwo.

 

They accused him of conspiring with the state government to take over the market leadership. But in an interview with journalists, Ezewankwo said he contributed over 60 per cent of the money used for the office project.

 

According to findings, he is the BOT chairman of the association known to law as far as the secretariat is concerned. Investigation by Sunday Telegraph revealed that the traders contributed less than 25 per cent of the total sum of the project. Some of the market leadership, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, collaborated Nwawnkwo’s claim, saying that traders contributed very little to the building project.

 

However, in an interview with the Commissioner for Commerce, Trade and Wealth Creation, Dr Christian Madubko, he stressed that the state government is not contesting for the ownership of the association, neither does she want to impose leadership on the traders. He said the state government is playing supervisory role, in line with government’s policy. “We are not contesting anything with them in court.

 

All we need is to ensure peace and stability of our markets. “What the government is doing is just supervisory role and doesn’t want to interfere in their internal affairs. We allow them to conduct their election according to their constitution and we only come as an observer and solve problem where there is, in line with the government’s policy for the markets.” The action of the government has elicited several criticisms from the traders.

 

Former president of the disbanded Onitsha Market Amalgamated Traders Association, OMATA, Chief Pius Ozoanekwe, is of the opinion that the traders are government’s tenants and only owe them their taxes and stall fees. He said government has no right to sack the traders in the office and appoint a caretaker committee for them against the wish and constitutional provision.

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Sunday Extra

Nobody can use Middle Belt to fight civil war again –Dr. Pogu

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Nobody can use Middle Belt to fight civil war again –Dr. Pogu

The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) recently held a crucial conference to review the state of the nation as it concerns the indigenous ethnic groups in Northern Nigeria.  In this interview, President of the MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu tells ONWUKA NZESHI that his people are the silent majority in the North but have been subjugated under the oligarchy and reduced to hewers of wood and fetchers of water

 

 

 

The Middle Belt Forum held a conference recently in Abuja and took some far-reaching decisions. What was the essence of that meeting?

 

 

The meeting was tagged: ‘Re-awakening’ because our people have gone to sleep; they are not on the alert and people are not having the correct information about what is happening to us to the extent that some of our people have lost their sense of direction. So we wanted our people to come back to the realisation of who they are as Middle Belters, different from other Northerners. We also want them to know their position in the developments that are unfolding in the country.

 

 

For example, we want them to put in correct and proper perspective, all the attacks launched by the herdsmen on our people and communities. We believe these attacks are a calculated agenda for land grabbing and change of demography rather than herder-farmer conflict as some people call them. If it was herdsmen clashing with farmers, it would have been a different thing.

 

 

During our conference, we had two papers-one, telling us who we are and the second paper telling us about the state of the nation as it relates to the Middle Belt region. These were the areas we dwelt on as a form of sensitization so that our people can be re-awakened to their responsibilities in the unfolding scenarios in Nigeria.

 

 

Who and who were at your conference?

 

 

It was a delegates’ conference, so we had people who were selected from various ethnic nationalities to represent each state of the Middle Belt.  We had very fruitful deliberations and took a number of important resolutions which we captured in our communiqué.

 

 

When you mentioned the term Middle Belt states, are you referring to the six states of the North Central?

 

 

It goes beyond that geographic space known as North Central zone.  Middle Belters are non-Hausa/Fulani people of the North and they are spread all over the North. Initially, it included the Kanuri but the Hausa/Fulani eventually absorbed them even though some of them had in the past benefited from the Middle Belt struggle.

 

 

The late Ibrahim Imam is a Kanuri whom Joseph Tarka, one of the founding fathers of the Middle Belt Movement took from Borno and fielded him on the ticket of the Middle Belt Congress and he was elected to represent the Tiv people..

 

 

So essentially, all ethnic nationalities in the North apart from the Hausa/Fulani are part of the Middle Belt. We span from the North West in places like Kebbi and Kaduna to the North Central where it is holistic down to the North East where we have some of our people in Southern Borno, Southern parts of Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba and even parts of Bauchi and Yobe. These are the states where the Middle Belters are found in Nigeria.

 

 

So when we talk of the Middle Belt as it is, a lot of people do not understand that we actually constitute a large chunk of the population in Northern Nigeria.

 

 

The leadership of the Middle Belt Movement has been rotating across these ethnic nationalities and states that I had mentioned earlier.

 

 

I am from Chibok in Southern Borno and my predecessor, the late  Bala Takaya was from Adamawa.  His predecessor in the struggle was Prof. Jerry Gana from Niger State. Before Prof. Jerry Gana, we had Chief Isaac Shaahu from Benue and before him, we had Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd) from Adamawa; before Suleiman, we had the late Chief Solomon Lar from Plateau. Before Lar, it was the late Dr Olusola Saraki from Kwara and before him it was Gen. T.Y Danjuma (rtd). I am just taking you down memory lane so that you can understand the spread.

 

 

So, we have come this far because the Middle Belt Movement started even before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. In fact it started in the early 1950s and metamorphosed to what it is today. It used to be called the Middle Belt Congress but now it is known as the Middle Belt Forum.

 

 

 

 

If the Middle Belt is such a large group spread all across the North, why are you seen as minorities and crying of marginalization in the North?

 

 

Right from the onset, the Northern oligarchy, represented by the Hausa/Fulani had an undue advantage over us. The British colonial masters worked with them and handed over power to them at independence.

 

 

But before then, the British set up the Willinks Commission which went round and met with the various ethnic groups  across the   then Northern Region. They went as far as to Numan, Wukari and other places where ethnic nationalities other than the Hausa/Fulani and Kanuri occupied to feel the pulse of the people.

 

 

 

The Commission made recommendations that these groups considered to be in the minority needed to be treated separately but it was never done. Nigeria is where it is today because some of those recommendations were never implemented. We have copies of the Willinks Commission Report and you need to read it for you to understand to background of our struggle.

 

 

The truth is that we are not minorities when we come as a group because we constitute a larger group than these people in terms of numbers.

 

 

Unfortunately, the oligarchy and the Emirate system in the North, lumped so many of these ethnic nationalities together and subsumed them under the Emir and denied them of their independence. For example, my place, Chibok, is still under Borno Emirate till today. In fact, it took us revolting before the Borno Emirate started appointing District Heads of Chibok origin. There are such cases all over the place.

 

 

Let take for example, the Sayawa ethnic group, where the former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara comes from, also has similar problems with the Fulani oligarchy in Bauchi Emirate. They don’t want to recognise the Sayawa people as an entity of their own having their own traditional institution in spite of the fact that they have a large population. These problems have continued to exist within the Middle Belt.

 

 

Last year, when the massacre in Plateau took place, more than 200 Beroms were killed, the Miyetti Allah came out boldly to claim responsibility for the bloodshed because they felt that the lives of the Beroms don’t mean anything and they can wipe them out the way they wish.

 

 

But recently, when the daughter of Fasoranti, the Afenifere leader was killed, even though it was just one person, they were afraid to even not own up to what they did because they know that the Yoruba is one big block and there could be serious consequences.

 

 

Look at the Federal Capital Territory where the Gwaris constitute the local majority, yet no Gwari or Gbagi man has even been appointed a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

 

So when we see all these things happening, we have to come together as a united group to be able to stand because we cannot just continue to allow the North to be using us and exploiting the whole country. Without us, they cannot even win any election because they don’t have the numbers.

 

 

In the communique issued at the end of your last conference, you said that henceforth, the Middle Belt will adopt a collective resistance approach to any further attack on Middle Belt people. What do you mean by this?

 

 

Ehhm… you see, the issue is that struggles, liberation struggles or what ever you may call them happen in stages. We are getting to the stage where we have to collectively come together and defend the weaker ones among us. There are groups in the Middle Belt that have been suffering continous attacks from forces of the oppressors in the North. The Fulanis will come, invade villages, kill the Middle Belters, they will own up to it, but nobody will be arrested and prosecuted for those crimes. Even those who will come out openly and say: We did it, will never be arrested.

 

 

By the time we have reached the threshold where we can call anybody’s bluff, you will know what we mean by collective resistance.

 

 

Are we expecting that when they attack Middle Belt people in Plateau, Benue, Taraba and other places, you will all rise up to the challenge?

 

 

We will continue to speak out against such attacks and as to what we will do, when the time comes, you will know.

 

 

We understand that since you made these declarations at your last meeting, you and some of you lieutenants have been under intense pressure from the Northern oligarchy to retrace your steps. Is this true?

 

 

As leader of the Middle Belt Forum, nobody has come to me or approached me to do anything. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been in this kind of struggle for a long time. I’ve been in it right from the Chibok area to this point and you know some people like us will not back down anyway.  But I know that so many of our members have been approached, some have been threatened and whatever… whatever.

 

 

The issue is that we have reached the stage where we can say categorically, as we have said, that the North as it is, we don’t belong because some people think we have no stake there.

 

 

Right from the time Obasanjo was President, there were ministers from the Middle Belt who were appointed and the far North said these are not their own. What do they mean? Are they saying that because the people so appointed were not Hausa/Fulani?  Or are they saying so because these people were not Moslems? What does that mean?

 

 

So as far as we are concerned, if you don’t want us, we don’t want you; we don’t need you. We can survive on our own and we are now putting up that pressure.  We are educating and sensitising our people on the need for self recognition and self determination, so that our people who constitute the larger part of the North can tell these people that: Look,  Enough is Enough. You’re using us to control Nigeria. Let every Nigerian chart the way forward for themselves

 

 

We have been used during the civil war. It was our people who fought the Civil War and today, the people who are enjoying the fruits of that war are these same people who used us. So many of these people did not go to the war. The bulk of the people who fought the war were Middle Belters. If today they say they want to fight another civil war, we will tell our people no; we’re not going to fight any civil war against anybody. If you want to challenge the people, go and challenge them and all of you will sort it out.

 

 

We are the true Nigerians. We are the aborigines of Nigeria. Even if they want to break up, let them go where they want to go. We are here and we are partnering with our Southern brothers because we believe that when you oppress people, they can forge a stronger alliance and rescue themselves and that is what we are doing.

 

 

The North is usually together whenever it is time for elections, are you saying that if there is an election today, the Middle Belters would be ready to take their destiny in their own hands?

 

 

Certainly. Just wait and see. It will require dedication and it will require enlightenment. As people get more and more enlightened about who they are, you will see the difference.

 

 

What would you consider as the greatest challenge facing the people of the Middle Belt in Nigeria today?

 

 

Of course, apart from the fact that we have some states that can stand on their own, Middle Belters are impoverished. Our people are largely impoverished and we are not in control of anything in Nigeria. This is why we have to start afresh to build ourselves.

 

 

Let me give you an example – in the 50s and 60s, the North depended on the groundout and cotton pyramids as well as the tin mining on the Plateau. Today, we have Ajaokuta which is in the Middle Belt but it couldn’t take off. Now let me ask you this simple question: If the Ajaokuta Steel Company were to be in Katsina, would it be where it is in spite of all its potentials?  So, the issue is that we are impoverished and our land is now being taken over forcefully whether through grazing reserve, cattle colony, ruga or aggression by Fulani insurgents and bandits. I think they are insurgents because even the international community sees them as such.

 

 

The result is all over the place for everyone to see. Go to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. It is the Middle Belters that you will find there because their communities have been sacked and taken over by these insurgents.

 

 

In Plateau State, they have even gone ahead to change the names of these communities that the Fulani herdsmen have taken over to Fulani names. That is now to say we are now practicing some kind of internal colonisation and annexation of territories. It is as if there is no democracy and rule of law in Nigeria.

 

 

How can some armed invaders come, sack a village, kill the people and take over their community when we have a government, the Nigeria Army and the Nigeria Police? Nobody cares. Nobody arrests anybody. They settle there and rename the place and it is now their own. Our ancestral lands are being taken; it cannot continue and we are going to resist it. Very soon, it is either they leave on their own or they will be sacked. We cannot continue like this.

 

 

Are there sons of the Middle Belt who are governors and are   working with you on this project?

 

 

Of course there are and we are consulting them. I can’t name them now. All I can say is that there are some who have come out openly to identify with us and there are also others who are covertly saying: Yes, we are with you, but we cannot come out.

 

 

Whatever may be the case, once you are a Middle Belter, we cannot say we don’t want you. All of us are one and the same. Middle Belt is not about religion, it is about collective interest for survival under an oligarchy that has been so domineering and so ruthless. Look at how appointment are being made under the current dispensation. Middle Belters contributed to President Muhammadu Buhari’s coming to office but he doesn’t see us as people existing in the country. So we are waiting. The time is going, the clock is ticking and everybody is wisening up every day as the time goes on.

 

 

What would be your message to your fellow Middle Belters and other Nigerians at this time?

 

 

Middle Belters should unite and be resolute that they are true Nigerians. They have no other place than Nigeria. They should stand firm wherever God has placed them in Nigeria.

 

 

To other Nigetians, I want to tell them that Middle Belters are the most peace-loving people; they are accommodating and they are true Nigerians. We are committed to having a united Nigeria where every one is equal and none is inferior to the other.

 

 

All the divisive forces whether it is Boko Haram, insurgents or bandits, came from the North. They didn’t come from the South; they didn’t come from the Middle Belt. They all came from the North. They should stop it so that Nigeria can move ahead. All divisive forces whether through government of through individuals, let them stop so that Nigeria can move ahead and let us have a better country.

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Sunday Extra

Deplorable state of Onitsha, Nkpor feeder roads: We’re ready to support Obiano if…

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Deplorable state of Onitsha, Nkpor feeder roads: We’re ready to support Obiano if…

•We pay heavy tax yet our roads are deplorable –Residents

 

 

Despite the strides recorded by successive governments in Anambra State in the area of road networks, the inability to fix the feeder roads connecting Onitsha, Nkpor and Obosi, we erode the enviable achievements that earned Anambra State, the state with the best road networks. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

R

esidents of Nkpor, Obosi and Onitsha in Idemili North and Onitsha North  Local Government Area of Anambra State respectively, are currently calling on the government of Chief Willie Obianor to fix the feeder roads connecting the high rising buildings in these communities in order not to erode the long-standing achievements of the state as the best with good road networks in the country.

 

 

The residents said Onitsha, Nkpor and Obosi are typical example of communities built by private individuals without government involvement hence there is a need for the government to show some concern by fixing these roads which have become impassable and consequently prevented mororits from driving their cars home.

 

 

Many of them have resorted to parking their vehicles on the roads as well as nearby fuel stations instead of struggling to drive their vehicles home on a rugged and slippery roads, the vehicles which occasionally end up in a ditch or deep pothole.

 

 

The residents said if the government will show interest in reconstructing the roads, they will give it all the financial and moral support to ensure that they drive their vehicles to their respective homes, saying the effect of the bad roads is worse during the raining season.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that the indigineous Anambra traders were the reason for such massive development and investment in the high rising buildings one sees in these communities and were never government’s efforts.

No, the weekly gathered that lack of government’s involvement in this level of development also made it possible for the majority of the landlords of these high rising buildings to build a house without making provision for borehole for the tenants as a number of the residents have to go down stairs to buy water.

 

 

Unlike what obtains in the Federal Capital Territory, where Sunday Telegraph learnt that the FCT government made it mandatory that any landlord who builds more than three storey building must install a lift and ensure water supply, tenants living at the six floor to come down to buy water in jerrican.

 

 

According to a resident of Nkpor, Barr Emeka Ndukwe, despite the huge revenue they contribute to the government, the government is yet to reciprocate by fixing their roads and even portable water, saying that he wants Governor Obianor to tar the roads as his departing legacy.

 

 

“Outside these estates and high rising building areas, Anambra State has fantastic road networks and it seemed as if there is nothing else to do. Former administrations of Dr. Chris Ngige and Mr. Peter Obi did well in the areas of roads constructions. And others and they are known for these achievements. We also want this administration to give us this as a parting gift,” he said.

 

 

He urged any potential governor to the state, as a matter of priority, reconstruct these roads to make the cities and estates envy of other states across the country and pride of the state as has always been the case.

 

 

He continued: “There is no state in Nigeria where there are concentration of such high rising buildings on a stretch except for Lagos State to an extent. These are private traders efforts. If government should come in and help them plan, regulate and maintain their roads, properties around these places will appreciate for the good of the state.”

 

 

During Sunday Telegraph’s visit to Ata Road, Nkpor, it was discovered that the majority of these residents park their vehicles some distance away from their houses as the bad roads prevented them from driving their vehicles home. Some of them by vehicles but have never entered their compounds.

 

 

 

In some places, erosion has almost washed off their gate and with the ban of commercial motorcycle operators (Okada) in Anambra State, it makes it more difficult. Prior to the ban, okada was the choice option as it manoeuvre the rugged roads with slippery red mud.

 

 

It was learnt that one of the successive governors in the state paid attention to the plights of the residents except the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Soludo, who in his governorship campaign previously showed concern even as he went ahead saying that he will use the high rising buildings to obtain foreign loan to build the state.

 

 

At Uke Street by Transformer, Mr. Chima Obiojor said everybody is on his own here, adding a typical Anambra man does not look on the government when he wants to do anything, the reason Anambra men build houses, pay for electricity poles and transformer, yet provide their own security irrespective of what the government is offering.

 

 

He said: “We have fine buildings here but there are no roads to pass. You know my house and the simple way to follow is Idemili bus-stop but you can see me go through the Nkpor Junction. Not as if the junction is okay but it’s manageable.

 

 

“I change shock absorbers on regular basis. I am planning to pack out from there and go to house in Ogidi so that my motor will last. With this, I will end the unnecessary stress. Obianor’s administration should do something. He is trying but there is a need for him to give these axis a face lift.”

 

 

While in a commercial tricycle, a woman who introduced herself as Mama Junior, a primary school teacher, told our correspondent that some time, the residents and some good landlords organised themselves to do the roads independent of the government but some indigenous people demanded money from them which stalled the work.

 

 

She said, “Our government is not interested here because nobody sees the roads, rather they went and spent money on other roads that are seen by people. Now    that there are no major roads to build in the state, we want the government to fix these roads so that we can enjoy what others are enjoying.

 

 

“Apart from Peter Obi, Anambra has been a state built by private individual efforts of indegineous traders and others. People of Anambra do not wait for government to do anything for them. They find solution to their problems. Anambra State is a solution state.

“They build empires of their own without anybody’s support and the reason they feel nothing is impossible with money. They believe that once there is money, with government or without the government’s support, they can achieve anything they want. They feel that since you don’t want to support them also don’t be an obstacle to them.

 

 

“If the government can fix the roads, there is no estate in any part of the country that can beat anambra state in the area of development and infrastructure.”

 

 

According to Engineer Chibuzor Udokwu, with what Peter Obi did in Anambra State, other governors of this state may end up spending Anambra money on white elephant projects, thinking there is nothing to do in the state again.

 

 

“There are feeder roads in Onitsha and Nkpor that you can’t even pass on foot how much more vehicles yet these are very good link roads that connect to one major community or the other. For long, these roads have not been done and this is the time to do that,” he said. 

 

 

He noted that Anambra State has woken up and never to return to the days of slumber and will not support anybody who will want to return the state to pre-Chris Ngige era.

 

 

He insisted that greater industrialisation of Anambra State in view requires good road, water supply and the ultimate electricity, adding that the state government must rise up to its responsibilities according to the social contract theory.

 

 

On the other hand, Sunday Telegraph learnt that apart from the issue of bad roads, lack of government policy and involvement in these high rising buildings brought about a major structural defect in Nkpor and Onitsha as landlords build houses without provision of water supply.

 

 

It was learnt that some of them are waiting for the government to provide them with pipe bore water even as Onitsha Greater Water Scheme, Nkisi went morribund many years ago.

 

 

“The landlords here are very mean. How can somebody build four story building and without water. They will expect you to go down and buy water and carry it up stairs. I live on the penthouse, the fifth floor, so you can imagine what I face every day fetching water,” said Obiora Chukwunulu, who lives on Obosi Road.

 

 

 

 

“In most cases, I have to pay water vendors to bring water for me. One jerrycan is between N50 and N100; by the time you get the quantity that will be enough for you and your family, you would have spent some fortunes,” he said.

 

 

“We have affordable accommodation here apart from what I have explained and roads leading to inner streets which nobody is concerned about. Obosi is a good place to be and do business. We have good security as well but we need roads and potable water. Everybody depends on boreholes as there is nothing like reliable public water,” he added.

 

 

Meanwhile, according to Izueke Edwin Madu of Department of Public Administration and Local Government Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, urban centres throughout the world exhibit an incredible diversity of characteristics, economic structure, levels of infrastructure, historical origins, patterns of growth and degree of formal planning.

 

 

He said: “Yet, many of the problems they face are strikingly familiar. But in developing countries, particularly in Africa, urban residents suffer to a great extent from severe environmental and health challenges associated with insufficient access to clean drinking water, inadequate sewage facilities and solid waste disposal.

 

 

“One of the most visible and disturbing characteristics of the urban areas in Nigeria is the decline of their infrastructural base. As urban populations grow, and as available resources decline, public infrastructure is being degraded to the point where cities are seriously losing their capacity to operate as productive entities.

 

 

“Solid wastes are uncollected and piles of decaying wastes are allowed to rot in the streets; schools are overcrowded; urban roads have deteriorated into quagmires in rainy seasons; Public telephone is an impossible dream; public transport systems are becoming severely overloaded; and more and more people are obliged to live in unserviced plots.

 

 

“Not only is little new infrastructures constructed, but existing infrastructures are poorly maintained. Poor urban planning in the face of rapid urbanisation is therefore regarded as one of the major problems confronting many urban areas in Nigeria with special reference to Onitsha Urban area.

 

 

“The filth and infrastructural degradation that have over taken Onitsha, NKpor and Obosi among others, is as a result of poor urban planning. The failure of land subdivision and servicing programmes to keep pace with rapid urban growth has led to widespread illegal and informal developments, hence the growth of squatter settlements or slum areas, for instance, the housing clusters at Okpoko, Fegge, Woliwo and Odoakpu.”

 

 

In the same manner, and corroborating him, Eme Innocent of the same department, said many development projects carried out in these areas were without regard to the environment and this poses potential health problems and other hazards such as flooding, congestion and confusion.

 

 

“This has hindered the extension of not only of water, electricity and solid waste collection services, but also adequate sanitation arrangements and road networks to such areas,” he said.

 

 

He noted that deficiencies in infrastructure provision and waste management, environmental problems in Onitsha also arise from the inability of public sector authorities like the Onitsha Town Planning Authority and the Onitsha Local Government councils to enforce regulations governing land development, and industrial emissions.

 

 

However, there are other areas of these communities that have received one facelift or the other but the fact remains that Anambra State government has to do something about these roads linking one community or the other within Onitsha, Nkpor and Obosi rising buildings.

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Women’s summit: In celebration of Anambra amazons

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Women’s summit: In celebration of Anambra amazons

T

he year 1929 has continued to remain ever green in the annals of Nigerian history as a day the women in Aba, now in the current Abia State, took to the streets when the colonial Paramount rulers ordered that women should start paying taxes and other forms of levies.

Apparently unhappy with this development the women in Aba brought the ancient commercial town to a stand still protesting that there cannot be taxation without representation.

 

 

The protest became a watershed in the struggle for Nigeria’s Independence and also made a strong statement about the position of women in the polity even before the Women’s Conference in China some years ago where affirmative action on women came to be.

 

 

This also rubbed off on the various churches in the country giving impetus to Christian Women Organisation (CWO) of the Roman Catholic Church and their Anglican counterparts to commence the yearly August meetings.

 

 

As it were, the August meeting was an opportunity for the women to appraise themselves and also chart a new course in the interest of the women as well as embark on developmental projects in the respective parishes.

 

 

But the advent of the Willie Obiano administration brought a novelty and fresh tonic to the annual August meetings by the women and injected fresh ideas and motivation to the celebration.

 

 

Anambra’s First Lady, Chief Mrs Ebele Obiano introduced the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) which she used as the platform to empower women both married and widows and in the last four years over 50 homeless families are now comfortable owners of their homes while so many physically challenged men and women have benefited from the project.

 

 

Today the usual August meetings have metamorphosed into the Anambra Women Summit, which still takes place every August and this year’s event which has as its theme “Gender Balance and Social Balance”, also showcased a celebration of accomplished women in the state.

 

 

Among those that received award of recognition include the wife of Nigeria’s first President, Prof Uche Azikiwe and first female governor in Nigeria, Dame Virginia Etiaba as well as Iyom Josephine Anieneh

 

 

On the whole, a total of 18 women of Anambra extraction were honoured at the occasion which according to Mrs. Obiano was a way of encouraging women in the state to stand and be counted in the nation’s hall of fame.

 

 

Continuing the First Lady noted that it is not only the men in Anambra who have made the state proud. The women have also contributed to the socio economic development of the state.

 

 

“I am very proud of our women who toil every day to ensure that our future is secured. If you look around every sector you will find a proud Anambra daughter excelling. We therefore decided to start the process of recognising them as a way of appreciation and encouraging the budding ones to aspire and excel. Moreover, we will also empower various women groups,” she said.

 

 

Explaining further the programmes of 2019 Mothers’ Summit, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Lady Ndidi Mezue, whose ministry is collaborating and organising the event in collaboration with the Wife of the Governor, said that the theme of this year’s summit will guide the discussion led by a keynote speaker.

 

 

Speaking also Governor Obiano announced that the state government will be holding a special award reception which would include those that were honoured during the summit.

 

 

Obiano further explained that if not for the peace in crime free Anambra State the summit would not have been successful recalling that in the past people were holding traditional wedding receptions outside the state due to the poor security.

Speaking shortly after receiving her award Dame Etiaba noted that this is the first time Anambra women are being recognised specially adding that the wife of the governor has taken the annual August meeting to another level.

 

Prof Uche Azikiwe urged Anambra women to strive to be successful in their various fields of endeavour contending that they should not see their status as women as a disadvantage to sell themselves but to complete favourably in the society.

The Anambra Women’s Summit is a one month beehive of activities which has commenced with the tour of the 21 local government areas in the state.

 

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Nigeria back to days of unwholesome, substandard drugs, products

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Nigeria back to days of unwholesome, substandard drugs, products
  • Counterfeited drugs as a result of porous Nigerian borders –NAFDAC

 

  • ‘Nigeria in worst state of products counterfeiting’

 

  • It was as if my intestine was about to cut – Victim

 

Many Nigerians have met their untimely deaths even as others are continuously consuming poisonous and other lethal substances in place of food, drinks and beverages due to the failure of the different regulatory bodies in charge of safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the nation. CJIKIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

Miss Lucy Ogbodo, no doubt, may have had the worst of trips for the year when she travelled to Onitsha from Lagos recently. Her last recreational trip was a show of great embarrassment and discomfiture even as she was gorgeously dressed. She vomited and defecated all through the journey in an embarrassing manner due to a bottled malt (soft drink) she took few minutes into the journey.

 

It was suspected to be adulterated Not even the combination of tetracycline and flagyl (drugs) administered on her by a co-traveller were able to salvage the situation as she vomited indiscriminately. Also, other passengers made futile efforts to restore her health to normal as she continued to hold and squeeze her tummy in pains while vomiting.

 

More so, sympathizers’ soft words targeted at calming her down failed too as she made no pretenses crying her eyes out and appealed to the bus driver to stop within short intervals for her to throw up and defecate. Initially, she managed to vomit through the window of the bus, but being a moving vehicle, the hurls was messing up the vehicle which spurred the driver to stop each time she wanted to vomit. Lucy’s body system changed after she finished taking plastic bottled malt which many people said was counterfeited malt brewed illegally at one of the numerous illegal brewing plants in Lagos.

 

“I bought the malt in this park (Ojota) as I alighted from bus. I didn’t suspect anything because it had almost the same taste with some of the canned malt that I have taken before, though there was a slight but unnoticeable difference,” she said. “It was when I started experiencing this that I tried to remember the name of the malt which I bought but I couldn’t put a name to it,” she quipped.

 

According to her, she thought the slight difference in the taste could be a distinctive taste to distinguish a particular brand from other products flocking the Nigerian market unregulated. At a gaze, she thought the malt was named after a particular brand which she wasn’t familiar with, until much later she discovered the name of the malt was unknown to her.

 

“I was never been humbled as I was that day and I thank God that the driver was a good man. Before, I was still trying to hold myself as a lady but at point, it dawn on me that I can’t hold it anymore without seeking help,” she said. “I thought my intestines were going to cut. It was so disgraceful and painful. When I got to Onitsha, I had to go for full medical checkup. As it stands, I don’t think I will buy anything again, especially a product I don’t know its name or address of the manufacturer, when travelling,” she added.

 

“There are too many fake products in the country but unfortunately, the government is not doing anything about it. We really missed late Prof. Dora Akunyili,” added Lucy, a graduate of Public Administration. In similar case, Dr. Segun Aremu said the unchecked rise in counterfeiting products and drugs in the country is alarming, saying that the country’s regulatory bodies have failed in their responsibility of safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the country.

 

At Oshodi, he bought a bottled plastic Pepsi Cola, after work in the evening but at this time the old pep not the one that has yellow strip around the neck that reads ‘20% extra at same price.’ “After buying the chilled drink, I boarded a bus and opened the drink. I drank the drink but it was a way far different from the taste I know. I tried to pour it on the floor of the vehicle (Nissan Coaster) which I boarded to Mile 2, but the content foamed suggesting it was airtight,” he said. He checked the expiring date but that was not visible anymore.

So, he tasted it once again yet. It didn’t taste the same and to be on safer side, he had to fling it off through window understanding what a fake and or expired product can do to one’s health. Segun is so familiar with the taste of Pepsi that even in the middle of sleep he will tell you the difference between a pepsi and a coke. According to him, even if his eyes were to be tied and given both drinks, he will be able to detect which is which. He concluded that the product was adulterated by some people as there have been cases of mushrooms illegal wineries and bottling companies in the state. They are left unchecked by the regulatory bodies in the country, especially in Lagos.

 

Sunday Telegraph investigation showed that the rate at which product counterfeiting is thriving in the country is alarming. It also shows that the regulatory bodies saddled with the responsibility of safeguarding the life and health of the nation have compromised.

 

Hence, the counterfeiters of popular brands in Nigeria are making a kill of the illegal business occasioned by the inability of regulatory bodies, especially National Administration of Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) which saddled with responsibility of regulating and controlling the food have in this country to step up their game.

 

This has given rise to proliferation of illegal ‘one corner breweries’ where the fakers churn out dangerous products that are injurious to the health of the end consumers, which in some cases, leave the victims with perpetual deformity. According to social commentator, Mr. Hillary Ugboji, the quest for survival today in Nigeria with no sense of direction has pushed many Nigerians into illegalities.

 

He noted that the case of counterfeiting product has been on upward since the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that while issue of corruption in the public sector is being romanced with, a greater corruption is springing up from all sphere of the country.

 

According to him, market trends showed an increase in counterfeiting, even as enforcement scores significant wins, saying in Nigeria, HP, in collaboration with security agents, has raided several hideouts in Lagos, where counterfeit HP consumables were sold and arrest was affected.

 

He said: “Already counterfeiting is costing the global economy $3 billion per year according to the Imaging Supplies Coalition, the growing risk of fake products was driven by an increasingly broad supplier ecosystem, lack of certainty by buyers that their purchases are genuine, and a lack of awareness of the risks of purchasing counterfeit goods.”

 

Just recently, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) raised concern over the growing number of fake and substandard products in the country.

 

The President of LCCI, Babatunde Ruwase, made the observation at a press briefing on the state of the economy in Lagos. Mr. Ruwase said the counterfeiting of products posed a grave danger to the health and safety of the citizens. According to him, the issue constitutes a major challenge to leading brands in the consumer and durable products sector, as it erodes their market share, profit margin, and impacts adversely on their reputation.

 

He called for better investment in the capacity of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), toward tackling the problem of fake and substandard products.

 

 

He also urged the Federal Government to address concerns about overlapping responsibilities of SON, NAFDAC and the Weight and Measures Unit of Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. Analysing a report whivh said Nigeria and other countries lose $3bn to counterfeit products yearly, the Director Global Anti- Counterfeit Programme at HP, Glenn Jones, said: “Every one of the key market indicators we monitor show a significant increase in the risk of counterfeit print supplies.

 

 

“For companies like HP, counterfeits undermine decades of focused research and testing aimed at creating superior ink and toner, and reliable, high-quality cartridges for our customers.

 

For users, fakes cause a significant increase in print failures, low page yield; poor print quality, leaks and clogs, in addition to voiding hardware warranties.” Sunday Telegraph learnt according to Harris Interactive surveys, the past four years have shown a 30 per cent plus drop in companies working with a trusted, primary supplier, and a 27 per cent increase in companies buying purely on availability

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Sen. Okurounmu: Expect nothing extra-ordinary from Buhari’s cabinet

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Sen. Okurounmu: Expect nothing extra-ordinary from Buhari’s cabinet

Senator Femi Okurounmu, a nationalist, the Chairman of the 2014 National Conference Convening Committee and one of the leaders of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere. In this interview with ADEWALE AJAYI, he expresses displeasure over the Senate’s “poor screening of ministerial nominees,” just as he blames the media for not discharging their duties as expected as the watchdog of the three arms of government. He expresses great doubt over the capability of the new cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari to make any difference in national development in the next four years

 

The ministerial nominees have been confirmed by the National Assembly without any ministry attached to any of the names. Thus, they could not be asked questions on their competence in the ministry they are to head, rather than the senators ended up commending them in a “take a bow and leave,” manner. Is that the right way to go about screening nominees?

 

If you read my book which I have just launched, that was part of my valedictory at the Senate, my strong recommendations is that, when the list of ministers come to the Senate it should be done such that the ministry which they intend to head should be attached, so that they could be asked relevant questions, and a lot of investigations could be done to know how competent they are to hold that ministry.

 

I made that recommendations way back 2003 but, apparently the Senate continues to do whatever it likes. The procedure they are following does not allow for proper screening of ministers.

 

All those people they screened they gave them clean bill of health despite the fact that some of them have cases with the anti graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). I believe an investigation or clearance letter should have been sought from the anti-graft agencies before screening the nominees.

 

You journalists in Nigeria have a role to play in this regard.

 

How do you mean Sir?

 

 

In America or Britain, the journalist will be crying out in criticism of the government and the Senate, if such a thing is ever done but our journalists in Nigeria don’t say anything apart from the comment we observers make, they report what we say but journalist themselves don’t say anything. But at times some of these attitudes are condemned, but those concerned do it with impunity. It is because journalists don’t cry out enough.

 

 

If all the media keep complaining, and it is not just complaining once and keep quiet, but they should keep complaining and recycling the news that this should not be the way Senate should screen ministers

 

 

If the newspapers in Nigeria, radio stations, television houses and social media and online publications keep complaining that, that is not the way to go about it, the government itself will know it has done something wrong and it will feel uncomfortable. But our media houses are complicit, they just watch, and feel all what they need to do is just to report what government does, as if they don’t have their own opinion. Among the ministerial designates cleared by the National Assembly are former governors Timipre Sylva and Godswill Akpabio, both having pending corruption cases at the EFCC.

 

Of particular importance is the fact that Mr. Festus Keyamo was the prosecutor of the former. What does that implies about President Buhari’s fight against corruption? It is obvious, as you have said and I’m excited that you media are the ones highlighting it. We have said enough, we have said it repeatedly but they said that we are saying it because of politics

 

 

So it is left for you media people to keep repeating it and emphasising it to highlight the inadequacies of this Buhari regime. I think it sinks more when you media highlight it than when they tag us critics for doing it. When we highlight it, they say because we are critics that is why we are saying it.

 

The country needs you journalists to keep harping on all this very hypocritical fight against corruption. The way foreign media do, the media in the advance countries, we need our own media too to come to the side of the masses and begin to fight for our own people, so that is the challenge and my plea to Nigerian journalists.

 

Recently, the sum of N53 Billion said to belong to NNPC was discovered in First Bank account, though NNPC has denied ownership. What is your view of this? That is Buhari’s way of fighting corruption, that is all I can say.

 

That is Buhari’s way of fighting corruption. I don’t want to say more than that. It is shameful, but we can also commend Federal Government for confiscating the money.

 

What do you make of Yoruba traditional rulers’ recent visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, proposed installation of closed circuit cameras and drones to monitor high ways in the South- West?

 

Of course, he had to say something, just telling them something which they have no intention of doing. If they even do it, the cameras will not last for one week before they are destroyed.

 

The cameras will not be functional than a week before they pack up, they cannot be effective at all, in any case do they have network in the bush that can make the camera to be effective..

 

Chief Olusegun Osoba has threatened to sue you for N3billion if you don’t retract what you said about him in a publication made recently credited to you. How do you feel and what is your position on the development? He was referring to the interview I granted newspapers, but I have no comment on it right now. I don’t want to comment on it now.

 

The security situation is getting worse, because in the past, the activities of the Fulani herdsmen were limited to the North and part of South-South and South-East but now it has been extended to the South -West, and from all indications no concrete step has been taken to checkmate their activities. Should we continue that way? We claim we are educated people, when people go to school, is it not to go and pass examination, and they continue to behave they never went to school. Many of us in the South-West went to school but we don’t behave we are educated people.

 

As educated people you have a vision, you should be able to see a thing from a distance before it touches you.

 

When the Fulani killing started in the Middle Belt, some of us were crying that these killings were coming and it would not be limited to the Middle Belt, which was just a staging post, we have been crying about this for the last three, four years, but we did not get enough support from the media as usual, a lot of people, particularly those with politicalvested interest dismissed our observations and recommendations, even the media remains silent.

 

They thought it was a matter of politics, it is not a matter of politics, but it is a matter of security.

 

When people are silent and complicit with what is happening that is what will happen. We should have foreseen this thing long ago because we saw it coming, it did not just descend on us because, we saw it coming. The Federal Government’s approach to this problem is not encouraging, the other time there was crisis between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Katsina State which led to loss of lives, President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killing and urged the herdsmen to respect the farmers right over their land, but when such a thing happened in other states, the Federal Government only promised to look into the matter and since then, no herdsman has been brought to book. Is that not an act of insensitive to the plight of others?

 

We have been saying this, the Fulani people also make fun of us that all we can do is to talk, what we are saying now; we have said it many times.

 

How can we make government accountable?

 

The way all democracies across the globe make government accountable, that is the only way.

 

There are many ways acceptable to democracy that can make the government accountable, either you vote the government out of power, if you have detected the failings of the government. If elections are pretty far away, you let the government know your displeasure, by going to the street and march, and protest, so the government will know you are not happy.

 

Go to the street and protest, that is a way of making government accountable One major problem we have is that the electorate’s vote does not count, because according to some facts presented by electoral observers, the last presidential election was manipulated to favour the ruling party?

 

How much has the press talked and complained about that?

 

 

Up till now the American press is still complaining about Donald Trump’s victory, Cable News Network (CNN) for the last three years has not stopped to complain about Trump’s victory.

 

How much has Nigerian press complained that elections were not fair? Is the media not supposed to be the voice of the people? The media have fault in Nigeria.

 

But the media has been reporting and doing series of analyses on voter manipulation, vote-buying and even over-militarisation of the election process. Have you not been reading these? Yes, I have seen some of these, but they need to do more until changes and improvements are made.

 

If you take a look at the list of ministers just confirmed, most of them are politicians, many of   them recycled, and there were few technocrats among them.

 

We also have many ex-governors. With these set of people can Nigeria move forward, because some of them have been tested and they have failed the nation?

 

The feeling that some Nigerians have come to the conclusion that, it is only a few people that should be criticizing government all the time, the media should also be at the fore front of criticizing; the media should be at the fore front of criticizing government when they do something bad. The Nigerian masses are not getting enough support from the media.

 

The media is not playing its role. The economy is not improving, and some attributed the delay in appointing ministers to one of the reasons the economy nosedived.

 

How can the economy be fixed?

 

The economy can be fixed by appointing those who know about the economy, that is appointing technocrats and create an atmosphere for conducive investment, and foreign investment, as it is, foreign investors are disinvesting by taking their money outside the country. There is a lot of disinvesting going on in Nigeria, people closing their investments and moving out of the country, this is what is going on, some factories are closing down and the owners of the factories are moving out. Nigeria is not conducive for investment, some factories in Nigeria are moving to other African countries, and the media remain silent, expressly silent.

 

The media is not silent as you are trying to portray it; the media does condemn some government policies. Probably you write one editorial and that is the end that is what most newspapers do. If the media see something wrong, it should be talking about it to generate awareness.

 

Like you said earlier, what could be done about this resort to the ballot to make their vote count? I agree with you, what can be done to make the vote count, is to make the elected officials accountable.

 

 

Take as an example what is happening at the Senate, let Nigerians march at the Senate and express their displeasure.

 

Can’t Nigerians march at the National Assembly?

 

If Nigerians do that, and they continue to do that, to show they are aware of what their elected people are doing and not happy with what is happening and they continue to express their displeasure, the elected people will be conscious of what they would do.

 

 

They don’t want to offend their constituents, as it is now the elected people behave as if nobody elected them, because no matter what they do, they get away with it, their constituents won’t react.

 

It is the fear of the constituent that will make an elected person behave and put himself in check, but if he knows his constituent won’t react to anything he does, why should he bother?

 

Because of this development, apathy has set in because some people don’t bother to go out and vote, because if they vote, their vote won’t count. I don’t blame them because if their vote does not count why do they need to go and waste their time, the people should also put the government on their toes, by publicly demonstrating their feeling to government to know how they feel, that is the only way.

 

If you are to advice President Buhari, what will you tell him to do, to put the country back on its feet?

 

I don’t think Buhari wants to keep this country on its feet, why would I advise him against his wish?

 

What informed your opinion? Obasanjo has already told us what Buhari’s agenda is, I don’t need to repeat it.

 

Are you not aware of what Obasanjo said, don’t you believe him?

 

 

The 2023 general elections is just some few years from now, and some Nigerians have started scheming to succeed Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s name has come up, do you think Nigerians will opt for him to succeed Buhari?

 

 

I don’t know, but if there is still Nigeria by then I wish him luck. How do you mean that if there is still Nigeria by then?

 

 

It is consistent with all we have been saying, is everything we have been saying so far not threatening Nigeria existence?

 

 

Some Nigerians are of the view that irrespective of what happen, the country will still remain united. If Nigeria is a slave colony by that time then I wish anybody luck then. Reasons have been advanced on how to move Nigeria forward.

 

What do you think we need to do to move the country forward? From the look of things can one say our leaders are committed to moving the country forward?

 

 

They know the right thing rather than do it, they will do what is contrary, why is it like that? Then you are not being consistent.

 

We have suggested the implementation of the resolutions of the 2014 National Conference that is our own suggestion that is the only way Nigeria can move forward, restructuring. Immediate restructuring, to grant autonomy to the various ethnic nationality groups, to various constituent parts, if we can do that Nigeria can move forward.

 

In what way?

 

A person in power, is either interested in pursuing his interest or national interest or a group interest, it all depends on which interest is uppermost in his mind. Our politicians are either driven by self interest, or by ethnic interest, or by religious interest, only few of them are driven by patriotic national interest

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Edo crisis: Oshiomhole didn’t influence our decision, says Hon. Namdas

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Edo crisis: Oshiomhole didn’t influence our decision, says Hon. Namdas

Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas represents Mayo Belwa/Ganye/Jada/Toungo Federal Constituency of Adamawa State on the platform of APC and was the spokesperson of the House of Representatives in the 8th Assembly. He is the Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee that investigated the crisis in Edo State House of Assembly. He speaks to PHILIP NYAM on the allegations of complicity against the committee and other issues

What is your impression about the about the list of ministerial nominees released by President Muhammadu Buhari?

It is  a welcome development especially with the return of some old ministers who performed well in the first term. The president, before sending this list to the Senate said he wants to work with the people he knows. I am okay with the list of ministerial nominees. At least, some of the ranking ministers who did well in the first term have been re-nominated, meaning that they will lead in driving the next level agenda. I think we should give Mr. President a chance with his choice of ministers. He know who is best fit to drive his policy thrust of improving the economy, fighting corruption and putting to an end the insecurity in the country.

You chaired the Ad-Hoc Committee that investigated the Edo State House of Assembly crisis, whose recommendations, the House has adopted. But the Speaker of the State Assembly has alleged that your committee was compromised…

It is true I chaired the ad-hoc investigative team that visited the Edo State House of Assembly. I have laid my report and it is now the House document. It is no longer my report. I really would not want to dwell on this matter. But the person you said alleged is an interested party and he is said to be the Speaker.

But our report says there is no Speaker. So if I respond to his allegations, it will mean I am speaking against the report. To me, this is just a distraction. However, to answer you clearly, we were not sponsored by the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

The Speaker also alleged that the chartered flight the committee used was paid for by the APC Chairman and they have facts to prove it…

I think we should leave this matter at this level because if it were coming from a different person, I would have responded. But it is about the person that we investigated and I believe Nigerians are not interested in that now. We actually went to Benin on a flight but it was not paid for by Oshiomhole.

In fact, we were warned not to enter (Edo) Benin. We had to talk to the governor who allayed our fears and asked us to come. In spite of that, we decided that we must not pass the night in Benin and therefore flew in and out of the town. Our security is paramount because we needed to be alive to talk to the people we were going to meet.

I want Nigerians to appreciate that we have laid our report. But let me say that Section 91 of the 1999 Constitution as amended has provided that no state assembly should have more than 40 members. As big as Lagos and Kano are, they cannot have more than 40 members. Kano has 44 local governments, but cannot have more than 40 members. As small as Bayelsa is with eight local governments, it must produce nothing less than 24 members in the state assembly. Now, in Edo State House of Assembly, there are 24 members. So, when you have eight members out of the 24 taking the oath, it is in order because it is one third. But when you have an inauguration in the night and exclude others, and then there are decisions that must require two third of the Assembly to pass and eight is not the two third of 24.

So, when an issue arises today that requires the approval of the State Assembly, where will they get the two thirds? They cannot get it. And unfortunately, the warring factions are holding tight to their positions. This is a House that is entirely peopled by APC lawmakers and it will not cost anything to do the right thing. Okay, if 60 or 70 lawmakers enter the chambers in the House of Representatives and elect a Speaker based on one third, will Nigerians say that is right? I have heard a lot of commentators complained that we direct the governor; we did not direct him, we urged the governor to reissue a proclamation. Some people have argued that a proclamation is not issued twice; but I also ask the question, did the constitution provide that it should be issued once? And Parliaments all over the world use conventions where there is no clear provision of the law.

Every lawyer knows what I am talking about. If you are to issue a proclamation and the constitution did not state clearly that it should be given time, but since 1999 all proclamations carry time, you are also bound to state the time. Because of you evade the issue of time and run to the court for protection, people will not see it as being honest. So, it is not everything that the law will capture. I want Nigerians to understand that this arm of government is independent and must not be tele-guided by the executive. Both arms of government are to work together, but independently.

Recently, you were honoured by a church and in this age where religious intolerance has taken the front row in the hearts of not a few Nigerians; how were you so recognised as a Muslim?

Honestly speaking, I come from a background where in the environment I grew up, even in the same family we have both Christians and Muslims. I am a Muslim but I have relations who are Christians. I also have friends who cut across the religious divide. I do not discriminate based on religious leaning, but I respect people’s religious views and beliefs. Even before I joined politics, I honoured invitations from churches and now as a politician, I attend church programmes when I am invited. And we even celebrate Christmas together. So, whenever the church comes to me for assistance, I do assist and if the Muslims too come to me do same. So, the church has recognised this.

So, what would be your advice to the adherents of these two religions, giving your experience?

Sometimes politicians try to use religion to cause confusion. Some people may not even be religious but sometimes once you mention that this person is of a particular faith, you are likely to get blind supporters. And when there is a fight and they say one person is a member of particular religion there is the tendency that people will queue behind the person.

But you will realise that most the politicians who have been talking about religion, when they eventually win elections, they forget about the religion. How many of us are truly using the religion to get close to God?

I just pray that the Nigerian electorates should refuse to be used by anybody in the name of religion to cause crisis or destroy others for selfish reasons. If you are a Christian and feel that this man cannot deliver, forget about religion and go for the person that is competent. If you are a Muslim and this man that you are supporting and dying for is not good enough to represent you, look for someone that is competent and can deliver to support.

Sadly, sometimes these people who use religion to divide others are not what they claim to be, because a true Christian or Muslim will not seek to kill or harm an innocent human being.  My advice to Nigerians is that religion is a good thing but that should not cause rivalry among us. Let us always look for people that will help the society grow instead of using religion as a yardstick to identify competent people. Let us be looking at people’s capacities and not the religion they practice because most of us do not even practice what our religions preach.

You were in the race for Speaker until the APC zoned the position to South-West and you withdrew to support Hon. Gbajabiamila. Looking back at the last one month, would you say you made a good decision?

Well, I think fairly enough, I will say I am not disappointed so far. Leadership is about perception. For now, things have not been fully put in place; for example, standing committees of the House are yet to be constituted. Even though we are just starting, the leadership is able to carry along members from the opposition parties: that joint task, which the speaker’s campaign was anchored on, has not been jettisoned. It is our prayer that the leadership should continue in this manner so that we can jointly protect the independence of the legislature.

The leadership of PDP, the main opposition party has criticised the manner Speaker Gbajabiamila handled the issue of minority leadership in the House. The grouse of the party is that the Speaker recognised the list submitted by the minority caucus and disregarded the one from its National Chairman.

You see the issue is that PDP being an opposition party will always attempt to discredit the leadership of the House. But I want to say that we are parliamentarians and the House rules are clear on the election of leaders whether minority or majority. We agree that the party can guide the various caucuses in the House, but it is the members of the caucus that are expected to elect their leaders and not the party.

As a member of the 9th House, I have seen a copy of the letter written and signed by the majority of members of the minority caucus in the House electing Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and other leaders. So, the party (PDP) has to respect the House rules and the decision of the members of the minority parties. Elumelu is of the PDP and not the APC and he is going to protect the interest of the PDP and not the interest of APC. So, there is no point fighting over this matter.

Let me give you an example, when we were to elect our own Majority Leader, there was serious concern because it was zoned to the North-West, specifically Kano. And you know that we have very respected and ranking APC members from Kano. So, whoever you choose from Kano can function very well as the Majority Leader.

But we had two highly qualified members; the current leader, Hon. Garba Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Comrade Aminu Suleiman contesting neck to neck for the position. It was a fierce contest, and we were going to cast our votes and some even cast their votes. It was we members of the caucus that voted and not the APC that imposed our leaders on us. We resolved the tense situation among ourselves.

The APC promised Nigerians “Next Level” after its first term of “change”. But it took a while for President Buhari to submit the names of his ministers to the Senate. Won’t this delay affect the implementation of the “Next Level” agenda?

I believe we will deliver. As we speak today, there are permanent secretaries in place who are functioning very well. And don’t forget that this is a president that is ranking. He has studied the first four years and he wants to improve on that. Nobody would want to fail.  So, he is taking his time and like the Senate President assured, the list will soon be out. I know we Nigerians are used to the belief that if you are sworn in on Monday, you should submit ministerial list on Tuesday. That is quite nice.

But every leader has his own style on how he wants to administer the nation. Remember that this is a president that is very experienced; he was there as a military Head of State and he is coming back for a second term as a civilian president.

Many Nigerians are also apprehensive that nothing much is heard about the implementation of the 2019 budget, while we are already in the second half of the year. Is this good for our economy?

Let us appreciate the fact that in the 8tth Assembly, the budget was passed very late. And this administration is saying we will do our best to return to the January to December budget circle. The 2019 budget was passed around April, May and we are not yet in August. But there are releases for critical projects, which we are expecting. But we have resolved that if the president comes up with the budget proposal early, we will pass the budget before end of December.

Insecurity is ravaging the nation and former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently addressed a letter to President Buhari proffering solutions on how to tackle the unfortunate development. What’s your perspective on the letter?

For me, I believe that we need to do something more drastic about the insecurity because every day you wake up, it is either bandits killing people, herdsmen attacks, kidnappers, armed robbers and so on. It is my wish that the president would rid the nation of these problems. But I will appeal to Nigerians not to be stereotype and tag some ethnic groups as evil.

In every ethnic group, there are good and bad people, so when we label an entire ethnic group as criminals or terrorists because a few people are involved in these criminalities, we will not be doing well to our image as a people. So, a high ranking statesman like the former president should avoid making such provocative statements.

It is true that we have a crisis of insecurity on our hands that require the attention of all stakeholders, but we must avoid labeling. If the Tiv and Jukun are fighting, we should not conclude that the Tivs are always notorious or the Jukuns are always riotous, because there are very good Jukun and Tiv people. Let us single out the criminal elements and leave out where they come from.

We, in the parliament should also see how we can assist the executive in tackling this problem. It is even embarrassing for the elected officials to be going about in bullet proof cars for fear of being attacked, when the electorate have no cover. Some elected officials operate from hotel rooms because of the insecurity. All these are embarrassing. So, all of us especially the politicians; let us support the president in order to end this insecurity.

As divisive as we have become, when it comes to sports, especially football, we seem to be united. What’s your impression of the just concluded African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt?

I think this is one area Nigeria needs to explore and harness. When Ahmed Musa used to score, nobody cared to know whether he is northerner or southerner. Now that Odion Ighalo is scoring, nobody is asking where he is from.

We should as leaders ask ourselves these questions. We, therefore, need to copy from Nigerians and make this country great. But let me tell you, as far as we do not refrain from ethnic and religious sentiments, we have a long way to go. Even from the same village where people speak the same language, we still have these unhealthy divisions.

Unfortunately, this is growing by the day. You see people come out in the public and claim to be speaking against these ills but behind the scene, they do different things entirely. But in football, the target is to score and win for Nigeria, nobody cares to know whether that foot that scored is an Ibo foot or a Tiv foot or a Hausa foot.

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Cryptic pregnancy: A dangerous procedure that leads to cancer –Experts

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Cryptic pregnancy: A dangerous procedure that leads to cancer –Experts

‘Cryptic pregnancy’ is false pregnancy, while those who stimulate women to fake pregnancy are on a dangerous procedure that leads to proliferation of cancer cells in women as well as Ovarian Hyper stimulation Syndrome (OHS). CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

M

edical Director, Chidicon Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State, Prof. Philip Njemanze has warned couples, especially women who go about in desperate search for children to be mindful of where they go and what they believe regarding unverifiable pregnancies, saying that the so-called ‘cryptic pregnancy’ which the women are falling prey to, is a fraud, scam and life-threatening condition.

 

 

Prof. Njemanze, who is also the Chairman, Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Owerri, Archdiocese, for Ethics Committee, was reacting to the cases of desperate women who have been defrauded by the operators of fake fertility facilities, where they were made to believe that they were pregnant even as the pregnancy cannot be detected by any home pregnancy test kit and Ultrasound scan.

 

 

According to the UNESCO brain researcher, Prof. Njemanze, ‘Cryptic’ in medicine, means hidden, saying that ‘cryptic pregnancy’ is not a medical condition, rather a psychological and mental health issue where people are meant to believe that pregnancy exists where it doesn’t.

 

 

He said anybody or practitioner, who indulges in practice of brainwashing and inducing the women with drugs at their detriments, should be punished for such great damage they cause to lives of these vulnerable women, who are genuinely seeking fruits of the womb.

 

 

He warned that the practice leads to kidney and liver failure, breast, ovarian and cervical cancers. He noted that stimulation of women with estrogen and progesterone in order to look pregnant is the reason for the proliferation of cancer cells in the body.

 

 

“It causes Ovarian Hyper stimulation Syndrome (OHS) which is deadly among women. What they do is to induce a hormonal condition to fool women into believing that they are pregnant yet this is a dangerous thing to do.

“They try to imitate the IVF centres in this but they differ in the sense that IVF may do artificial insemination but these people induce women with drugs and after 9 months, the labour time, they inject them with some medicines that will cause them to sleep and opened them up. They will kidnap somebody’s child and give to them.

 

 

“In almost all the cases, the people that went through these processes cannot initiate breast feeding because they cannot lactate. What they do is to have young girls with unwanted pregnancy and take their babies and hand over to them.

“It’s a fraud and a serious crime against the state but it’s sad that the country had compromised in many places. Those in the authorities who supposed to end this accept bribes and allow the rot in the system to continue.

 

 

“Dr. Ezuma in Aba, Abia State used to do it in those days. Even a number of fake pastors do the same in Owerri. There are a lot of frauds going on in the country because there are no regulations and where there are, people take bribe and allow it to thrive.

 

 

“This is what you get when we have a value system based on money. People’s value systems now moved from good norms to venture and once this happens, a lot of evil are bound to happen.”

 

 

The story of a lady which was shared by a doctor, Abah Ehi Peters is a typical example of one of the brainwashed women who felt they were pregnant yet there was nothing to show for it.

 

 

In a bid to know how she confirmed her pregnancy, the woman said: “I was introduced by a friend; they have three categories N500, 000, N1, 000, 000 and N1, 800, 000 depending on sex selection and success rate.

 

 

“On my first visit to the clinic after confirmation of payment, something was inserted into my vagina and I was asked to have regular vaginal sexual intercourse with my husband. I was asked to return in four weeks’ time and when I was told that am pregnant in a cryptic way. They said I should not bother going to any hospital for antenatal or for pregnancy tests because the baby won’t show in scan.

 

 

“I was told to only visit their clinic and come regularly for an injection until the completion of nine months after which I will be delivered via CS (Caesarean Section) because the baby is a special one. And that I will continue seeing my menses (menstruation) but should not be bothered. I have taken three of those injections.”

 

 

According to Peters, what these scam centres do is to keep injecting these women with high level of estrogen and sometimes progesterone hormones that cause the abdomen to enlarge, formation of cysts and appearance of being pregnant.

He noted that the criminals are not concerned about the implications of high doses of such hormones on the women – breast cancer, ovarian cancer and stroke.

 

 

“Having done this, by the 9th month these victims are booked for fraudulent elective Caesarean Section and general anesthesia is used to put them to sleep and upon recovery or waking up from the effect of the anesthesia, she will find a baby or babies by her side depending on the amount paid.

 

 

“We discovered that most of them can’t initiate breast feeding or don’t breastfeed at all. This elaborate scam brainwash these women and they throw all sense of reasoning away no matter how educated they are. Their desperation for a child makes them easy prey.”

 

 

According to professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Gregory Efosa Erhabor, he has seen cases of people who have false pregnancies, who have all the symptoms of pregnancy, yet nothing like pregnancy is involved.

 

 

He said:  “When doctors say cryptic, it means it’s hidden but this is not the case. I have seen many cases of women who went to different places in search of baby and they were given some Steroids to manifest all the signs of pregnancy but at the end of the nine months, nothing happened.

 

 

“It could be a psychological problem. Some women who are seeking to be pregnant can easily become psychologically made to believe that they are pregnant. This is false pregnancy and it’s not a medical condition.”

 

 

Corroborating him, a surgeon with the Havana Hospital, Lagos, Dr. Ngozi Okafor said cryptic pregnancy means that a baby is hidden and cannot be detected by the scan.

 

 

“We have cases where women can be pregnant and still seeing their monthly circle. This does not mean that she wouldn’t know that she is pregnant. Sometimes, a malfunctioning scan might not pick the image or image is in the sack,” she said.

 

 

She added that a woman who has fibroid will also feel she is pregnant yet false pregnancy. “They also have some of the symptoms. Faulty scan cannot also pick image, so we should know that too. At this point, there is nothing the serologists can do.”

 

 

She also warned that cryptic pregnancy is a scam which women must avoid falling victims to financial extortion.

 

 

In confirmation to what Dr. Okafor said, an Out Patient of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, Mrs. Funke Adebowale said she had an ultrasound but her baby was not seen even when the urine report said positive.

 

 

She said:  “I had an ultrasound on Octo    ber 30th at which time I thought I was eight weeks gone. They could not see the baby. They scheduled me for another ultrasound a week later. They drew my blood and my hormone count.

 

 

“The doctor said that they should be able to see the baby. The doctor told me that I had had a miscarriage but it was okay for me to go in for the next ultrasound. I was devastated. He sounded sure that it was a miscarriage, but I had not had any bleeding.

 

 

“I went in for my second ultrasound and they found the baby and a strong heartbeat. My husband and I were thrilled. It seemed that we were just off on the dates. My periods had been very irregular before I became pregnant.

 

 

“I was furious with the doctor who told me that I had had a miscarriage. The stress and depression that I went through caused by my misdiagnosis could have probably caused one’s life. My heart goes out to anyone going through this same ordeal. Hang in there!”

 

 

Another patient, who passed the same path, Mrs. Precious Okolo said, “You might have what is called a blighted ovum. I had one my last pregnancy. Your body does become pregnant and all blood work shows normal pregnancy.

 

“Something happened at conception. The baby did not grow but your body doesn’t know that. So, it continues to grow the sack but no baby. Usually by 12 weeks your body will figure it out and expel the sack.

 

 

“Another sign is at your prenatal checkups, there will be no heartbeat found. At 9 weeks the ultrasound would have picked up the baby’s heartbeat. By 10 weeks your doctor can pick it up using the heartbeat monitor.

 

 

“Another possibility, if there was a foetus heartbeat you might have not drunken enough water for the image to show. I just went through it and it was tough.”

 

 

Meanwhile, while other doctors said ‘cryptic pregnancy’ is false pregnancy and psychological condition, Dr. Debra Sullivan, on the contrary, said cryptic pregnancy is a real condition other than a mere psychological condition as many apt to believe.

 

 

She said:  “Cryptic pregnancy is a real condition, though it’s uncommon and somewhat misunderstood. If you believe that you are pregnant, you should be aware that conventional first-trimester testing methods — blood tests, urine tests, and ultrasounds — are accurate for most pregnancies.”

 

 

Dr. Sullivan, who was reacting to the controversy over the authenticity of cryptic pregnancy which some people have started using to defraud desperate couples seeking for babies in the some fake fertility centres in the country.

She continued: “If you continue to have pregnancy symptoms after getting a negative home pregnancy test, discuss your specific circumstances with a doctor you trust.

 

 

“Waiting for a week or two to see if your symptoms subside won’t hurt your baby, but don’t delay seeking answers for months.

 

 

“A cryptic pregnancy, also called a stealth pregnancy, is a pregnancy that conventional medical testing methods may fail to detect. Though not common, but they are not unheard of, either.

 

 

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that women might not be aware of their pregnancies in up to 1 out of 475 cases. Sometimes, you think you are pregnant yet you are not. A stealth pregnancy can make you feel mixed emotions.

 

 

“It’s frustrating if you’re hoping to be pregnant, and become convinced that you are, only to be told that according to a blood or urine test, it’s not possible.

 

“It can also be scary and confusing to find out that you’re actually pregnant as late as seven, eight, or nine months into it. Some women with this condition are even taken by surprise by labor pains that are their first real “sign” of pregnancy.”

 

 

However, she noted that understanding how a cryptic pregnancy can go undetected, it helps to grasp what a normal pregnancy looks like in its early stages. After missing a period, she noted, a home pregnancy test will generally indicate a ‘positive’ result.

 

 

She furthered that urine tests, a blood testing and an ultrasound at an OB-GYN will then confirm the pregnancy. “Most people notice symptoms of pregnancy such as tender and swollen breasts, mood swings, fatigue, and nausea early on during the first trimester,” she said.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that when you’re having a cryptic pregnancy, nothing sets off the chain of events that leads to discovering that you’re pregnant.

 

 

A pregnancy test may come back negative even after you’ve missed your period. You may dismiss early pregnancy nausea as stomach flu or indigestion.

 

 

“Maybe you have been told that you have infertility, or your periods don’t come regular to begin with, meaning that pregnancy isn’t a possibility you would be prone to consider.

 

 

“If you’re pregnant but aren’t aware of it, missing pregnancy symptoms can add to the confusion. Especially if you have never been pregnant before, it’s easy to dismiss pregnancy symptoms such as fetal movement, slight weight gain, and fatigue as the result of dietary or lifestyle choices.

 

 

“Low levels of pregnancy hormones can mean your pregnancy symptoms are very mild or close to impossible to notice,” she added.

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Crystal Foundation puts smile on faces of Makoko pupils

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Crystal Foundation puts smile on faces of Makoko pupils

…we need govt presence, Baale Panko cries

 

 

Makoko is a shanty town on the lagoon, just across the 3rd Mainland Bridge located on the coast of Lagos Mainland.

 

 

Established in the 19th Century, much of Makoko rests on structures constructed on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon.

 

 

Over the years, the communities started sand filling the area around the lagoon and today, you will see brick buildings surrounding some of the stilt structures.

 

 

There seems to be children lurking  everywhere in the Ago Egun community. Most of them look unkempt in tattered clothes and bare feet.

 

 

The question that readily come to mind is: are these children getting the basic things of life such as food water, and education?

 

 

Crystal Foundation, a non-governmental organisation with a vision to put smiles on the faces of children and widows went on a fact finding mission and were quite appalled by their findings.

 

 

The founder of this NGO, Miss Mimi Bumah, a second year student of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos, said she was quite shocked to realise that most of these children were out of school, while those in school, don’t have reading materials like text books to help in their learning process.

 

 

She said, “Before embarking on this reach out program to Makoko, we had visited one of the schools in this place about two weeks ago to ask them what they really needed in the school. We found out that it was only the teacher that has text books in class. I wondered how they were able to do assignments or do their comprehension tests and exercises. We found out that the teacher just writes it on the board and then the students can copy into their notebooks or they drop the text book on the table and the students copy and they take turns in doing that. So you can imagine how that will waste a lot of time and some of them might sleep off or lose interest entirely.  So they told us they needed a printer, photocopying machine, textbooks and arts materials. I noticed that the children living here like art works a lot. From the ones we saw when we went to their school, we noticed that their paintings and drawings were quite good and need to be encouraged. That’s why Crystal Foundation decided to come and lend a helping hand so they can study better. So we brought a printer that has a photocopier and scan. We brought A4 papers so the teacher can easily make photocopies of these textbooks and distribute to the pupils for easy learning. We also  brought art materials, pencils and notebooks and little refreshments because we know children like to have fun and enjoy themselves.”

 

 

19-year-old Miss Bumah said it was her passion to help children in need that gave birth to Crystal Foundation which will serve as a platform for her to express her God-given passion to help the poor and needy around her.

 

 

“It was the plight of these children that made me want to reach out to them. I’m an undergraduate of the University of Lagos and when going back to school, I used to see them, especially under that Jibowu bridge. I see small children begging for soft drinks,  even the water I’m holding in my hand that I’ve drank halfway. I always feel that pity for them. I even wanted to go into feeding of these young children but you know feeding is a very delicate thing; you can give food to someone and if anything happens,  they will say you are the one that poisoned that child. That’s why I decided to do more on education, that will even help to push them towards greatness.”

 

 

It was that need to see children living in the slum get better learning experience at school that Mimi, as she’s fondly called, took members of her organisation to give reading materials to children of Mayor Wisdom Academy, Makoko.

 

 

In her speech, while delivering the items to the pupils and school proprietor, Mimi said, “By Gods grace this is the first  charity reach out of Crystal Foundation and we  decided to start with the Makoko community in Lagos State. We found out that we have about 86.9 million people living in poverty in Nigeria and that’s like over 50% of us if I’m not mistaken.

 

 

This foundation was setup by me, strongly supported by my beautiful team, to support communities or persons we know that can’t really afford somethings in terms of education, shelter, clothing etc. We are here to cater for the needy and ensure better life for them and also render selfless service to humanity.

 

“The reason I picked Makoko for my first reach out is that I’ve heard so much about the slum. I had to pay a visit first to that area. I went with one of my foundation members, Eniola Sosan. We visited the Ago Egun part of Makoko to know what they really need in the area. This is because we believe that education is needed by every child to become someone important in the society.”

 

 

This gesture was warmly received by the Bale of Ago Egun community, Makoko, Chief Victor Panke, who expressed his appreciation to Miss Bumah and her organisation.

 

 

“It’s rare to see young people of her age want to help other children and we are happy with what she has come to do for our children. Education is key and we welcome anyone that desire to help our children get better education,” he said.

 

 

Chief Panke lamented the lack of government’s presence in the education of children living in Makoko.

 

 

“We don’t have any presence of government school here in Makoko, none at all!  We are the ones helping ourselves to provide education for our children. Thank God for NGOs like this that come once in a while to lend helping hands through basic materials and scholarships. We implore the new government of Lagos State to come to our help in terms of educating our children through the establishment of government schools.”

 

 

Also speaking at the program, the proprietor of Mayom Wisdom Academy,  Makoko,  Apostle Paul Omolere, said he was overwhelmed by the giving spirit of this young lady and her friends.

 

 

“I was quite impressed with this young woman who came few weeks ago to ask what our challenges were and they came back to fulfill their promise. Before now, the pupils contribute money to do photocopy because they don’t have textbooks. Today she came along with writing materials, printing papers and a photocopier with printer and scanning facility and we are so grateful for this!” he enthused.

 

 

According to Apostle Omolere, Makoko is sprawling with over 7000 pupils who desire quality education but their parents are poor and might not take them further than primary or secondary education.

 

 

“The future of these children living here is bright. Both Ilaje and Egun indigenes are bright. Before now, the Egun indigenes do not bother about education, or putting their children through school. Now, they make more efforts to send their children to school. I tell you, in the next ten years or so, Egun will not be the same as we know it now it today,” he stated.

 

 

Its with hope that Crystal Foundation’s visit to lend a helping hand to children living in slums like Makoko, will also tug on the heart strings of others to help the needy and less privileged to attain a level of education that will brighten up their future.

 

 

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