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What Buhari’s retreat for ministers failed to address

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What Buhari’s retreat for ministers failed to address

S

ome salient essentials of a retreat are that it provides one with the opportunity to learn new things, familiarize deeply with others, refresh on existing knowledge, and develop a new perspective about life and issues.

Organisers of the recent Presidential R etreat for ministers now sworn-in by President Muhammadu Buhari for his second term, may have also had clear set objectives when they put together the two-day event at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Those coming into the cabinet need to understand the policy direction of the government in the next four years.

 

 

In the views of the Secretary the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, participants during the retreat succeeded in laying a critical foundation needed to accomplish significant targets set by the government in the second term.

Nigerians indeed waited for two months for appointments of the ministers, with fears that prolong delays could again, snowball into an economic crisis for the country. When the President finally sent the list of ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation, it received mix reactions.

First, was condemnation for failure on the part of the President to dispatch the list without assigning portfolios for each of the ministerial nominees, to aide members of the red chamber in the screening process, at least, in avoiding square pegs in round holes. It was, however, not a hindrance, as the lawmakers cleared all 43 ministerial nominees who have since assumed duty.

 

 

Many people have always argued that for the country to make significant progress, competence and not sentiment must be the yardstick for the appointment of individuals into public office. It is on this basis too that critics have since described the composition of the Buhari’s second term cabinet as political patronage.

 

One can vividly recall how the President assured that only those tested and capable of delivering on assigned mandates would make the ministerial list. In his first meeting with the leadership of the 9th National Assembly at the presidential villa, Buhari said, “I worked with them (returning ministers) for three and a half years at least – meeting twice or two weeks in a month. So I know them. But, this time around, I’m going to be quiet me – me in the sense that I will pick people I personally know.”

Apart from the old ministers that have retained their previous portfolios, one of the best appointments made by the President in the new arrangement is for the ministry of communication. He assigned the portfolio to a Professor of Computer Information System and former Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), who has vast experience in the sector.

 

 

Among the greenhorn ministers, whose assigned portfolio also fit their educational background, is Clement Ikanade Agba from Edo State and Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), from Kano State. While Agba who holds a degree in Economics and a Masters in Business Administration with vast experience in a related field has been appointed minister of State Budget and National Planning, General Magashi is the Minister of Defence.

 

 

The fact remains that most of the new ministers are stepping in with complete naivety regarding the intricacies in the sectors they are required to manage. Imagine the comments by the former governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola who has since admitted that he knows nothing about the interior ministry yet; he is appointed as the minister. “I don’t really know much about the operations or policies of the ministry apart from stories about the ministry on the pages of newspapers. My relationship with the ministry is distant. What I know about the ministry is what I read in the newspapers,” Aregbesola told ministry staff on his first day in office.

 

 

Given the current insecurity crisis in the country including; banditry, kidnapping, insurgency in the northeast, and the Fulani herdsmen/farmers conflict, it becomes worrisome to  comprehend how someone without the requisite knowledge of a ministry, which mandate is to foster the maintenance of internal security and citizenship integrity for the promotion of good governance could be deployed there.

 

 

Aregbesola’s confession, only confirms some of the issues which the two-day ministerial retreat in Aso Rock failed to address. Firstly, there was no point for President Buhari to have kept secret his decision to unbundle some of the existing ministries until the day of inauguration.

 

 

It was also sad listening to the SGF during the inauguration that he would be sending out ministerial mandates, to all the ministers for review within two weeks, a document that will be used for tracking of their performances. The statement sounds like a contradiction of Buhari’s comment, revealing that the retreat agreed on appropriate KPIs and deliverables to be achieved in the road map on government priorities from 2019 to 2023. Also approved was key sector performance indicators (KPIs), and measurement of success for each initiative across the respective ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) of the government.

 

 

People expect that the documents earlier distributed to the ministers before the retreat by the SGF should have spelled out, the mandates of the respective ministries, in line with the roadmap for deliberations at the retreat. It appears that the retreat only took broad approach in discussing the administration’s policy direction and not specific action plans as most of the new ministers will now spend part of the next four years learning the robes.

 

 

With Buhari’s present ambitious plan to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty, and speed up execution of people-oriented projects in order to change the existing poor infrastructure narrative, the ministers must know that they have no time to waste. After all, their principal and Commander-In-Chief believe strongly that the government has no option but to deliver in the second term.

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Niger Tribunal strikes out PDP’s certificate forgery claim against Bello  

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Niger Tribunal strikes out PDP’s certificate forgery claim against Bello  

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Niger State has struck out the allegation of certificate forgery by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate Umar Nasko against Governor Abubakar Bello, saying the petition constitutes an abuse of court process because it had been heard and decided by a Federal High Court.

Consequently, the Tribunal upheld the Preliminary Objection of the second respondent (APC) against the petition of Umar Nasko and the PDP on the allegation of certificate forgery made against Governor Abubakar Bello, saying for the same reason.

The Tribunal also upheld the preliminary objection of the respondents on the documents tendered by the petitioners which include the University of Maiduguri certificate on the ground, that it was not certified by the Registrar of the university, the NYSC Discharge Certificate on the ground that it was not certified by NYSC, the Declaration of Age deposed to at the High Court Minna on the ground that it was not certified by the Registrar of the Court.

The Tribunal held that documents can only be certified by a person who has in his possession the original copy.

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Reps’ll prioritise passage of PIB – Gbajabiamila

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Reps’ll prioritise passage of PIB – Gbajabiamila

S

peaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured that the current assembly will break barriers hindering passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to facilitate the reform of the oil sector.

Gbajabiamila gave the assurance yesterday in his welcome address at the resumed plenary of the House after a 53-day recess.

 

He said: “I fully expect that in this session, the House of Representatives will consider important legislation such as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). I believe that we in this 9th Assembly are ideally suited to surmount the obstacles that have mitigated against passage of this essential reform legislation which is important if we are to properly address the structural, operational and policy challenges and inefficiencies in the Nigerian petroleum industry and position the industry to best serve the interests of all the Nigerian people.

 

“In addition to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), we will see the reintroduction of the bill prohibiting estimated billing in the power industry, intended to put a permanent end to the wastefulness and unfairness created by an unreliable and arbitrary system that imposes unforeseen costs on individuals.”

 

Speaking further on bills, the speaker noted that “before we adjourned the House on 25th July, 2019, a significant amount of work had already started. We had begun legislative action through the consideration of 13 bills including Electric Power Sector Reform Act (Amendment) Bill 2019, Physically Challenged (Empowerment) Bill 2019 and Student Loan (Access to Higher Education) Bill 2019.

 

 

“We had also at that time received and debated 57 motions on a range of issues including the non-remittance of contribution into the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) by the federal, state, local governments and some public and private organisations and businesses alike, the Education Bank Bill, designed to ensure that no child in this 21st Century is unable to get a quality tertiary education in Nigeria due to a lack of means and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Bill, which will serve to broaden the Local Content Act and ensure the original intent of the Act is made real in the lives of our people.

 

 

“As part of efforts by the House to gain firsthand knowledge of what is happening in those parts of our country where banditry, insurgency and communal clashes have laid waste to towns and villages, displacing thousands of our fellow citizens, I recently led delegations of the House to Borno, Zamfara and Katsina states.

 

 

“On these occasions, we met with community leaders and government officials, we visited the internally displaced persons, and we heard their stories and considered their perspectives. The stories we heard were as much about faith in the promise of tomorrow and hope that with a little help, these people who have lost so much can rebuild their world again.

 

“It falls to us to make sure that the stories of these our fellow citizens are not forgotten and that the hopes expressed in those stories guide the actions we choose to take and policies we choose to pursue, as we act to achieve the restoration of lasting peace and sustainable development in those communities and across the nation.

 

“I am also pleased to note that the standing and ad hoc committees of the House of Representatives constituted before the recess have hit the ground running.  We will shortly receive and consider the committee’s report on the floor of the House and take whatever action is required to ensure that these vital national assets are put to more effective use.

 

“Over the course of the recess, we convened two National Roundtable Discussions on reform of the budget process and on recovered assets. These roundtable sessions were intended to take a critical look at issues relating to the development, enactment, funding, implementation and evaluation of the national budget.

 

“It also allowed us to begin to prepare the ground for the 2020 Appropriations Bill which we expect will shortly be presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.”

 

On the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, the speaker commended a member of the country’s parliament, Julius Malema, for being one of the few that spoke openly against the dastard act.

 

His words: “I invite the House to at this time join me in commending the actions of Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and a respected voice in the politics of that nation, who openly and without equivocation, condemned the attacks and directed his organisation to provide aid and protection to our citizens facing harm. He has since then, never relented in calling out the failures of the government that allowed the attacks to occur and to continue.

 

 

“In a similar fashion, Sir Allen Ifechukwu Onyema, Chairman of Air Peace Airlines provided his organisation’s services without charge, to repatriate those Nigerians who were willing to return home to escape the carnage that had been visited upon them. He acted without consideration of cost, of tribe or personal interest. He acted in the best traditions of patriotism and love of country. Our country owes these men a debt of gratitude.

 

“The leadership of the House had cause to convene to address the most unfortunate events of xenophobic attacks against Nigerian citizens in the Republic of South Africa.

 

 

“The scale of these attacks, the cost in lives and property and the appearance of involvement by state actors in the worst of the attacks were some of the issues we deliberated on, after which the entire leadership of the House, in an unusual occurrence, released a joint statement articulating in clear terms the feelings of the Nigerian people on the unfortunate events and demanding action from the South African government.

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Furore over security vote

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Furore over security vote

Again, the desirability or otherwise of security votes given to state governors, dominated discussions at the quarterly policy dialogue of Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), a research and training unit of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), ONYEKACHI EZE reports

 

 

I

f there is anyone who is supposed to defend the security votes given to state governors, it is the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Tukur Buratai, but the Army chief is not doing that. Instead, he is questioning the legality and constitutionality of the fund.

 

At the quarterly policy dialogue on accountability for security votes organised last week in Abuja by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), a research and training unit of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) in Abuja, General Buratai alleged that governors are misapplying security votes.

 

He also claimed that the governors use the votes for purposes other than what they were meant for, which is, tackling insecurity and improving police work in the country. In other words, Buratai believed that the fund has become a conduit pipe for governors to siphon funds meant for the development of their states.

 

“We should also take note that the security vote is not a defence vote. It is not meant for the armed forces, according to Robert Clark. For a long time, this security votes has been operated unconstitutionally,” Buratai said.

 

 

Security vote is a monthly allowance given to state governors, which is aimed at “funding security services within such states,” and which is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit because of its sensitive nature.

 

 

In 2018, the Transparency International (TI), in its report, disclosed that 29 out of 36 state governors in Nigeria spent an average of $580 million (about N208.8 billion) yearly on security votes.

 

And according to Wikipedia, Benue State spends the highest annual security vote of N37. 1 billion, while Nasarawa State has the least budget of N1.2 billion.

 

 

Of recent, some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have become beneficiaries of security votes. Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said monies were appropriated to a total of 162 MDAs in the 2019 budget, with some of them receiving as high as N4.2 billion and others, as low as N3,600.

 

 

This, according to him, is a clear indication that no principle was followed in budgeting for security votes, adding that it suggests that something was wrong with the parameters for determining agencies entitled to security votes.

 

 

The utilisation of security votes has been a subject of controversy. Immediate former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, attracted attention in 2011, when he announced that he would forfeit N4 billion out of the N6.5 billion received by his processor in office, Ikedi Ohakim, as security vote, to fund education. Whether he continued with this or not cannot be ascertained.

 

 

Buratai, quoting Clarke (SAN), maintained that security vote in not constitutional and should be subjected to an audit.

 

 

His words: “There are several criticisms on the security votes, that they are subject to embezzlement, corruption, and misappropriation, and that the governors take advantage of the immunity in the constitution that they are not checked until they leave office. But if this is made constitutional, with proper guidelines, I think these issues would be laid to rest.”

 

 

He added that security vote is not meant to tackle insecurity. According to him, “we have funding for the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. What is the fund (security vote) meant for? We also have the police fund, and they are budgeted for. Other security services like Department for State Services, Civil Defence and the rest. So if they have budgets to run their affairs, why security votes again?”

 

 

Chairman ICPC, Prof. Owasanoye, noted that despite the huge amount appropriated for security vote annually, insecurity has continued to rise, a situation his counterpart in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, blamed on state governors.

 

 

Magu, at an induction of returning and new governors before their May 29 inauguration, accused some of the governors of covertly promoting insecurity as justification to inflate security votes.

“We have also seen evidence of theft of public resources by some state governors – cashing in on the insecurity in their states. Insecurity has also offered the required oxygen for corruption to thrive as evident in the $2.1 billion arms procurement scandal involving top military commanders both serving and retired,” he said.

 

But the governors said they spent part of the security vote to maintain security in their states.

 

 

Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), an umbrella body of the 36 state governors in the country, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who also spoke at ACAN quarterly policy dialogue, demanded devolution of powers to the federating units for governors to have control of the security architecture in their respective states.

 

 

He said: “In crisis situation, resorting to bureaucratic process or procedure may worsen the situation. It requires prompt actions or measures to get it resolved. On such an occasion, the governor as the chief security officer may have to take an urgent action. This is why the sustenance of security vote is inevitable.

 

 

“Many state governors do in fact use their security vote to provide funding to federal security agencies, whether the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, operating in their states.

 

 

“When somebody is kidnapped, people don’t bother about how he is released. No police agree that they pay ransoms; no soldier admits that they pay ransom. Yet, all the money must be accounted for.

 

“The foundations of the secrecy in the allocation and abuse of security vote increased over time as a result of the long reign and dominance of the military in Nigeria’s political life.”

 

 

Last year, the governors said they have in the last decade collectively spent about N2 trillion on the Nigeria Police Force alone.

 

 

The NGF disclosed in its monthly publication, The Executive Summary, that the support included Hilux vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), helicopters, gun boats, horses, communication equipment, uniforms and handcuffs, among others.

 

 

It added that these are beside contributions made by Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe states referred to as flash-points in the war against insurgency in the country.

“For example, in 2015, Lagos State under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode spent over N4.765 billion to sustain the police.

 

 

“In July 2017 the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, approached the Nigeria Governors’ Forum at their meeting in Aso Rock Villa, cap-in-hand, seeking the sum of N3 trillion assistance from states,” NGF said in the publication.

 

 

The forum added that Kano, Kaduna, Kwara, Cross Rivers, Ebonyi and Abia states have at various times, donated generously to the police force towards ensuring the safety and security of their peoples and their property.

It added that most states have resorted to supporting vigilante groups, while some have established various types of security outfits to fill the vacuum created by the absence of the federal police in their states.

 

 

The report added that even Benue State, which last year, had its House of Assembly sealed and overtaken by the Nigeria Police Force, had spent a substantial part of its security vote in ameliorating the problems of the same police force that was to later humiliate the state.

 

 

Against these backdrops, the governors who are in the forefront for the establishment of state police, may this way, justify how the money voted for security vote is expended.

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Bayelsa PDP guber: How the battle was won and lost

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Bayelsa PDP guber: How the battle was won and lost

The governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State has come and gone. But in this report, PAULINE ONYIBE writes on how the battle was won and lost

 

E

xpectedly, the battle for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State wasn’t a tea party.

 

The race brought with itself all sides and shades of politicking as no fewer than 21 aspirants threw their hats into the ring for the plum ticket of the ruling party in the state.

 

Interestingly, this is the first time in the history of Bayelsa State that about 21 aspirants will show interest in becoming a number one citizen in the state on the platform of a political party.

 

With the high number of aspirants on the cards, the process was a hard nut to crack because it became a big challenge to the two apex leaders of the party in the state- former President Goodluck Jonathan and Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson.

 

One of the perceptions that made the road to the PDP governorship primary tortuous was the belief in some quarters that Governor Dickson allegedly sponsored most of the aspirants to destabilise those perceived to have come from the former president, including the real anointed aspirants from the Restoration caucus.

 

It was alleged that the governor sponsored about 16 aspirants out of the 21 to pick the forms where it was rumoured that he gave about N50 million to each aspirant to purchase the party’s nomination form and other logistics, all in a bid to destabilise the whole system for his own candidate to emerge.

 

And at the end of the day, he had his way as Senator Douye Diri, representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District in the Red Chambers emerged the PDP flag bearer for the November 16 governorship poll.

 

 

The outcome of the election was a surprise to many political observers in the state as they wondered why a serving senator who just won the election in February should turn around to want to become a governor after spending about four months in the Senate.

 

It was also learned that the political permutation is that Douye Diri takes over from the Ofuruma Pepe who will wangle his way to the Senate with Lawrence Ewhurejakpo becoming the deputy governor of the state.

 

 

Of course that plan being a perfect one had already been almost actualized but for some hurdles to be crossed as other parts of the state are kicking and with the main opposition party in the state, All Progressives Congress (APC) waxing stronger with the emergence of David Lyon, whom those that have had close brush with him are testifying that he is a philanthropist as the APC governorship candidate for the forthcoming governorship poll.

 

 

Although the comparison shows that Senator Diri is an eloquent speaker while Lyon is said to be a bit shy and not an outspoken type but some Bayelsans are kicking against the candidature of Diri as they said they tagged him stingy and don’t want him to lead them.

 

 

It was gathered that within the PDP circle, some people are not comfortable with the outcome of the governorship primaries as one of the major contenders at the party, Timi Alaibe who took the second position pulling total votes of 365 has challenged the outcome of the primary at the court of law.

 

 

He argued that the newly sworn-in local government chairmen and the councilors totaling about 450 were not supposed to take part in the primary as they were not up to 90 days in their new offices before the primary according to the PDP constitution.

 

 

The primary was indirect as delegates had a field day using the opportunity to gather enough money for themselves as it was learnt that some aspirants allegedly paid as much as N1m to each delegate.

 

 

Of course, before the main day, delegates enjoyed the most of the luxury life as they were camped in the best hotels in Yenagoa, the state capital for more than two weeks before the main primary including married women that were not allowed to have access to their homes and their husbands.

Although it was a very free and fair process even though all the lobbying and the backyard activities had all taken place before the main event, some pocket of violence was recorded at the accreditation centre held at Ijaw House, but the number of accredited delegates was transparent

 

 

The total number of accredited delegates in the eight local government areas were as follows; Southern Ijaw (200), Yenagoa (180), Sagbama (177), Ogbia (166), Nembe (160), Ekeremor (153), Kolokuma/Opokuma (143) and Brass (130), bringing the total number of delegates to 1,309.

 

 

At the end of the election, Senator Douye Diri, the choice candidate of the governor got 561, Ndutimi Alaibe got 365, while Keniebi Okoko had (142) and the deputy governor of the state, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah and immediate past Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Hon. Konbowei Benson got 61 and 24 votes respectively.

 

 

Also Reuben Okoya, who was talked into stepping down in 2015 to be given the party ticket in 2019 even when he was a house hold name in Bayelsa then got 19.

 

 

Fred Agbedi, a serving member of the House of Representatives, representing Bayelsa West got 18 votes and Nimibofa Ayawei, who briefly stepped aside to join the race but has immediately been reinstated got seven votes. Great Joshua MacIver, Dr. Franklin Erepamo Osaisai and Chief Benson Agadaga had seven, four and three votes respectively while Senator Emmanuel Paulker, who just finished from the Red Chambers got two votes.

 

 

 

The likes of the Chief of Staff of Government House, Talford Ongolo, who also been called back to continue with his job and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Kemela Okara, who has also gone back to his duty post and few others had already supported the aspiration of Senator Diri, who emerged the PDP flag bearer for the election.

 

 

Showing the spirit of sportsmanship, Reuben Okoya while congratulating Senator Diri said “On behalf of my humble self and Reuben Okoya Campaign Team, I wish to congratulate Senator Douye Diri on his victory at the governorship primary election of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was concluded this morning, Wednesday September 4, 2019.

 

 

Also, Keniebi Okoko who said he spent over N1bn in the governorship aspiration, congratulated Douye Diri for his victory.

Okoko who paid a solidarity visit to Douye Diri described the process of selection as transparent, peaceful and fair. He, therefore, assured the PDP candidate of his support and solidarity to work for the party and the candidate to ensure victory in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in the State.

 

 

Also, Okara in his solidarity message to the PDP flag bearer stated that: “I want to first congratulate Senator Douye Diri for his victory at our party primaries in the early hours of today September 4, 2019.”

Senator Douye Diri while responding to all the solidarity messages noted that the solidarity shown him by his co-aspirant was a clear display of leadership and sportsmanship.

 

 

But Timi Alaibe who came second in the race wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of the election, noted that “As we are all aware, the election to determine the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the November 16 governorship race in Bayelsa State has been conducted. Even with all the inarguable inherent flaws bordering on crass disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines, a winner has been declared.

“The delegates whether coercively or voluntarily have spoken even if their voices do not represent the voice of the people. My decision to seek election as Governor of Bayelsa State was based both on the collective opinion of respected stakeholders of our beloved state and a personal conviction that I have what it takes to make the difference in the economic development of our state. Having travelled the same route more than once, I took time to pray, plan my strategies and carry out wider consultations more than I had ever done in the past.

 

 

“We all know that the basis of our party is the Constitution in addition to the rules and regulations that we set for ourselves from inception in 1998, and the fact our party has become reformed. Consequently, for anything to be legitimate, it must derive authority from our Constitution.

 

 

“This issue of election of local council chairmen and councilors that were allowed to participate in the primary despite a court order was another setback. You would recall that we protested to the appropriate organs of the party. As it turned out, the national leadership of the party would seem not to have been persuaded by the strength of our argument for obedience to the supreme law of our great party. Even the powers that be in state unsuccessfully challenged the superiority of our position in court.

 

 

“We have raised our objections regarding the unilateral inclusion of certain names on the list contrary to the party’s constitution and guidelines for the conduct of a peaceful primary. The names have been inserted to put certain aspirants, especially those of the Restoration Group, at advantage. I see this as a deliberate calculation to create confusion and frustration in their futile desire to destabilize my aspiration to lead Bayelsa State.”

 

 

The Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation in a statement released a few days ago, disclosed that the organisation will make its position known regarding the next move by Alaibe who had already expressed his displeasure against the PDP governorship primary election in the state.

 

 

For PDP, the dust is still thick over its choice of candidate. But whether this will sway the advantage to APC which is also having its own fair share of internal wrangling, its another kettle of fish.

 

 

According to political analysts, the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa represents a repeat of battle of familiar foes with new players as faces of the duel.  Will the PDP retain the state? Can the APC pull the rug off its long term rival? Is this the time for the fringe parties to spring a surprise? Only time will tell?

 

 

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Bayelsa PDP guber: How the battle was won and lost

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Bayelsa PDP guber: How the battle was won and lost

The governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State has come and gone. But in this report, PAULINE ONYIBE writes on how the battle was won and lost

 

 

E

xpectedly, the battle for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State wasn’t a tea party.

 

 

The race brought with itself all sides and shades of politicking as no fewer than 21 aspirants threw their hats into the ring for the plum ticket of the ruling party in the state.

 

 

Interestingly, this is the first time in the history of Bayelsa State that about 21 aspirants will show interest in becoming a number one citizen in the state on the platform of a political party.

 

 

With the high number of aspirants on the cards, the process was a hard nut to crack because it became a big challenge to the two apex leaders of the party in the state- former President Goodluck Jonathan and Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson.

 

 

One of the perceptions that made the road to the PDP governorship primary tortuous was the belief in some quarters that Governor Dickson allegedly sponsored most of the aspirants to destabilise those perceived to have come from the former president, including the real anointed aspirants from the Restoration caucus.

 

 

It was alleged that the governor sponsored about 16 aspirants out of the 21 to pick the forms where it was rumoured that he gave about N50 million to each aspirant to purchase the party’s nomination form and other logistics, all in a bid to destabilise the whole system for his own candidate to emerge.

 

 

And at the end of the day, he had his way as Senator Douye Diri, representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District in the Red Chambers emerged the PDP flag bearer for the November 16 governorship poll.

The outcome of the election was a surprise to many political observers in the state as they wondered why a serving senator who just won the election in February should turn around to want to become a governor after spending about four months in the Senate.

 

 

It was also learned that the political permutation is that Douye Diri takes over from the Ofuruma Pepe who will wangle his way to the Senate with Lawrence Ewhurejakpo becoming the deputy governor of the state.

 

 

Of course that plan being a perfect one had already been almost actualized but for some hurdles to be crossed as other parts of the state are kicking and with the main opposition party in the state, All Progressives Congress (APC) waxing stronger with the emergence of David Lyon, whom those that have had close brush with him are testifying that he is a philanthropist as the APC governorship candidate for the forthcoming governorship poll.

Although the comparison shows that Senator Diri is an eloquent speaker while Lyon is said to be a bit shy and not an outspoken type but some Bayelsans are kicking against the candidature of Diri as they said they tagged him stingy and don’t want him to lead them.

 

 

It was gathered that within the PDP circle, some people are not comfortable with the outcome of the governorship primaries as one of the major contenders at the party, Timi Alaibe who took the second position pulling total votes of 365 has challenged the outcome of the primary at the court of law.

 

 

He argued that the newly sworn-in local government chairmen and the councilors totaling about 450 were not supposed to take part in the primary as they were not up to 90 days in their new offices before the primary according to the PDP constitution.

 

 

 

The primary was indirect as delegates had a field day using the opportunity to gather enough money for themselves as it was learnt that some aspirants allegedly paid as much as N1m to each delegate.

 

 

Of course, before the main day, delegates enjoyed the most of the luxury life as they were camped in the best hotels in Yenagoa, the state capital for more than two weeks before the main primary including married women that were not allowed to have access to their homes and their husbands.

 

Although it was a very free and fair process even though all the lobbying and the backyard activities had all taken place before the main event, some pocket of violence was recorded at the accreditation centre held at Ijaw House, but the number of accredited delegates was transparent

 

The total number of accredited delegates in the eight local government areas were as follows; Southern Ijaw (200), Yenagoa (180), Sagbama (177), Ogbia (166), Nembe (160), Ekeremor (153), Kolokuma/Opokuma (143) and Brass (130), bringing the total number of delegates to 1,309.

 

 

At the end of the election, Senator Douye Diri, the choice candidate of the governor got 561, Ndutimi Alaibe got 365, while Keniebi Okoko had (142) and the deputy governor of the state, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah and immediate past Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Hon. Konbowei Benson got 61 and 24 votes respectively.

 

Also Reuben Okoya, who was talked into stepping down in 2015 to be given the party ticket in 2019 even when he was a house hold name in Bayelsa then got 19.

 

 

Fred Agbedi, a serving member of the House of Representatives, representing Bayelsa West got 18 votes and Nimibofa Ayawei, who briefly stepped aside to join the race but has immediately been reinstated got seven votes. Great Joshua MacIver, Dr. Franklin Erepamo Osaisai and Chief Benson Agadaga had seven, four and three votes respectively while Senator Emmanuel Paulker, who just finished from the Red Chambers got two votes.

 

 

The likes of the Chief of Staff of Government House, Talford Ongolo, who also been called back to continue with his job and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Kemela Okara, who has also gone back to his duty post and few others had already supported the aspiration of Senator Diri, who emerged the PDP flag bearer for the election.

 

 

Showing the spirit of sportsmanship, Reuben Okoya while congratulating Senator Diri said “On behalf of my humble self and Reuben Okoya Campaign Team, I wish to congratulate Senator Douye Diri on his victory at the governorship primary election of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was concluded this morning, Wednesday September 4, 2019.

Also, Keniebi Okoko who said he spent over N1bn in the governorship aspiration, congratulated Douye Diri for his victory.

 

 

Okoko who paid a solidarity visit to Douye Diri described the process of selection as transparent, peaceful and fair. He, therefore, assured the PDP candidate of his support and solidarity to work for the party and the candidate to ensure victory in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in the State.

 

 

Also, Okara in his solidarity message to the PDP flag bearer stated that: “I want to first congratulate Senator Douye Diri for his victory at our party primaries in the early hours of today September 4, 2019.”

Senator Douye Diri while responding to all the solidarity messages noted that the solidarity shown him by his co-aspirant was a clear display of leadership and sportsmanship.

 

 

But Timi Alaibe who came second in the race wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of the election, noted that “As we are all aware, the election to determine the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the November 16 governorship race in Bayelsa State has been conducted. Even with all the inarguable inherent flaws bordering on crass disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines, a winner has been declared.

 

 

“The delegates whether coercively or voluntarily have spoken even if their voices do not represent the voice of the people. My decision to seek election as Governor of Bayelsa State was based both on the collective opinion of respected stakeholders of our beloved state and a personal conviction that I have what it takes to make the difference in the economic development of our state. Having travelled the same route more than once, I took time to pray, plan my strategies and carry out wider consultations more than I had ever done in the past.

 

 

“We all know that the basis of our party is the Constitution in addition to the rules and regulations that we set for ourselves from inception in 1998, and the fact our party has become reformed. Consequently, for anything to be legitimate, it must derive authority from our Constitution.

 

 

“This issue of election of local council chairmen and councilors that were allowed to participate in the primary despite a court order was another setback. You would recall that we protested to the appropriate organs of the party. As it turned out, the national leadership of the party would seem not to have been persuaded by the strength of our argument for obedience to the supreme law of our great party. Even the powers that be in state unsuccessfully challenged the superiority of our position in court.

 

 

“We have raised our objections regarding the unilateral inclusion of certain names on the list contrary to the party’s constitution and guidelines for the conduct of a peaceful primary. The names have been inserted to put certain aspirants, especially those of the Restoration Group, at advantage. I see this as a deliberate calculation to create confusion and frustration in their futile desire to destabilize my aspiration to lead Bayelsa State.”

The Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation in a statement released a few days ago, disclosed that the organisation will make its position known regarding the next move by Alaibe who had already expressed his displeasure against the PDP governorship primary election in the state.

 

 

For PDP, the dust is still thick over its choice of candidate. But whether this will sway the advantage to APC which is also having its own fair share of internal wrangling, its another kettle of fish.

 

 

According to political analysts, the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa represents a repeat of battle of familiar foes with new players as faces of the duel.  Will the PDP retain the state? Can the APC pull the rug off its long term rival? Is this the time for the fringe parties to spring a surprise? Only time will tell?

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Kogi, Bayelsa guber: We’ll reconcile aggrieved members – PDP 

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Kogi, Bayelsa guber: We’ll reconcile aggrieved members – PDP 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has formally reacted to the post-primary election crisis that has dogged it since September 3, stating that it has activated its reconciliation machinery.

 

The party had experienced some defections and threats of defections to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) after the governorship primaries in Kogi and Bayelsa States earlier this month.

 

Among PDP members who left the party include former Speaker of Kogi State, Clarence Olufemi, who was director general of Abubakar Ibrahim campaign organization during the course of the primary.

 

Also one of the governorship aspirants, Senator Dino Melaye, who was appointed Director General of PDP governorship candidate for Kogi State, Egnr. Musa Wada, rejected the appointment and wished the party well.

 

And in Bayelsa State, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe, has gone to court, seeking the nullification of the PDP governorship primary in the state.

 

A source within the party disclosed that some aggrieved aspirants and their supporters were threatening to dump the party.

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Akinlade, APM to challenge Abiodun’s election at Appeal Court

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Akinlade, APM to challenge Abiodun’s election at Appeal Court

The Allied People’s Movement (APM) in Ogun State, on Monday, moved to appeal the judgement of the governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which affirmed the election of Governor Dapo Abiodun.

 

The party said, already, its team of lawyers have applied for the Certified True Copy of the tribunal judgement delivered on Saturday to enable them to review it and take the next step in the judicial process.

The APM governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, who confirmed the move of the party, told reporters in Abeokuta that the nation’s constitution allows aggrieved persons to seek redress in court.

Addressing scores of APM members at the party secretariat in Leme area of Abeokuta, Akinlade said he was determined to get justice in accordance with the laws of the land.

He explained that when he decided to run for governorship, his decision was not for self-aggrandisement but for the collective interest and development of the state.

Akinlade urged his party members not to consider the tribunal judgement as a setback but should remain resolute and unwavering in the pursuit of justice.

He said: “The constitution is very clear that where you disagree with any position, you seek redress in the court of law. There are still grounds open to us.

“The crafters of our constitution know that the tribunal is still the first step. We thank our forebears who crafted the constitution to enable one seek redress where one disagrees with one judgement. And that’s what we hope to do.

“We know very clearly that in our petition, no where in the petition did we talk about the academic qualification of the second respondent. It was purely on the fact that he lied to provide false information. If the judgement is based on the academic qualification, then we believe something needs to be done when our lawyers review it.”

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Tribunal: Anxiety in Niger as Bello, Nasko know fate Wednesday

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Tribunal: Anxiety in Niger as Bello, Nasko know fate Wednesday

There is heightened anxiety in Minna, as Niger State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal will on Wednesday rule on the petition challenging the re-election of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State.

All major junctions and offices in the state capital are manned by Policemen, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies.

The tribunal had concluded its sitting in July and fixed September 18 (Wednesday) to pass its verdict on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Alhaji Umar Nasko following the adoption of final written addresses by parties in the matter.

When our Correspondent spoke to the Umar Nasko campaign’s Director of Communications Usman Baba Yahaya, he said: “We are calling on the judges to do the right thing, as the fate of Nigerlites now hang on them.”

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AGF to judges: Be credible in your judgements

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AGF to judges: Be credible in your judgements

116,623 cases pending before Federal High Court

Body of SAN makes case for specialised courts

NBA: Judiciary independence under threat

 

 

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), yesterday, told judges to be credible in all their judgements and rulings.

This, he said, will ensure that the sacred integrity reposed in the courts remain unshaken at all times in order to foster and promote public confidence in all judgements and rulings that emanate from the court.

Malami, who made the call in Abuja during the special court session held by the Federal High Court to mark the commencement of the 2019/20 legal year, however appreciated the court over the speed at which it handled pre-election matters in the wake, during and after the general election.

“This court has set the records straight, which helped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to effectively field the right candidates for the elections and the efficient conduct of election processes,” he said.

Malami urged lawyers to cooperate with the Federal High Court in ensuring that the dignity, integrity and credibility of the court are not put to ridicule.

He said: “We must collectively shun fraudulent practices and to render sound and unbiased advice to our clients based on laid down laws and not on sentiment. We should also not be seen encouraging our clients to ridicule this court into doing the impossible. As ministers in the temple of justice, we must together foster the desired growth for a better society because this court, on its own, can only do little as permitted by law.”

The Acting Chief Judge of the court, Justice John Tsoho, while declaring the new legal year open, revealed that 116,623 cases are pending before the courts across the country.

According to him, “16,144 cases were filed in this quarter alone in which 12,692 have been disposed of. It is obvious that the judges were overburdened with work in the last legal year.

“We therefore need to engage more judicial officers to help out. However, it does appear that there was no provision for appointment of judges in the current budget. I will make effort to discuss with the relevant stakeholders to see to the visibility of facilitating the recruitment of more judicial officers in the course of the year.”

Also speaking, the body of SAN, represented by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, called for specialization of courts.

The group said: “The challenge, which we wish respectfully, to place before my Lord, the Chief Judge is to break this court into specialized divisions. What I mean is that the era of general jurisdiction in one judge, has shown that a judge in each day, has over 25 cases to deal with. Their claims or causes include political matters under Electoral Act, criminal matters under National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and sundry crimes.

“In the same cause list, you have suits on aviation, fundamental enforcement, bankruptcy and insolvency, terrorism, mines and minerals including pollution, natural gas, including arbitration matters, arms and ammunition, cybercrimes treasonable felony and allied offences and interpretation of the constitution causes. The learned trial judge moves from law to the other within hours with rulings and judgements to be delivered thereon.

“My Lord, specialized divisions of the federal court will lead to specialization, increase productivity and reduce the much talked about delay in the administration of justice arising from unnecessary work load. The calls and argument for “Special Corruption Court” will pale into insignificance and spent.

“We are in 20th Century, where information technology has become a tool for efficient management of cases, resources and time in the administration of justice. It is not an impediment to elevation even up to the Supreme Court.

“All you need is to invest in training, retraining and continuous education in the specialised fields. The judges will suffer less stress and pressure. We believe the greatness of the court lies in creativity and innovation and so, respectfully, recommend this idea for the consideration of all stakeholders.”

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on its part, stressed that the independence of the judiciary is under threat by the executive arm.

The President of the Bar, Paul Usoro (SAN) noted that it is not for nothing that the Federal High Court is described and looked upon in terms that suggest its ranking as primus inter pares in the hierarchy of High Courts in the Nigerian Federation.

According to him, “The gamut of its jurisdiction, both exclusive and concurrent, stands it out. But more than that, it is the primary High Court in the federation that has jurisdiction over the entire federation, with its divisions dotted all over the country.

“Your Lordships therefore have the unique advantage of being periodically transferred from one division of the court to another and in that process, Your Lordships get to work in, know and understand all the different component units of the Nigerian Federation and also appreciate the different quirks and idiosyncrasies of the people that make up this great country.

“Your Lordships are therefore in a prime position to pronounce, as Your Lordships always do, through this Honourable Court’s decisions, that, though tribes and tongues may differ, we remain one great country and are strong in spite of and indeed because of both our diversity and unity.

“It is in that context that I specially congratulate Your Lordships for stepping forward at critical moments to reaffirm and cement the bonds of our Nigerian unity through the various pronouncements and decisions of Your Lordships’ courts.

“The opening of the legal year traditionally affords the Bar and the Bench the opportunity for introspection and to ruminate on national issues particularly those that affect the justice sector. Topping the list of such issues at all times is the need to promote and protect the rule of law in all its ramifications. That need is perhaps more pronounced today given the siege under which the justice sector is currently operating, evident in the open and sometimes veiled incursions by the executive arm and its agencies. In particular, the independence of the judiciary is under severe threat.

“To be exact, the independence of mind and thoughts by Your Lordships in the determination of matters before the courts is under severe siege. The executive arm of government and its agencies are increasingly and unceasingly critical of the judiciary and its decisions, particularly in matters that the government and its agencies may be interested in. It is not unusual these days to hear high officials of government talk down the judiciary and ridiculously and rather ill-advisedly dump all the ills of society on the judiciary.

“Decisions by Your Lordships are sometimes brazenly denigrated and attributed to ulterior and ill motives – and these on social and traditional media platforms. Veiled and sometimes open and, in all cases, audacious attempts are made to teleguide and programme the decisions of courts. These are very dangerous practices that destroy the independence of the judiciary and by extension the rule of law and indeed the fabric of our society.

“The society needs and can only survive if we have independent-minded judges, who are empowered to dispense justice to all manner of men, including government departments, without fear or favour. We can only survive as a nation if the independence and vibrancy of the judiciary, particularly, the non-interference with the thoughts and decision-making processes of Your Lordships, are guaranteed and protected.”

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Xenophobia: Obasanjo blasts South Africa

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Xenophobia: Obasanjo blasts South Africa

…asks Nigeria, others to petition AU

 

 

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has asked countries affected by xenophobic attacks to drag South Africa before the African Union (AU) and seek appropriate redress.

Obasanjo, who stated this in his reply to a letter by the President Emeritus of Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Mangosuthu Buthelezi, accused South African authorities of complicity in the ongoing xenophobia in the country.

The IFP, founded in 1975, is one of the political parties in South Africa led by Buthelezi until this year.

The former president specifically berated the South African police of standing aloof to watch miscreants and criminals commit crimes against fellow human beings.

He argued that even if citizens of other countries commit any crime, South Africa ought to have treated them like they would treat their citizens.

The former Nigerian leader urged affected African nations to consider other measures against South Africa if the situation is allowed to continue unabated.

“If South Africa fails to initiate appropriate and satisfactory steps to deal with the issues to pacify affected victims and work for reconciliation with the countries concerned to put an end to xenophobia, the concerned countries of the victims should come together to table appropriate motions at the AU level first and consider other measures if the situation is allowed to continue,” he said.

Obasanjo recalled his liberation role in different parts of Africa, including getting rid of apartheid in South Africa.

He said it was unfortunate that the Southern African country allowed attacks against fellow citizens and practically did nothing to stop it.

In what appears to be his first reaction on the xenophobic attacks, Obasanjo submitted that it was a great disservice to the continent and the black race, for any African country to encourage or allow or not seriously sanction xenophobia against Africans.

Responding to Buthelezi’s letter dated September 11, which was made available to reporters in Abeokuta yesterday through his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, the ex-president stated that Africans living in any other part of Africa must be treated as brothers and friends.

He said there was need for “fence-mending, reconciliation and wound-binding” between South Africa and the countries whose citizens have been victims of xenophobia.

Apparently commenting on the response of Nigerian authorities, Obasanjo pointed out that repatriation of Nigerians from South Africa is obviously not a permanent solution but merely palliative.

He also said xenophobia will not give jobs to South Africans as being touted but would rather make investment in the country difficult.

He, however, advised Nigeria and South Africa to stand together to champion African cause and jointly shepherd development, unity, cooperation and progress.

Obasanjo also urged African nations to learn from the ongoing xenophobic attacks and ensure programmes that will provide livelihoods for their teeming youth population to discourage them from embarking on hazardous journeys.

His letter partly read: “The xenophobia or afrophobia going on in South Africa is an unfortunate issue for South Africa and for the whole of Africa. It is unfortunate in many respects.

“There are only two countries in Africa that have ‘Africa’ as part of their names: Central Africa Republic and Republic of South Africa.

“For any of these two countries and, I dare say, for any African country to encourage or allow or not seriously sanction xenophobia against Africans in their country, it is a great disservice not only to the country where xenophobia takes place and the countries of the victims concerned, but also a great disservice to the whole of Africa and black race.

“We, in Nigeria, if I may speak particularly for Nigeria, did all that we did for liberation in different parts of Africa, particularly in Southern Africa, including getting rid of apartheid in South Africa because we believed it was our obligatory duty to do so as Africans.

“We, as black people, believed and still believe that we would be second-class citizens in the world if we allowed any black people anywhere in the world, not to talk of Africa, to be treated as second-class citizens because of the colour of their skin without fighting against it.

“It is because of our belief in human dignity generally and especially afro dignity. We were motivated and goaded by principle and not by possession, position or praises. We were not doing it to get any reward or material benefit as such.

“We were doing it because we were convinced that it was our duty, our responsibility and our obligation to humanity and to the black race. That is why we, in Nigeria, in spite of our distance from the frontline of the struggle against colonialism in Southern Africa and apartheid in South Africa, we became, in terms of our participation, contribution, commitment and sacrifice, members of the frontline States.

“Whether that is recognised and appreciated or not, we really don’t mind as we believe we have done our duty as we ought to have done, and if occasion occurs in future where we need to open our doors, out of our humanity and Africanity, for people in similar situation of need as happened to people in Southern Africa and South Africa, we will do it again as we did in the past. 

“However, we believe that Africans living in any other part of Africa must be treated as brothers and friends. If they commit any crime, they should be treated like citizens of that country will be treated when they commit crime which will mean applying judicial process.

“Moreover, the South African police and other law enforcement agencies must uphold the letter and spirit of the Constitution of South Africa, which stipulate that, ‘The South African Police Service has a responsibility to prevent, combat and investigate crime, maintain public order, protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, uphold and enforce the law, create a safe and secure environment for all people in South Africa, prevent anything that may threaten the safety or security of any community, investigate any crimes that threaten the safety or security of any community, ensure criminals are brought to justice and participate in efforts to address the causes of crime.’

“Where the Police would stand aloof watching miscreants and criminals committing crimes against fellow human beings is condemnable and not acceptable in any civilised society. This was experienced in South Africa in recent times and it shows either incompetence or collusion on the part of the Police.

“The best way to fight crime is to achieve close to full employment in a society and not through xenophobia. Anybody who can deny xenophobia in South Africa of today can deny that my mother is a woman. It should not be a game of denial but rather a game of accepting reality and working at it, together with the rest of Africa where necessary. 

“Countries in Africa are not just transit for drugs from sources in Latin America and Asia to consuming populations in North America and Europe, but these countries in Southern Africa and West Africa are also falling victims as consumers and producers.

“It requires collaboration of producing regions and countries working with transit regions and countries and consuming regions and countries to deal effectively with the menace of drugs as established by West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD). 

“As it is being touted that xenophobia will give South Africans jobs, I dare say, it is fallacy. Xenophobia will make investment in South Africa a little bit more difficult which will lead to lack of job creation and loss of existing jobs.

“It should also be realised that most migrants did not migrate out of their country to other countries with total emptiness. Some have education, skills, experience, expertise, entrepreneurship and sheer guts which they can bring to bear on the economy of the country they have migrated to.

“What has helped most developed countries in the world is openness and receiving migrants with open hands and open minds. In any case, all of us in the world are migrants, no matter where we live, depending only on how far back you want to go.”

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