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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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One killed, two injured as thugs ambush Kogi PDP guber candidate’s convoy

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One killed, two injured as thugs ambush Kogi PDP guber candidate’s convoy

An ambush on the convoy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, on Saturday at Anyigba in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State has left one person dead and two others injured.

Wada was on his way to Kogi East PDP stakeholders’ meeting when the incident happened.

In a statement issued by the Deputy Director of Public Communications of Kogi State PDP Campaign Council, Mr. Austin Okai said, the attack led to the death of a young man identified as Yusuf Seidu Uhiene on the spot.

It was also reported that two of PDP loyalists, Nasir Sule and Ilemona sustained injuries from gun shots by those suspected to be political thugs.

The party said: “Our candidate, Engr Musa Wada, today (Saturday) was in Anyigba to attend the Kogi East PDP stakeholders meeting. He was in between the main road and Harbour Bay, venue of the meeting, When the incident occurred.”

The PDP governorship Campaign Council, while condemning the attack, appealed to the Nigeria Police in Kogi State to checkmate activities of armed men, saying that, “the attackers are suspected to be thugs loyal to the ruling All Progressives Congress.”

The Council said it has lodged a complaint of the incident at the Divisional Police at Anyigba through the PDP Ward Chairman, adding that perpetrators of the heinous act must be brought to justice.

The statement allayed fears that the dreaded activities of the suspected APC thugs in Anyigba and other parts of the local government might create voter apathy if not checked, adding that Abocho, Ajiolo and their surroundings have become a hotbed of thuggery attacks.

“The new way of laying ambush by the APC thugs to discourage the PDP from prosecuting its campaign due to commence soon is unacceptable.

“We condemned the extermination of a promising young man today, who innocently was going about what he believes in without any provocation,” the party noted.

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One killed, two injured as thugs ambush Kogi PDP guber candidate’s convoy

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One killed, two injured as thugs ambush Kogi PDP guber candidate’s convoy

An ambush on the convoy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, on Saturday at Anyigba in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State has left one person dead and two others injured.

Wada was on his way to Kogi East PDP stakeholders’ meeting when the incident happened.

In a statement issued by the Deputy Director of Public Communications of Kogi State PDP Campaign Council, Mr. Austin Okai said, the attack led to the death of a young man identified as Yusuf Seidu Uhiene on the spot.

It was also reported that two of PDP loyalists, Nasir Sule and Ilemona sustained injuries from gun shots by those suspected to be political thugs.

The party said: “Our candidate, Engr Musa Wada, today (Saturday) was in Anyigba to attend the Kogi East PDP stakeholders meeting. He was in between the main road and Harbour Bay, venue of the meeting, When the incident occurred.”

The PDP governorship Campaign Council, while condemning the attack, appealed to the Nigeria Police in Kogi State to checkmate activities of armed men, saying that, “the attackers are suspected to be thugs loyal to the ruling All Progressives Congress.”

The Council said it has lodged a complaint of the incident at the Divisional Police at Anyigba through the PDP Ward Chairman, adding that perpetrators of the heinous act must be brought to justice.

The statement allayed fears that the dreaded activities of the suspected APC thugs in Anyigba and other parts of the local government might create voter apathy if not checked, adding that Abocho, Ajiolo and their surroundings have become a hotbed of thuggery attacks.

“The new way of laying ambush by the APC thugs to discourage the PDP from prosecuting its campaign due to commence soon is unacceptable.

“We condemned the extermination of a promising young man today, who innocently was going about what he believes in without any provocation,” the party noted.

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SDGs central to global development, says Oganga

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SDGs central to global development, says Oganga

In this interview with CHUKWU DAVID, Africa Regional Representative for World’s Largest Lesson and Club 17 Africa, working in partnership with the were adopted by the United Nations, Dr. Mina Ogbanga, speaks the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and how Nigeria can ensure overall national development from the yardsticks

 

What is the objective of the World’s Largest Lesson Training of Trainers (ToT) on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which just held in Abuja, where you functioned as the major facilitator?

We are really interested in spreading information about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our interest is in promoting awareness advocacy and a lot of innovations around SDG amongst children, youths and any other person who is interested taking action to address local challenges.

 

 

We have realised that, for a long time, we have been activating directly young people, children and youths across communities, Internally Displaced Persons’ camps and schools. So, at this very interesting moment, with support from the UNICEF, the world needs to build capacity of young people who will be SDGs champions; in a wider sense, those who will be SDGs Fellows, people who you can call on any time to come and mainstream SDGs into development planning, who can talk about localising SDGs among young people, who can talk about issues about bringing the information of the SDGs into every nook and cranny. So, there was a need to build capacity to deliberately do those things, and that was why this Training of Trainers was organised, to be able to help youths reach their peers and other young people out there with the information.

 

What is the role of UNICEF in the capacity building training?

 

UNICEF was the key convener. UNICEF made it possible for us to identify the appropriate young people for Cohort 2, 2019. It behooved on UNICEF to identify credible committed young people with the pedigree of experience in fields of development, who may not know much about the SDGs per se. Those are the kind of people that came and participated in the training, and those were the kind of people whose capacities were built to take this initiative down to the states where we are going to work in.

You said that the UNICEF identified the facilitators who participated in the training programme, what was actually your role in the event?

 

My role was to promote the training and participation and build their skills. I can say that our duty basically is about human capital development, to enable them be able to carry out the task primarily in a very good way. So, UNICEF did the convening in this maiden edition, and in future, there will be a call for application.

What is the role of the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult & Non-Formal Education (NMEC) in the whole project?

 

Just as their name implies, the role of the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult & Non-Formal Education (NMEC), is to ensure that there is mass awareness on strategic issues that affect the educational matters especially issues around development processes that affect the goals that are in line with education initiative. So, they are part of those who are also supporting this effort at creating awareness, promoting advocacy and mainstreaming understanding of the SDGs into development planning. So, they are also a part of the process. They are in active part of the process.

 

How many states of the country were the facilitators you produced from the just concluded programme deployed to, and which states are involved?

 

They were deployed to eight states for now, and they include: Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Adamawa, Katsina, Bauchi, Jigawa and Anambra. For now, we don’t have in the South-West, South- South and North Central.

 

You said that the SDGs came up in 2015 to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). What are the significant differences between the SDGs and the MDGs?

 

Well, there are various differences. You can even categorise them into strategic differences in terms of practice, methodology and implementation procedures. You can even separate them in terms of their numbers because the MDGs had eight goals but SDGs have 17. That is already two different issues. So, the SDGs appear to be the broader version of the MDGs. The SDGs are looking at broader issues than the MDGs but all at the same time addressing sustainable development.

What can you say led to the abrogation of the MDGs and introduction of the SDGs?

 

They all have 15-year targets. The MDGs was 2000-2015 and SDGs is now 2015-2030. But one of the striking differences is that MDGs had eight development goals while the SDGs have 17. Then the SDGs is a broader call to action to promote more social inclusion, environmental sustainability and economic growth on a larger platform; mainstreaming the needs of a larger group of people which was not particularly the case before.

 

Disaggregation was done according to sex, age, religion, location and all those kinds of things unlike the way MDGs were done. And the strategies being used to deploy SDGs actually are a bit different, which is making people own the process unlike when people saw MDGs just as a contractual process, where their ability to get an MDGs contract helped them in doing one thing or another. Nobody linked those processes exactly to achieve overall quality of life improvements. Ironically, unless if it will improve in future, MDGs had five times more money than the SDGs.

 

It appears that your central targets are schools in the states and communities. Would you clarify this?

No, the central targets are not the schools. The central targets are young people. If we find young people in communities we go there; if we find young people in the IDP camps we go there, if we find them in universities, secondary schools, anywhere we find them, we go there. They are our interest because believe that once they understand the process and understand how to mainstream the SDGs, every other thing will fall into place. The facilitators deployed to states are not going to concentrate on schools, rather they are going to be teaching young people from different places. They are not going to schools to teach, they are going to states where youths have already been gathered, and these youths are from different places.

 

What is Club 17 Africa?

Club 17 Africa is the name of the Project. That’s the project that everybody is doing. It is the focus of the task across the world. But I have an NGO called Centre for Development Support Initiative. I created the Club 17 Africa; my friend created the World Largest Lesson and both of them were adopted by the United Nations.

How do you explain SDGs challenge?

 

There is what we call the SDGs Club challenge, which means competition. It is called SDGs competition among people, among schools, young people in communities, IDP camps. The whole idea is for them to identify a problem, start thinking through the solution and proffer innovation on how to solve that problem. Then they will enter that their solution into a competition, and then if they win, that’s fine.

Is the Federal Government deeply involved in your programme?

 

Nigerian Government can’t say anything more in this whole thing because they are the ones driving it. It is the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs that is driving it. Ours is to provide necessary backup. And that is how you can get ownership of any project. Once the people are able to understand how useful this project is to them, and own the process, it can be sustained. No White man or Black man or Blue man can give you the development you need other than the development you are ready to participate in the process. If they come and dump their western technology or ideas and there is nobody to drive it, what will you do? So, people have to understand it, own it, localize it, customise it and domestic it, then you will see that it can be effectively run.

 

What is your advice to Nigerians towards embracing the SDGs programmes?

 

SDGs is a global agenda to promote social inclusion, environmental sustainability and economic growth. It is like giving you an expo before exam. They told you that this is the problem to which you contributed to identifying. So, don’t stress yourself looking for how to solve it; just go to the place.  You say your problem is education, then go to education goal, look at the indicators. There are variables to measure life expectancy, there are different variables to measure educational performance. If you don’t know those variables, you cannot say that you have brought about development. Unfortunately, some government people or anybody else say that they are doing much development work in quote but they are not linking it to SDGs. So it does not actually count in the global space that anything is happening.

 

If you are building one million roads and you don’t want to call it anything, and yet the one million roads are adding to the achievement of the SDGs but you don’t know it and you don’t want to know it because you think that it will take away the contract, you are losing and that portion of your work is not going to be recognised in the global platform. And those are the kinds of things that have moved Nigeria backward because our activities are not effectively reported. If our activities are effectively reported and effectively mainstreamed into development planning, you see that Nigeria will step up a bit.

 

When you even know anything about the SDGs and you are building water tanks every day. So, you don’t know that there is water tank in SDGs 6. If you don’t link it, your matter will not reach the VNR, which is the main reporting template for Nigeria. So, people need to understand that the need to start mainstreaming development planning into the SDGs and mainstream the SDGs into the development planning. Also, you work at quality localising of these SDGs materials. It is a simple thing. If you don’t use this expo, you can’t generate your own.

One hundred and ninety three governments came together; where were you? Nigeria was there and we agreed that this is what we will be using for our development plans. Now you want to sit down and do your own development plan; that is jeopardising the process. So, people need to think about how to start now to own the process, and mainstream SDGs into the activities, and it will help you make your activities count.

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‘A’Ibom youths should embrace Udom’s development efforts’

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‘A’Ibom youths should embrace Udom’s development efforts’

Mr. Ephraim Akparawa Inyang-Eyen, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, in this chat with some editors, speaks on Governor Udom Emmanuel’s achievements in critical sectors. He also charges youths to rediscover their potentials in order to take advantage of the impending economic boom in the state

 

 

Governor Udom Emmanuel is on his second term on the saddle. How has he fared in your assessment?

I will make a bold attempt to summarily analyse all the sector of our state’s economy. In the road sectors, I think we have done very well and just like the governor said its completion agenda, what we should be doing now is to make a very conscious attempt to complete what we have started.

 

I can tell you authoritatively that the dualised roads which will give the state a different image, a paradigm shift is on the completion agenda. Look at the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene Road in which people have embarrassed Udom’s administration even though the contract was overpriced, the job as at today has advanced to Four Points by Sheraton. We want to take it up a little and discharge the road by the roundabout at Ikot Ekpene.

 

We are very confident that by December, the much talked about Ikot Ekpene Road will be ready. The Ikot Oku Ikono – Etinan Road 20km dualised has a flyover in which we have started paying compensations, if you go there, work is in top gear with men working day and night. So Ikot-Oku-Ikono Etinan is on the agenda for completion by May, 2020.

 

Then Etinan-Ndunuyo, you will see that we are just at 600 metres to East West Road and compensation have been paid on that road while the bridge piling at Ekpene Ukpa has started. That road will certainly be ready by May, 2020. If you come back to the Etinan-Eket Road, one of the projects we inherited that was virtually abandoned as at today we have paid compensation and crossed Etinan by the General Hospital which was the major fear of the people. We will further link up that road after paying compensation from Afaha Nsit to Ndiya.

 

Eket remodeling I can assure you would have been completed by December but the rain has altered our plans and I can tell you that by January/February, we will finish Eket remodeling Phase I. If you look at other roads done by the Udom’s administration like the one in Ini Local Government Area done by Particular Construction Company, the bridge the people said never existed is one we drive on during our last visit. Once the rains are over we will lay the final wearing coach asphalt on the road. Several other roads are also receiving attention.

 

Has the health sector been neglected?

This government operates with data. When Governor Udom Emmanuel came, the only functional hospital was the Teaching Hospital at Abak Road which was converted into a Secondary Health Centre instead of Tertiary Health Centre. Emmanuel came and took pains to bring back secondary health centers with the overhauling of St. Lukes Hospital, Anua. The first day we visited Etinan General Hospital we had more snakes than human beings there. Today the hospital is working at optimum level. When we visited Uruan Hospital at Itu Mbang, it was the same story, but today it is a digitalised hospital. When we visited Iquitta Oron General Hospital, everything had virtually collapsed but today it is in top shape. If you go to Ikono, you will find a rebranded general hospital. If you go to Ikot Okoro Oruk Anam the hospital is working, Emmanuel Hospital in Eket is almost ready; the general hospital in Onna is set to go. So I will say that Governor Emmanuel has done well in the health sector. The governor will soon storm the Ikot Ekpene General Hospital to clean it up and turn it to a training centre for nurses and midwives.

 

The governor has also ensured adequate personnel to run these hospitals with the facilities there are world class. I am very convinced that soonest all the 10 federal constituencies in Akwa Ibom will have theirs. I recall with nostalgia that when we visited the Ikot Okoro Hospital in Oruk Anam, the place has already turned to cassava farm, but today outside parading the best facilities, it is completely digitalised. So if each of the 10 federal constituencies has a functional digitalised hospital then you should be convinced that Emmanuel’s administration has taken the health of the people into big consideration.

 

The education sector is suffering in many states of the federation. What is the picture in Akwa Ibom?

 

Education in Akwa Ibom up to secondary school level is free. The government also pays WAEC, NECO and virtually all other major fees. Several structures have been put in place for pupils and students. If you take over a decaying system as the governor inherited, restoration takes a process so if the governor met 200 dilapidated schools and in four years was able to do between 150 and 180. Some people will avoid the 180 that have been rebuilt and go take pictures of the remaining 20 in bad state and post on the internet. These structures took time to collapse and same people kept quiet and overlook them but now we have a listening governor. They want to make a mockery of the system. The governor has maintained the free education policy. NECO fees are paid as at when due,  same with WAEC and as we have more intakes yearly some mischievous people are saying the intakes are going down. We have our statistics and don’t listen to such distractions.

 

You state has an airline. What is its status and how is it contributing to the development of the state?

I think Akwa Ibom is doing extremely well. We are the only state in this country today that is not just running an airline but a very effective one. The report from Ibom Air so far is excellent. When the governor mooted the idea, people described it as a scam but the same people are using the airline and I don’t know whether people can fly with scam. The truth is that governor Emmanuel has broken the jinx in that sector in the entire country. Even the Federal Government of Nigeria till date is unable to have a national carrier but we have one in Akwa Ibom because of the caliber of the governor on the saddle.

 

The airport will soon have a digital terminal building and upon completion the airport will be compared with the best in the world. The second runway and taxi way are also there which you will only see again in Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, in Abuja. These are all efforts of the state government. The deep seaport is on course, the governor had directed me to resume the construction of the Ibom super highway which will serve as direct access to the Ibom Deep Sea Port and that is what embolden me to call out my people in Eket Senatorial District to get ready to take advantage of what comes with a Seaport of that magnitude. If you check well the wealth of most nation are domiciled in the ground and the sea. By the time the deep sea port comes on stream, the entire economy of the state will witness a boom to the point that there will be less emphasis on federation allocation. Akwa Ibom will be next to Lagos in economy.

On Housing and industrialisation, where does the state stand?

Government is interested in the actualizing the housing estate in Uruan and efforts are in top gear in this regard. Work is ongoing there. In the same vein, the low cost Housing Estate along Oron Road is making progress among others. The ongoing estate for civil servants in the state is also nearing completion.

 

I have said at different forum that the industrialisation is not only real but the industries are there working for all to see. The location of the industry is simple Economics 101 in which we are thought that nearness of raw materials and others factors are the major consideration in citing the industry. You see that the industries are concentrated around a particular belt to enable them share facilities in addition to nearness to their raw materials and guaranteed peaceful co-existence with their various host communities.

For instance, the power substation in Mkpat Enin will ensure substantial energy to the Flour Mills among other companies in that axis if one of the industries is cited, for instance, in Ini Local Council Area, they will be operating on generators because they can’t share from the energy from the concentrated power substation in the Mkpat Enen Area.

 

So the industrial revolution in Akwa Ibom is real. Another instance is the newly commissioned ply wood factory which is so critical to furniture making, if someone hopes to start a furniture factory, he will like to cite it close to the ply wood factory to take advantage of both the raw materials and the power. The governor came prepared for industrialisation and by 2023 when he will leave the stage; he would have made the state advanced industrial hub in Africa. These companies are ones that will contribute to economy via employment, contribute to our IGR and further carry out their corporate social responsibility.

 

By the time the seaport is ready do you know what the multiplier effects will be on our economy? The hotels in the entire Eket area and beyond will be over patronized by those who will come down to drive the seaport project. Again I must emphisis here that with God on our side and more money in the hands of the Governor, Akwa Ibom will lively have the best road network in Nigeria soon.

What is the philosophy behind the selection of youths from Eket Senatorial District for mentorship and entrepreneurial training as against giving “hand outs”?

Whenever things are done over a period of time, I look at the results overtime. I have seen the culture of youths relying on “hand outs” and also the culture of “landing” anytime you have interface with them as very trivial and I specifically called the youths of my village in Ikot Ebiere and they came.

I challenged them to account for all the “landings” they have received and what they achieved with it. They were all shocked and looked in amazement. I sat down and think deeply, if you need a good plumber, tiller, mechanic and many other skilled laborers, you hardly found an Akwa Ibom son. We use virtually outsiders to give us quality jobs on things ordinarily our youths should be doing.

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How Martha Udom Emmanuel’s pet project, FEYREP, is tackling scourge of rape

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How Martha Udom Emmanuel’s pet project, FEYREP, is tackling scourge of rape

W

ives of prominent political leaders usually take on projects to give succour to different causes and people in their society. The most prominent of wives who took up such pet projects was Lady Bird Johnson, wife of former US President Lyndon Johnson. She was a remarkable advocate for beautifying the nation’s cities and highways for she strongly espoused that: “where flowers bloom, so does hope”.

 

 

The ‘Highway Beautification’ Act was informally known as “Lady Bird’s Bill.” Former President George Bush had said that he always remembered the former First Lady every time he drove from Houston to the Presidential Library in College Station and marvelled at the countryside’s wildflowers. Her legacy, he said, “is in full glory in the springtime…she made the world beautiful in so many ways.”

 

 

US Secretary of the Interior during Johnson’s administration submits that “Lady Bird Johnson did more than plant flowers in public places…she served the country superbly by planting environmental values in the minds of the nation’s leaders and citizens.” Indeed, her legacy lives on.

 

 

Martha Udom Emmanuel and FEYREP

Back home in Nigeria, to complement her husband’s economic renaissance and industrialization agenda, Martha Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State has taken to heart a pet project; a cause against one of society’s greatest ills.

 

Through her pet project, Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Program (FEYREP), there has been empowerment of women in the 31 local government council areas of the state. The catalogue of things done is impressive:

 

 

Care for hundreds of orphans and less privileged children in the 5 Government Homes; provision of N200,000 grant each for about 500 women organisations across the 31 LGAs to enable them leverage on the public-partnership initiative of the State Government; provision of grants each and wrappers for about 600 widows across the 31 LGAs to boost their businesses and alleviate poverty; donation of over 200 wheel chairs and 100 special writing desks for physical challenged persons in tertiary institutions and secondary schools; the training of 20 visually impaired persons in different skills at the Nigerian Farm Craft Centre, Lagos and subsequent empowerment for them to start up their business in the development trade learnt; sponsorship of 155 widows to Jerusalem for pilgrimage.

 

Seaside communities have had seafood processing factories built. There are also, ultra-modern (FEYREP) Cassava Processing and Oil Palm Processing. The First Lady is all about empowering women. She believes in stabilizing the home front because an unstable marriage can lead to a broken home. Such break ups is often traceable to the inability of the woman to make financial contribution towards the children and development of the family.

Mrs. Emmanuel has been working to ensure that women are empowered to support their husband.

 

 

Hundreds of expectant mothers from the 31 local government areas of the state have benefited from her free medical care and baby packages.

 

 

The programme is tagged: “Pregnancy, Child Birth and Beyond”. A good number of indigenes have been sponsored to India for surgeries and in collaboration with the MTN Foundation, many blind are now seeing.

More importantly, houses have been built for widows and widowers. A striking picture is seen on the internet of a widow with her two hands lifted up in joy, while standing with her two young daughters before their newly constructed house, built for them by Lady Martha Emmanuel.

 

 

Martha Emmanuel strikes one as a humble individual having a calming influence on whoever comes around her. She grew up seeing her parents’ philanthropic nature of training a good number of people, who are all successful today. As the daughter of a university professor, she exhibits those refined feminine qualities that represent true home training.

 

Her poise and admirable demeanour is in clear contrast with that of a high-ranking female government official who recently, was seen using ‘beer parlour’ language during a live television broadcast. And despite entreaties that such uncouth language is not permitted, she dug her feet down and persisted in the ways of motor park touts.

 

It is not uncommon to see women in high offices of the land lose it and exhibit those traits that decent and refined women find revolting. There are, however, still a few women who continue to hold high the flag of real womanhood; unspoiled by the murky terrains of position and authority. Lady Martha Emmanuel is one of such individuals.

 

FEYREP and combating the scourge of rape

Martha Emmanuel has also demonstrated her passionate fight against the morbid crime of rape. Although rape has almost become an official instrument of war, the continuous degeneration of the civil society into this horrible malaise has agitated her spirit. She has constantly been outspoken about the exposure of those caught in this heinous act to the public. Consider her words:

 

 

“The menace of gender-based violence is a cause for concern to everyone. And why it is so worrisome is because the people they are defiling are babies, toddlers of two years, three years, four years, six years. These are the age range we are seeing these days. And by the grace of God, through the sensitization we have been carrying out, people have been reporting such cases and the culprits are being prosecuted. That is the good thing about it. It is so bad. What we intend to do now is that we don’t want to hide these people anymore. Before now when they are caught, we take them to court, prosecute them. Now, we want to expose them to the world so that other people will learn from it. You people (the media) will help us publish their names, show them on television, tell where they come from, and tell the world what they have done. We are not going to hide them anymore because the menace is getting out of hand. If you happen to see one of the victims you will cry.”

 

 

FEYREP has partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) to establish a Gender-Based Violence Centre in the state to temporarily cater for abused persons until they are sorted out.

 

She said: “You cannot eradicate crime, but you can reduce the level. I don’t know why a man will rape a six-year-old girl; I don’t know why a man will rape a three-year-old girl. I don’t know why a man with four wives will rape a nine-year-old girl. These are people that have children; some have grandchildren. Why do you defile a young girl? What pleasure are you looking for?”

 

Martha Udom Emmanuel by her message is saying: “What gives you the right to do what you want with her body? How dare you try to take away value of her body? You made her feel worthless, small and unimportant, like an object. You will not only be jailed, you will be shamed forever. You couldn’t even respect a woman and I’m speaking out to get society to know you so as to spare the next girl who not only can get STD or get pregnant, you will damage her mentally; women who are actually young and cautious.”

 

There is a consensus that not enough people understand how heinous rape is. In America, there is the National Sexual Assault Hotline and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Martha Emmanuel’s FEYREP has created a Nigerian Hotline.

Apparently, some men feel so entitled to women that they will not accept no as an answer. Some men feel that they can take what they want by force – and because of rape culture, it’s reinforced that it’s the victim’s fault. Some feel it’s not really rape because the woman was wearing a revealing outfit.

 

 

Until recently, available evidences suggest that rapists may also be motivated by the likelihood that their victims will not report the assault. By virtue of being a rape victim, a woman becomes the perceived agent of her family’s shame.

In a bizarre twist, she changes from a victim into a guilty party, responsible for bringing dishonour upon her family or community. As a result, female victims, whether for fear of being seen this way, or because they see themselves this way, are extremely reluctant to report rape. The shame of rape may prevent women, who would rather bury their dishonour, from seeking justice.

 

 

Only an improved awareness of the criminal act of a rapist will help women to resist the embarrassment attached to such an act and go for exposing their attacker. It is essential that efforts to achieve this are increased so that what has been trivialized in the past is stopped.

In a nutshell, Martha Udom’s efforts through her pet project, FAYREP, at curbing rape and sexual violence against women has yielded a lot of results. Such a cause being taken by high government personnel has instilled not only the fear of prosecution but also the dread of public shaming in would-be culprits.

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Olafeso: Nigeria’s economy is in quagmire

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Olafeso: Nigeria’s economy is in quagmire

National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), South-West Zone, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, is a professor of International Relations and one of the governorship aspirants of the party in Ondo State in the 2020 election. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he describes the N10.3trillion 2020 budget as a ruse and incapable of salvaging the economy

 

 

What is your impression about the N10.3trillion 2020 budget recently announced by President Muhammadu Buhari?

Nigeria’s economy is in a quagmire. Honestly, if throughout four years he could not produce more than 1.8 million barrels of oil per day and in the next year you are basing your projection on 2.2 million barrels per day, is that not wishful thinking? What are you putting in place to improve your oil production in terms of infrastructure?  Number two is that you are basing this revenue projection on the contentious 7.7 per cent increase in Value Added Tax still before the National Assembly and which people are still debating. Must you tax Nigerians to death?

Look at our local and foreign debt now put at about N25trillion. How can a nation survive with this? What has this government been able to achieve in the last four years? All they have succeeded in doing is to tax us out of existence. Those monies are just flying in the air. They are not monies on hand. Even if you are making projections, must it not be very close to reality? To me he is just taking Nigerians for a ride.

 

 

You have over N10trillion budget and about 30 per cent of it is going into debt servicing and debt management and you are going to borrow over 25 per cent of it. So where is the money coming from and where is the figure emanating from? This is magical as far as I am concerned and this budget is dead on arrival. This budget will do nothing for Nigerians other than increasing their pains. We are not looking inwards. Let us begin to block all the loop holes, and let government itself show example. Let us close our doors, plan our economy, rebuilt education, revitalise agriculture in the real sense of it and assist the thousands of industries that have closed down in Nigeria or relocated to neighboring countries and create jobs for our youths.

Look, you have presented a N10trillion budget and only about 20 per cent, an aggregate sum of N2.46 trillion (inclusive of N318.06 billion in statutory transfers) is proposed into capital projects while  about N3.6 trillion goes into recurrent expenditure, personnel and pension costs and N2.4 trillion goes to debt servicing. Is that tenable? What country can survive on devoting 20 per cent of its budget to capital expenditure?  These are the things we have seen and have concluded that Buhari is just taking Nigerians for a ride.

 

 

What are the implications of these?

To me, I will say Buhari is just stoking a revolution he is trying to avoid. You see, when you take the people for a ride for too long, there is no way they will not react. Here you are saying you are lifting 10 million people out of poverty, but you have not been able to do so, rather millions of people are going into poverty daily. Recently an international body said about 70 million Nigerians are living below poverty level. What does that tell you? What is in your programme for the youths? What is in it for education where you budgeted N112 billion for Universal Basic Education and N48 billion for Education in a country whose education system is near collapse and scores of government officials are sending their children abroad? What is in it for the health sector which has been taken over by medical tourism where even the first family goes abroad regularly for treatment?  What impact can N48 billion and N46 billion make as capital budget for education and health respectively in a country of 200 million people? To what extent has he looked at the nation’s human capital development index? How do you intend to bring back to work all these millions of youths without jobs and thousands others graduating annually? Does it not amount to stoking a revolution where you don’t make adequate provision for them to return to work? The answer is in the air and the best way to mitigate or prevent this is sound economic and industrial policies that will absorb these youths.  The situation which the government has put all of us is worrisome.

 

 

Nigeria marked 59 a couple of weeks ago. Where do we go from here?

What are we celebrating at 59? That we are still a banana republic? That we cannot even conduct an election that will guarantee for people to make their choices? That the nation is unsafe and insecure? That the economy has gone down south? That inflation is hovering between 11 and 13 per cent? That over 45 per cent of our youths are unemployed? To me, our 59 years of independence is marked by a milestone of failure and this is an unfortunate moment for all Nigerians. Compare Nigeria with Ghana, Botswana and Rwanda and you can see how far we have dug backward in the last 59 years. I feel the big pain of our inability to harness our resources and develop a land that will be filled with milk and honey. Sadly, we are in a country where nothing is working again- no infrastructure, no direction, no vision. For this largest black nation on earth, this is not what we should celebrate at 59.

 

Look at the level of infrastructural decay in the country; almost all the roads are impassable. The pictures emanating from all parts of the country are worrisome. Vehicles get stuck at the seams; passengers spend hours un-end on the road, some even pass the night, and others who are unfortunate to need medical emergency lose their lives. While lots people diversify into agriculture, tons of farm produce perish on the roads as several trucks transporting them to market get stuck in the mire which litter everywhere. Go to Benue, Cross River, Edo and several others and you will agree with me. Even where some rehabilitation is underway, the speed is terribly slow. And unfortunately at this time the government is proposing road tax by reintroducing tolls!

What do you think should be done about security?

The protracted insurgent attacks in the North-East not only underscored the incompetence of the service chiefs whose tenure elapsed years ago, but that the entire security forces have become disoriented. Was it not shocking to you when a senator said over 830 soldiers have been killed and buried in a particular location in the North-East since 2013? Unfortunate, our government is good at contesting figures given by both local sources and international ones instead of looking at the problems and getting solution. Coming after the government has said repeatedly that it had decimated the insurgents or technically defeated them, this latest one is shocking to say the least. 

Today, the Abuja-Kaduna road has almost been taken over by kidnappers. Kaduna State records daily cases of kidnap for ransom while, unfortunately the President still accepts excuses from and retain service chiefs who have proven to be incompetent. It is a pitiable case, especially in a country whose armed forces parade some of the best officers who have been tested and found competent in all military ramifications around the world.   

You are one of the 18 aspirants in the Ondo State governorship race in 2020. What assurance do we have that PDP won’t have a rancorous primary which characterised that of 2016?

You will recall the PDP defeated the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state in the last presidential election, winning two of the three senatorial seats and a number of seats in the House of Representatives. We are waxing stronger and are ready to repeat this next year. I want to assure you that the primaries will not be rancorous like it was about three years ago when Jimoh Ibrahim assailed the candidacy of Eyitayo Jegede, who was chosen by the party.  We have moved from there and are now very united under the leadership of party chairman, Mr. Clement Faboyede and the entire executive.

We won’t have any problem at all because we are now a united family. Like I have said in another interview, the National Working Committee (NWC) of our party, of which I am a member, has put in place a fair, transparent and broad-based arrangement which will produce an acceptable candidate who will fly the flag of the party. The primaries will fair and the delegates will exercise their rights and we will do better than what we had in Ekiti and Osun states,  we recently did those of Kogi and Bayelsa states and we are improving on our strategies by the day and the coming Ondo will be very fair.

What are your plans for Ondo State and is there a zoning arrangement?

As a former Commissioner in Ondo State, I am aware of template for the development of the state, a development plan put in place during the tenure of the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu which we started implementing before he lost election at the tribunal. That will be revisited because it is critical for the development of the state. You see, Ondo State has no reason to lag behind in national development and we shall bring it back to that path. I was traumatized recently when I learnt that Ondo South has been in darkness without public power supply for more than 10 years. This is a shocking irony especially when you recall that the Omotosho Power Plant with four gas turbines which generates 512 megawatts is in that area. Most importantly, all parts of the state will be massively developed.

As for zoning, even though various sections of the state have taken a bite at the governorship position since the state’s creation in 1976, I am a believer in and an advocate of competence. In this regard, my pedigree, education, exposure and experience in both private and public sectors speak for me.

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Niger State will soon be cut off by bad roads, says Beji

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Niger State will soon be cut off by bad roads, says Beji

Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Niger State, Barrister Tanko Beji, is uncomfortable with the performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government led by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello. In this interview with DANIEL ATORI, he scores the governor below average, fearing that with the deplorable state of roads, in a few weeks, Niger may be cut off from other states

 

 

Can you rate the performance of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello in Niger State in terms of development since the commencement of his first tenure in 2015?

Well, we all live in Niger State – you and I, and we have seen the situation of things and the state that we are in. And we know what we saw before they came on-board in 2015. For me to rate, I will say that the performance of the APC-led government in Niger State is below average because nothing seems to be working or happening. There is no semblance of government; the health facilities are not working, the educational sector has broken down, the civil service has broken down, everything has broken down honestly.

And to make matters worse, you don’t feel government in the state. It is as if there is no government in place. So, one wonders if the governor is being forced on the people. And what is expected is that once one is elected into government, you are just a head, nobody expects you to govern the state all alone. But you should be able to use your intelligence to bring in able and capable hands to help you to pilot the affairs of the state. That is what people do even in the civilised world. So, if you are incapacitated, you should be able to look for people to help you out and still take the credit at the end of the day.

Does this corroborate your earlier statement that the governor need to get people from the PDP and other parties if he must get things right?

No! We didn’t even say from the PDP. You see, Niger State is one state that can boast of people who can help to deliver the dividends of democracy in the state. Look at the educational institutions across the country, Nigerlites abound; look at the Federal Civil Service, Nigerlites abound there. So, the law does not say you must bring in only APC people who cannot perform or deliver. This state belongs to all of us and everyone is interested to see the state develop.

With the outcry from the state government that the Federal Government has abandoned all federal roads in the state and claiming that it has expended billions of naira to remedy some parts of the roads, do you think the amount spent is commensurate with what is on ground?

Hmmmm! From the way things are going, in the next few weeks or more, the state will be virtually cut off from other states in the country. If you look at the Abuja-Minna road, it will soon be cut off, look at the Lambata-Bida road, it is bad. Look at the Bida-Minna road, it is very bad. If you look at the Bida-Lemu road it is bad; the Minna-Kontagora road is terrible and if you look at the Sarkin-Pawa- Kaduna road, that one has even been abandoned. Now, for somebody to say that about N4.6 billion has been expended on the roads in Niger State, then we would have seen it on ground. The truth is, if you expend N1 billion on a project, it will show because N1 billion is not an amount you spend and then you won’t see results. The question to ask should be, was that money really spent? If it was spent, where was it spent? In all these that I have mentioned, where did they spend at least N1 billion and it didn’t show?

But the government says it has worked on the Lambata-Kwakuti and to complete the Kwakuti-Minna axis very soon…

So, does that few kilometers translate to the N4.6 billion? And that also brings us to the point in my earlier press statement where I said the governor promised us “zero potholes” but now the state has potholes everywhere. So, where are all the monies that were spent on filling the potholes? Let’s not even talk about the Minna-Suleja and other roads. What about within the State capital, Minna? There are potholes everywhere but he promised “zero potholes”. This means that the governor is not matching his words with actions. Something must be wrong somewhere.

You just said the governor is not matching his words with actions, are you saying his competence is questionable?

It’s not for me to say. It’s not me that is saying it but it is the reality on ground. It is not me, because nothing is working, and then, if there were some resemblances of competence, then something must have been working somewhere. But every sector has broken down and this means that there is lack of competence.

Every successive governments in Nigeria claimed they will continue from where their predecessors stopped, owing that “government is a continuum”, would you say this government abandoned or continued from where its predecessor (PDP) stopped?

You see, that’s the problem! That is the problem because like you said, government should be a continuous process. A government coming on board should pick up from where the last one stopped and whatever happens, he will take the credit at the end of the day. But you cannot abandon what your predecessor started and then you cannot even start your own, then where are we?

Ordinarily, government is supposed to be a continuous process and if they had continued from where the PDP stopped, then we would have made appreciable progress because the policies and programs left behind by the last administration are by far better than what they think they are implementing. And they are not getting anywhere.

They haven’t built a single housing unit; we built housing units in Kontagora, we built in Bida and in fact, we built two in Minna; we have the M.I. Wushishi and Talba Housing estates. You see, we have added value but they have not. In the health sector; we built hospitals; we built modern hospitals in Nasko, in New Wuse and we built the new wing of the Ante-Natal Hospital in Minna even though the cost of renovating the hospital two years later is more than the cost of building the hospital itself. So, one begins to wonder that a hospital that was built and commissioned, two years later you are spending two times more than the cost of building it to renovate. Then, something must be wrong somewhere.

If you are given an opportunity as PDP Chairman in the state to give the government an advice, what would be your candid advice?

I will advise the governor to bring in able and capable hands to assist him pilot the affairs of the state. That is the starting point, let him bring them in because he alone cannot do it. And, with what we see in his new cabinet list, then it is from fry pan to fire. He will not get anywhere with the kind of officers he has brought on board.

Chairman, talking about security, recently Governor Bello pardoned and released some bandits who had caused mayhem on the people of the state, do you see the move by the governor as a good one or you have a contrary view?

Well, we are watching, the amnesty was granted to over 30 bandits about a month ago. We are watching, let us see whether that will work. If it doesn’t work, at the appropriate time we will give a statement. We will see, maybe he is experimenting and we don’t want to doubt him. Let us allow him and see how the process will come to fruition.

The bandits seem to have reneged on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between them and the government already. A lot of people had earlier envisaged that the bandits would renege and have been proven right. Do you see that as a failure on the part of the government?

If the bandits have reneged, then the government ought to have taken action immediately because it means that the terms and conditions of the amnesty have been breached. So, if it has been breached, the government needs to have taken action immediately on the ground that the bandits have breached the terms and conditions of the peace pact. But if the government has not, then it also brings us to the same issue that the government lacks capacity and not competent. You know, you cannot enter into an agreement with Mr. A and the next thing, Mr. A breaches the agreement and then you are folding your arms. No! You should not, because the laws and agreements are meant to be respected.

What is your call to all and sundry, given the fact that security is central to all human existence?

Like we have always said, security is everyone’s business, if we are not secured we can’t even do the businesses we are doing. In fact, if we are not secured, we can’t even do politics. So, security is not a partisan thing. I call on all Nigerlites to see themselves as security agents to assist the police, the military and other security agencies where necessary so that the activities of these bandits and all criminal elements can be a thing of the past.

How would you rate the media, especially in Nigeria State?

Well, I will be objective because it is my own assessment. I am going to rate the media above 65 to 70 per cent because journalism is dynamic. We can only expect that the media keep improving and the coverage will change for the best. They have been balanced in their reportage; they listen to both and all parties; they have been doing investigative reporting; they have not been biased and have not tilted towards favoring the government or anyone unjustly. I think the performance of the media in the state is excellent. New Telegraph is one papers I read a lot because and it is one of the best.

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Fresh fears over funds for Ondo, Kogi

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Fresh fears over funds for Ondo, Kogi

The approval of a N50 billion bond for the Ondo State governor and President Muhammadu Buhari’s N10 billion repayment request for Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, are generating discussions in the polity. ONYEKACHI EZE x-rays the likely implications of such funds on election year

 

 

P

erhaps, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello may not be the first to seek Federal Government bond or refund for federal projects executed in their states, but for the controversy is the timing.

Ondo State will being going to the polls mid-2020 and Akeredolu might be seeking a reelection. He told Ondo State House of Assembly that he needed N50 billion bond to complete ongoing infrastructure projects in the state.

 

And for Kogi State, the election is on November 16 this year and Bello has already secured the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to seek reelection.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s who is the one making the request on his behalf, told the National Assembly that he needed the sum of N10 billion to offset the cost of projects executed by Kogi State on behalf of the Federal Government.

 

“Take note also that the said expenditure was authorised by the Federal Government which other 23 states of the federation have also been refunded,” Buhari said in a letter read by the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawal.

A number of state governors have obtained bonds in the past, while until recently, the Federal Government had refunded state governors that undertook the rehabilitation of federal projects in their domains. And as President Buhari had noted, about 23 states have so far been refunded.

But now, the Federal Government has said no more refunds to state governors who rehabilitated federal roads in their states. Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola told the House of Representatives on abandoned Federal Government Projects (Works) from 1999 till date, that it was due to the humongous amounts being claimed by the governors after repairing federal roads in their states.

 

 

“The states submitted a bill of almost a trillion naira when President Buhari was elected. He asked us to work out what was their entitlement…,” Fashola explained, disclosing that about N44 billion was certified by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to be refunded to the states.

 

According to him, President Buhari agreed to refund the money but with a caveat to stop rehabilitating federal roads in their domains. “Tell them not to fix my roads again if they are going to claim compensation. If you want to fix it and not ask for compensation, send me what you want to do.

 

“But if you want compensation, go and mind your business while I mind my business because I have inherited enough debts!” he added. The state of federal roads across the country does not reflect intervention of any type.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the N10 billion request by President Buhari is to pay for “phantom projects” because there was no federal project executed by Governor Bello for which Buhari is seeking a refund. The party accused the president of misleading the National Assembly.

Said the PDP: “It is scandalous that the Buhari presidency, with its claims of transparency and integrity, would seek to mislead the National Assembly by asserting that the fund is for projects done by the state government on behalf of the Federal Government, when in reality no one can point to any such project executed by Governor Yahaya Bello in the last four years.

“Such action by Mr. President further confirms that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is directly in league with Governor Yahaya Bello to strangulate the people of Kogi State.

“If the Buhari presidency means well for Kogi State, it should reword its request and put the interest of the masses ahead of all selfish and  parochial political considerations, particularly as the state approaches a critical election in which the people have made up their minds to vote out Governor Yahaya Bello.

“Mr. President cannot claim to be unaware of the critical situation of workers in Kogi State. He cannot claim to be unaware that workers in Kogi State are being owed, in some cases up to 36 months, and that retirees and seniors are dying over non payments of their pensions after giving the best of their lives in public service.

“The PDP therefore urges President Buhari to resist attempts by his handlers and Governor Bello to drag his presidency into this shameful attempt to steal fund that ought to go to the suffering masses in Kogi State.”

This is the same way the N50 billion bond approved by the Ondo State House of Assembly for Governor Akeredolu is generating controversies. The state chapter of PDP said part of the fund would go into the governor’s second term project.

Zadok Akintoye, the party’s Director of Media and Publicity, also said the bond would further plunge the state into huge debt.

“While we are well aware that states may access loans from the capital market to finance projects that may not be covered by available resources, our concern is that our dear Ondo State is doing so at a time when its financial inflows from Federal Allocation, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and other earnings from past investments of the state, are at a fairly steady level.

“Considering our present domestic debt profile of about N52 billion (as at 2018) and an external debt profile of a out $50 million, it is worrisome to see that the Akeredolu-led government   is resorting to further borrowing rather than reducing the debt per revenue burden on the state.

“We also note the quick passage of the bill by the state House of Assembly authorising the governor to access this loan and would like to draw the attention of this honorable members vested with the mandate of the people to act, speak and defend the interest of our people, to the failure of the executive arm of government to publicly present a detailed and audited account of funds received and spent on the behalf of the people since this government came into being,” PDP demanded.

 

The state government, however, insisted that the bond would be for the completion of ongoing infrastructure projects and to fund new ones to be initiated by the administration. The state Commissioner for Information, Donald Ojogo, said the revenue of the state has dwindled.

“There was a time some states were collecting N15 to 20 billion and I know of course at a point that this state collected N13 billion because there was money. FAAC (Federal Account Allocation Committee) at a point distributed close to N900 billion but now what is distributed?

 

“I don’t think this government has received up to N6 billion in a single month from FAAC since it came on board. It is as low as N4 billion in some cases which mainly went into payment of workers’ salaries including seven months arrears out of which six months had been paid.

 

 

“Do we now complain that because we are paying salaries we will not construct roads, upgrade our hospitals and desirable structures will not be put in place?” he asked. Ojogo explained that rather than obtaining bank loans, a bond is the best way out because of the high interest rate.

“The best way to fund a project is only through the bonds because the maximum interest rate is between 14 and 16 per cent.  But if you go to the bank, it will attract 19 and in some cases 20, 21 per cent. So, it is of no burden to the state. This bond is targeted at specific projects.

“It will be highly unfortunate if with the zeal that the contractors have been deploying themselves to the state, lack of funds hinders what has been put in place,” Ojogo said.

The fears being expressed is that such fund would be used for vote buying during election. Politicians no longer snatch ballot boxes because of the futility of the exercise. The easiest way now is voter inducement.

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has identified vote buying as the greatest problem affecting the nation’s electoral process. This he said, was perpetrated by politicians through various methods, including sandwiching naria notes between two slices of bread.

“When I talk about sandwich we are not talking of bread but ways politicians induce voters by sandwiching naira notes in two slices of bread. I am talking of sandwich not as food but as tool used by politicians for voting exercise,” he said.

Other forms this is perpetrated, according to Prof. Yakubu include branded food items, kitchen utensils, automobiles, clothing, and toiletries.

“Vote buying is not acceptable; it must never be allowed to define our elections. It is illegal and morally wrong. It denies citizens quality representation and gives us bad name internationally.” This is the danger of allowing politicians to have access to so much funds on election year.

Incidentally, President Buhari who refused to release bailout fund accruing to Kogi State in 2015 because it was close to election period is the one requesting for N10 billion from National Assembly for an APC government in the same state barely a month to an election.

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Lawmakers decry low fund released to agriculture sector

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awmakers in Anambra State on Friday lamented the low fund released from the 2019 budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector by state government.

 

The Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Mr. John Nwokoye (Awka North), made the observation at the ongoing 2020 proposed budget defense by the Ministry of Agriculture.

 

Nwokoye decried as low the N223 million released to the agriculture sector out of N2.6billion budgeted for the sector in 2019. He said that N45million was released out of N200 million budgeted for Anambra rice project.

“Going by the records before the committee, low or no funds was released to most of the items budgeted for in 2019 for the Agriculture Ministry.

“The funds released from the allocation signaled a not-too-good future for the state as it cannot change the face of agriculture as expected.

 

“Agriculture is one of the legacy projects of this administration and it requires fund to fully revitalise the sector to play its role in the state’s economy.

Hon. Nonso’s Igwe (Ogbaru Constituency) also decried the deliberate delay in the release of allocated funds to the sector, saying it was affecting the proper implementation of policies.

According to him, it is grossly inadequate to release less than 15 per cent of the money allocated to the sector as it will hinder the development of agriculture in the state.

 

Mr. Emmanuel Nwafor (Orumba South), advocated proper monitoring and tracking of the allocation to achieve the thrust of the present administration’s agricultural policy.

 

Responding, Mr. Nnamdi Onukwuba, the Commissioner,  Ministry for Agriculture said the ministry had been relying on donor funds and grants to carry out projects and programmes in the ministry.

Onukwuba said they carried out significant programmes and built social infrastructure for farmers in selected areas with the grants.

He said that the ministry was still expecting funds to be released from the office of the Accountant General before the end of the financial year.

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Politics

Wada: Achuba’s impeachment, illegal, undemocratic, unacceptable

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Wada: Achuba’s impeachment, illegal, undemocratic, unacceptable

Mr Musa Wada, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for November 16, Governorship Election in Kogi, has described impeachment of the state Deputy Governor, Elder Simon Achuba, by the State House of Assembly as illegal and undemocratic.

Wada said this in a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Communications Committee of the PDP Campaign Council, Mr Austin Okai on Saturday in Lokoja.

Wada said the state lawmakers set aside the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that investigated the sundry allegations of gross misconduct levelled against Achuba and exonerated him of any wrong doing.

The PDP governorship candidate said the action of the lawmakers’ amounted “complete miscarriage of justice.”

“The purported impeachment is unacceptable, illegal, immodest, null and void. The decision is a complete departure from the recommendation of the panel that investigated the allegations,” he said.

Wada challenged the state government and the lawmakers to make public the reports of the panel constituted by the State Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, to investigate the allegations as part of the process of impeachment.

The PDP candidate urged the leadership of state not to replace Achuba to avoid “wanton political profligacy”.

He also described as haphazard, decision of the state government to swear in the governor’s former Chief of Staff, Chief Edward Onoja, on Saturday, as Achuba’s replacement.

Wada cautioned the state government against over-heating the polity in the state.

He urged PDP supporters to remain calm and observe the drama playing but resolve to vote for good government in the next political dispensation in the state.

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