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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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APC has moved Nigeria up from where it was in 2015 – Fayemi

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APC has moved Nigeria up from where it was in 2015 – Fayemi

Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, believes that Nigeria has made progress since the coming of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government in 2015. In this interview, he speaks on some critical national issues as well as the first year of his second term in office. Felix Nwaneri reports

 

 

Almost five years of All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government, the general belief among Nigerians is that nothing seems to have changed as the people are yet to witness the Change your party promised, when it came to power in 2015. How would you react to that?

But the fact is that Nigerians just re-elected the APC-led Federal Government for a second. Of course, you will agree with me that election is the best option of measuring performance by political parties as we haven’t devised any other means to judge political parties. You may argue on the fairness and credibility of the processes of the recent presidential election, but there is only one vehicle of sorting it out. The jurists are still on that; there is still one leg to go, so we won’t push that any further. But, let me come back to your substantive question that concerns every Nigerian and which is: How far has APC gone in taking Nigeria out of the woods? I think it is fair to say that it is work in progress. We are exactly not where we ought to be, but we are also not where we were in 2015, when our party took over.

No doubt, there are things that are in our manifesto, which for one reason or the other that we have not done, particularly on issues such as restructuring. But, when you put that in proper perspective, the power to do that resides with the legislature, it doesn’t reside with the executive. However, a determined executive can still push the legislature to it. You know what happened in our first four years, there was no synergy between the executive and legislature and sometimes I wonder if Nigerians even want synergy between the two arms of government.

I think Nigerians want enmity of some sort. They think that progress will come if the two arms are not on the same page, but I believe that we have seen the result of that from the Bukola Saraki-led Senate and the Muhammadu Buhari presidency. That clearly contributed to the slow pace of activities during the first term. For me, growth is key, but stability is probably what most Nigerians are interested in right now because it is when we suffer a reversal that we will know how much progress that has been made.

To what extent has the feelings you had when you were leaving Ekiti government house in 2014, influenced your actions in your second term as governor of the state?

Naturally, the reason why people seek for a second term in office, in my view, is to consolidate on their achievements. Theoretically and practically from my experience in Nigeria, you can do a lot and you can also do a little if you worked out an agenda before you come into office. By the time I was leaving, my state had the highest enrolment of children in school with about 96 per cent; it had the lowest maternal mortality, child mortality and they were not accidental because when you looked at what happened four years after I was out office, we fell to the lowest in terms of enrolment of children in school in the South-West.

In just a period of four years, maternal mortality went up, child mortality also went up. And it is easy to see why these happened. I ran a free and compulsory education programme, but my successor came in and introduced education levies and fees. The consequence was that those who could not afford it, stayed away. So, you can see a correlation why enrolment dropped and retention also dropped. Even some of those who were in school and were asked to go and look for West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Council on Education (NECO) fees, which I paid for the four years I was governor had to drop out of school. These are things that we don’t often pay much attention.

Again, the N5,000 that I was paying to the elderly may not mean much to somebody in Lagos, but in Ekiti, it meant much as some of those elderly people even saved out of  the money after taking care of themselves and were also able to contribute to other things, including taking care of their grandchildren or even their children who had no jobs. So, in terms of human capital development indices, it wasn’t perfect, but we achieved close to what we would have loved to. However, in terms of opening up Ekiti, which was my major priority, we tried to make the state a destination for business and tourism by doing Ikogosi and other things.

In doing this, we had challenges and these challenged tied in to our status as a state within a federation. Of course, there were a lot of things that I started, which were abandoned by my successor; not just about education and healthcare, but also about infrastructure. Virtually every project that was ongoing then was stopped by my successor and left for four years in abeyance. It was only when I came back that I restarted them. The disadvantage of that is that instead of moving on with new things, we are going back to resuscitate and rebuild schools, hospitals as well as Ikogosi, which was running before we left.

For me, I don’t want to dwell on that because it generates negative energy. That is why I have basically refrained from the usual blame-game and exchanges over probe and others because what the people want is good government. Yes, people must account for their time in office, but there are mechanisms in place that should do that without distracting occupants of the office and that is basically the advice I have been giving to my colleagues as chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). I’ve had cause to sit down with incoming and outgoing governors to resolve issues in the interest of their state.

Once you start this run on the law courts, it never ends and you won’t even have time to focus on your own work. My believe is that anybody who has issues should go and sort himself out with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offence offences Commission (ICPC). Those are not state institutions; they are federal institutions, so that you can focus on governmental activities.

You earlier mentioned restructuring, which is a major component of your party’s manifesto; where do you stand on the issue?

I have never stopped from pushing for restructuring in all its ramifications. Sometimes, I get into trouble for pushing for it, but everywhere you hear me speak, I push for a multi-level security arrangement that takes into account of the gaps that we currently have. I deliberately say a multi-level security arrangement because some people think that when you say state police, you want to get rid of federal police, but that is not what the concept is all about.

The federal police has federal jurisdiction; state police has state jurisdiction and local police has local jurisdiction. Part of the problem is that we have overloaded the federal police and they are suffering tyranny of unfunded mandate. They have this huge mandate, but they don’t have the resources and the states that make resources available to them, don’t have control over them. So, we are all in suspended animation.

The other day, somebody asked me a question at an event organized by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) about cost of governance and restructuring. I gave a comprehensive answer, but the only thing that interested the media was that I said that we should go for a unicameral legislature. But, I think that if we should go for a unicameral legislature, it should be the one that really represents the people on account of the population because the House of Representatives is a product of federal constituencies and you know that the average population of federal constituency is 100,000.

It is not the same with the Senate and I used my state as an example. Ekiti has three million people, Lagos is about 20 million and it equally three senators. There are issues that warranted that, which include fear of oppression of the minorities. The constitution provided that because we have equal mandate as states, but the same constitution privileges landmass and population in the distribution of resources.

So, why don’t we reduce institutions whether it is at the level of the executive, especially Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as the Oronsaye report proposed or at the legislative branch? So, I think there is really need for restructuring, but not just restructuring of public institutions alone. We also need restructuring of the mind. What does Nigeria mean to all of us because if the tribe does not die, the nation cannot rise!    

Can you shed light on the proposed Ekiti State Airport?

You know that I was not a great fan of the airport and Chief Afe Babalola and I had some exchanges over the project because he has always been a big fan of the airport. When I was governor for the first time, I set up an Airport Committee and asked Chief Babalola to chair it and come up with how much we are going to spend and how we are going to go about it. He did a brilliant job with others who were on the committee, but I was skeptical because I felt that what I needed to do was to fix the Ado-Akure road.

When I was young, I used to drive from Ado to Akure within 30 minutes. So, I felt that if we can fix the road, from Ado to the Akure Airport will take a maximum of 40 minutes. That was my argument then. I didn’t think that having an airport is much of the problem, but the competing needs. I felt that I could spend more money on social benefits and human capital development than on such an infrastructure. It wasn’t that I was outrightly against it.

And this time around; if you check my manifesto in 2018, I had nothing on it about the airport. But after I became governor, my friend, Dr. Akin Adesina came to collect an honorary doctorate degree at Afe Babalola University and drove on the Ado-Akure road after he landed. He was very angry and he came to me after the ceremony and asked about the issue with the Ado-Akure road, which I explained to him. He was impressed with the Afe Babalola University and his organization – African Development Bank (ADB) – had already given money to the university to support what is probably the best hospital in Nigeria today.

And that area is where we have what we call the Knowledge Zone and the ADB was going to support us on that. This was what led to the conversation that if Ekiti was going to be a centre for medical tourism, how do we get people to come. This was what led to Adesina, agreeing to support the construction of an airport in Ekiti State besides some other projects they are supporting us on like the agro-processing zone, the Ado-Akure road and the Smart City.

What is the position of the NGF on the status of local governments, especially as regards the directive by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) on council funds?

As far as we are concerned, the position of the NGF on the issue of NFIU’s directive on local governments’ fund is the position of the law. There is no law that has been passed in the country on local government autonomy. There have been several attempts, but it has never gotten 24 states Houses of Assembly out of the 36 in the country to make it happen. That is the process. Ccurrently, Nigeria is a two-tier federation; it is not a three-tier federation. Talks about Nigeria been a three-tier federation is a distortion.

It is even an aberration that we even have to go to Abuja to get approval on local governments. If you want to create 200 local governments, it is your business because you and your people in your state should figure it out. It should not be the business of Abuja because that for me is surreptitious unitarism. You cannot go behind to do what the constitution does not allow you to do and that was what informed our position at the NGF over the ridiculous instruction to banks. You know that you cannot confront us; you are now going to bankers. What is the business of the banks with the accounts maintained by local government as long as the accounts are funded and the proper persons run them?

Besides, what is the business of the NFIU on local governments’ funds? When you read the NFIU law, NFIU monitors what is going on in the banking system, internationally and locally and if you have a specific case of money laundering, please bring it up. You cannot have a general rule to address a unique problem. You can’t because you want to fight money laundering; you now say that states and local governments cannot run joint accounts, which is in the constitution of Nigeria. Section 162 and we have a case pending in court on the issue.

What is your take on the new National Minimum Wage and threats by labour to embark on strike over its non-implementation?

We don’t workers to down tools, but you will recall that the governors’ proposal in the course of the tripartite negotiation was N24,500. But, negotiation back and forth, we ended up with N30,000  and the governors’ in principle said ‘we will pay.’ However, in private discussions with the President, we made it clear that this is another recipe for future bailout. To be frank with you, I don’t even consider N30,000 a living wage in today’s Nigeria, but you cannot promise what you don’t have.

It is also a fundamental principle of labour relations because you get into trouble if you do that. So, we agreed N30,000 and we all agreed to look for ways to boost revenues going to the states and we are working on that. We are doing reconciliation with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on issues concerning pipeline vandalizing; we have a committee headed by Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasri el-Rufai working on that. We don’t want workers to down tools, but we made it clear during the tripartite negotiation that an increase in the National Minimum Wage is not tantamount to a general wage review.

The fact that we moved people who are below N30,000 to N30,000 and wherever they should be on the scale should not automatically mean that we must increase the salaries of people who are on Level 17 and who are on N400,000. It is a minimum wage law; it is not a general wage law. Yes, if you promote levels 05 or 06, they may go over what the current level 07 is earning, so that calls for consequential adjustment, but that adjustment should not go over levels 08 and 09.

The Federal Government has even agreed to do nine per cent for levels 07 to 12 and five per cent for levels 13 and above, but they said no and insisted on 45 per cent. Where is Nigeria going to find the money? I mean the economy is in doldrums. Whether we openly admit or not, everyone knows. If you have an economy that N2.4 trillion is for debt servicing; then what are we talking about. So, I hope good sense will prevail and that people will be able to convince labour that it is futile effort if they do so because Nigeria cannot pay what it doesn’t have.

A year into your second term as governor of Ekiti State, how has the journey been?

I will say that I am at an advantage because I am not a rookie governor. What I did immediately I came in for a second term was to recalibrate my government, but I must also live with the resources available to me in order to deliver. One of the greatest challenges I met on the ground was about 10 months arrears of salaries. So, first, I had to stabilize and I said, let’s pay salaries as and when due for people to plan their lives. We have achieved that; salaries are now regular and people get paid as and when due.

That has impacted positively on our local economy such that Value Added Tax (VAT) contribution to the federation account has increased significantly. We have also settled part of the arrears. People say government is a continuum and I agree with that, but when I was leaving after my first term, it was only the last month that I was in office that I didn’t pay and the only reason why I didn’t pay was that my successor went round the banks and said that he was in charge, so whatever I was asking them should not be honoured.

Now, I am saddled with the burden of the arrears, but we are clearing it though it tells on bottom line for direct development and yet that is what affects the bulk of people. But, if you come to Ekiti now, we are not just fixing roads, all the dams are being rehabilitated; we are doing reconstruction of pipelines for water in the state; we are rebuilding hospitals and schools and we are doing rural roads to ensure that farm produce gets to the markets.

We are also restarting the social security to the elderly. Really, the critical thing for us is to take Ekiti Sate out of that economy of civil service. This explains some of the things we are doing in the agric processing area as well as expansion of the entrepreneurship base of the state.

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Ebonyi: Umahi strategises for zero oil economy

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Ebonyi: Umahi strategises for zero oil economy

In view of dwindling oil revenue, Ebonyi State governor, Chief Dave Umahi, says he has marshalled out plans for the survival of the state by the time the nation runs short of revenue from crude oil, UCHENNA INYA reports

 

 

Crude oil was first discovered in Oloibiri Bayelsa State in June 1956. Since then, Nigeria has largely depended on it for survival. But there are worries that the nation may run out of oil in the next 20 or 50 years.

It is against this backdrop that Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State had since he came on board in 2015, has been advocating for diversification of the economy as a result of  the dwindling oil revenue.

Oil has remained a major source of revenue for the country and most of the states depend on it for survival. But Ebonyi State has started strategizing on life after oil. To this end, the state has shifted attention to agriculture as its people are predominantly farmers.

The government had established three rice mill clusters across the three senatorial zones of the state. It has also launched what it termed “one-man-one hectare policy,” which makes it compulsory for all government officials and every individual in the state to own a farm.

The one-man-one hectare policy explains why the state is one of the three largest producers of rice in Nigeria as 53,000 farmers in the state were profiled on rice production in 2016.

Cassava production has also remained a priority crop in Ebonyi State. Apart from introducing hybrid vitamin A and C cassava stems, the government procured for farmers in the state, four numbers of five-ton/hour cassava processing machines, including machines for cassava starch and flour.

Reiterating the need for diversification of the economy, Governor Umahi, who was the guest lecturer at 59th Founders’ Day Celebration of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), last week with the theme: “Preparing Ebonyi State for tomorrow’s zero oil economy,” said apart from oil, there are great opportunities for non-oil sectors to grow. This, he said, has been visible since 2001.

According to him, the country can develop different sectors by taking the important steps from the government’s side.

Umahi said Nigeria needs credit access for small business, opportunities for medium-size business, modernization in agriculture sector, development of textiles, development of tourism and creative industry, independence of businesses and private sector participation in economic development, reduction of the involvement of the government in economic production and introduction of new opportunities as well as human capital development through education, capacity building and empowerment instead of relying only on traditional sectors.

His words: “This topic otherwise captioned planning for the inevitable: “Ebonyi State must survive in a restructured Nigeria and in a zero oil economy” is a wakeup call to all leaders of the various levels of government. Before I start, I wish to refer to the remarks by President Muhammadu Buhari, in a lecture titled: “The zero oil plan: Nigeria must survive in a world in which we sell oil no more.”

He said that “for over 50 years, the Nigerian economy has depended mainly on a single export product, crude oil, as its main source of national and government income. Crude oil has essentially funded almost everything in Nigeria-from the goods we import, the infrastructure we build, to our public sector wages. It has also provided the primary underlying support for our currency. While the obsession with oil may have worked in the past, Nigeria needs a very different economic paradigm for its future. This is a great inspiration to leaders at all levels.

“Countries like China, United States and the European countries are now focusing on the future and the urgency of the complicating realities of oil economy in the midst of daunting climate change and technological innovations. As it is today, the European Union is projecting that by 2050, wind and solar energy will displace energy generated from crude oil. This is aimed at tackling climate change, international petroleum competitiveness and economic diversification.

“China is leading the world in the manufacturing of electronic cars and machines. All these technological innovations will surely crash the value of oil in the near future. There are probably three reasons why Nigeria needs to genuinely pursue zero-oil economy or diversification.

“First is to insulate the economy from the risk of being vulnerable to a single commodity as the different oil prices crashes have shown. Second is to create jobs that can raise the living standard of an average Nigerian. Oil and gas jobs account for less than one per cent of total employment and the young population can no longer be absorbed by the public sector. Third is to prepare for life beyond the oil revenue.

“Nigeria’s economy potentially lies beyond oil. In 1960, Nigeria had a leading position across several of her export crops, especially groundnut, cocoa, cotton and palm oil. At that time, her share of the world’s agriculture exports was in excess of one per cent. By the mid 1980s, however, agriculture exports collapsed as the country shifted towards petroleum exploration and by the 1990’s, Nigeria’s share in world export of agriculture had declined to less than 0.1 per cent.”

Umahi explained that the 45-year dominance of oil in the country started waning in 2016, when its prices and the value of the naira crashed, leading to recession.

He regretted that over the past five decades, the nation has been running a mono-product economy, entirely dependent, financed and operated on income generated from crude oil exports, which according to him has created vulnerabilities within Nigeria’s economy.

He said: “On aggregate, 90 per cent of the budgetary revenues of states in Nigeria are funded through allocations from the federation (mostly oil), while only 10 per cent is funded by Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) within states. The capacity for self-sustenance in many states has therefore been largely unexplored.

“This over concentration on a single commodity creates deep fault lines within the economy as global oil price crashes travel through all facets of the Nigerian economy. Nigeria’s oil resources should be used as a down payment to build a robust diversified export basket of other products – to create jobs, earn foreign exchange and attract investments.

“Essentially, Nigeria must ‘use oil to move beyond oil.’ Our large population of 180 million people means we do not have enough oil to meet the needs of all our citizens. A lower nation with a lower population than Nigeria has oil reserves of 9,900 barrels per person (for each citizen), Saudi Arabia has 9,241 barrels per person, while Nigeria has only 214 barrels per person.

“To translate this in another way, assuming Nigeria produced all its proven oil reserves in one day and immediately distributes the financial proceeds to all its citizens, the maximum amount each person would receive is $15,000, at $70 per barrel. In this scenario, after this ‘one time’ $15,000 cash distribution, there will be no oil for anyone.”

Umahi, who is the chairman South-East Governors’ Forum further opined that a restructured Nigeria based on a zero oil economy will transform into a nation with a different constitution in which the Exclusive and Concurrent legislative lists will look different from what they are at the moment.

“My vision is simple; to build a state economy that will thrive even when our income from crude oil goes to zero. A restructured economy is a diversified economy. It will usher in the following – new jobs, macro-economic environment stabilization, encouragement of youth development, supporting high social standards, fight against corruption at all levels, protecting environment, foreign exchange rate improvement, safety in public places, better coordination between cities, states, and government and cleaner environment.

“We are working on the stack reality that one day, federal allocation will diminish or worse still extinguish and the world would have moved forward without oil. Ebonyi State does not have her oil reserve yet developed and does not enjoy 13 per cent derivation. In planning for tomorrow based on our conviction that one-day oil will become history, we focused on these Programs: solid infrastructure, agriculture, solid mineral, human capital development, tourism, water production, entrepreneurship, vocational development, education, health, industrialization and security as critical sectors that will drive our initiative on zero oil economy.

“Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy and has the propensity to provide employment and wealth creation to majority of both skilled and unskilled population of our state. We have introduced entrepreneurship activities in agriculture, in primary, secondary and tertiary productions value chain. Our target is to encourage agri-business. We started by making farming compulsory for all public and civil servants and we had to declare one-man-one hectare programme to all elected and appointed people, including civil servants.

“This made Ebonyi State to emerge as one of the three largest producers of rice in Nigeria. We profiled over 53,000 farmers on rice production in 2016 and since then we have continued to increase the zeal of rice farmers and we gave them improved rice seedlings and other inputs, including soft loans.

“We launched mechanization of agriculture wherein many modern farm implements such as tractors, threshers, tillers were procured and given to farmers. We already have a history of being a state with the biggest rice milling clusters in Africa, so we had to increase the tempo by rehabilitating three numbers of five metric tons per hour capacity modern rice mills. We procured equipment and installed three numbers of three metric tons per hour capacity parboiling plant to operate side by side with the rice mills. This has increased activities in the rice value chain and we propose that by 2020, every local government area shall have a modern rice mill.”

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Payment of salaries’ll be our priority – PDP

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Payment of salaries’ll be our priority – PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has told the people of Kogi State that its first assignment would be to clear outstanding arrears of salaries and pensions owed to workers in the state by the All Progressives Congress (APC) government if elected on November 16.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who made the promise when he hosted investors from state in Abuja, yesterday, said payment of salaries and pension arrears, top intervention list of the party’s governorship candidate, Engr. Musa Wada

Ologbondiyan added that this would run simultaneously with job creation initiatives and direct empowerment of citizens in various income generating sectors for greater competitiveness, productivity and personal prosperity which the Yahaya Bello administration denied the people.

According to him, PDP was already in discussions with captains of industries, investors, professionals and experts in various fields from Kogi State and beyond on strategies to effectively and transparently transform the state, revamp the economy and empower the people.

“Our primary focus is the welfare and personal prosperity of the Kogi people. Kogi state is blessed with abundant human and material resources. It receives federal allocation in billions of naira every month, so the people of Kogi have no reason to live in poverty.

“There is no excuse for non-payment of salaries and pensions. The problem is that the APC has been stealing and mismanaging our resources. As you are aware, the people are looking up to us for solution and we must not fail them.

“I am happy that we have intensified discussions with professionals, investors and business people from Kogi and beyond on ways to harness and manage our resources and empower our people.

“Already we have perfected a strong template that will enable us, as soon as we are elected, to swiftly pay the arrears of salaries and pension accumulated by Bello.

“Kogi State is largely a civil service state and our people depend on their salaries; so payment of salaries must be a priority for any government that has the interest of the people at heart. Unfortunately, Bello has failed to deliver on this.” he said.

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12 guber candidates endorse Bello

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12 guber candidates endorse Bello

The second term ambition of Governor Yahaya Bello, yesterday receive a boost as 12 governorship candidates for the November 16 election expressed support for the governor.

This is the Kogi State transport union has vowed to deliver 50,000 votes to Bello during the election.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in Lokoja, chairman of a coalition of 45 political parties, Dr. Sani Teidi, said the group will give its support for the reelection of Governor Bello.

According to Teidi, the coalition reached the decision to back Bello after carefully considering the fact that second term should only be given in deserving circumstances and especially where there are cogent reasons.

He listed the political parties to include Accord party, Alliance for Democracy, Green party, People’s party of Nigeria, National Conscience party, Young Democratic Party, Justice Must Prevail Party and Zenith Labour Party.

Others are Peoples Progressive Party, Hope Democratic Party, Africa Action Congress and People’s Redemption Party among others.

According to him, the coalition having analysed all the parties and candidates contesting the Kogi State gubernatorial election, came to the conclusion that Governor Bello stands shoulder high above the rest.

His words: “Candidate Yahaya Bello of the APC is seeking a second term in office as he rounds off a first term which we consider successful enough to justify a second term.

“Kogi is not an experimental ground. There is no state without challenge. We desire to allow the central senatorial district complete its term to give root to the power rotation agenda.”

“We are living witness to Governor Bello s tireless efforts throughout his current term to ensure deliberate policy of inclusion and proportional distribution of appointments and projects amongst all constituencies in Kogi State.”

In his reaction, the deputy governorship candidate of APC, Mr. Edward Onoja, said that the decision of the parties would further promote unity, progress and development of the state.

He commended them for shelving their individual interests for the collective interest of the state, saying that Bello would work to unite the people, irrespective of their ethnic and religious affiliations.

Meanwhile, it was a total lockdown in Lokoja, Kogi State capital, yesterday as members of the state Transport Union embarked on a solidarity rally for Governor Bello, promising to give all their votes to him.

Speaking after the event, chairman of the Transport Union, Jimoh Ibrahim, said the union decided to embark on the solidarity rally in view of the governor’s performance.

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INEC not giving confidence to Bayelsans – Dickson

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INEC not giving confidence to Bayelsans – Dickson

…calls for constructive debates among candidates

 

 

Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, yesterday, said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not given a convincing reassurance of it impartiality in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state.

Dickson said that it was rather worrisome and shocking that INEC betrayed the confidence of Bayelsa people by its collusion with security agencies to rig the last presidential and National Assembly elections in some parts of the state.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, stated that Dickson made the comment while speaking on political developments in the state, especially the forthcoming election during a media chat in Yenagoa.

The governor challenged INEC and other state institutions to exhibit a high sense of professionalism by conducting free, fair, credible and peaceful election come November 16.

The governor regretted that INEC declared manipulated results in Nembe Bassambiri, where security agencies colluded with thugs to chase away voters during the last elections in order to concoct results.

He called on the security agencies to resettle all internally displaced persons in Bassambiri, Nembe Local Government Area and Peremabiri in Southern Ijaw, stressing the need to prevent the disenfranchisement of voters in the upcoming election.

He also urged the leader of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, to collaborate with the state government in ensuring a peaceful election.

His words: “The activities of INEC have not given confidence to Bayelsans. People were driven away from Nembe Bassambiri, and they allowed materials to go into volatile areas to declare manipulated results.

“INEC should do what is right rather than colluding with undesirable elements to perpetrate crime. The security agencies should also do the right thing to return the displaced people of Nembe Bassambiri to their community, so that they can vote in this election.

“The leader of the APC, Chief Timipre Sylva, should renounce political violence. He should collaborate with me to ensure a violence free poll. He should respect our people, he should fear God, and not take Bayelsans for granted.”

Governor Dickson who also described the APC as a party in distress, challenged the governorship candidates to hold healthy debates on issues of governance to enable the electorate assess their capabilities.

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APC to Dickson: We’re not distracted by your tricks

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APC to Dickson: We’re not distracted by your tricks

head of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state has dismissed as habitual deception and mudslinging an allegation by Governor Seriake Dickson that the party was about to form “a government of criminals and cultists” in the state.

Dickson had made the claim on Monday in Yenagoa at the inauguration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship election campaign team.

But, in a statement yesterday in Yenagoa, APC dismissed the claim as “Dickson’s normal, customary and habitual trickery, meant to hide his nervousness by defaming the opponent, when jittery and faced with tough political opposition.”

The statement signed by APC’s State Publicity Secretary and Secretary of the Media and Publicity Committee of party’s 2019 Governorship Campaign Council, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, said: “At its elemental level, Governor Seriake Dickson’s deception machine has essentially run on creating falsehood around formidable opponents as a ploy to justify intended poll rigging and violence.

“The most basic step in this criminal strategy, as the whole world is witnessing currently, has always been to identify intimidating rivals they cannot stand in a fair poll, cast mud at them, and then activate an electoral manipulation process, using thugs, corrupt officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and some dishonest security personnel.

“The immoral scheme had worked for Dickson in the past, but it will never work again. Bayelsa people have come to know Dickson and his gang in PDP for what they are: a band of tricksters devoid of ideas and integrity.

“If not, why would a serious politician spend all his energy calling out and singing the name of an opponent at a campaign launch when the electorate are eager to hear what the one seeking their vote has in stock for them. As always, this demonstrates the emptiness of Dickson and his gang.

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Bayelsa guber: PDP, APC clash at INEC’s stakeholders’ meeting

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Bayelsa guber: PDP, APC clash at INEC’s stakeholders’ meeting

Tampers rose Wednesday at a stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, to interact with political parties and civil society groups, ahead of the November 16 governorship election in state.
The two leading parties in the state, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), disagreed sharply over existence of internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in the state.
The event, which began in a peaceful atmosphere, was later disrupted for about five minutes, forcing the organisers to hurriedly bring it to a close to prevent unpleasant circumstances.
Trouble began when a representative of the PDP, Francis Doukpola, in his presentation, drew the attention of INEC to displaced persons from some communities in Nembe Local Government Area whom he said, are in IDPs camps on Yenagoa, due to electoral violence.
According to him: “For me the worst election we had in Bayelsa was the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections. We had very bitter experience, as a result of that election.
“I regret to inform you that half of the communities in Bayelsa now are in IDPs (camps); they are no longer in their communities simply because they belong to certain political party.
“Efforts to return those people to their communities so that they can exercise their franchise in the forthcoming election is beginning yielding result.
“The name of the community is Basambiri in Nembe Local Government Area.”
But he was immediately interrupted by Dennis Otiotio of APC, who disputed the claim. Other political parties present took sides, depending on their interest.
Attempts by security agencies and INEC officials to calm frayed nerves failed, forcing the organisers to call for the national anthem to be played.
Otiotio had earlier in his presentation, accused the Chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Bayelsa State, Eneyi Ziduogha of non-consultation.
He also demanded for centralisation of security personnel deployed for an election, and for proper training of INEC presiding officers deployed for elections.
“I have discovered that most of the innocent mistakes leading to litigations in an election were committed by ad hoc staff,” Otiotio observed.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in his remarks, decried incidences of violence that characterized previous elections in the state.

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Cabinet: Abiodun knows what he’s doing – Daniel

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Cabinet: Abiodun knows what he’s doing – Daniel

Former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has expressed satisfaction with the leadership style of the incumbent governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, saying the state was progressing under him.

Daniel, who downplayed the issue of non-appointment of commissioners by Abiodun after almost five months in power, declared that the governor “knows what he is doing.”

He spoke on Tuesday night shortly after paying a courtesy visit to Abiodun at the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.

It was the first time since leaving office in 2011 that Daniel would visit the governor’s office.

Fielding questions from reporters, the former governor said he was happy that Abiodun had sustained the momentum of governance.

He submitted that the state requires a governor with Abiodun’s temperament, urging people of the state to encourage and support him.

Daniel explained that he and the governor discussed several issues but ruled out any discussion on the issue of commissioners.

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There’s hope Nigeria will attain greatness – Moghalu

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There’s hope Nigeria will attain greatness – Moghalu

Chief George Moghalu, a former National Auditor of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was recently appointed the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). In this interview, he speaks on his vision for the agency and other issues. JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM reports

 

 

What do you make of your appointment as the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA)?

 

 

I want to thank Mr. President for the confidence in me and finding me worthy to serve the nation in this capacity and I want, with a firm commitment to assure him that I will not let him down and I will not let Nigerians down. I am determined to leave a mark by the time I would have finished my term in NIWA.

 

 

For me, it is a very great responsibility and I want to be remembered after my tenure for what I would have contributed to building on the achievements of my predecessors in office. I am among those groups of Nigerians, who believe that all will always be well with our nation. What we require is a re-dedication and to to serve with commitment. For me, it is a new dawn.

 

 

What do you know of NIWA before your appointment?

 

 

NIWA is more of a regulatory agency in charge of the waterways in the country. I believe that if we explore the waterways of Nigeria, it has great potentials in the area of water transport. The simplest I can say now is that it will reduce the burden on Nigerian roads. If our waterways are opened, the channels are free and secured; you can open the scope of passenger traffic. It is economical and it goes round the country. A good percentage of the goods that arrive the port in Lagos go to the South-East and are transported by road. It puts great pressure on the road. But if we have a clear waterway transport system, all these goods can be received in Lagos and moved to the inland ports.

 

 

We have a completed river port today in Onitsha and a jetty being built in Oguta. We also have a completed port in Baro and some of the goods going to the North can be moved by the waterways to Baro and to other areas where we have functional jetties and ports. It will open up the waterways and if these waterways are opened, you see that communities and other settlements along those routes will start being developed. It reduces tremendously, the pressure you have on the roads. If the agency engages major critical stakeholders, it will come to a point when cement and other heavy equipment are moved by river and they still get to where they are meant to go. When we do that, we would have succeeded in reducing the pressure on Nigerian roads.

 

 

To what extent do you think this can be done?

 

 

We can develop it to a point where passenger fleet can still be enhanced. The beautiful thing is that it provides opportunity for massive employment. It is capital intensive and we have to make a huge capital investment to make it very functional. It is one area that if we make it functional, it will help in reopening our economy. It is my intention to create an opportunity to engage critical stakeholders so that we all can discuss these issues and come to a point of understanding and see the potentials lying fallow that we can explore for the benefit of our nation.

 

 

As an agency we have challenges. It is not as easy as we are saying it. Sometimes, you talk about desalting of the channels; you talk about the security challenges of these waterways. But these are issues that are surmountable and issues that can be addressed. With collaboration with sister agencies of government, I am sure these issues can be addressed and water transport will then become the favourite of the Nigerian people. I think that will help our economy.

 

 

What challenges do you think that poor water transport have caused to the economy?

 

 

If you look at the gridlock we are suffering today in Apapa, if we had a functional waterway system, a good number of these goods stocked there, building demurrage, frustrating importers would have gone to their destination through the river ports. I am aware that about 90 per cent or more of the materials being used to construct the Second Niger Bridge come by the river port and come through the waterways to Port Harcourt to Onitsha. If Julius Berger can do it, why not others. We need critical stakeholders who will now invest in that sector of our economy just like they are doing in the road transport. You can get them to understand the potentials in the water transport.

 

 

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Insecurity: Reps unveil plans to boost army operations

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Insecurity: Reps unveil plans to boost army operations

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Army has announced its decision to visit army formations across the country to assess their state. PHILIP NYAM examines the implications of this resolution

 

 

B

arely a week after the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, inaugurated the 105 standing committees of the House of Representatives; the committee on Army led by Hon. Abdulrasak Sa’ad Abubakar (APC, Adamawa) announced the decision to embark on the tour of Nigerian Army formations across the country to acquaint themselves with the challenges confronting the force.

 

 

There is no doubt that the Nigerian Army is the largest component of the nation’s military and it often bears the brunt of the incessant security challenges being faced by the country. The Army fought the civil war to keep Nigeria one and since the fight against Boko Haram started, the Army has been at the forefront of the offensive against insurgency.

 

 

Operations Lafiya Dole, which is the arrowhead of the war against Boko Haram, has done so much in protecting the territorial integrity of the nation and sustainenance of peace, especially in the North-East.

 

 

According to Army operations media coordinator, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, “troops in the various operational theatres across the country had continued to decimate and frustrate activities of criminal elements in line with the resolve of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai.”

 

 

The Nigerian Army is functionally organised into combat arms, which are infantry and armoured; the combat support arms, which are artillery, engineers and signals; the combat support services comprise medical, supply and transport, ordinance and finance.

 

 

Others include the military police, intelligence, physical training, chaplains, public relations and band. Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) located in Minna is responsible for doctrinal, training and combat development with an R&D outfit. There are 17 Corps Training Schools and a Nigerian Army College of Logistics (NACOL).

 

 

Only last week, the Army high command announced that in its effort to combat insecurity across the nation, it is set to commence simultaneous routine training nationwide. Part of the operations include Operation Ayem Akpatuma II, which has been slated for the North-Central and parts of North-West states in 1 and 3 Divisions Area of Responsibilities (AOR) including Headquarters Command Army Records, Guards Brigade and 707 Special Forces Brigade; Egwu Eke IV will be carried out, as usual, in the South-East in 82 Division AOR, while Crocodile Smile IV will take place in the South-South and parts of South-West.

 

 

Similarly, Operation Positive Identification will be carried out across the nation to track bandits, ethnic militia, cattle rustlers and other criminals. Also, as part of the exercises, the Nigerian Army Women Corps will stage a robust show of force/confidence building patrols in some selected locations in the country.

 

 

According to the Army spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, to consolidate on the existing cordial civil-military relations, there will be elaborate civil/military cooperation line of activities such as free medical outreach, educational outreach, rehabilitation of dilapidated roads, hospitals, schools and old people’s homes.

 

 

Reports say “despite a disproportionate emphasis on the materiel and sophistication of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and despite possessing some formidable hardware, the Army has been hamstrung by technical deficiency and an exceptionally poor standard of maintenance.

 

 

“Its overabundance of foreign suppliers, including Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, the former Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom, has also complicated logistics. Calculating the size and scope of replacement inventories alone is impossible given the menagerie of equipment in use.”

 

 

With this picture painted about the Nigerian Army, it is not out of place for the House committee on Army to undergo the tour to really find out what the Army needs to effectively carry out its statutory responsibility.

 

 

If the National Assembly could appropriate for the Army, the relevant committee should visit their facilities including those who are in the North-East facing Boko Haram to assess the state of their conditions.

 

 

In fact, the presence of members of the National Assembly in the war front has the potentials of boosting the morale of the soldiers who are in the trenches.

 

 

Hence, addressing the inaugural meeting of the committee at the National Assembly, Hon. Namdas said: “Honourable members, you will recall that the 2020 budget proposal was presented yesterday by Mr. President. We are going to hit the ground running by immediately embarking on a joint committee tour with our Senate counterparts to selected Army formations to acquaint ourselves with the challenges faced by our officers and men.

 

 

“I believe by taking an on-the-spot assessment of the formations, we will be better equipped to appreciate the challenges and acquire the wherewithal to appropriate funds for the Army.”

 

 

He also commended the Nigerian Army for its good showing in the fight against insurgency. “I wish to, on behalf of the committee and the House of Representatives commend the Nigerian Army and the entire Nigerian military for the successes recorded so far in the fight against insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling among others,” he said.

 

 

Namdas also applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment to routing out all manner of security threats in the nation.

 

 

His words: “We thank His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his avowed commitment to stamp out Boko Haram and activities of other terrorist groups in the nation. We want to assure you that the House Committee on Army under my leadership would do everything within its powers to ensure that capacity building for members of the committee is strengthened so as to prepare us for the challenges ahead.”

 

 

He told members of the committee that the Nigerian Army is the biggest component of the nation’s armed forces and enjoined them to consider their appointment on the committee as a call to service.

 

 

“My dear colleagues, it is important to know that the Nigerian Army is the largest component of the Nigerian Armed Forces and it bears the brunt of the nation’s security challenges. So, we have a huge responsibility placed on our shoulders as a committee.

 

 

“We are all aware of the security challenges the nation has faced in the last few years, which is a source of concern to all of us. They require our utmost attention. I, therefore, implore you to consider this onerous assignment as a call to national service. We have to be proactive and patriotic while discharging our responsibilities,” he said.

 

 

Speaking further, the House committee chairman enjoined his colleagues “to take the issues of oversight and referrals very seriously. It is my belief that proper oversight will reposition the Army towards achieving their targets with ease.’

 

 

He assured that the committee would work towards “the full implementation of the House Legislative Agenda. The Legislative Agenda has identified sustained economic growth as the key to effectively addressing other national problems of inequality, insecurity and conflicts.

 

 

He added: “We are prepared to work with all stakeholders to secure our nation and guarantee economic growth, development and job creation. As you are aware, no nation thrives in a state of insecurity.”

 

 

The House committee on Army certainly has a lot to do because the Nigerian Army needs financial and moral support to work for the country. Therefore, the committee should ensure that the Army is well funded so that sundry rumours of out-dated equipment or non-payment of salaries or allowances of men who are in the North-East sacrificing for the nation will be a thing of the past.

 

 

The committee also has an obligation to look into allegations of some senior officers coveting funds meant for arms purchase into personal use. It is expected that at the end of the tour, the committee would present before the House comprehensive information on the true state of the Nigerian Army and concrete recommendations that could assist in maintaining a stronger and efficient military.

 

 

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