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Presidency: The crack widens

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Presidency: The crack widens

 

The power of a Nigerian vice-president depends on the duties delegated to him by the president. While this has not been the case for the incumbent, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, what seemed a cordial working relationship between him and his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, is gradually turning sour, given the power play in the Presidential Villa. Felix Nwaneri reports

T

he power of a Nigerian vice-president depends on the duties delegated to him by the president. While this has not been the case for the incumbent, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, what seemed a cordial working relationship between him and his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, is gradually turning sour given the power play in the presidential villa. Felix Nwaneri reports

There is no doubt that the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s for a second term in office on May 29, was characterized by the frenzy that trailed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) victory in the February 23 presidential election after a tough battle with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections.

However, it did not take time before politics started taking shine off the revelry as the euphoria has continued to go down by the day given the power play within the presidential villa, which has rocked the cordial working relationship enjoyed by the President and his vice during their first term in office (2015-2019).

Though denial was the song by the presidency – Office of the President and Office of the Vice President – when it appeared there was a rift between Buhari and Osibanjo, the crack seems to be getting wide by the day even as interventions to cement it have yielded little or no efforts.

Indication that it would not be the same rosy relationship between both men first emerged, when some of Osinbajo’s loyalists claimed that the country’s number two man was ignored by the President in his composition of the federal cabinet.

This claim was not out of place as many had expected that the Vice-President, would at least, have a say in who gets the ministerial slot for his home state – Ogun. Rather than Osinbajo’s camp, the slot was handed to the camp of the immediate past governor of the state – Senator Ibikunle Amosun, which explained the choice of Olamilekan Adegbite, who served in Amosun’s administration as commissioner for Works.

Shortly had the dust over the ministerial list settled that confusion engulfed the presidency over perceived stripping of executive powers off the Vice-President by President Buhari. The misperception was further heightened by the seeming abdication of the President’s own executive powers as regards supervision of ministers.

Buhari had at the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on August 21, directed his ministers to channel all official communications meant for him through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.

This directive prompted suspicion that the President was relegating the Office of the Vice-President. Some stakeholders reasoned then that Kyari by the directive has been elevated to the position of de facto vice-president with executive powers, while Osinbajo remains de jure vice-president without executive powers.

Expectedly, the presidency came out with an explanation on the directive. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement then, explained that President Buhari merely pronounced one of the primary functions of the Chief of Staff as the role has not changed.

No doubt, denial remains an integral part of politics, but the picture of intrigues inside the presidential villa became clear, when President Buhari approved the constitution of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) to replace the Economic Management Team (EMT) headed by Osinbajo.

The EAC is under the chairmanship of Prof. Doyin Salami. Other members of the council are Dr. Mohammed Sagagi (Vice-Chairman), Dr Mohammed Adaya Salisu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Development Policy (Secretary), Prof. Ode Ojowu, Dr Shehu Yahaya, Dr Iyabo Masha, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, and Mr. Bismark Rewane.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement that announced the composition of the council said it will report directly to the President.

He added that the EAC will be advising the President on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues, working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies.

Again, the coming on board of the EAC was viewed in some quarters as part of the grand plot against Osinbajo, but the presidency and the Vice-President waived that aside.

Adesina, who explained that the presidency was united and that Buhari is only working for the good of Nigerians, maintained that the office of the Vice President has not been sidelined after a change of the EMT.

He noted that the insinuation that there was a rift between Osinbajo and Buhari was being spread by detractors of the Federal Government.

“The Vice-President is the number two man in the country…The new economic advisory body can also relate with the Vice President as necessary. It’s just some Nigerians, who want to drive a wedge between the President and the Vice-President, that read meanings into everything and insinuate, but there’s no need for that.” the President’s spokesman said.

Osinbajo, on his part, explained that the EAC was put together assist the President.

The explanation, notwithstanding, the fear expressed by   most analysts was confirmed a few days later, when Osinbajo received a memo that directed him to seek presidential approvals for agencies under his supervision.

 

The Vice-President chairs the governing boards of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and National Boundary Commission (NBC).

 

 

He also chairs the Board of Directors of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), a limited liability company owned by the three tiers of government as well as sits as the Chairman of National Council on Privatisation (NCP).

 

Though no reason was given by the presidency on the directive, it was speculated that it was over irregularities in the running of the agencies.

 

But, the Vice-President insisted that he never breached due process in running the affairs of the agencies.

 

Puzzles over twist The questions that popped up then against these backdrops were: Does Osinbajo deserve the treatment being meted to him even when he has so far shown “absolute loyalty” to his principal. Has the APC and President Buhari used the Vice-President to get the votes of his South-West kinsmen only to be dumped?

 

No doubt, Osinbajo’s performance and loyalty earned him a second term ticket as he was endorsed by APC stakeholders and members as running mate to President Buhari for the 2019 general election. Again, the Vice-President brought his experience to bear during the campaigns for the pollss.

 

Rather than the usual rallies that characterize Nigeria’s electioneering,

 

Osinbajo opted for the door-todoor approach to reach out to the electorate. The door-to-door campaign, according to him is more effective in reaching out to the people as it goes a long way in speaking directly to them about plans of the government.

 

Through this approach, he was able to preach the “gospel of Buhari’s integrity” to many. His message was clear and succinct.

 

“The difference between President Muhammadu Buhari and other presidential candidates for the 2019 election is that the president will not steal or allow stealing,” he echoed at each of the houses he went to.

 

He survived a helicopter crash at Kabba, Kogi State, two weeks to the presidential election during one his several campaign stops.

 

The six-seater chopper was in the process of landing at the Kabba Township Stadium, when it unexpectedly lost one of its blades and hit the ground. But, the incident did not deter him.

 

Aides sack, perhaps the last straw While many have been struggling to proffer answers to the puzzles over the political impasse Osinbajo has been embroiled in since his inauguration as vice president for a second term, the situation assumed another twist last week, following the sack of 35 of his aides by President Buhari. Among the aides are a grandson of late Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Jide and the daughter of immediate past governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, Jibola Ajayi.

 

All the affected aides were appointed in August last year. While Jide Awolowo served as Special Assistant (SA) on Oil and Gas, Ajimobi’s daughter – Jibola – was appointed as SA Legal to the President in the Vice President’s office.

 

Also on the list are Lanre Osinbona, who was Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on ICT; Imeh Okon, SSA Infrastructure; Gambo Manzo, SA Political; Edobor Iyamu, SSA, Niger Delta; Jibola Ajayi, SA Legal; Lanre Osinbona, SSA ICT; Lilian Idiaghe, SA Research, Legal and Compliance; Arukino Umukoro, SA Niger Delta and Bala Liman Mohammed, SSA Economy.

 

Others are Dolapo Bright, SSA Agro Allied Value Chain; Toyosi Onaolapo, SA Community Engagement; Bisi Ogungbemi, SA Political Matters; Edirin Akemu, SSA Industry, Trade and Investment; Akin Soetan, STA Economic Matters; Aondaver Kuttuh, Technical Assistant Rule of Law; Ife Adebayo, SA Innovation; Yussuf Ali, SA Power Regulations; Tola Asekun, SSA National Boundary Commission; Morakinyo Beckley, SA Off Grid Power; Yosola Akinbi, SSA NEC; Tochi Nwachukwu, SA Power Privatisation; Bode Gbore, SSA Political; Abdulrahman Baffa Yola, SA Political; Kolade Sofola, SA Infrastructure and Ebi Awosika, STA Community Engagement.

 

The list also has Muyiwa Abiodun, SSA Power; Forri Samson Banu, SA Entrepreneurship; Bege Bala, SA BPE; Feyishayo Aina, SA Community Engagement; Halima Bawa, SA Community Engagement; Nkechi Chukwueke, SA Community Engagement and Ilsa Essien, SA Media.

 

Letters relieving the aides of their appointments were distributed to them through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and some of them who were deployed to Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) were rejected by the heads of the organisations who insisted that they had enough manpower.

 

Though New Telegraph learnt that most of the aides had foreknowledge of their planned sack before the visit of the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, to London where he took the Deep Offshore Amendment Act 2019 for Buhari’s assent, many were surprised to hear that the President gave approval for their disengagement, having been told that Osinbajo had intervened in the matter. The President, who is on a 15- day private visit to the United Kingdom, is expected back to the country on November 17.

 

Another voyage in denial Again, the sack of the vice president’s aides in one fell swoop has been linked to the rumble in the villa, which analysts say, is aimed at further clipping Osinbajo politically.

 

For instance, pro-Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere and apex Igbo body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described the sack the Vice President’s aides as unjustifiable and a sign of an administration that lacks direction.

 

Though spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said the move is commendable if truly the action was prompted intension to cut cost of governance, he noted that there is a political statement in the act.

 

His words: “There is little Afenifere can do since Osinbajo is yet to admit that he is facing challenges at Aso Rock.

 

The man has seriously denied that nobody was sacked. I think cutting down the cost of governance is only about Osibanjo’s office now, though some of the aides are not supposed to be there; we cannot understand why we have SA Rule of Law and SA Legal, among others. Most of those positions are meaningless.

 

“We don’t think that it is only Osibanjo’s office that is causing the waste at the moment. Even the man concerned has come out to say that there is nothing happening. It is clear that what is going on is politically inclined, but the man suffering it has said otherwise. So, we hold our comments.”

 

National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uche Opaga- Achi, who spoke in the same vein, said: “This government has no form, no bearing, anything goes; so why am I wasting my time reacting to their decisions and actions.

 

 

This government seems not to have direction.” But, the presidency has explained that the exercise, which was ordered by Buhari is to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration.

 

Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), Shehu in a statement also described the development as an appropriate response to the general perception that the presidency has an oversized and bloated workforce, which acts as a drag on efficiency.

 

The statement further read in part: “As may have been noticed by discerning members of the public, a number of political appointees among the few that served in the office of the President were not returned for the second term.

 

“The office of the Vice President, His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo, has in compliance with the directive of the President, equally been shed of a number of such appointees. “In carrying out these exercises, the overriding objective is to save taxpayers money and deliver needed service to the public.

 

As far as the President is concerned, there is no scope for an excuse for the administration after getting a huge mandate to run the country for four more years.

 

“In the light of this, the presidency wishes to strongly deny rumours of a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The relationship between the two leaders remains excellent and trusting. Together, they will script a glorious future for the nation.

 

“The media reports of a soured relationship are originating from the minds and mouths of mischief makers, who are desperate for entertaining stories from the Aso Rock Villa with which to titillate the public.

 

This ulterior motive is the basis of the wrong interpretation given to the recent exercise in the presidency.

 

“There has been a streamlining of staff going on for a while. The President has always had fewer staff than the Vice President, and there were always plans to reduce the number of staff at the Villa.

 

The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the Vice President’s office as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem.

 

“The President is in absolute control of his government. The media should stop attributing non-existent powers to some people. There cannot be anyone too powerful for President Buhari to control.”

 

Like Atiku, like Osinbajo Many have kept wondering how Osinbajo got his politics wrong that warranted his present ordeal, but to some discerning political minds, it is a familiar path as it is not the first time the country would be travelling such road over a vicepresident’s perceived ambition to succeed his principal. The Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar experience is a reference point in this regard.

 

In 1998, Atiku was elected as governor of Adamawa State. But, while still Governor-elect, he was selected by the PDP presidential candidate, Chief Obasanjo as his running mate.

 

The duo went ahead to win the election in February 1999. After his first term as vice president, some governors elected on the platform of the then ruling party wanted to deny Obasanjo a second term.

 

 

The plan was to hand Atiku the party’s presidential ticket in the 2003 general election, but he opted for a joint a ticket with his principal and both won the election.

 

However, the botched plot pitched the duo and the cold war that ensued after their inauguration, degenerated to a bitter political battle by 2006, when Atiku declared his ambition to succeed Obasanjo. Obasanjo’s insistence that Atiku would not succeed him forced the latter to leave the PDP for the defunct Action Congress (AC), which handed him its presidential ticket.

 

Despite securing the party’s ticket, another round of power play led to his exclusion from the final list of 24 candidates for the 2007 presidential election released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

 

The electoral commission cited Atiku’s indictment for corruption as the reason for the omission.

 

But the then vice-president headed for the court to challenge his exclusion. The matter got to the Supreme Court, which in a unanimous decision ruled that INEC had no power to disqualify any candidate for an election.

 

The judgement paved the way for Atiku to contest the poll, but came a distant third. The election was won by the PDP candidate, late Umaru Yar’Adua, who had Obasanjo’s backing.

 

However, the question against this backdrop, is: Does Osinbajo deserve the Atiku treatment even when he is yet to officially declare intention to succeed Buhari come 2023?

 

The conspiracy theories While events ahead of the next general election will proffer answer to the puzzle over the Vice President’s perceived ambitions, there is no doubt that Osinbajo, who rose to the country’s number two position against all odds, would have by now, understood that in politics, dogs eat dogs as the game is all about interest though most times played under the cloak of principle.

 

This perhaps justifies what has been termed as “conspiracy theories,” have pooped up in the course of efforts by analysts to unravel the sudden twist in faith for the Vice President.

 

Chief among these theories is the battle for the 2023 presidency, which has commenced.

 

The belief in the political circle is that power will shift to the South in 2023 and Osinbajo’s name is been mentioned in the permutations for Buhari’s likely successor. The Vice-President has not made any comment on the issue, but the suspicion that he might join the race is predicated on some comments he made during campaigns for the 2019 elections.

 

He had during a house-to-house campaign in Oyo town, Oyo State, said the success of President Buhari and the APC in the 2019 elections is the only way the South- West can secure the presidency in 2023.

 

He particularly noted then that the 2019 presidential election matters to the Yoruba people, because the region has a larger interest in 2023. His words: “The 2019 general election is our own. We are not looking at the 2019, but 2023. If we get it in 2019, Yoruba will get it in 2023.

 

If we don’t get it in 2019, we may not get it in 2023 and it may take a very long time to get it. We need to look at tomorrow and not because of today. What we are doing now is for tomorrow and not for today.”

 

Fingers point to presidency’s cabal

 

Though some analysts berated the Vice-President then for playing the ethnic card to secure votes for his party in the South-West, but members of some political schools, reasoned that there was more to the comment.

 

According to them, Osinbajo indirectly gave a hint of his ambition.

 

This informed the belief in some quarters that members of the presidency cabal, who are plotting to ensure that the North retains power after Buhari, are behind the Vice-President’s current travail.

 

To these power brokers of northern extraction, Osinbajo must be discredited to dim his ambition and chances of succeeding Buhari in 2023.

 

There is also the theory that Osinbajo is being bullied for some of the actions he took during the time he was acting president. Though some of the decisions were applauded by the masses then, members of the cabal in the presidency were never comfortable with them.

 

To these men, who call the shots at the villa, “unforgivable” sins of the Vice-President include the confirmation of Justice Onnoghen as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), following Osinbajo’s letter to the Senate for his confirmation.

 

The Cross River State born jurist, who was the first southerner to be appointed the country’s law officer in over three decades, was later removed after an allegation of false declaration of assets was leveled against him.

 

Other “sins” committed by Osinbajo was the sack of the former Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, while Buhari was away on medical vacation. The former spy chief, who hails from Daura, the President’s home town, was relieved of his position for directing the invasion of the National Assembly to allegedly effect a change of leadership.

 

In Daura’s stead, Osinbajo appointed Matthew Seiyafa from Bayelsa State to head the DSS in acting capacity, an action that did not go down well with members of the cabal as well as Buhari, who on return, appointed Yusuf Bichi to replace Seiyafa.

 

For members of the cabal, the last straw that broke the camel’s back was Osinbajo’s role in the sack of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal. The longtime political ally of the President was replaced by Boss Mustapha, who occupies the position till date. Lawal was indicted of violations of the law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).

 

A three-man committee headed by the Vice President investigated the former SGF. Other members of the committee were the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. General Babagana Monguno (rtd). Lawal’s sack was said to have enraged Buhari, who was then in London on medical vacation.

Though the Senate was vehement then that Lawal must be axed, the way the presidency under Osinbajo ousted the then SGF unruffled many feathers.

 

The Vice-President was said to have invited Lawal to his office on a Wednesday, where it was agreed that the presidency will issue a statement in two days’ time (Friday), announcing that the latter had stepped aside, but while the discussion was ongoing, media aides to the Vice-President discretely sent out a terse message to the media that Lawal has been fired.

 

A former aide to Lawal told New Telegraph that the “palace coup” informed the comment by his principal then, while reacting to his ouster immediately he stepped out of Osinbajo’s if he was aware that he had been sacked.

 

The then SGF, when asked by a reporter if he was aware that he has been fired by the presidency, asked: Who is the presidency?” While Buhari was said to have felt slighted that such a decision was taken by Osinbajo without his consent, he had to allow sleeping dogs to lie on his return to avoid ruffling feathers, especially as the party was going into a general election and needed every support to scale the hurdle posed by the opposition parties.

 

No doubt, Daura and Lawal are out of government, but they and others still wield influence in the villa given their close ties with President Buhari and the belief is that they may have a hand in what has befallen the Vice-President. Besides the power play within Aso Rock, there is also the notion that what Osinbajo is passing through might have the endorsement of some powers that be in the South-West, where he hails from.

This belief is stemmed on the conviction that his “2023 ambition” may have unsettled some of his kinsmen, who are equally bidding to succeed Buhari. Members of a political school, who reasoned along this line, pointed to what they described as “the silence” of Osinbajo’s benefactor and APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

 

The professor of Law and former Lagos State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, who also doubles as a senior pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, emerged as Buhari’s running mate ahead of several popular politicians to the consternation of many in 2015.

 

Though the role played by Tinubu in Osinbajo’s emergence cannot be ignored, Buhari explained then that he opted for a man of unquestionable character, a professional and an intellectual, whom he believed would discharge the duties expected of him with utmost diligence.

 

His words: “The challenging process of rescuing our country and changing Nigeria for good has commenced.

 

One of the first decisions that I have to make is the choice of the vice-presidential candidate and my running mate. To assist me in this great task of securing Nigeria’s future, I have chosen a man of unimpeachable integrity. He is an excellent professional, a man of faith, a devoted family man and a role model to our fellow countrymen and women. “He is a professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

 

An alumnus of the University of Lagos and the London School of Economics, a prodigious author, who has to his credit several books on civil procedure in Nigerian superior courts. The vice-presidential candidate is a friend of the lessprivileged, compassionate and zealous in service, a man of uncommon humility, a loyal, dependable and selfless patriot.”

 

The Vice President served as Attorney General and commissioner for Justice under Tinubu, but the APC national leader is like the Vice President, also said to be plotting to take over from Buhari in 2023.

 

So, to avoid a possible clash of their respective ambitions, Tinubu is said to have tactfully avoided wading in to save his political godson to avoid offending powers that be in the villa, who will play a critical role in determining who flies the flag of the ruling party in the next presidential election. Besides ambition, there is also an assumption that Tinubu is treading carefully as the bullying of Osinbajo might be a booby trap set for him.

 

Those who held this view, pointed to the recent petition against the APC national leader before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

 

Though the anti-graft agency is yet to state if it will look into the petition or not, observers say the former Lagos State governor may play into the hands of perceived political opponents if he gets his politics wrong. No doubt, it is an interesting time in Nigeria’s polity, but Vice President Osibanjo should by now, must have realized that in politics, some right policy decisions can also be seen as politically wrong.

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Contracts: Reps concur with Senate on 30 percent mobilisation fee

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Contracts: Reps concur with Senate on 30 percent mobilisation fee

By Philip Nyam, Abuja

The House of Representatives on Wednesday joined the Senate in increasing mobilisation fee of local contractors from 15 to 30 percent in what it believes will reduce the bureaucratic issues that delay the execution of projects by amending the procurement act.

Recall that the Senate had last week passed the bill and transmitted to the House for concurrence.

An executive bill, it is titled: “a bill for an act to amend the National Council on Public Procurement and the Bureau of Public Procurement act, No. 14, 2017 to review the mobilization fees paid to contractors, institute e-procurement and provide time frame for the procurement process etc and for related matters”

Presenting the bill for concurrence, the acting leader of the House, Hon. Peter Akpatason said the current mobilisation fee for local contractors was inadequate and that it caused abandonment of contracts in the country.

He said when passed into law, the bill will reduce the timeline for processing contracts award to two weeks, while it approved four days for issuance of certificates.

The lawmakers, however, did not fix any percentage as mobilisation fee for foreign contractors.

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Gemade begins moves to succeed Ortom in 2023

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Gemade begins moves to succeed Ortom in 2023

From: Cephas Iorhemen, Makurdi

Barely three years to the end of the eight-year tenure of Governor Samuel Ortom, former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade has kicked off moves to launch himself into the 2023 gubernatorial race to take over power from the incumbent governor.

Senator Gemade, who represents Benue North East in the red chamber of the National Assembly from 2011 to 2019, disclosed this in an interview in his Gboko residence.

The former Minister of Works in President Ibrahim Babangida’s administration, said there is mounting pressure on him from the zone and and state at large to contest the election, he is still consulting with relevant stakeholders and was expecting a positive answer from God to have a smooth sailing into government house.

He particularly pointed that his track record of achievements while in the senate and other public offices have placed him in a vantage position above other intending aspirants in the zone to clinch the seat in the coming governorship election.

“My scorecard is so large and convincing enough for Benue people to want me to be their governor as you can see the pressure now even as 2023 is still far from here. For example, in my two tenures at the red chambers, I delivered over 360 projects in my constituency apart from over 10,000 items I distributed and lots more,” he said.

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Edo 2020: Obaseki’s game-changer

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Edo 2020: Obaseki’s game-changer

Felix Nwaneri reports that despite mounting opposition to Governor Godwin Obaseki’s second term bid, the Edo State helmsman could leverage on his achievements so far to scale the hurdle

 

 

N

igeria is said to have failed to attract investment because the local dynamics are too shoddy and loosely defined, which it makes it difficult for serious investment to place a bet on the country or its subnational entities – the states.

But one state that has somewhat scaled this hurdle and is now a darling to international development institutions and investors is Edo State under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, an investment banker, who cut his teeth in deepening reforms in Nigeria’s investment sector.

 

There is no doubt that in the last three years that Obaseki has been at helms of affairs in the Edo, which prides itself as the “Heartbeat of the Nation,” he has brought his expertise to bear on the development of the state, helping to facilitate the siting and mobilisation of funding for the Edo-Azura Power project, which has the World Bank Group, Siemens and Julius Berger, among others, on board.

This was to ensure that the state has a proven record of attracting and keeping investors to build the right infrastructure that can drive industrialisation. Though Edo-Azura supplies power to the National Grid, its presence has spurred the incursion of more power companies into the state and also guarantees other large industries in the state a source for relatively stable power.

 

Interestingly, the Obaseki administration has also been able to replicate its giant stride in other sectors, especially education, sports, urban renewal and civil service reforms, among others.

As it is, the world is paying attention to the education reforms in Edo State. In a recently published commentary on its website, the World Economic Forum (WEF) applauded the Edo State Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) initiative for improving learning outcomes among pupils in primary schools across the state and described Governor Obaseki, as a trailblazer who is “quickly and dramatically lifting the quality of government schools and up skilling teachers in his low-income state.”

 

According to the WEF, “education experts around the world and across Africa in particular are paying close attention to EdoBEST that has become a beacon of light to other education ministries because it is improving learning for marginalised children and up skilling both novice and experienced teachers at scale, within existing state budgets and without western aid.”

 

The Forum further said that the changes are happening within the existing system and being spearheaded by existing teachers and school leaders, and hailed the reforms as “a Nigerian solution to a Nigerian problem.”

The World Bank and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) have also highlighted EdoBEST as a crucial programme that can be a template for transforming education in educationally disadvantaged societies. Last September, the World Bank Group organised a side-event at the UNGA summit in New York to discuss Edo-BEST.

 

The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) also recently bestowed Governor Obaseki with the Best Performing Governor Award in recognition of his education reforms, success of the Edo-BEST programme and his prioritisation of teachers’ welfare in the state.

 

Receiving the award, Obaseki said: “If you are not able to add your sums and pronounce your alphabets, you cannot write and you cannot think logically. So, what we have done in Edo State is to prioritise basic and technical education.”

He argued that basic education from the perspective of encouraging teachers, deploying technology to determine and tell when a teacher is in class, among others, form the basis of the Edo-BEST programme.

“I can tell from my office today when a teacher is in class. If a teacher is not in class then the teacher hasn’t signed into the database. Once a teacher is signed in, the lesson note for that day will be loaded into the teacher’s tablet. And we’ve trained teachers to understand how to use the tablets and the technology to teach the children.

 

“So, this is also to motivate them and corporal punishment has been abolished in our schools. The outcome is that children are learning. A child in Edo state today after one term has now learnt more than three terms of work in the old system,” he said.

 

In the area of urban renewal, the Obaseki-led government has it as one of its key development thrusts, and since the start of the administration, there has been massive construction of roads, reclaiming of gully erosion sites, construction of parks and restoring sanity to public places across the state.

 

The unprecedented urban renewal projects have earned the governor the sobriquet: “Wake and See Governor,” said to be a product of the governor’s unique leadership style that abhors unnecessary fanfare.                          

The road construction projects span across different parts of the state and are being spearheaded by the Ministry of Infrastructure, State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) and SEEFOR Plus, the state government-funded scheme modeled after the World Bank funded project.            

 

A major aspect of the governor’s infrastructure drive is the renovation of public schools across the state, expected to complement investment in human capital development.

Schools, including conventional and technical institutions of learning, are being remodeled to reflect the governor’s commitment to build infrastructure in the quest to revive the state’s industrial sector.

 

The target, according to the state government, is to have institutions that would serve as grooming grounds for best-in-town technical experts, who will receive training and certification that would be recognized in any part of the world.

On sports, Obaseki is leaving no stone unturned to return Edo State to its glorious days and this informs the ongoing renovation, expansion and equipping of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium with state-of-the-art facilities to spur sports development and develop local talents in the state.

 

The governor said of the project: “We take sports seriously in this state, because 72 per cent of our population is under 30 years of age, and that is why we are building 20 mini-stadia across the state.”

The Edo Innovation Hub is another initiative that has been acclaimed by many. A cluster for technology innovators and inventors, the hub was set up to strengthen the state’s nascent technology innovation scene. The hub was commissioned on June 14, 2018 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Tagged Edo Innovates, the hub provides a range of beginner, intermediate and advanced training in business and technology innovation, providing youths the opportunity to learn a wide array of employability 

and entrepreneurial skills.

Specifically, some of the offerings at the hub include digital skills, business support services, start-up incubation and business acceleration, mentorship, co-working spaces, and entrepreneurship training.

 

More than 1,000 youths have been trained at the facility since inception, with not less than a quarter of them being females. Besides this, the hub has recently proven to be a resource center for the state’s government plans to build an internationally competitive locally-trained labour force in partnership with reputable organisations, working to mitigate the menace of human trafficking and illegal migration.

 

This has attracted investment from the World Bank-assisted State Employment and Expenditure for Results project (SEEFOR) Project, United Kingdom (UK) the Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE), a number of Chinese companies, among others, at the hub.

 

On civil service reforms, Governor Obaseki has reiterated that he will not sack any worker in the state because he believes in the power of the human intellect and would never work to render any worker a liability.

With this thinking, the governor has made the civil service in Edo State a fulcrum of his reform agenda by ensure that workers are catered for while in service and in retirement.

 

This informed the decision to re-train civil servants for efficiency and through a partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the state government is retooling the state’s workforce for effective service delivery.

 

And in line with its efforts to ensure that no civil servant is redundant, the state government conducts regular training for civil servants with a focus to make them better at their jobs.

The government has also undertaken to redesign offices and build a Training School that would provide institutional support for the plan to ensure that workers are brought up to speed with current developments in their areas of expertise.      

 

The state government has also built Judges’ Quarters to ensure that the welfare of members of the top brass of the judiciary is well catered for. New Court complexes are being constructed, with the governor determined to convert Edo into the judiciary hub of the Niger Delta. Stenography equipment and other modern equipment have been procured and court clerks trained to deploy them to ensure an efficient, fast and seamless judicial process.

 

The pension reforms in the state have also helped in clearing the backlog of pension arrears accumulated for almost 20 years before the current administration. The workers in the state have been migrated to the contributory pension scheme. The success of the scheme at the state level has inspired the extension of the scheme to the local government level. 

 

The state government, also realising that one of the biggest tasks before it, is the challenge of human trafficking and illegal migration, has faced it head-on.

This explained why the governor didn’t mince words when he came into office as to the fact that the state had a problem with illegal migration, which deprived it of its human capital.       

To tackle this problem, Obaseki set to work by employing a mix approach of engagement and dialogue across to get the necessary stakeholders on board. With this, the state was able to set up the Edo Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT), empowered by the Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law.

 

The law was a landmark feat to give legal backing to the fight against human trafficking in the state. With such commitment, the governor has appealed to countries that suffer migrant crisis to invest in opportunities of building institutions and infrastructure that will complement the state government’s efforts in engaging and empowering youths in the state.

 

While it is acknowledged that there is more to electoral victories in emerging democracies such as Nigeria, there is no doubt that Obaseki will leverage on the giant strides of his administration in his quest to return to office as governor of Edo State for a second term.

 

The governor, who beat his chest on this, told New Telegraph in a recent interview that “if I have the people with me, there is nothing to be afraid of because election is not a war that requires deployment of the military for possible take-over of a territory.

 

He added: “If God had wanted things to continue the way they were in Edo State, He would not have brought a total stranger like me; He would have selected one of the subsisting faces in politics. I am a different person, so I have to do things differently. But, if some reactionary forces feel that we must go back to where we were before now, they have the people of Edo State to battle with.”

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Two years in the saddle: The Secondus, PDP story

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Two years in the saddle: The Secondus, PDP story

E

xactly two years ago, precisely on December 11, 2017, Prince Uche Secondus entered Wadata Plaza, the National Secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the 13th National Chairman of the main opposition party with the following words on marble.

 

“As I resume today as the National Chairman of this great party, I come with an open heart, open arms with our doors ajar to welcome all lovers of true democracy. PDP under my leadership is open to accommodate all those who desire for this country to have free and robust political activities.

 

“I intend to create a level playing ground and a conducive environment for all to bring in their God given talent to help rescue this country from the obvious lack of direction of the APC administration. It’s now clear to all political watchers that the onus of saving our democracy and our country rests squarely on the PDP and this is what my leadership tends to pursue vigorously.

 

In the coming days and months, PDP under my watch will introduce an all-inclusive system that would carry along every member with goodwill. We are calling on all Nigerians to be patient with us as we begin this process of rebuilding, repositioning with the ultimate goal of regaining power at all levels in this country.

 

“Nigerians are yearning for us and we have no choice but to rise up to the challenge. I therefore call on all our members who left the party in the past for various reasons to return and be part of this second chance history in making under a Secondus.”

 

That was the entry remarks of Prince Secondus  at the party’s Wadata Plaza as he alighted from his car at the gate trekking to his office to assume duties and to symbolically demonstrate the all-inclusive policy he intends to push as the leader of the party.

 

Prior to this 24 hours earlier on 10th December, 2017 at Eagles Square, Abuja he was elected the National Chairman at the party’s National Convention. In his acceptance speech he had given his policy direction which was encompassed in 3Rs- rebuilding, repositioning to regain.

 

The party badly needed a fresh touch and Prince Secondus was well aware having been part of the party’s daunting problems including the battle to rescue it from those who came purposely to auction away the party.

 

To be able to reposition and rebuild the party, a lot of old ways needed to give way, internal democracy the party’s biggest challenge must be restored. Also to be restored are the core values of the founding fathers of the party which are anchored on the basic tenets of democracy, rule of law and freedom.

 

Prince Secondus started immediately by decentralizing power watering down the almighty influence of Wadata Plaza where party ticket in the past could be purchased or made available to the highest bidder.

Many still driven by the past doubted him when he said that under his watch, flag bearers of the party at all levels must be popular persons with deep grassroots touch who can win elections.

 

A lot of the party’s flagbearers at various elective positions in last general elections did not believe what they saw that they could pick PDP ticket without first ferrying some Ghana must go bags to Wadata Plaza in Abuja.

Perhaps the height of Prince Secondus two-year reign was in October 2018 in Port Harcourt, Rivers state when the democracy watchers waited for the imploding of the party believing the soothsayer’s prediction that the party would not be able come out of Port Harcourt intact.

 

But against the book maker’s calculations it turned out to be the party’s finest hour. Becoming the best presidential primaries ever to be conducted by any political party in Nigeria’s history. Rather than implode the party came out of Port Harcourt stronger and more united. All the 11 Presidential aspirants who contested and lost agreed unanimously to line behind the eventual winner the former Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar. How did you do it was always the question to Secondus and his answer was ‘its God and transparency”. When the losers saw that they were not short changed or manipulated out and that the ground was level for all they became amenable to see reason and to accept defeat.

This was the spirit Prince Secondus led the party into general elections through one of the most vigorous political campaigns. The reception of the party by Nigerians across the country was overwhelming since they had earlier believed and accepted Prince Secondus apology to Nigerians on behalf of the party on the short comings of the party that led to their defeat in 2015 but even worse is in causing the entry of APC into the ruling class with all their minuses.

 

Jittery at the wave PRINCE Secondus leadership was making and how they were unable to March the rising profile of the party, the ruling APC turned to the dangerous option of using the Electoral Commission and the military to force themselves back to power and that they did disregarding the cries and   lamentations of democracy watchers.

 

Notwithstanding that Secondus was still able to grow the party from control of 11 states to 16 before they came with the November 16, 2019 abracadabra in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

 

 

Looking ahead after reviewing the last two years, Prince Secondus says the emergency is over but the battle is not over yet as anti-democratic forces are growing wings by the day. All institutions of democracy are under threat starting with the Judiciary, the legislature and the press. He says all hands must be on deck because APC has touched the soul of democracy by disregarding rule of law and the electoral process.

But Secondus relying strongly on his deep faith believes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel because evil exists but never overcomes good. For him supporters and members of the party must stay strong because when light arrives, darkness will vamoose.

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

CHUKWU DAVID reports that the new found love between the Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila-led Senate and House of Representatives, respectively and the Muhammadu Buhari-led executive arm of government, resulted to the early passage of the 2020 Appropriation Bill

 

 

F

or the first time in the history of budget consideration and passage since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, the National Assembly has made history by passing the 2020 budget expeditiously and within reasonable time period.

The two chambers of the apex legislative assembly, in obvious relentless and harmonious resolve to change the narrative of late budget passage and its attendant poor implementation, displayed commitment and determination, which resulted in the 2020 Appropriation Bill being passed in less than two months of its presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

 

This goes to explain that, with determination, commitment and cooperation among the three arms of government, good governance is possible and can be delivered to the electorate in good time.

It also exposes the fact that the age-long friction between the Executive and the Legislature has actually hampered and robbed Nigerians of meaningful development over the years.

 

 

Therefore, there is no gainsaying that the current feat recorded by the National Assembly in the early passage of the money bill, was the direct consequence of the new found love between the apex legislative institution and the Executive.

Right from 1999, when this democracy came on stream, the Parliament and the Executive have always been having rancorous relationship especially when the leaders of the Parliament are not product of party consensus or the choice of incumbent President.

 

 

In the present political dispensation, however, the two presiding officers in each chamber of the National Assembly, were products of the choice of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

 

This is why there has not been any disagreement between the National Assembly and the Executive on any issue, particularly with respect to approval of executive communications emanating from President Muhammadu Buhari.

In fact, since June 11, 2019, when the present National Assembly was inaugurated, with Lawan and Gbajabiamila, emerging as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, every communication from President Buhari has been enjoying expeditious approval.

 

From instance, the Senate approved the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) within one week after it was submitted to it by President Buhari.

 

The President submitted the document on September 25, 2019 and the Senate considered and approved the report of its Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, Chaired by Senator Solomon Ademola (APC, Lagos West).

Coming to the budget itself, President Buhari laid the document before the joint session of the National Assembly on October 8, 2019, which was exactly five days after the MTEF was passed.

 

The two chambers immediately swung into action, read it first and second time and committed it to the Senate Committee on Appropriations to conduct budget defence sessions with the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.

 

In previous assemblies, budget passage had always dragged for many months after being presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by Mr. President before it would be passed for assent.

 

Part of the reason was that National Assembly used to face frustrating challenges in the hands of some heads of the MDAs, who would not honour invitations to budget defence, thereby delaying the process.

 

 

The delay in budget passage at the National Assembly became worse in the Eighth Assembly, when the relationship between the apex legislative institution and the Executive was most rancorous.

 

The reason could be traced to the frosty relationship between the Executive and the leaderships of the two chambers of the National Assembly, which led to mutual suspicion and distrust between the two arms, with each trying to frustrate the other.

 

 

 

This was so majorly because Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara had emerged the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, contrary to the wishes of the APC and the Presidency.

It was also believed that this was responsible for some heads of the agencies and ministries disrespecting the National Assembly and its resolutions, particularly invitations for budget defence or any other invitations whatsoever.

 

For instance, in March 2018, following the rampant failures of MDAs to appear for budget defence, the Senate, in a resolution, threatened to pass the 2018 budget without submissions from recalcitrant MDAs.

 

Saraki who expressed serious concerns about the attitude of the MDAs, said that the Senate was prepared to conclude the process of the 2018 Appropriation Bill to ensure its passage but regretted that the MDAs were not cooperative.

 

 

 

He noted that the perception of the public was that the National Assembly was deliberately delaying the budget when the contrary was the case.

Similar experience was also witnessed during the 2019 budget defence hearings with the MDAs. Many of the heads of the establishments failed to honour invitations by lawmakers on time, leading to serious delay in passing the money bill.

Having witnessed these anomalous attitude of the MDAs towards the National Assembly, and not willing to encounter a repeat of the the experience, the Senate cautioned heads of the MDAs not to indulge in the ugly record of the past.

 

 

The President of the Senate specifically threatened at a point, that the Senate would give zero allocation to MDAs that failed to honour Senate invitations for budget defence. This has indeed yielded positive result in the ongoing 2020 budget defence process.

 

 

Meanwhile, the National Assembly had while passing its legislative agenda, resolved to return the country’s budget cycle to January to December calendar instead of the current unstable arrangement that had always impeded effective implementation.

 

 

Not desiring to miss this target, the Chamber worked assiduously to ensure that the budget was passed before the National Assembly embarks on Christmas break.

Accordingly, it has gone into record that this is the earliest budget to be passed by the National Assembly since 1999, having been passed within one month and 27 days after its presentation by the President.

 

 

This is enough proof that, determination, commitment, cooperation and collaboration among the various arms and agencies of government will always result in achievement of government set goals, to the benefit of the citizenry.

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Why Buhari should accent to Electoral Act Amendment Bill – Gbadamosi

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Why Buhari should accent to Electoral Act Amendment Bill – Gbadamosi

Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi was the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in Lagos State during the 2019 general election. In this interview, he speaks on human rights abuses, amendment of Electoral Act and Land Use Act, among other issues. TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE reports

 

 

Tuesday was World Human Rights Day and the International Community is concerned about breakdown of human rights in Nigeria vis-à-vis what is happening in the polity. How would you react to the latest development on human rights issues in the country?

 

It is a thing of concern because we saw the amassing and unbelievable thing, where security officials invaded a courtroom, which has now been excused by one of the aides of the government who said that the invasion was organised by the man who has come to the court to seek relief; that is Omoyele Sowore. Of course that is something that perhaps the media handlers of Muhammadu Buhari administration need a serious talking to because they have dragged Nigeria seriously into serious disrepute and we need to come back from that as quickly as we can. They need to retrace their steps. This is a democracy; this is not a military dictatorship but they are acting as if we are under a military jackboot. That is not the case. We are not going to have that. 

 

 

Most Nigerians are of the view that happened during last month’s Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections reiterate the demand for the review of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly. What is your take on that?

 

The amendments to the Electoral Act should have been signed by President Buhari, but he didn’t. What happened during the 2019 general election and elections that have come up since then like the Bayelsa and Kogi elections showed what the actual intension of President Buhari was by not signing that Electoral Act amendment. We have seen what President Buhari considered to be good election because we saw him congratulating Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. We saw him congratulating him after the election, where people were being shot at from a helicopter, teargas was being thrown around and the handset of the Yahaya Bello campaign was the sounds of gunshots. All of that have no place in democracy. And Mr. President ought to be ashamed of his party (All Progressives Congress, APC) for endorsing such madness.

 

 

You were recently given an award as ‘Best Real Estate Developer’ while your estate, Amen Estate won the ‘Happiest Community Award’ at the Real Estate Development Award. What is your take on the awards?

 

 

The Real Estate Development Award is a project that I have come to appreciate greatly because it has helped to bring sanity into the industry. If you go around, you will see a lot of private developments that have taken place that are actually helping to enhance the environment. One of the best was of selling the country is through culture and popular culture today is begin to take Lagos as the headquarter, not because of anything that government is doing but because of what the private sector is doing in terms of the built environment. That has helped in terms of musical videos; enhancing the works of our local artists to the point that they are being recognise by their international colleagues in United States, United Kingdom and all over the place. All that was made possible by the activities of those of us in the real estate sector that have delivered our estates as locations for the shooting of all these videos that are now been shown on the global stage.

 

 

As an estate developer, what is your take on the Land Use Act, which was one of the issues you discussed while delivering a lecture at the Real Estate Development Award?

 

The Land Use Act has the unsalutary effect of taken away the ownership of land from the people of Nigeria and handling it to the governors of the state in Nigeria. In fact in my own opinion, it is something that somehow detached from the possibility of the economic growth in Nigeria, and this is born out by the level of development that you see in the country as what you see elsewhere in the world; United States, United Kingdom and all these other developed economy that we have gone to borrowed things like our constitution and legal system and so on from and operate free home system of land ownership, whereas in Nigeria, there is no free home. That is something we need to look at in other to speed up the economic development of Nigeria. And of course because of this Land Use Act, there is no real security of titles because the governors who retained the right revoke the Certificate of Occupancy that they issued.

 

What about issues surrounding Certificate of Occupancy?

 

 

The situation especially in a state like Lagos is that there is a long queue apparently of Certificate of Occupancy on the part of governor or someone within the system piled up somehow. It is an imperfect system. The Land Use Act is not a perfect system and it is something that we are going to have to work with for the time being until we can work out something better and until we can repeal the Land Use Act or review it to give out free hold to their land.  So until that time, the system as it were should be made to work. The system not working is also another reason why the Land Use Act should be revoked. The governors should not have that much power over the land of the people.

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Kogi poll: Strengthening early warning signal, response mechanism

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Kogi poll: Strengthening early warning signal, response mechanism

T

he November 16 governorship election in Kogi State has come and gone but undesirable reviews on the elections have continued to flood the media space. The election was marred with violence despite the early warning signs and recommendations to relevant actors in the election process. The Nigerian Police and the election management body failed to improve on the lapses from the February 23 presidential election. The level of violence witnessed and reported during the governorship election was alarming and it raises concerns about the state of our elections, not just in Kogi but as we move ahead towards attaining sustainable electoral democracy in Nigeria.

 

 

During the pre-election period, early warning reports were disseminated to all relevant stakeholders ahead of the elections, aimed at providing pointers to incidents that could mar the process.  An early warning system by itself does not automatically prevent conflict from happening, but however provides vital information for action to prevent violence or mitigate the consequences of electoral violence.

 

 

It has been well established that in order to prevent the occurrence of electoral violence an early warning system needs to be in place as it is rather impossible to prevent an incident from occurring without having prior knowledge or information. Early warning is about obtaining first-hand information and using that information to inform planned interventions in the mitigation of such incidents, but how well has these early warnings signals reported impacted and helped in preventing the outburst of electoral violence in the just concluded governorship election in Kogi state.

 

 

The early warning signs and flashpoint was supposed to help identify the cause of an incident, predict the outbreak of the incident and strategise on how to reduce the effect or escalation of the incident, but unfortunately, inspite of all the early warning signals and trends of violence reported, Kogi election still experienced increased record of electoral violence outweighing the 2019 presidential election precedents.

 

 

For instance, the October conflict scan analysis meeting organised by Search for Common Ground; a Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who observed early warning signs before, during and after the elections, had in attendance representatives from the police force, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Civil Society groups, media and other stakeholders. During the meeting, early warning incident tracked from all 21 local government areas in Kogi State were critically discussed and analysed as with recommendations.

 

 

Top on the discussion was the high rate of political party and candidate violence, which has triggered down to all forms of electoral violence between politicians and their supporters, proliferation of arms by political thugs, vandalism and destruction of properties and instrument of campaign, intimidation and threats to citizens, harassment and abduction of some individuals who were loyal to opposing parties and in other instance incidents of death reported from some quarters in the state.

 

 

Other areas of concern were the worrisome rate of vote buying and voter inducement, inter-communal clashes and the inciting comments and hate speech during campaigns and rallies to spur violence. With all these incidents heralding the pre-election environment, what was experienced during the election was predictable. Concerns and worries were raised by journalist and other participants at the meeting but again assurances were given by the police who promised to enforce patrol vehicles during the elections and create visible policing to apprehend miscreants and ensure peaceful election on Election Day.

 

 

Early warning concerns on report on fake policing and political thugs sewing and wearing police uniforms to disguise like the Nigerian Police was also raised during the stakeholders meeting in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu and the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in attendance. This was supposed to put the police and security agents on alert and intentionally strategize on how to dislodge this fake policing which was masterminded to disrupt the polls on Election Day.

 

 

Again assurances and warnings were been made by the Inspector General of Police stating that adequate provisions has been made by the police to forestall any incident of violence that could disrupt the process, assuring citizens of the safety of their lives and property as well as apprehend all miscreants who chooses to perpetrate mayhem on that day, but it is rather unfortunate that a different event played out on Election Day with these thugs seemingly seen to overpower the security agents or connive to execute their mission.

 

 

 

There is need for system strengthening of the national early warning and early response mechanism by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and all relevant stakeholders in elections. A holistic approach in reviewing and analysing data received on early warning signals and strategise on how to develop an Early Response System (ERS), which addresses these early warning concerns. If deliberate attention is given to the information provided, it will go a long way in preventing, predict the outbreak of incidences and appropriately device measures to mitigate this violence that poses as a great threat in attaining electoral stability and peaceful elections.

 

 

•Mamedu is an early warning signal specialist and a programme coordinator with Search for Common Ground

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

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2020 budget: How NASS, executive harmony led to early passage

CHUKWU DAVID reports that the new found love between the Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila-led Senate and House of Representatives, respectively and the Muhammadu Buhari-led executive arm of government, resulted to the early passage of the 2020 Appropriation Bill

 

 

 

F

or the first time in the history of budget consideration and passage since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, the National Assembly has made history by passing the 2020 budget expeditiously and within reasonable time period.

 

The two chambers of the apex legislative assembly, in obvious relentless and harmonious resolve to change the narrative of late budget passage and its attendant poor implementation, displayed commitment and determination, which resulted in the 2020 Appropriation Bill being passed in less than two months of its presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

This goes to explain that, with determination, commitment and cooperation among the three arms of government, good governance is possible and can be delivered to the electorate in good time.

It also exposes the fact that the age-long friction between the Executive and the Legislature has actually hampered and robbed Nigerians of meaningful development over the years.

 

Therefore, there is no gainsaying that the current feat recorded by the National Assembly in the early passage of the money bill, was the direct consequence of the new found love between the apex legislative institution and the Executive.

Right from 1999, when this democracy came on stream, the Parliament and the Executive have always been having rancorous relationship especially when the leaders of the Parliament are not product of party consensus or the choice of incumbent President.

 

In the present political dispensation, however, the two presiding officers in each chamber of the National Assembly, were products of the choice of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

This is why there has not been any disagreement between the National Assembly and the Executive on any issue, particularly with respect to approval of executive communications emanating from President Muhammadu Buhari.

In fact, since June 11, 2019, when the present National Assembly was inaugurated, with Lawan and Gbajabiamila, emerging as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, every communication from President Buhari has been enjoying expeditious approval.

 

From instance, the Senate approved the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) within one week after it was submitted to it by President Buhari.

 

The President submitted the document on September 25, 2019 and the Senate considered and approved the report of its Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, Chaired by Senator Solomon Ademola (APC, Lagos West).

Coming to the budget itself, President Buhari laid the document before the joint session of the National Assembly on October 8, 2019, which was exactly five days after the MTEF was passed.

 

The two chambers immediately swung into action, read it first and second time and committed it to the Senate Committee on Appropriations to conduct budget defence sessions with the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.

 

In previous assemblies, budget passage had always dragged for many months after being presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by Mr. President before it would be passed for assent.

Part of the reason was that National Assembly used to face frustrating challenges in the hands of some heads of the MDAs, who would not honour invitations to budget defence, thereby delaying the process.

 

The delay in budget passage at the National Assembly became worse in the Eighth Assembly, when the relationship between the apex legislative institution and the Executive was most rancorous.

 

The reason could be traced to the frosty relationship between the Executive and the leaderships of the two chambers of the National Assembly, which led to mutual suspicion and distrust between the two arms, with each trying to frustrate the other.

This was so majorly because Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara had emerged the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, contrary to the wishes of the APC and the Presidency.

 

It was also believed that this was responsible for some heads of the agencies and ministries disrespecting the National Assembly and its resolutions, particularly invitations for budget defence or any other invitations whatsoever.

For instance, in March 2018, following the rampant failures of MDAs to appear for budget defence, the Senate, in a resolution, threatened to pass the 2018 budget without submissions from recalcitrant MDAs.

 

Saraki who expressed serious concerns about the attitude of the MDAs, said that the Senate was prepared to conclude the process of the 2018 Appropriation Bill to ensure its passage but regretted that the MDAs were not cooperative.

He noted that the perception of the public was that the National Assembly was deliberately delaying the budget when the contrary was the case.

 

Similar experience was also witnessed during the 2019 budget defence hearings with the MDAs. Many of the heads of the establishments failed to honour invitations by lawmakers on time, leading to serious delay in passing the money bill.

Having witnessed these anomalous attitude of the MDAs towards the National Assembly, and not willing to encounter a repeat of the the experience, the Senate cautioned heads of the MDAs not to indulge in the ugly record of the past.

 

The President of the Senate specifically threatened at a point, that the Senate would give zero allocation to MDAs that failed to honour Senate invitations for budget defence. This has indeed yielded positive result in the ongoing 2020 budget defence process.

 

Meanwhile, the National Assembly had while passing its legislative agenda, resolved to return the country’s budget cycle to January to December calendar instead of the current unstable arrangement that had always impeded effective implementation.

 

 

Not desiring to miss this target, the Chamber worked assiduously to ensure that the budget was passed before the National Assembly embarks on Christmas break.

Accordingly, it has gone into record that this is the earliest budget to be passed by the National Assembly since 1999, having been passed within one month and 27 days after its presentation by the President.

 

This is enough proof that, determination, commitment, cooperation and collaboration among the various arms and agencies of government will always result in achievement of government set goals, to the benefit of the citizenry.

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Lalong delighted with report ranking Plateau second least corrupt state

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Lalong delighted with report ranking Plateau second least corrupt state

Plateau State Governor, and Chairman Northern Governors Forum Barr. Simon Bako Lalong is delighted with the second Corruption Survey Report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which ranked Plateau State as the second least corrupt state in Nigeria.

Lalong, while reacting to the report, in a press statement signed and issue on Tuesday in Jos by his Director of Press Affairs Dr. Simon Macham, said the development validates the efforts of his ‘Rescue Administration’ towards entrenching good governance, accountability and transparency in management of public funds.

He said on assuming office, he declared zero tolerance to corruption and was determined to ensure that public funds were used strictly for the benefit of the people of Plateau State.

Lalong said his administration  established various mechanisms for checking corruption and enhancing transparency in public service.

“We were among the first states in Nigeria to adopt the Treasury Single Account (TSA) where we made sure all monies accruing to Plateau State went into a single account for easy oversight and monitoring.

“We also established the Efficiency Unit that is saddled with the duty of checking all proposals and requests to ensure that they are in line with the vision of the government and offer value for the people. “We also put in place the Bureau for Public Procurment which has the mandate of vetting all procurements to ensure that there is no wasteful and exaggerated costs,” he said.

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Sowore: Reps probe alleged court invasion by DSS

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Sowore: Reps probe alleged court invasion by DSS

The House of Representatives has mandated its joint committees on national security and intelligence, judiciary, and human rights to investigate the alleged invasion of a Federal High Court in Abuja by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) to re-arrest the presidential candidate of AAC, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.

The resolution was consequent upon the adoption of a motion sponsored by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta) on the “invasion of the Federal High Court premises Abuja by yet to be identified persons”.
Leading debate on the motion, Elumelu described the invasion of the court by the unidentified persons as “disregard for the rule of law”.

He informed that: “The videos emerging in public domain shows these unidentified person trying to bundle Omoyele Sowore and his co-accused Olawale Bakare away from the courtroom room, while Sowore’s supporters were resisting them, which is an abuse to the sanctity of the courtroom.”

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