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Fuel, electricity price hike: Buhari seeks truce with NLC, TUC, others [The Nation]

  • FG to hold talks with Labour, CSOs today
  • Wabba: Why NLC will not attend
  • Only return to old tariff would stop protests – TUC
  • JOHESU to shelve strike after deal with government

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday set the machinery in motion to avert the strike being planned by organised private labour and the human rights community in reaction to the latest hike in fuel price and electricity tariff.

He directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to dialogue with the labour unions immediately.

The meeting is scheduled for today in Abuja.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are believed to have already gone far in mobilising workers for the strike aimed at forcing government to reverse last week’s increase of petrol price to N159 per litre and of electricity to over N60 per unit.

But TUC insisted last night that government should first revert to the old prices first.

Apart from the talks, the federal government also plans to distribute 2,000 buses across the country to cushion the effects of transportation on Nigerians, especially the rural dwellers.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, told State House correspondents yesterday that the dialogue would afford government the opportunity to lay the state of the nation’s finances bare and the challenges both face on the table for better understanding.

Ngige said he would be reaching out to the concerned labour and trade union bodies as well as the civil society groups to get them ready for the meeting.

“The President has approved for us to have a bigger government side meeting with the organised private labour. All the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government will be part of the meeting so that we meet with them and show them the books,” the minister said as he emerged from a meeting with Buhari yesterday.

He added: “So, the invitation is going out to them this afternoon; the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their affiliates or supporters and friends in the Civil Society Organisations.

“The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow (today). So, I will relate more with the Chief of Staff to the President and the leadership of the unions today so that we do this meeting tomorrow.

“At the meeting, government finances, challenges and everything will be laid bare on the table. Their own fears and what they think is also good for the Nigerian people, especially the workers, they will also table it so that we look at it.”

Continuing, Ngige said: “The electricity tariff, as you know, the Electricity Regulatory Commission approved the increase based on certain electricity band R1 and R2. And even in the R2 band, you have soft bands so that we can protect the rural poor and people who are in the suburbs.

“So, we are going to look at them holistically because we want a stable labour industrial union in the country. So, the President has been briefed and he is in tune and has given the support to talk to everybody we need to talk to.”

Government, the minister said, had also reached out to some unions in the universities which are planning a separate strike.

His words: “The tripartite unions of university system, including some colleges of education and some hospitals, Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), we have invited them to a meeting.

“The leadership met with me last week and the major thrust of the challenges they have is on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) system.

“They claim and allege that the IPPIS system is over-deducting some line items like taxes, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes they claim the IPPIS system is charging more than they are supposed to debit.

“They also claim that some allowances that are peculiar to the university system, like responsibility allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance and education of children allowance, that the IPPIS has stopped all of them.

“At the government level, we have discussed and we now want to do a special session with them; they come with their facts and the Accountant General will lead his team, the National Salaries and Incomes and Wages will also come and the Ministry of Labour will lead and then we discuss and find out who is treating the other unfairly.”

It will be recalled that the Labour community kicked recently when prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff were reviewed upwards, threatening to declare an industrial action.

Return petrol,  electricity tariff to old prices, TUC tells FG

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) said last night that it would proceed on a nationwide strike from September 23 unless the Federal Government reverts the hikes in electricity tariff and prices of petroleum products.

Although the union stated that it was not opposed to dialogue on the two issues, it said it would only call off its planned nationwide strike when government had reverted to the old price of premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol.

President of the congress, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, said in an interview that the TUC was yet to receive, at press time, any invitation from government for today’s meeting with labour leaders.

“We have not received an invitation to that effect,” Olaleye said.

Asked if the TUC would attend the meeting if the union leaders received the invitation, he said: “Of course, we will attend. If we don’t attend, we will not be able to make our point known. But there is no invitation for now.

“If at the meeting they discuss the need to revert it (increase in fuel and electricity tariffs), we will also revert our decision.

The Secretary- General of TUC, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, said separately that the union would issue an ultimatum to government on Monday to return fuel to the old price or face a nationwide strike.

 

NLC won’t attend meeting, says notice too short

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) will not be represented at today’s meeting with government, congress president Ayuba Wabba said last night.

He said the notice given for the meeting by government was rather short and made it impossible for labour leaders who are spread in different locations to attend.

Wabba stated this in a text message sent to our correspondent in response to an inquiry.

He said: “The information about the meeting was communicated by the Minister of Labour in the afternoon today.

“Due to the short notice, it not possible for Labour leadership, who are spread in different locations, to attend.

“We have proposed a reschedule.”

 

Dubai-bound passenger arrested with 2886 ATM cards [The Nation]

A man has been arrested at the Lagos airport with 2,886 Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards just before his flight to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates took off.

lshaq Abubakar Abubakar was picked up by officials of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the departure hall of Murtala Muhamed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos on August 22, and was yesterday handed over to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).

Deputy Controller Abdulmumin Bako said the suspect also had four Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards on him when he was intercepted.

Bako said Abubakar, with Passport No. A08333717, from Kano State, was travelling to Dubai on an  Emirates Evacuation flight.

“The ATM cards and SIM cards were carefully concealed in a noodles carton by the suspect,” he said.

“The suspect claimed that one Mr Musliu was assigned to him to facilitate his movement through the checks at the airport by one Mr Suleiman but due to the diligence of our officers who insisted on conducting physical examination, revealed the concealment.”

Bako pointed out that the suspect claimed that he was due for evacuation and had bought an evacuation flight ticket for his use.

 

Many ‘sins’ of slain Benue terror kingpin Gana [The Nation]

As controversy rages  over the circumstances of the death  of  notorious terrorist and gang  leader  in Benue State, Terwase Akwaza alias Gana, residents are unlikely to forget in a hurry how he and his followers held them hostage for years.

Gana was killed on Tuesday in what  the Commander, 4 Special Forces Command, Doma, Nasarawa state, Maj. -Gen. Moundhey Ali, called an exchange of fire between soldiers and the terrorist at a security check point mounted by the Army on the  Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road.

Community leaders however disputed the army claim.

They alleged that soldiers forced him out of an official vehicle of the Benue State government that was conveying him and some prominent citizens of the state to Makurdi after he agreed to embrace peace, come out of hiding and live a normal life.

It was not his first time of agreeing to abandon terrorism.

In 2015, Gana and his gang accepted an offer of amnesty from Governor Samuel Ortom.

On the last day of the amnesty offer, Gana turned in 84 assorted firearms and thousands of ammunitions.

He was granted Amnesty and made Leader of the beneficiaries. The State Government made him a Revenue Consultant as part of his rehabilitation and that of the other beneficiaries and he made a fortune.

The honeymoon lasted only a few months.

In May 2016, the governor’s aide on security, Mr Denen Igbana, was brutally murdered and the suspicion in the security circle was that Gana did it.

Igbana’s offence was that he found that  Akwaza was not interested in peace.

A panel indicted Gana for the murder and asked him to submit himself for investigation by a judicial panel.

Instead of making himself available for investigation and the judicial process, he chose to go back to his vomit.

He retreated, along with his boys, to the bush in the Sankera axis comprising Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the State.

Government offered a N10 million reward which was later increased to N50million for anyone with information that might  lead to his  arrest, while the military joined in efforts to track him down but  all to no avail.

Gana and his boys became more daring and vicious than ever before. A reign of banditry, kidnapping, assassination, ritual killing and cattle rustling had begun.

He ran an organized and sophisticated network of criminal activities in his chosen domain and conducted affairs with an iron fist. Any challenge to his authority was met with death.

On Akwaza’s orders, communities were razed. Traditional rulers, wealthy farmers and other influential community members were not spared.

He allegedly placed special levies on farmers, traders and prominent people in his domain and anyone who dared to oppose him do not live to tell the story. Akwaza fought supremacy gang wars with his former allies who visited devastation on several communities in Ukum and Katsina-Ala LGAs.

In no time, socio-economic activities in that axis, that hitherto prided itself in massive agricultural produce, began to crash.

He was alleged to have buried of his victims many alive and gunned down others at the slightest provocation.

Those killed in this manner included the District Head of Mbayongo, Chief Aloo Alev, his counterpart in Michihe and Chief Chiahemba Livinus Shom.

The case of the District Head of  Kundav in Ukum LGA, Chief Awua Alabar, was particularly pathetic: he was  killed in the presence of his family.

So also were the kidnap and murder of Mrs. Esther Nguumbur Tur, wife of Justice Tine Tur of the Court of Appeal and her companion, Mrs. Mbalamen Kpensuen Aminde by Akwaza and his gang after ransom was collected and the victims’ Hilux van seized; the assassination of the and Msugh Tyavyar alias Pastor whose roles in the prosecution of the 2015 Amnesty programme he considered a threat to his interest were part of the many sins of the terror king.

He constituted himself into an alternate government and enjoyed the status of a maximum ruler in the jungle.

He presided over the activities of that empire from the jungles of Gbise, his immediate community where he enjoyed the protection of folks who thinking he was the defender of Tiv people from their oppressors shielded him from arrest.

Several expeditions were embarked on to his enclave in a bid to arrest him, without success, he was somewhat invincible until joint security operations like Ayem AKpatuma and later Whirlstroke were initiated by the federal government to stamp out violent crimes in the Middle Belt region.

This state of affairs prompted prominent natives of the geopolitical axis, including political, religious and traditional leaders to request  a second Amnesty programme which the governor granted on September 4.

Ortom gave an ultimatum for those who wanted to embrace the second amnesty programme to surrender their weapons on Tuesday, September 8, in order to become beneficiaries of the programme, an offer Akwaza went into for the second time.

He was said to have left his hideout in company of religious leaders and presented himself at the Emmanuel Akume Atongo Stadium in Katsina-Ala in full public glare to embrace the programme and where being ferried to the state capital for reception by the governor and members of the security council when he met his end in now controversial circumstances.

Selected traditional rulers, prominent indigenes and security personnel took off with Akwaza and other potential beneficiaries from the stadium to come and present them to the security council but they were intercepted by the military at Masaje, close to Yandev in Gboko Local Government Area.

The  Katsina-Ala LG Chairman, Alfred Orya Atera and his security detail, a former House of Assembly member, Dr Ianna Jato were reportedly  pulled out of the chairman’s official vehicle in which Akwaza was being conveyed to Makurdi.

The troops subsequently took the vehicle and Akwaza and several other persons from Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo LGAs hoping to receive amnesty away with some of them killed near Moji Farms after Tse-Kucha while Akwaza was killed at another location in Nasarawa State.

When news of  Gana’s killing  filtered into the venue of the Expanded State Security Council meeting  it was initially thought of as unconfirmed rumour.

Governor Ortom, Senator Gabriel Suswam and the Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, were shocked when the report was subsequently confirmed.

The meeting came to an abrupt end.

Ortom later told reporters that the convoy conveying Akwaza and other potential Amnesty beneficiaries had been intercepted and that Major General Adeyemi Yekini of Operation Whirlstroke had confirmed this and promised to get back to him.

What came next was a statement from the  Commander of the 4 Special Forces based  in Doma, Nasarawa State, Major General Moundhey Gazama Ali, that Akwaza had been killed in a gunfight with the military, with the picture of the wanted gangster at the back of the official vehicle of the Katsina-Ala Local Government Chairman.

Some residents of Benue think Ortom, Senator Suswam, traditional and religious leaders betrayed Akwaza.

Others are of the view that military only eliminated him to pave way for further unhindered attacks on Benue communities.

Gana had little education as a kid.

He grew up in his home town Gbishe where he reportedly bullied other children.

He gradually developed into a monster and extended his terror activities from his Mbayongo clan to the three local government areas of Ukum, Katsina Ala and Logo.

Initially, he was believed to have a mystical power given to him by his kinsmen for the purpose of defending them against external aggression or invaders especially invading herdsmen from neighbouring Taraba State.

 

Fuel, Electricity Price Hike: FG Moves To Avert Strike, Meets Labour Today [Leadership]

In a bid to avert any possible industrial action that may arise following the hike in the price of petroleum and electricity tariff, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, to meet with the organised labour, to hear their grievances on the state of the economy and to present the finances of government to them.

Ngige disclosed this to State House correspondents yesterday after meeting with the president at the presidential Villa.

According to him, the meeting is expected to hold today in Abuja.

He said, “The President has approved for us to have a bigger government side meeting with the organised private labour; all the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government so that we meet with them and show them the books.

“So, the invitation is going out to them this afternoon, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and their affiliates or supporters and friends in the Civil Society Organisations. The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, so, I will relate more with the chief of staff to the President and the leadership of the unions today so that we do this meeting tomorrow.

“At the meeting, government finances, challenges and everything will be laid bare on the table. Their own fears and what they think is also good for the Nigerian people especially the workers, they will also table it so that we look at it,” he said.

He further explained that the recent hike in electricity tariff was done by the regulatory body based on certain realities confronting the sector.

Ngige said: “The electricity tariff as you know, the Electricity Regulatory Commission approved the increase based on certain electricity band R1 and R2 and even in the R2 band. You have soft bands so that we can protect the rural poor and people who are in the suburbs.

“So, we are going to look at them holistically because we want a stable labour industrial union in the country so the President has been briefed and he is in tune and has given the support to talk to everybody we need to talk to.”

On the planned strike by the tripartite unions of the non-academic staff unions of universities, Ngige said government was aware of their plans and had already invited them to a meeting, to discuss, so as to address their concerns.

“The tripartite unions of university system including some colleges of education and some hospitals; Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), we have invited them to a meeting, the leadership met with me last week and the major thrust of the challenges they have is on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) system.

“They claim and allege that the IPPIS system is over deducting some line items like taxes, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes they claim the IPPIS system is charging more than they are supposed to debit.

“They also claim that some allowances that are peculiar to the university system like responsibility allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance and education of children allowance, that the IPPIS has stopped all of them.

“At the government level, we have discussed and we now want to do a special session with them, they would come with their facts and the accountant general will lead his team, the National Salaries and Incomes and Wages will also come and the Ministry of Labour will lead and then we shall discuss and find out who is treating the other unfairly,” the minister explained.

It would be recalled that the NLC had described the new electricity tariff increase announced by the AEDC as dead on arrival as it wouldl be resisted by the Nigerian working class and people.

The NLC in a statement signed by its president, Ayuba Wabba, described the increase as “exploitation of poor Nigerians”, just as it cautioned the other DISCOs not to “bother putting their ships of exploitation to sail.”

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission had on September 1 approved an increase in electricity tariff with effect from September 1, 2020.

The price of premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol was also increased to N151.56 per litre effective from September 2, 2020.

 

COVID-19: FG Issues Fresh Travel Protocols For China, Europe-bound Passengers [Leadership]

The federal government yesterday issued fresh travel protocols for China, North America and Europe-bound passengers, saying failure to strictly adhere to laid down procedures would lead to denial from departure or repatriation.

Comptroller-general of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, made this known in a statement made available to journalists by the service spokesman, Sunday James, in Abuja.

The statement directed all intending passengers to China to obtain COVID-19 negative test certificate before departure.

According to NIS, passengers are required to take a Nucleic Acid test three days before departure with effect from September.

It added that the development was in line with the request of the affected countries, particularly from Chinese and French embassies.

Emphasising that Chinese citizens are required to apply for “Green Health Codes” with “HS” mark, NIS said, “Other foreign nationals, including Nigerians, are to complete Health Declaration Forms.

“All the two categories of travellers; foreigners to China and Chinese citizens are to submit COVID-19 negative test certificate to the Chinese Embassy or consulate in Nigeria for issuance of required clearance for their journey to China”.

It advised non-resident Nigerians in Europe and North America to avoid transiting through France pending the lifting of travel restrictions due to COVID-19, adding that transit passengers to Europe and North America transiting through Paris must endeavour to present a valid Permanent Resident Permit (PRP) for their final destination and COVID-19 negative test certificate to enable them entry into France.

LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that since July, 2020, only French nationals and residents were allowed into the country (France) with respect to the note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conveying the Travel Advice from the French Embassy in Nigeria.

 

3 Months After, States Yet To Domesticate Anti-rape Law [Leadership]

About three months after governors of the 36 states of the federation agreed to declare a state of emergency on rape, most of the state Houses of Assembly are yet to pass the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill for the state chief executives to sign into law.

LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that in June this year, the governors under the auspices of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) had agreed to declare state of emergency following the public outcry over growing cases of rape in the country.

Investigations by this paper revealed that 23 out of the 36 states of the federation are yet to domesticate the VAPP Act five years after the Act was signed into law.

Although the Rivers State House of Assembly passed the VAPP Bill 2019 into law in January, 2020, Governor Nyesom Wike is yet to sign the bill into law.

In July 2020, the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) prompted the governor on the need to sign the VAPP Bill into law.

 

How Gana stopped convoy, switched cars before arrest, killing by soldiers –Eyewitnesses [Punch]

More facts have emerged that Benue State’s most wanted criminal, Terwase Akwaza, aka Gana, might have had a premonition of his death as he swapped cars in the government convoy that was taking him and other repentant militias to Makurdi, the state capital.

Sources, who were eyewitnesses, told our correspondent that when the convoy took off from Katsina-Ala at about 1:30pm on Tuesday, Gana was in one of the official vehicles of one of the paramount rulers.

They, however, said that when they crossed the River Katsina-Ala Bridge, Gana asked that he be allowed to join a priest who was in a local government chairman’s official car.

The Benue warlord had accepted to renounce his way of crime after traditional rulers from Sankera community mediated and appealed to him to accept the amnesty offered by the State Governor, Samuel Ortom.

Gana and about 132 repentant members of his gang were on their way to Makurdi where they were expected to be received by the state security council when the government convoy conveying them was intercepted near Yandev Roundabout in Gboko.

Gana and 40 others were, thereafter, arrested.

Our correspondent was told that Gana was seated at the back of the Chairman of Katsina-Ala Local Government Area’s official car alongside the chairman, Alfred Atera.

The soldiers were also said to have pulled out a yet-to-be-identified priest sitting beside Gana.

The Commander of Four Special Force Brigade, Major General Ali Gadzama, later addressed journalists in the Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State where he said Gana was killed in a shootout with soldiers.

Sources, however, told our correspondent that the deceased had shown some moves which suggested that he knew he might be murdered or betrayed by the people.

One of the sources noted that Gana, who took off from his base in Gbitse, told the mediators who were mostly traditional rulers from Sankera area to send a trusted monarch to come and pick him up from his base to Katsina-Ala as he did not want to come down alone.

The source said, “Not for fear of security operatives but I think he probably thought that in case anything happened to him, it should be known to his mediators. So, the traditional rulers had to send delegates along with security men to Gbitse to bring him to Katsina-Ala.

“Part of the arrangements was to go straight to the residence of Tor Sankera and the paramount ruler of Sankera community, Abu King Shuluwa, but Gana objected to this and asked to be received at Akume Atongo stadium which is a public place.

“It was the change in the arrangements that delayed the programme because the initial plan was that Gana and other repentant persons were to be received at the Government House, Makurdi by members of the state security council latest at 1:00pm.”

The source added that Gana was brought to the stadium at about 12:30pm on Tuesday.

Another source said he was received at Akume Atongo stadium by traditional rulers, religious leaders, stakeholders and a mammoth crowd, some of whom thronged the stadium to catch a glimpse of him.

The source said as of the time the convoy took off from Katsina-Ala at about 1:30pm, Gana was in one of the paramount rulers’ official cars.

The source said, “But as soon as they crossed River Katsina-Ala Bridge, Gana asked the convoy to stop and told the traditional rulers around him that he was not comfortable with the car he was in. He then asked to be moved to join the car in which a priest was travelling which happened to be the official car of the local government chairman, Alfred Orya Atera.

“As he stepped out to enter the car, he looked back at the town and decided to give up his wayward life. He was going to embrace amnesty and if the amnesty was a ploy to kill him to end the crisis, he warned that someone would emerge after him that would be more brutal than him.

“All these were spoken in Tiv language. Then he added that he would be more comfortable sitting with the priest in the vehicle and that in case, he died, he wanted to die with Christ. Then, he entered and the convoy zoomed off. Unfortunately, the convoy was intercepted close to Yandev Roundabout in Gboko by soldiers.”

Gana, who was from a humble background, was alleged to be used by politicians, especially during elections.

A community leader in the Logo Local Government Area of Benue State, Joseph Anawah, said, “He joined Tiv youths to go into battle against the Kuteb of Taraba State to protect his people. His bravery gave him the pseudonym of Gana. At the time the crisis subsided, Gana formed a militia group and in the cause of looking for a means of survival, he took to criminal activities of robbery and wherever there was a disagreement, squabbles in the community, he and his gang would intervene.

We’ve accepted Gana’s killing as act of God –Benue govt

Meanwhile, the Benue State Government and stakeholders in the Sankera axis area of the state on Friday pleaded with the military authority to release the 35 repentant militias arrested alongside Gana, who was later killed on Tuesday.

Addressing journalists after the expanded security council meeting, involving stakeholders from the Sankera axis, Governor Samuel Ortom said that the meeting resolved not to take issue with the military.

Ortom added, “The expanded State Security Council met today (Friday) with Sankera stakeholders and resolved not to take issue with the military concerning what has happened but to accept it as an act of God.

“Whatever has happened, we have to move forward, we cannot bring back the dead, though we are pained and we are waiting for more clarification on the killing.

“We also resolved that the military should release the repentant militias arrested by the military so that they can continue with the amnesty programme.”

 

Nigeria becoming a failed state, divided under Buhari – Obasanjo [Punch]

  • knocks FG for mismanaging nation’s diversity, economy
  • says N’Assembly’s constitution review a waste of money
  • We expect OBJ to act like statesman –Buhari Media Organisation

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says Nigeria is slowly becoming a failed state and a basket case that urgently needs to be pulled from the brink of collapse.

He said this in Abuja on Thursday while delivering a speech titled, ‘Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over’ at a consultative dialogue attended by various socio-cultural groups including Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum.

Obasanjo, who played an active role in the Nigerian Civil War, said he had never seen Nigeria so divided, adding that many of the problems plaguing the country today were due to the recent mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity.

The former President said, “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.

“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.”

Obasanjo said those beating drums of war and calling for secession must remember that were Nigeria to break into several countries, the citizens would still be neighbours and would need to interact with one another.

He stated that if Nigeria was to successfully tackle its challenges, it must first address the problem of disunity because a house divided could not achieve much success.

The former President, therefore, commended all socio-cultural groups present at the meeting, describing their agreement to come together as a good sign.

He added, “With what I have seen, read and heard from the rapprochement that you are forging together, I see a ray of hope that Nigeria can be saved from disintegration.

“If we are ready to live together in understanding, mutual respect and love with equity, justice, inclusiveness while engendering sense of belonging and unity of purpose and all hands on deck, we can deal with internal issues of terrorism, organised crimes, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug, money laundering and corruption. We will then be able to deal successfully with any incoming attack of terrorism, organised crimes, etc; from outside.”

Obasanjo described the National Assembly’s fresh constitutional review exercise as a waste of time and resources.

He subsequently praised socio-cultural groups like NEF and Yoruba Summit Group for describing it as such.

Obasanjo said, “That ray of hope was somewhat manifested in the last 10 days or so when the Northern Elders Forum and Yoruba Summit Group complemented each other in their separate press releases on the Senate’s idea of inviting submissions from Nigerian public for constitution amendment which had been regular money-gulping activity by every National Assembly session since 1999, a veritable source of waste without end.

“I believe one of our major problems in the past was that we did not dialogue enough, we talk at ourselves and selfishly keep old prejudices and biases. If we show understanding, give-and-take, love of one another and commitment and love of the country, we will do what is right and stand firmly together for the good of all.”

He said he was optimistic that the consultation among the several groups would enlarge the circle from the mini-dialogue group bit by bit until a national dialogue that could save Nigeria from disintegration was reached. When that is done, he said the initiative would come to an end.

The former President said only self-deluded people would claim that all is well in Nigeria.

He said, “I believe Nigeria is worth saving on the basis of mutuality and reciprocity and I also believe it can be done through the process of dialogues rather than talking at each other or resorting to violence. It will amount to dangerous and destructive self-delusion for anybody to claim that all is well in Nigeria today.”

He stated that rather than work on fixing the country and ensuring that grievances among several units within the country are addressed, some are fixated on the 2023 Presidential election.

Obasanjo added, “Some people are obsessed with 2023, I believe that with death, destruction, debt, disease, deceit, disbelief, disenchantment, doubt and suspicion around, we need to see our way through to 2023 and beyond in some form of unity of purpose, reasonable security, shared values, true democratic practice, inclusiveness and shared society. That is why we are here. No constitution is even permanent; it is dynamic with time and experience.”

Speaking with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, Afenifere Chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, said the consultative forum had become necessary due to the myriad challenges facing the nation.

He said the resolutions of the 2014 National Conference ought to be implemented rather than have a fresh constitutional amendment exercise that would gulp money and fail to address pressing issues.

Meanwhile, a communiqué issued by Ambassador Ahmed Magaji at the end of the forum stated that the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi; the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Governors Forum, Atiku Bagudu; and the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, had been briefed on the activities of the forum.

It read in part, “The participating organisations are committed to supporting and themselves in all activities targeted at improving the Nigerian constitution for the purpose of meeting the yearnings and aspirations of all Nigerian citizens.”

The meeting agreed to set up panels of experts to discuss, address and make recommendations on about seven subjects, including Nigeria’s federal structure and devolution of power, responsibilities and resources; security; electoral reforms and ensuring the integrity and credibility of elections; local government autonomy and effective administration; the economy and fiscal federalism; judicial reforms and other matters central to the survival of Nigeria.

We expect Obasanjo to behave like a statesman- BMO

The Chairman of the Buhari Media Organisation, Niyi Akinsiju, said Nigerians would expect people like former President Olusegun Obasanjo to behave like a  statesman and not join a class of elites who complain because their selfish material interests were not being “serviced.”

Akinsiju said this while responding to comments attributed to the former Nigerian President, in Abuja, on Friday.

He said “ One would expect people like former President Obasanjo to behave like a statesman and not serve as a distraction.

“The Nigerian political elite complain just like he is doing now when their personal interests are not being serviced.

“President Muhammadu Buhari is doing what every sensible leader should do- put the interest of the majority of Nigerians first.  Most of our fault lines which Obasanjo is taking about today are creations of the selfish interests of the elite which have no economic consequences. Most of our elite advance these fault lines to further their interests.”

He said elite from all tribes in Nigeria are responsible for the current state of affairs in the country. Akinsiju insisted that Buhari was moving Nigeria in the right direction.

 

Edo poll: INEC meets Abdulsalami panel, IGP reads the riot act [Punch]

  • We hope Edo people’ll enjoy peaceful election –Kukah

The Independent National Electoral Commission, on Friday, said it had recovered from the fire incident that gutted its office in Ondo State ahead of the October 10 governorship election.

While assuring the public that it would not postpone the Edo State governorship election scheduled for next Saturday as it had in 2016, the commission said a similar fire incident would not occur in Edo State.

INEC stated that the Ondo State governorship poll would still hold as planned, despite the destruction of smart card readers.

The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made the assertion during an interactive session with stakeholders and civil society organisations convened by the National Peace Committee chaired by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.).

Dignitaries who attended the event included a former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan; Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Sam Pemu Amuka; and Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre and Convener, Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo.

Others were the Coordinator of NCSSR, Agianpe Ashang- Onyema; Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo; Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani; and Co-convener, Centre for Liberty, Ariyo-Dare Atoye.

The INEC chairman said the 5,100 SCRs programmed for use for the election were razed in the inferno that broke out on Thursday night, while investigation was ongoing to unravel the cause.

He said, “We received the sad news of last night’s fire incident involving the container housing the SCRs. Let me give you a little bit of statistics. We require 4,100 SCRs for the Ondo election and an additional 100 for training, so that the ad hoc staff are properly trained using the SCRs. So, we got 1,000 SCRs from our office in Osun State.

“We had 5,100 SCRs good to go for the Ondo election, but unfortunately, from the reports I am getting, we lost the 5,100 SCRs in that container. I am glad to say we have recovered from that and election in Ondo is going to go ahead. We have huge capacity in the neighbouring state to get additional SCRs.

“I had a discussion with the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Oyo State and we have 700 SCRs there, so getting 5,000 SCRs to support Ondo won’t be an issue at all. This is not a general election that is holding nationwide; it is an off-season election.

“We have recovered in Ondo, while investigation continues on the cause of the fire. The Ondo election will not be affected by what happened to the SCRs. The fire only affected the container housing the SCRs. It was the same container that was used in 2015, 2016 and 2019.

“So, it is not that we moved the SCRs to an unsafe place. But learning from what happened in Ondo, we are also taking measures to ensure that there is no repeat of this kind of incident in Edo State.”

Yakubu also gave assurance that the Edo State governorship election would still hold as scheduled, adding that the commission was ready for the poll.

He said, “Yes, in September 2016, the Edo governorship election, for reasons known to Nigerians, was postponed for two weeks, but it had nothing to do with the preparation of the commission.

“We know advice came for the postponement of the election. Is it going to happen again? Not as far as INEC preparations are concerned. We are ready and good to go. INEC is not contemplating postponement of the election.”

The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, represented by the Deputy IGP (Research and Documentation) in-charge of Edo election, Adeleye Oyebode, said police officers deployed for the election would be guided by the police code of conduct.

Oyebode said, “The IGP has advised the officers and men deployed for the special assignment to abide by the Nigerian Police Code of Conduct. The Nigerian Police Force has a well-articulated code of conduct to ensure that police officers do the needful during their assignment at the election duties.”

He stated that the police were ready to ensure a peaceful election and “nobody can stand in the way of this election.”

The Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese and member of the peace committee, Rev. Fr. Matthew Kukah, said the meeting was convened by Abubakar to encourage the various agencies, especially INEC, and to help inspire confidence.

Kukah added, “You have been adequately briefed on the level of preparedness. The rest is for us Nigerians to do the thing we do best, which is to pray and then we also hope that the people of Edo State will enjoy a very peaceful election. The rest, we leave in the hands of God.”

 

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