ALL over the world, it is the victors who write the history to favor themselves and also heap blames on the vanquished. Such history is usually a product of political manipulation laced with outright lies. This scenario is exactly what has played out in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State. It is therefore not surprising that the media accounts of the fracas which took place in the Rivers State House of Assembly on July 9, were based on the stories as told to them by the victors. No attempts were made, whatsoever, by the journalists who covered the legislative madness to balance their reports by also reflecting the views of the vanquished. In journalism profession, the dictum is that there are always two sides to a story. Hence, all the media reports on the fracas were incomplete because they were one-sided.
Anybody who was privileged to watch the video clips of that show of shame will readily say who the victors were. But what gave rise to the fracas? There were two versions of the story told from the victors’ point of view. The first version was that the group of five, otherwise known as the anti- Amaechi legislators, met as early as 8 o’clock in the morning of July 9, to effect a change in the leadership of the House. It is not very clear where that session held since the normal legislative session in the House holds from 10 A.M. It was also said that Evans Bipi, leader of the group of five, used the session to announce himself as the new speaker after the purported impeachment of Otelemaba Dan Amachree, hitherto, the speaker, and other 15 unnamed legislators. If that was what really happened, it is highly condemnable because such acts of impunity in the past had been set aside by competent courts.
The second version was that trouble started when Bipi and his group assaulted Chidi Lloyd, House majority leader, for attempting to block a session that was to impeach Amachree and subsequently, the governor. In the resultant confusion, Bipi and Michael Okey Chinda, a member of the group of five, allegedly held Lloyd and flogged him thoroughly. At this point, according to the story, Amachree tried to rescue Lloyd but Bipi and Chinda grabbed the tripod of a camera stand to hit Lloyd. But there were no video clips to confirm that. The questions that emanate from that story ever since are: How heavy is a tripod stand of a camera? Did the two of them jointly hold the tripod stand of the camera to hit Lloyd? Why is it that since that day, no camera man had complained that he lost his camera stand during the violence? Even though the cameras did not record that aspect of the story, Lloyd was later shown lying in a clinic bed heavily bandaged and put on drips as a result of the injuries he allegedly received from the beatings of Bipi and Chinda. Amachree, Martins Amahule and other members who also received various degrees of injuries were also said to have been treated in unnamed hospitals. The question that begs for an answer here is: Were they really injured as they claimed?
Rather, what the video clips showed was a furious Lloyd using the mace, the symbol of authority in the House, to mercilessly hit Chinda on the head and even pursuing him with a broken piece of the mace as the man attempted to run away from further beatings. This version of the victors’ story was manipulated to portray the vanquished as the aggressors. The purported injuries Lloyd, Amachree and others were said to have received from the group of five were feigned as cover-ups. It is regrettable that up till today, the vanquished group has not deemed it necessary tell its own story knowing full well that any falsehood that is not challenged tends to be accepted as the truth.
But going from what Emmanuel Okah, a former commissioner of information in the state, told Realnews, if Amaechi had not rushed to the House with his security details to energize his supporters , what had happened on July 9, would have ended as a non-event. It is disappointing that Amaechi, who is a lawyer and a former speaker, could jump to a rash conclusion that five out of 32 members of the House could have validly impeached him when there are already many judicial precedents for him to rely on to get back his job. It is also condemnable for Amaechi to have broken protocol by rushing to the House with his security details on hearing that Amachree had been removed as speaker and that he was the next on the line of impeachment. Opposition governors who are goading Amaechi to be an irritant member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, know that what he did was wrong but are hypocritically hailing him. If what Amaechi did was done by President Jonathan, they would have shouted hoarse in condemnation of his action and also accuse him of dictatorship.
All over the world, protocol demands that no head of the executive arm of government, whether president or governor, can bump into the legislature without first conveying his intention to do so and the purpose of such visit, to the head of the legislature in writing. The Senate President or the speaker, as the case may be, will read the letter from the Executive on the floor of the Chamber in order to get members’ approval through a resolution which would be communicated to the executive also in writing. Even when such approval is given for the Executive to come, he cannot be admitted into the legislative chamber direct unless a motion is duly passed to suspend the business rules of the Assembly before a visitor can be allowed in. Amaechi did not follow this procedure before he bumped into the Assembly that was said to be in plenary and disrupted its proceedings.
It is sickening that instead of blaming the governor for what he did, 10 opposition governors put the blame for the violence on the doorstep of Jonathan who did not start it. They attributed what happened on July 9, to be part of the president’s strategy to remove Amaechi by instigating violence in order to impose an emergency rule on the state. They warned President Jonathan to make sure nothing happens to Amaechi. But Okah told Realnews that it was Amaechi’s supporters who started the violence. He said prior to Amaechi’s unannounced arrival, the Assembly was properly constituted after it had formed a quorum with 23 out of 32 members in attendance. Although the name of the member who moved the impeachment motion was not given, the impression one got was that the supporters of Amachree who were in the Chamber raised no objection to the motion apparently because they were about to defect to the anti-Amaechi group but for the arrival of the governor just at the time Bipi got up to make his acceptance speech as the new speaker. Amaechi’s presence in the House energized them and the equation suddenly changed. It was at this point that Amaechi’s security details led by the aide- de- camp, ADC, started beating people suspected to be opposed to the governor.
Some pro- Amaechi supporters have made spirited efforts to defend his action arguing that it was a justifiable strategy to pre-empt his impeachment by his opponents which appeared inevitable. But it is surprising that a lawyer of Amaechi’s caliber could be thinking like a man who is not knowledgeable in law whereas the procedure for impeaching a governor or his deputy is clearly spelt out in section 188 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. Those governors who were removed from office in the past in a flawed process got back their jobs through the courts. Perhaps, Amaechi, who knows how to pursue his rights in court, thought differently this time and that probably explained why he immediately reached out to Aminu Tambuwal, speaker, House of Representatives to protect him and his job. The House goofed when it relied on Section 11(4) to hastily adopt a resolution on July 10, to take over the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly, that had sat immediately after the fracas to amend the 2013 budget submitted to it by the deputy governor before adjourning indefinitely. The only thing the Senate can do to save the face of the House is for it to refuse concurrence to the resolution and let it die naturally.
Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate exhibited some level of maturity by adopting a resolution that called on Mohammed Abubakar, inspector- general of police, to urgently investigate what led to the fracas while it also decided to send its own team to Port Harcourt, to carry out a similar assignment. But it appears that the Senate team was either in a hurry to complete its assignment and return to Abuja or was prevented from meeting certain stakeholders or groups who would have made suggestions on how to resolve the lingering political crisis. That was why some independent groups of stakeholders cried foul and complained bitterly that despite their spirited efforts to meet with the team, their overtures were ignored. If that allegation is true, then the team has failed in its mission. I believe it will be nearly impossible to bring peace to Rivers State if any fact-finding team does not go beyond the evidence of the combatants in seeking solutions to the crisis. Independent- minded people are in a better position to proffer genuine suggestions to what can bring a lasting peace in the state.
But from all indications, peace will continue to elude the state because of the rascality of the governor. Why should he set up a panel to investigate the cause of a violence he started instead of allowing the police and the Senate to do it? What sort of report does he expect to get from such a panel? The panel already knows the answer. What he probably wants it to do is to walk back to the question and write its report from the victor’s point of view to absolve him. The people of Rivers State do not deserve what they are getting now as a result of the clash of political ambitions of certain individuals. Let the fight of the elephants not bring avoidable sufferings to the grass.
Political and security situations in Mali and Guinea Bissau topped the agenda of the just-concluded ordinary session ECOWAS Summit in Abuja
ECOWAS leaders are to meet in Dakar, Senegal, in October in an extraordinary session to decide on three issues critical to the financial health of the region. The issues are the Common External Tariff CET, the Community Levy and the lingering Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, negotiations with the European Union, EU. This was the outcome of the just-ended 43rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in Abuja. Issues which dominated discussion at the session were the political and security situations in Mali and Guinea Bissau. The meeting touched on the three issues but deferred decisions on them until the Dakar summit, whose actual date would be communicated to Member States.
The CET is a precursor to a regional Customs Union, which is predicated on the harmonization and convergence of national fiscal, monetary and trade policies of Member States for the attainment of economic integration by the 15-nation economic community with a combined population of more than 300 million people.
At their March meeting in Praia, Cape Verde, regional ministers of finance had endorsed a new five-band tariff regime for West Africa, the subject of 10 years of internal negotiations driven by the technical committee of the Commissions of the ECOWAS and the eight member West African Economic and Monetary Union, UEMOA, following the 2006 decision by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government. Some 5899 tariff lines are covered under the new tariff regime with tariff ranging between zero and 35 per cent for the 130 tariff lines that fall into the category of specific goods that contribute to the promotion of the region’s economic development.
Under the new regime, five per cent duty is applicable for 2146 tariff lines under the basic raw materials and capital goods category, 10 per cent for the 1373 tariff lines that qualify as intermediate products category while 20 per cent duty is reserved for the 2165 tariff lines under final consumer products.
The ministers agreed that the concerns expressed by some Member States such as the treatment of raw sugar, and the request for special treatment for Cape Verde because of its location and vulnerabilities should be addressed within the framework of trade defence measures. They also agreed on the creation of a 1.5 per cent Community Integration Levy whose scope and operationalisation would be the subject of further regional reflection as part of the mechanisms to enable the region cope with the challenges of implementation of the new tariff regime.
The levy will replace the two existing community levy regimes in the region – the ECOWAS Community levy and the counterpart Community Solidarity levy for the UEMOA, the major sources of funding for the two Commissions. The replacement will also help to ensure uniformity in port charges in compliance with the requirements of the World Trade Organization, WTO. For the effective implementation of the new CET, the ministers had also urged the ECOWAS Commission to expedite the finalisation of the trade defence and other support measures.
The Dakar Extra-Ordinary summit to be attended by the council ministers, ministers of finance and trade, will take a decision after examining the pros- and cons on the CET arguments and also agree on measures to fast-track the negotiations on the EPA between ECOWAS and the EU. The negotiations which have been stalled mainly due to disagreements over the size of the West African market to be open to the EU and the timetable for dismantling the existing tariff, the EPA Development Programme, EPADP, funding to enable the region cope with the cost of adjustment to the EPA, the non-execution clause and the most favoured nation status.
While West Africa is requesting for the injection of nine billion US dollars in fresh funds into the EPADP, the EU is offering six billion EURO in funds already committed under the European Development Fund, EDF, as well as existing bilateral and other sources. West Africa, which includes ECOWAS member states and Mauritania, initially made a 60-per cent market offer over 25 years for the dismantling of the existing tax regimes against EU’s 80 per cent over 15 years. West Africa has now adjusted its position eventually to 75 per cent market offer but over same the transition period as a gesture of flexibility in the negotiations.
In preparation for the resumption of negotiations, the region had undertaken a series of analyses of the impact of an increased market offer on the economies of its member states based on three scenarios, particularly on customs revenue, external trade, real GDP growth, investments inflows and consumption of households. In order to mitigate the potential loss of revenue from the EPA based on these simulations, regional experts had called for the involvement of the private sector and the implementation of a tax reform programme.
The negotiations are being held to establish a World Trade Organisation, WTO, compliant trade regime that will guide trade relations between the EU and the 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific, ACP, countries for the next 25 years as a successor arrangement to the previous partnership Conventions. The Dakar summit will reach a decision on the way forward with the overall interest of the region at heart.
THE removal of immunity for the president and the state governors in the constitution amendment by the House of Representatives is generating a lot of controversy in the country. Some Nigerians believe that the House is on the right track, while others believe otherwise. Below are what Nigerians say on the issue.
Mercy Nnamani, Civil Servant: I thank the House of Representatives for the painstaking approach in amending the constitution but removing the immunity granted to the office of the president and the state governors is taking it too far. The lawmakers should make sure that the president and the governors are accountable for their actions when they leave office.
Christopher Okoro, Politician: Remove what, for over a year now, which bill has the National Assembly passed for the benefit of Nigerians? Students are at home now because of an indefinite strike by the Academic of Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, what are they doing about it? No bill on health sector, no bill on graduates that couldn’t get job. The problem we have in Nigeria is the people in the National Assembly, they are too selfish.
Basil Okagu, Public Servant: Removal of immunity clause for president and governors is very good for our democracy. But what about action plan for housing of Nigerians, prosecution of corrupt leaders and creation of economic hub in the six geopolitical zones. We have many pressing needs which the National Assembly should include in the constitution amendment rather than removing the immunity clause.
John Ani, Banker: There is no reason for us to give the president and state governors immunity. No one should be extended a special privilege for serving or not serving Nigeria. So, the immunity clause in the constitution should be removed at once and for good. Neither the president nor the governors should ever walk free if we are able to determine they committed crimes of corruption while serving Nigeria.
Stanley Nwalia, Teacher: The removal of the immunity clause will justify the authentication of the rule of law. But we have other needs. Nigerians need a change in governance, youths needs jobs and the living standard must be increase through economic empowerment not a deceiving programme just to improve suffering for a shorter period just for political promulgation.
Daniel Adibe, banker: I am in support of the removal of the immunity clause. The serving president and the governors should not be above the law. If they are found guilty of any criminal offense, the full wrath of the law should be applied. It will ensure that only a clean patriot rules the country. A law is law and nobody should be above the law.
Dora Nkem Akunyili, professor of pharmacy, former minister of information and communications, 59, July 14. Born in Makurdi, Benue State, she was educated at St. Patrick’s Primary School, Isuofia, Anambra State in 1966, Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, Nsukka, Enugu State, in 1973 and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1978. She was a senior lecturer and consultant pharmacologist in the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu Campus. Akunyili was a post doctorate fellow of the University of London and a fellow of the West African post-graduate college of pharmacists. She was trained on senior management skills’ course in London and also was enrolled for Computer Education Programme sponsored by the WHO/UNDP/World Bank in Enugu in 1998 and 1994 respectively. She served as director-general, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, from 2008-2010. She was a senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the 2011general elections.
Audu Innocent Ogbeh, former national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, 66, July 28. Born in Otukpo, Benue State, he was educated at Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, and the University of Toulouse, France. He was deputy speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, 1979-1982; minister of communications, 1982; minister of power and steel, 1983.
Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff, retired naval officer and traditional ruler of Twon-Brass, 71, July 30. Born in Twon-Brass, Nembe, Bayelsa State, he was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Western Cameroon and Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, England. He served as the military governor of old Rivers State from 1967-1975.
Ingram Adichie Osigwe, media relations consultant and company executive, 44, July 30. Born in Akokwa, Ideato North local government area of Imo State, he was educated at Abia State University, 1988-1992. He is the managing director, Full Page International Communications Limited.
Maxwell Chinaechetam Korie, clergy and bishop of Life Assembly, 52, July 26. Born in Olokoro, Umuahia, Abia State, he was educated at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State and Cornerstone University, Jerusalem, where he had his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a doctorate. Korie is a popular radio preacher in Regeneration Hour Broadcast, at Imo Broadcasting Corporation and Akwa Ibom State Radio Station.
Gold Chioma Amadiani, Nigeria film actress, 25, July 17. Born in Enugu, Enugu State, she was a student of federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State. Amadiani has featured in many movies including Royal Beast, the Great Hunter, Egg Seller, Money After Money, Nurses’ Club and Odogwu Na Umu Agara. She has also acted alongside great actors and actresses like Mercy Johnson, Keneth Okonkwo, Clem Ohameze and Mike Ezuronye.
SARAH Moten, a human rights activist and one of Africa’s greatest champions, who died on July 9 was buried on July 20. Sarah’s career in development spanned for more than four decades during which she served as chief, Africa` Bureau, office of Sustainable Development, Education Division, United States Agency for International Development, USAID.
She also served as director, Peace Corps in Africa; deputy assistant secretary for Refugee and Humanitarian Affairs and coordinator, Education Democracy Development Initiative, EDDI, for Africa, an inter-agency initiative under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Most recently, she served on the George W. Bush Institute, Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council.
Sarah will forever be remembered for her personal commitment to Africa’s development needs and a unique sensitivity to the educational needs of women and girls.
IMPUNITY! That’s one word that has become synonymous in the Nigerian political and security space. This is a country where politicians and security agents, albeit public officers take laws into their hands. Some of them behave so recklessly without thinking of the short and long term damage their acts of impunity have on the psyche of Nigerians albeit the entire world which is also watching. There have been cases where security agents unleash terror on their victims, public officials acting with impunity in siphoning pension funds while starving hapless pensioners to their early grave. Judges are also not immuned to acts of impunity in handing out uneven handed judgements that do not match the crime committed as witnessed in the recent trial of pension fraudsters who have stolen billions of money. But nowhere is the act of impunity more horrifying than in the fracas that took place in the Rivers State House of Assembly July 10.
On that day, the “dishonorable” members of the House took laws into their hands. Some of them aided by security aides of Governor Chibuike Amaechi, used dangerous weapons in an attempt to murder their colleagues. Nigerians were appalled when the news filtered in that five members of the House had impeached their speaker of the House. How can it be? Everyone asked because five cannot form a quorum. Initially, what was sold to the public was that the five legislators chased the majority away in the House and had their way. As more video clips of the pandemonium in the House became public, people were horrified at the murderous instincts of some of the legislators, especially that of Chidi Lloyd, the majority leader. Then right thinking Nigerians started asking more questions of what actually transpired in the House. It turned out that the minority were actually the ones the majority battered. But the key question has remained why was the news report terribly slanted? In all the allegations against the minority group why hasn’t anybody produced a video clip of where they attacked the faction of the House that belonged to the majority? Nonetheless, there has been various accounts as to what led to recent crisis and the genesis. Those in the group of 27 trace it to the court ruling which sacked the PDP executives in the state. They insist that only a reversal can solve the problem. The minority members also say that it started with the undemocratic sacking of the elected chairman of Obio-Akpor local government chairman and that only a reversal of the sack can save the day. Amidst the extreme positions of the disputing parties and the slanted news reports, Realnews editorial board has decided to present the facts of what really happened in the Rivers State House of Assembly and allow our dear readers to sift the truth from the trash. The cover story entitled: Rivers House of Commotion, was anchored by Olu Ojewale, general editor.
The crisis which rocked the Rivers State House of Assembly, Tuesday, July 9, is creating more bad blood. The truth is buried as supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Chibuike Amaechi continue to trade blames
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE dust created by the fracas in the Rivers State House of Assembly, on Tuesday, July 9, may take a while to settle. For most of the week, the state was the centre of attraction for political analysts and interested parties to have a say on the crisis. But instead of calming words, what dominated the media were claims which could further stoke the ember of discord already fermenting in the state.
While receiving the Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration investigating the crisis in the state on Thursday, July 11, Governor Chibuike Amaechi said Rivers State was now under siege. “Yesterday, they were shooting tear gas into Government House. When we were meeting with the deputy inspector-general, DIG, today, the police claimed that it was inadvertent, that they shot tear gas into Government House. So, I asked one question, supposing, it was live bullet and it hit me, they said, ‘No! governor was not outside,’ but I said, I was outside, you can check,” Amaechi said.
The governor also alleged that he was no longer safe because of the sudden withdrawal of soldiers and Amoured Personnel Carrier, APC, attached to Government House. He also said that commanders of security formations in the state had not met with him in the past two months on account of political pressures. “We are under siege here. For two months now, we have not met with security men. Security commanders in the state don’t come to me any longer. They are either scared or they don’t deliberately want to see me. They withdrew soldiers attached to me yesterday, (Wednesday, July 11) and this morning, they withdrew the APC attached to Government House,” the governor said.
Kabiru Gaya, a senator and chairman of the Senate Committee, said the committee was mandated by the Senate to find a solution to the problem in the state. “I will also say the state was under the situation of violence, and there were disturbances in Rivers State. Therefore, this committee was mandated by the Senate to come and investigate, and also invite other members, including stakeholders. After this courtesy visit, we have to discuss with you to know what happened from your side. We also need to talk with the Assembly members on both sides, including the Commissioner of Police, the DSS and the JTF. We have already asked the Commissioner of Police to meet us this evening and DSS,” Gaya said.
But contrary to the claim by the governor, the military said no governor has troops deployed to guard him. “Rather, in areas where Joint Task Forces are deployed due to peculiar security challenges, soldiers are deployed to ensure peace and security for the people of that state or environment and not to protect individuals. The only exception to that rule is the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, who is being protected by the elite Brigade of Guards,” the source said. Even Ibrahim Attahiru, a brigadier-general and director of Army public relations, said he was not aware that the military had ordered the withdrawal of soldiers from the state.
However, 11 governors in opposition political parties accused the federal government of using the crisis in Rivers State as a ploy to declare an emergency rule in the state. The opposition governors, who are members of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP; the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, said in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, July 11, that what was happening in Rivers State, was an assault on Nigeria’s democracy. The statement said in part: “The Progressive Governors’ Forum unequivocally condemns the ill-disguised attempt to create a state of emergency in Rivers State by plunging the state into a needless and avoidable crisis.”
The group alleged that available evidences on the crisis had shown that Joseph Mbu, commissioner of police in the state, exhibited clear bias against Amaechi and his supporters. “This is a dangerous development that would only produce anarchy with unpredictable consequences,” the statement said further.
That allegation was in tandem with that of Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State who said that Mbu had become the governor of the crisis-ridden state. Aliyu, while receiving Zubairu Dada, commissioner for Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, at the Government House, Minna, the state capital, on Thursday, July 11, said: “You saw what is happening in Rivers State? A commissioner of police has now become the Governor of Rivers State. Is that the image we want the world to look out to?” The governor, who is also the chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum, however, said: “There is too much money at the centre for the federal government to spend and that is why they are creating problems for the states.” Like the 11 governors in the opposition, Aliyu attributed Amaechi’s problem to his re-election as chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, May 24, this year.
Wole Soyinka, a professor of literature and Nobel Laureate, on his part, while also condemning the crisis, accused Patience Jonathan, wife of the president, of becoming a tool of destabilisation with a mission to shut down the apparatus of the state. Speaking with journalists in Lagos, Soyinka said it was regrettable that Patience was giving tacit support to those plotting against Amaechi. “Too much is too much. She is now being used to reduce the authority of an elected governor,” he said as he likened the situation in the state to an emergency.
“There is a certain way a leader can convey certain coded messages to his followers and they will be acting accordingly. That President Jonathan might not have openly declared support for what is going on, his comportment, his carriage and most especially, his silence might have indicated his meddlesomeness in the matter,” he said.
The ACN simply asked the National Assembly to impeach the president for the complicity in the crisis in Rivers State. In a statement issued by Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary, in Abuja, the party alleged that Jonathan had failed to live up to his oath of office to uphold the constitution of the country. “Under his watch, five lawmakers – out of 32 – have become the majority and, simply because they have the backing of the Presidency, are now being given police protection to disrupt the proceedings of the Assembly. As we write, Rivers State has been taken over by current and former militants, who have been unleashed to destabilise the state and cause a breakdown of law and order, to pave the way for the imposition of a state of emergency. ’This cannot and must not be allowed to continue, hence our call on the National Assembly to move quickly to remove the source of the crisis,” the party said.
However, the Presidency has called on opposition parties and those who believe that Jonathan was the unseen hand in the Rivers State brouhaha to discountenance the idea. Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, denied that the president had instigated the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly, saying as a president, he would never support any action that would negate his commitment to the rule of law. The statement said in part: “We are constrained to state once again that there is absolutely no factual basis for suggestions that some of the politicians involved in the current dispute are acting at the behest of the President.”
Ahmed Gulak, special adviser to the president on political matters, said Amaechi should learn to face his problem with the House Assembly without dragging the president into it. Doyin Okupe, senior special assistant to the president on public affairs, said Jonathan could not have engineered the crisis in Rivers State, because Amaechi was too small for him to fight. “The President has no hand in what is happening in the state. The President is not fighting Amaechi. He (the governor) is too small an entity for the President to fight. That (fight) has not happened; it cannot happen and it will not happen. What is going on in the state is the reaction of the people and maybe they are not happy because of his disposition to the president or the Presidency or his party (the Peoples Democratic Party),” Okupe said.
On the ACN’s call for the president’s impeachment, Okupe described it as “another condemnable, extremist and fundamentally flawed position by the opposition party.” Okupe added, “For the avoidance of doubt and at the risk of repetition, we wish to state categorically that in spite of what the ACN will want the Nigerian people to believe, President Jonathan is absolutely unconnected and definitely not involved in the political crisis that seemed to have engulfed Rivers State in recent times. The President is not, has not and will never engineer any act that can cause disaffection between Governor Amaechi or any other governor and the state legislature or any other institution of government.”
On its part, the PDP also condemned the ACN’s claim and asked lovers of democracy to discountenance it. Tony Okeke, the party’s acting national publicity secretary, said the ACN’s statement was “malicious and the height of political irresponsibility,” and accused the party of aggravating the situation for selfish reasons.
In the meantime, Mohammed Abubakar, inspector-general of Police, has inaugurated a high powered investigation panel headed by Philemon Leha, deputy inspector-general of Police in charge of Operations, to unravel what led to the melee in the state. Abubakar charged the panel to “scrupulously investigate all the circumstances surrounding the on-going impasse in the State particularly, as it relates to the actions and omissions of Police personnel that were physically on ground during the unfortunate fracas that occurred at the hallowed Chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly”.
Indeed, the police would need to be scrupulous to know what actually took place, why and finger the main actors in the crisis. Nigerians and, indeed, the world at large, would be interested in what transpired that led to what has now become a show of shame which happened on Tuesday, July 9, at the Rivers House of Assembly. Many versions of the story seem to be making the round while the whole truth is buried beneath the rubbles of the crisis itself. One version of the story says, trouble started when Evans Bipi, leader of the five members of the House of Assembly, opposed to the leadership of Otelemaba Dan Amachree, speaker of the House, assaulted Chidi Lloyd, leader of the House, for attempting to hold a session to impeach Amachree and subsequently, Governor Amaechi. In the pandemonium that ensued, Bipi and Michael Okey Chinda, one of his loyalists, allegedly held Lloyd and flogged him thoroughly.
At this point, Amachree was said to have moved to rescue Lloyd, but Bipi and Chinda allegedly grabbed the tripod of a camera stand to hit Lloyd on the head. Lloyd was later admitted in a hospital while Amachree, Martins Amahule and some others, sustained various degrees of injuries. Outside the assembly chambers, Augustine Ngo, representative of Abua/Odual constituency of the state, was allegedly punched to the ground two times, and had to be aided to his feet by aides. Police were said to have witnessed the fight within and outside the assembly chambers.
The five lawmakers were later chased out of the chambers as calm somewhat returned to the House. But before leaving, Bipi was said to have used his five-member session to announce the impeachment of Amachree and the suspension of 15 members of the Assembly. He did not give their names. Bipi was said to have also announced that he was the new speaker of the Assembly. Although, the Rivers State House of Assembly usually sits at 10 o’clock in the morning, the five lawmakers were said to have gathered at 8 am. The incident lasted for about 10 minutes.
When informed about the fight in House, Amaechi was said to have ordered the arrest of the five legislators but was ignored by the police. Mbu stated that when Amaechi informed him that he was going to the House of Assembly because some law makers had informed him that they were not safe, he asked one Braide, a chief superintendent of police and the commander of Mobile police 19, to send half a unit of his men to the House. He said he later dispatched a deputy commissioner of police in-charge-of operations and later an assistant commissioner of police in-charge-of operations to the House. But the police were said to have watched the physical show of power without any intervention or arrests.
Mbu has been having a running battle with Amaechi who has accused him of taking sides in the political crisis. Amaechi also accused Mbu of neglecting his duty of protecting life and property and only doing the bidding of President Jonathan, who is believed to be supporting Nyesom Wike, minister of state for education, in the battle to wrestle power from the governor.
But another version of the story was given to Realnews by Emmanuel Okah, former commissioner for information of Rivers State. He alleged that the whole crisis was caused by supporters of Governor Amaechi. He said prior to the violence, the Assembly had formed a quorum where Amachree was impeached and removed as speaker. He claimed that some members of the House who were loyal to the speaker did not put up any resistance when the impeachment move was made. He did not disclose the person who moved the motion for the impeachment.
“Unknown to the speaker, some of his supporters reneged on him and defeated a move that was reminiscent of what happened at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum chairmanship election where some governors reneged on Jonah Jang and voted for Amaechi,” Okah said. When the news of the removal got to the governor, Amaechi was said to have quickly called the police that he was going to the House. On getting there, some of his supporters in the Assembly were said to have felt energised and aided by Amaechi, unleashed violence on those who were opposed to the governor and Amachree. It was then Lloyd, the majority leader, picked up the mace where it lay and used it to hit one of the opponents repeatedly.
“Amaechi ran to the House because he was afraid that he would be impeached. It is also the same reason that made him to reach out to Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, to cajole the House to take over the affairs of the Rivers State House of Assembly,” Okah said.
The former information commissioner said there was no need for the violence, and that if the members who were supposed to be in the majority were not pleased with the new speaker, all they needed to do was to hold another meeting and remove Bipi as speaker. Besides, he said, they could also use the instrument of the court to remove the new speaker.
Sam Nwanosike, assistant publicity secretary, PDP, Rivers State, said that 23 members sat when the motion to remove the speaker was raised. He said that a motion for the vote of no confidence was passed on Amachree and he stepped down for a protem speaker to preside over the session that elected the new speaker. He said that it was at the point of giving his acceptance speech that, three members of the Assembly ran out and informed the governor who came to the Assembly with his security personnel to unleash violence on the members.
But Victoria Nyeche, a member and one those who ran out, said that she was not part of any impeachment process. She said that the problem started on April 15, with the ruling of the court sacking the state PDP executive and the solution would be the reversal of that court ruling. She said that members were able to sit after the violence because of the security of the deputy governor which protected members of the Assembly from attacks. “The inspector-general of police has already set up a committee led by a deputy inspector general of police who visited the member of the assembly who is now comatose in the hospital. The member was beaten black and blue by Chidi Lloyd, an angry leader, who hit him several times with a mace,” Nyeche said.
Indeed, after the whole brouhaha, the 27 members loyal to the governor were said to have sat to amend the state’s 2013 appropriation bill. Tele Ikuru, deputy governor, was ushered into the Assembly chambers at 11:42 am to present amendments on behalf of Amaechi. The proceeding lasted until 11:51 am when Ikuru left the main chambers. Shortly after he left, the House was adjourned sine die meaning, indefinitely, at 12:01 pm.
The curious thing about the sitting of the 27 pro-Amaechi legislators shortly after the conflict is that whether their decision has any stamp of authority since it was captured on video where Lloyd broke the mace on someone’s head. So, the poser here is: What was the symbol of the authority used by the House since the mace had been broken during the conflict? Lawyers have said no legislation is recognised without the mace which serves as the mark of authority.
Another poser is: Why should the governor go to the House of Assembly without first writing to inform the members of his intended visit? Political analysts t insist that what Amaechi did was wrong and against protocol for him to rush to the Assembly without any written communication to and from the Legislature. They argue that Amaechi’s unexpected presence at the House sparked the violence.
Meanwhile, members of the Assembly loyal to Amaechi have described as false, the allegation that Amachree had been impeached and removed as speaker. A statement by 26 out of the 32 members of the Assembly on Wednesday, July 10, said: “We state for the benefit of the public that no such situation existed on the floor of the Assembly on July 9, 2013. These are mere machinations of the five members desperate to do their masters’ bidding. The purported claim by a member of the Assembly, Bipi, to be the new speaker of the state Assembly is false and a hallucination of the most debased form. We urge members of the public and the press to disregard such claims.”
To restore sanity to the Assembly, the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, July 10, endorsed a resolution to take over the functions of the crisis-ridden Rivers State House of Assembly. At its plenary presided over by Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker, members said that the crisis in the Assembly had led to a breakdown of law and order, making it impossible for members of the Assembly to perform its legislative duties.
The decision of the House was followed by a motion raised by Albert Sam-Tsokwa, Taraba State, who cited Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution in presenting his motion. The section states: “At any time when any House of Assembly of a state is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in the state, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that state with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the state.” However, the resolution requires the concurrence of the Senate to have the force of law.
But it looked as if the House of Representatives was too hasty because section 11 subsection 5, says that: For the purpose of subsection (4) of this section, a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions so long as the House of Assembly can hold a meeting or transact business.
It was obvious that the House of Representatives did not take into account that the Rivers State House of Assembly met after the conflict that same day to pass an amendment to the 2013 budget of the state. In any case, it was not the first time that the National Assembly would take over the state assembly functions, it once happened in Ogun State. The law, however, requires the concurrence of the Senate before it can be implemented.
Also irked by the situation in the state, the Senate had a tension-soaked session, with consultations and criss-crossing among the opposition and ruling parties. At the end, the ayes had 50 votes as against 47 for the nays to resolve that the Senate could only urge the IGP “to take immediate steps to address the issue of the broken relationship between Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Commissioner of Police, CP, Joseph Mbu,” and not outright redeployment of Mbu as being canvassed by some senators. It also resolved to get the IG to investigate what transpired in the state Assembly, while it also decided to send its own team to do a similar investigation and find a lasting solution to the crisis.
In the past several weeks, Amaechi and Mbu have been involved in a war words. Amaechi has been asking for police permit to lead his supporters to the streets in a peaceful protest in the state, but Mbu would not grant the request. However, a good number of Nigerians are not pleased with what has come to be known as a show of shame in the Rivers House of Assembly. One Michael Eseigbe said he observed that one of the lawmakers was shouting “Arrow Mates,” must have belonged to the “Supreme Viking Confraternity,” a cult group. According to him, the chant he screamed was the language used by the cult group. “This is why we will never achieve anything in this country when power has been given to cultists who terrorised their mates back in school and have now brought that wayward life to bear on our socio-political sphere. What a travesty!’’ Eseigbe said.
Another fellow who simply gave his name as Mayaki, enjoined the Nigerian youths to come out enmasse to contest elective positions to bring about change in the nation’s polity. “Why we leave our future in the hands of these hooligans is beyond me. Seventy per cent of this country’s population is under 35 (67 per cent under 25)! We are not too young to claim control of our destiny, after all, we cannot claim that the wisdom and maturity that comes with old age makes our politicians deserving of their positions,” he said.
All efforts to get reactions of Ibim Seminitari, commissioner for information, Rivers State, proved abortive. Even though she had initially agreed to speak with our reporter to also forward materials on the matter to his e-mail address, she reneged on her promise and also refused to pick his calls. Be that as it may, it is obvious that no matter how anyone may wish to use propaganda to cover the truth, it will always come out. But let us hope that those in the authority will not be carried away that they will deceive the people forever. The truth always have a way of coming out, it will not be different in this case. I hope.
After managing to cope with challenges of insecurity and political instability in member states in the last 38 years, ECOWAS is now set to focus on economic integration and development
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE popular saying that maturity comes with age and experience applies to the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which is proving itself an adept at confronting the unending security challenges in a politically restive and culturally diverse region that is also in dire need of rapid economic development. Calibrating the delivery on this daunting mandate has not been easy. But even as the organization prepares for its landmark 40th anniversary in 2015, its total commitment to the overarching agenda of economic integration has never been in doubt.
This much was reflected in the message of Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo, President of ECOWAS Commission in his latest annual report for 2012. In the report, Ouedraogo said emphatically that the Commission plans to focus more on economic development agenda, its primary mandate, and move away from its preoccupation of the last decade or so when it had to respond to the dynamics of the region’s political crises. To this end, he outlined the major thrust of work to be done into four key areas. These are consolidation of peace, security, democracy and human rights, acceleration of regional integration in all areas of economic and social life; promotion of economic prosperity by establishing a viable regional environment that enhances investment and entrepreneurship; and building of relationships and mutually beneficial partnerships with all other parts of Africa and the world to address the challenges of globalization.
“To support actions to be undertaken within the context of these four priority areas, our community needs strong and efficient institutions led by qualified and dedicated people. Hence, there is a need for further institutional reforms to involve all stakeholders in the integration and development efforts,” the president affirmed.
In a world where individual or national interests seem to prevail over any other form of interest and where desperation seems to take over hope, the President said that it is their duty as leaders of institutions in the community to work toward strengthening a sense of belonging and solidarity between the people of our community. The West African people aspire to live in a peaceful, stable and democratic region, free of the scourges of poverty, ignorance and disease; in other words, a region of prosperity. ECOWAS Institutions are, therefore, considered by member states as appropriate instruments for meeting the expectations and hopes of the people of West Africa.
In line with its agenda of transforming from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of People under its Vision 2020, the Commission is on the home run towards meeting the economic expectations and aspirations of the community citizens as can be seen from the latest annual report. The year 2012 confirmed the renewed dynamism experienced by the West African economy with a growth rate of 6.4 percent compared to 5.9 percent in 2011. This remarkable increase is mainly attributable to the discovery of oil and solid mineral resources in some ECOWAS member states. Thus, the region has the potential of being financially-resourced to address the challenges hampering its economic and social development.
Closely linked to economic development is the determination to improve trade, mainly intra community trade which is struggling to achieve its potentials. With the level of such trade ECOWAS has embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at improving and growing the volume of intra-community trade. Among the measures is the annual ECOWAS Trade Fair, the installation of a Business Information System, Ecobiz, at trade events organized in member states, formulation of the ECOWAS Common Trade Policy and the establishment of ECOWAS Regional Competition Authority, RCA, to share regional, national and international experiences.
Trade negotiations remain a knotty issue but the ECOWAS leadership has revived the Economic Partnership Negotiations (EPA) with the EU to reconcile both parties’ positions. Differences are mainly related to the opening of the West African market to European products and the financing of the development dimension of the EPA.
ECOWAS and the West African Monetary and Economic Union, UEMOA, Commissions are working assiduously for a consensus agreement that protects the region’s best interests, especially its young industries from developed countries’ imports and at the same time in line with the ECOWAS Common External Tariff, CET, objectives.
In addition, the ECOWAS Policy Framework for Private Sector Development and Enterprise Promotion has been drafted and consultative meetings have also been held with experts from the region, while the Commission continues to promote cross-border trade relations by seeking to de-emphasize the colonial legacy of artificial borders among border communities that for years divided a people with the same heritage.
Development in telecommunication has been more robust. The terrestrial inter-states fibre optic connections have been completed to link four countries Burkina Faso-Niger, Burkina Faso-Ghana, and Ghana-Togo. All the coastal member states except Guinea Bissau have been connected to submarine cables with at least one new landing station. With the new terrestrial connections and landing station, the three landlocked countries (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) now have at least two routes for access to the submarine cables thereby securing their access to submarine cables.
Energy too is receiving special attention under the “Sustainable Energy for All by 2030” initiative which has three key objectives – universal access to modern energy services; doubling the overall energy efficiency improvement rate and doubling the region’s share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Going further, the first forum on regional gas market, which held in Accra, was organised by the World Bank, in conjunction with the ECOWAS Commission, the West African Gas Pipeline Company, and the West African Gas Pipeline Authority, WAGPA. This meeting brought together stakeholders in the gas sector to discuss the problems and prospects of the pipeline, particularly gas supply and possible extension of the pipeline.
With the 2012 report under the theme: “Political Stability and Economic Integration in West Africa,” ECOWAS seeks to remove the potential barriers to the community’s integration process, often caused by frequent crises in the region. In this regard, according to Ouedraogo, “we would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the concerted efforts of our Authorities for actions taken to resolve these conflicts. Undoubtedly, efforts made by ECOWAS have contributed to addressing the security and political crises and in promoting a free and crisis-free political space in our member states.”
One recent example of the resolution of the crisis in the region is in Mali where ECOWAS collaborated with the international community and other partners to end the crisis there. This has paved the way for the transformation of the African-led International Support Mission into the UN led mission on July 1. With this, the stage is now set for elections in Mali, July 28, to prepare the ground for ECOWAS support to the country’s economic recovery and regional integration. The Mali example further proves ECOWAS’ commitment to productive collaboration and cooperation with development partners to realise the objectives of its conflict prevention initiatives. Thus, the organization has called for strong support for the operationalisation of its conflict prevention framework, as a major tool for addressing the proximate and structural causes of violent conflicts and the promotion of human security and peace building in the region.
The framework adopted in 2008, “is a product of a critical analysis of multifarious perspectives of conflict dynamics in the region, consistent cross-cutting of ideas and wide-ranging consultations among experts, academics, practitioners, civil society and governmental actors within ECOWAS member states,” according to Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, ECOWAS commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security. Suleiman reaffirmed ECOWAS’ commitment at a retreat organised for focal persons on Natural Resource Governance and Enabling Mechanism Components of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework, ECPF, in Lagos.
That notwithstanding, ECOWAS, over the years, has recorded achievements in acting as a catalyst for infrastructural development in the region, including the planned construction of a highway from Lagos to Abidjan. The Abidjan-Lagos corridor covers a total distance of 1,028 kilometres and the conduit for more than 75 per cent intra-community trade. The corridor connects Lagos, Accra, Cotonou, Lome and Abidjan, considered among the largest and economically most dynamic cities in Africa. It will also provide vital links to vibrant sea ports for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – the three landlocked countries in the region.
Motivated by a desire to tap into private financing to plug the infrastructure deficit in the region, the Community is trying to mobilise private sector support behind this initiative. Recently ECOWAS and General Electric agreed to explore “areas of collaboration in the development of the energy and infrastructure of the region to boost regional trade and integration.” The existing programmes and activities of the Cape Verde-based ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, ECREE, and other non-carbon-based energy projects including hydro and solar could serve as the entry point for this collaboration.
For effectiveness, regional infrastructure development should align with those of the continental objectives and projects. To this end, ECOWAS ministers and experts from the infrastructure sector recently met in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, to discuss the objectives of PIDA, (Progamme for Infrastructure Development in Africa), and how it aligns with the continental strategic programming as well as sensitise member states on West Africa’s component of the PIDA Priority Action Plan, PIDA-PAP. The meeting also examined regional development plans to help drive the domestication of PIDA projects in national plans and budgetary provisions.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS and its development partners have reached an agreement on a three-tier mechanism for coordinating their joint activities for greater effectiveness. Under the agreement reached at the end of the ninth annual ECOWAS-Development Partners’ coordination conference which ended on April 10 in Abuja, both parties agreed to institute thematic group meetings at the initial level of the operation to be followed at the intermediate level by bi-annual meetings while the third and strategic level will be done through annual coordination meetings.
ECOWAS is equally working to find a lasting solution to the thorny issue of youth unemployment in the region. It convened a workshop recently on youth employment in the region, where participants called on member states to operationalise their plans where they exist and undertake a study on the phenomenon of jobless growth in the region. The participants also urged ECOWAS member states to establish a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of their National Youth Employment Plans in responding to the youth employment challenges facing the region.
Another area of concern in the region is the girl-child and education of vulnerable groups. A document to be used for advocacy, sensitisation and resource mobilisation on this subject was developed at a regional meeting of education experts in Banjul, The Gambia on April 19. The document will be used within the framework of Millennium Development Goals, MDG, and Education for All, EFA, goals and the African Union plan of action for the second decade of education 2006-2015.
The Banjul meeting was convened under the auspices of the ECOWAS Girls’ education programme, which is part of ECOWAS’ efforts to promote universal access to quality education and training opportunities as well as harmonise admission criteria into educational and training institutes in member states. The ECOWAS Girls’ education programme is designed to strengthen the operational capacities of national structures for the promotion of girls’ education by improving access, retention and completion. The Banjul forum also proposed a mechanism for enhancing the inclusion of children, who account for more than half of the population of school age children, into formal education for the timely realisation of EFA and the MDG goals.
ECOWAS is also working to improve its ability to rehabilitate displaced people from crisis-torn member countries. Marion Sawyer, a Liberian refugee and beneficiary of the ECOWAS rehabilitation programme, testified to this when she campaigned for the sustainability of the Support for ECOWAS Peace and Development Project, PADEP, being implemented by ECOWAS, in collaboration with the African Development Bank, AfDB. The US$15-million project funded by AfDB, which ended in June, has provided humanitarian support to thousands of displaced persons in four post-conflict countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. Two of PADEP’s three pillars support the ECOWAS Volunteer Programme and the development of the reference manual on the culture of peace.
There has also been a positive movement in agricultural development under the ECOWAS Agricultural Polic, ECOWAP, adopted in 2005 as an instrument for the coordination of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme CAADP, the agricultural component of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD. This policy has a vision for “a modern and sustainable agriculture, based on the effectiveness and efficiency of family farms and the promotion of agricultural enterprises through the involvement of the private sector.” It seeks to promote productivity and competitiveness in the intra-Community and International markets, to ensure food security and remunerative incomes to workers. ECOWAS/CAADP implementation is based on the implementation of various investment programmes at the national and regional levels.
ECOWAS interventions in animal health have also led to disease identification and the need to prepare two regional reference documents on harmonised laboratory procedures and harmonisation of disease monitoring systems within the region. The goal is to appraise accreditation agencies for veterinary medicines in seven countries which will lead to the establishment of the Regional Veterinary Medicine Committee for the entire region. In the fisheries sector, the Regional Committee on Coherence in Fisheries Policy in West Africa has been established following discussions with national and regional partners.
The ECOWAS Malaria Elimination Campaign through the strengthening of the vector control intervention strategy is also proving a global benchmark in the war against the scourge that costs Africa more than US$ 12 billion annually and kills more people than all the wars put together in the continent.
The anti-malaria war is being prosecuted through strong international collaboration and partnership including a Tripartite Agreement between ECOWAS, Cuba and Venezuela, with the two south American countries providing financial and technological support for the construction of three factories in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Port Harcourt, Nigeria, for the production biolarvicides, a safe drug against malaria vectors – mosquitoes. The foundation stone for the factories have already been laid in Cote d’Ivoire and Port Harcourt with Ghana next in line, as ECOWAS and partners move to free the region from the scourge of malaria.
Despite these achievements recorded by ECOWAS, the community still faces enormous political and socio-economic challenges. But as Ouedraogo put it: “We shall, as a matter of duty to our Community, continue to work relentlessly to promote the culture of democracy in our community. People deserve respect for their Constitution and the right to choose their leaders freely. In this regard, we wish to reaffirm ECOWAS’ strong commitment to the Protocol on the Mechanism for Conflicts Prevention and Resolution and the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
“We are confident that all these efforts will prove fruitful in order to allow our Community to focus on the implementation of economic programmes and build a prosperous region. While political instability has the potential to hamper economic development and wealth creation, it is equally true that poverty and unemployment are fertile grounds for insecurity and instability. Hence, we are determined to continue to promote and accelerate the establishment of a conducive environment for economic development through the regional integration process.
“It is my wish also to acknowledge the outstanding contributions made by all management and other staff of all ECOWAS institutions to the success achieved over the years in fostering regional integration and economic development. I wish to encourage them, within the framework of collegiality principle, to pursue with rigour and honesty the noble ideals of the founders of our Community,” he said.
As ECOWAS moves inexorably towards its 40th anniversary, these achievements and challenges will continue to provide a portent reminder of the benefits of cohesion and the prospects as the region continues its relentless march to a future where the citizens are empowered to harness its resources for their development and welfare.
Bus passengers in Lagos groan as drivers resort to arbitrary increases in fares on rainy days
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
BUS drivers in Lagos have an uncanny way of exploiting passengers on rainy days or during traffic hold up. Last week’s rainfall in Lagos gave an indication of what Lagosians should expect in days, weeks and months going by the significant increase witnessed in the cost of transportation in some parts of the state. For instance, the fare from Iyana Ipaja to Oshodi which was formerly N100 went up to N200, from Iyana Iba to Ikeja, the fare was N300 instead of N250, while passengers paid between N150 and N200 to Ikeja from Egbeda as against N100. The situation was the same on other major routes in the state.
Narrating his ordeal to Realnews, Promise Jude, a public servant, described the sudden increase in bus fare as an unexpected tax. He said that the decision to hike the fares did not go down well with many of them who work in the Lagos Island. He blamed the situation on the poor state of the roads, a situation which, he said, was exacerbated by the rains. “Many people could not go to their respective places of work in their personal vehicles and the commercial bus drivers decided to take advantage of this development to hike their fares,” he said.
Jude also said that the state government should repair the bad roads before the rains commence fully in order to put an end to indiscriminate increase of fares by commercial bus operators. A journalist, who lives in Algbado area of Lagos, said that he paid N500 from Ikeja to Algbado last week, because of the rain, a journey that costs only N200.
Kingsley Azubuike, a businessman at Balogun market, said that the rainy season has worsened the deplorable state of Badagry expressway. According to him, he pays N200 everyday from Okokomaiko to Balogun market, a journey that normally costs N70. “Since the rain started, I spend hours on the road to get to my destination. For now, we are paying between N150 and N200 to Balogun market every day. My problem is not what I spend but throughout last week, I trekked from Okokomaiko to the market because of bad road and the rain,” he said.
Ike Moeme, a commuter, said he paid N150 for a ride from Jibowu to Costain, instead of the usual N100. “I also paid N200 from Iyana Ipaja to Jibowu this morning, instead of the normal N150, and N150 from Jibbowu to Costain instead of N100. I appeal to the state government to repair the roads before rain gets heavier,” he said.
Uzorchi, a commercial driver, said that fares normally fluctuate from time to time because of heavy traffic and bad roads in some parts of Lagos. He also admitted that during the rainy season, many commercial drivers make more money than usual. “You can’t really put the whole blame on us if we increase fares after a downpour, often it is as a result of the state of the roads which often become highly unmotorable even after a little shower. If there is good road network the fee will be cheaper,” he said.
THE 2013 Economic Report of Africa jointly produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and African Union Commission identify commodity-based industrialisation as the engine that can propel economic growth in Africa
Commodity-based industrialisation is an engine of growth for Africa, according to the 2013 Economic Report of Africa. The report jointly produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, and the African Union Commission, AUC, in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, CSEA, was launched in Abuja, July 11.
This year’s report focuses on taking advantage of Africa’s commodities to industrialise the continent in a bid to produce growth, jobs and economic transformation. The document “argues that African countries have a real opportunity, individually and collectively, to promote economic transformation and to address poverty, inequality and youth unemployment.”
“The report is based on nine studies of African countries, which have helped to generate evidence-based policy recommendations. The policy framework offered underscores, inter alia, the importance of designing and implementing effective development plans and industrial strategies to address constraints and tap opportunities that will trigger value addition and commodity-based industrialization,” a statement by UNECA said.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, delivered the keynote address at the public presentation in Nigeria. Okonjo-Iweala’s address gave a policymaker’s perspective to the question of whether Africa can leverage on primary commodities to industrialise. Emmanuel Nnadozie, director, Macroeconomic Policy Division of UNECA, assisted Okonjo-Iweala to do the presentation.
Chidi Uwazurike, chairman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Petroleum and the Niger Delta, led discussions at the event. Other speakers include Akpan Ekpo, a professor and director-general of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management, WAIFEM, Frank Nweke, chief executive officer of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, and Adekunle Oyinloye, chief executive officer of Infrastructure Bank Plc.
Orange Money International Transfer extends its services to Mali, Senegal and Cote d’ Ivoire
ORANGE, one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators with sales of 43.5 billion euros in 2012, is launching a quick and easy international money transfer service at a competitive price. Called “Orange Money International Transfer”, the new outlet will be available in Mali, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. Every year, 200 million euros are moved between those three countries in the form of money transfers. With the new service, Orange will meet the needs of the growing number of Orange Money customers.
Orange Money International Transfer allows money to be sent and received from one’s mobile phone with complete security. Users no longer need to have cash with them when they travel, and sending cash doesn’t have to be done by a third party. For example, a customer in Cote d’Ivoire can send money directly to friends and family or to suppliers in Mali or Senegal with their Orange Money account. All the sender needs to do is to dial #144# from his or her mobile phone, then enter the Orange telephone number of the recipient and the amount to be sent. The money is immediately available in the recipient’s account to make payments, purchases or transfers, or it can be withdrawn at a nearby location from any Orange Money distributor. If the recipient is not yet an Orange Money customer, he or she can easily open an account free of charge.
“In launching Orange Money International Transfer today, several months of work to simplify life for our customers come to fruition. We are proud to be the first operator to offer customers the ability to make international money transfers between mobile phones in this area of Western Africa,” says Thierry Millet, director of the strategic and payment program at Orange.
Orange’s goal is to expand this first-of-a-kind service in Africa to other countries in which the group is present. Available in 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East, Orange Money has more than 7 million customers to date.
President Goodluck Jonathan reverses an age-old tradition in which presidential state visits were dominated by politicians; visited China with doyens of the private sector
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
UNLIKE in the past when politicians dominated the entourage of the president during state visits, President Goodluck Jonathan’s state visit to China, from July 11 to 12, was a different kettle of fish. Jonathan, who was accompanied in the visit by ministers in-charge of key ministries and doyens of the private sector, signed bilateral agreements with his Chinese counterpart.
This change demonstrates the president’s commitment to leveraging the private sector to drive both development and trade and investment links between China and Africa. Some of the business leaders in Jonathan’s entourage were Tony Elumelu, managing director of Heirs Holding, Femi Otedola, chief executive officer, Africa Petroleum, Oba Otudeko, chairman of Honeywell Plc, and Folorunso Alakija, chairperson, Rose of Sharon Group.
Jonathan, along with the business leaders met with China’s President Xi Jinping. At the investment forum, which attracted more than 700 potential investors, their Nigerian counterparts and several governors as well as the ministers for trade and investment, aviation and power, President Jonathan said: “Nigeria today is like China 20 years ago – it is entering into a high growth phase. The economy is suitable for private sector involvement; we offer the best incentives and we have put the right structures in place to reduce the cost of entry into Nigeria. All of this is to encourage private sector participation in Nigeria.”
Elumelu, who spoke on the occasion said: “The China-Africa relationship has historically been characterised by government-to-government engagement. However, Nigeria’s leadership – and increasingly that of a number of African countries – is embracing an Africapitalist approach where the private sector is leading transformative growth. China’s presence in Africa is important, but we would like that involvement to be more inclusive of the private sector to ensure a sustainable development path for the continent.”
According to him, “Globally, there is powerful evidence that the private sector is critical in driving a country’s economic growth and China is recognising that locally. We hope President Jonathan’s state visit will mark the start of a private sector-driven approach to China-Africa bilateral relations. The onus is now on us as African business leaders to ensure that future engagements will call for, and unlock opportunities for the private sector.”
Elumelu’s call came in the wake of the Chinese government’s drive to minimise its role in its own economy and reform state owned enterprises, SOE, which are still dominant. However, private sector companies are increasingly contributing to China’s overall GDP growth and the Chinese government is creating policies that will allow them to flourish.
During the visit, Elumelu met with leading Chinese investors and business people to raise awareness of the numerous strategic projects under development in Nigeria and the opportunities for investment that they present. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, trade between China and Nigeria reached nearly $18 billion in 2010, almost ten times more than just a decade ago.
Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has concluded plans to penalise any telecommunications operator that failed to disconnect unregistered SIM cards from its network by July 1. Reuben Muoka, assistant director, NCC, said any operator found wanting would have to pay a fine of N200, 000 per SIM card. “For a SIM card that an operator refuses to disconnect after the June 30 deadline, the operator will pay N200, 000,” he said
He said that the penalty would be similar to that which the operators deemed to be frustrating porting processes under the Mobile Number Portability scheme would pay on every frustrated line because the NCC has also pegged the penalty for MNP abuses at N200, 000 per line. “The penalty is like that of number portability where operators are required to pay N200,000 as fine for not allowing a subscriber that wants to port to do so.”
Few days after the expiration of the SIM cards registration deadline, there are still indications that some telecoms operators have yet to disconnect unregistered SIM cards on their networks. Some that claimed to have disconnected unregistered SIM cards, it was learnt, only partially implemented the NCC directive by disconnecting a few SIM cards.
Ubale Maska, director, compliance monitoring and enforcement, NCC, in a recent letter to telecoms operators, cautioned them to either commence deactivation of unregistered SIMs on their networks, or face heavy sanction. “Please note that the commission has commenced compliance monitoring and if unregistered SIM cards are found to be active on your networks, the commission shall invoke its powers under regulation 19 and 20 of the Registration of Subscribers Regulations, 2011 and impose the maximum fine on your companies without further recourse to any network,” he said.
In a bid to ensure that the directive was strictly adhered to, the NCC also directed operators to forward to the commission a summary of the registered and active lines on their networks as at June 30. The Commission also demanded that operators forward to it details of unregistered and deactivated lines as of June 30, in line with Section 15(2) of the Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations, 2011.
$500 Million Loan Deal Sealed
THE federal government has finally signed a $500m loan agreement with China for the construction of four international airport terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano. The loan, which was one of the many agreements and Memoranda of Understanding signed by both countries, was approved in Beijing on July 10, as President Goodluck Jonathan formally commenced a two-day state visit to China.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance, said the federal government was elated that the loan deal for the financing of the terminals had finally been sealed. She said that airports are the gateways to the country and critical not only as drivers of socio-economic development, but also as an outward reflection of the character of any nation.
She added that developing airport and aviation infrastructure was a major priority of the Federal Government, and commended the leadership of Jonathan for pulling off such a remarkable milestone with the Chinese authorities. “The simultaneous construction of four international airports will create employment and other value chains that will help to grow and expand the frontiers of the Nigerian economy,” she said.
A statement signed by Joe Obi, special adviser on media to the minister of aviation, said the commencement of construction work on the terminals had been on hold pending the formal signing of the loan deal, which will be provided by China EXIM Bank. He said the dream of the present administration to bequeath befitting international airports to the country would now be realised with the signing of the agreement.
“I am extremely delighted with this development today. Now, real work can start as we had been eagerly waiting for this day. “We promised to give the nation international airports befitting the stature and standing of Nigeria as the giant of Africa, and today’s ceremony is a significant milestone towards the achievement of this objective,” he said.
Taofiq Tijani, Lagos State commissioner for energy and mineral resources outlines the positive impact oil discovery will have on the state’s economy
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
LAGOS state is a step away from becoming a member of the league of oil producers in the country. This follows the discovery of oil offshore by Afren Plc and Lekoil limited which have concluded plans to commence exploitation of the oil. Other firms that would also be involved in oil exploration include Folawiyo Nigeria Limited, Sunlink Limited, Korea, National Oil Corporation, Marine Oil and Gas, Crownwell and British Oil and Gas. These firms have been issued the Oil Prospecting Licences, OPL, by the federal government.
Taofiq Tijani, commissioner for energy and mineral resources, said the state government and the people of Lagos State were optimistic of the economic boom that the oil discovery would bring to the nation and the state in particular. “We at the ministry of energy and mineral resources have done our work on oil and gas within our state. We know about a company, Agip group, owned by Folawiyo, which drilled and found oil seven years ago but is yet to commence operation. They are yet to drill the oil they found. We are also aware of this new discovery. We know about that oil block owned by AML Group of companies. We know they have been building that block many years back. We were aware when they found the oil and they contacted us so that we can work in partnership to develop that block. So, we are in touch with them. We know about another block 44 3311, owned by Sunlink. We have also been interacting with all the professional groups, geologists, geo-physicists, petroleum engineers and stakeholders to know about the kind of resources that have been found within our off-shore, onshore Lagos,” he said.
According to him, the government is not surprised that oil was discovered in the state. “We have been told all along that off shore Lagos is also a potential oil producing area like Niger Delta if they do enough exploration and exploitation. We know that the reservoir that we are talking about of the new discovery, will amount to that of Jubilee field in Ghana where they are producing oil. So, it’s not news to us that they found oil; it is a thing of joy that they put in money to be able to explore and make arrangements for production. The oil discovery has a very positive economic implication for Nigeria considering the fact that Nigeria has made a projection that we are going to achieve certain billion barrels of reserve in a certain year. We have not been able to make the projection come through because most of the international companies are not doing what they are supposed to do by developing their resources and they are not drilling as they are supposed to do but we don’t blame them because the instrument they need to do all that is not available.”
The discovery is, however, subject to the authentication of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, which is expected in two weeks. But a source within the DPR, who pleaded anonymity, said the department will verify the discovery first before commenting on it. But he said it would be a matter of time before another oil exploration firm announces new oil discoveries in Lagos. “I can reliably inform you that another leading indigenous company may soon announce oil discoveries from Aje oil assets located on Oil Mining License, OML, 113. It is difficult to predict the time, but it may surely come to pass soon,” he said.
OML 113 is located adjacent to the OPL310 area, where oil discoveries were announced on Wednesday. OML113 hosts the Aje oil and gas field, which is estimated to have contingent resources of nearly 200 millon barrels of oil equivalent. The OML113 licence interest holders include Lekoil, Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum, Vitol Exploration Nigeria, Chevron and P.R Oil and Gas. Optimum, along with drilling partners, Afren and Lekoil, which struck a significant light oil accumulation at the Ogo-1 well on the Ogo prospect in OPL 310 off Nigeria.
Afren, said in a statement said that: “Based on evidence to date, targeted resources are likely to be significantly in excess of previous estimates. The Ogo-1 discovery, testing a four-way dip-closed structure in the Turonian, Cenomanian, and Albian sandstone reservoirs, confirms the extension of the same Cretaceous sandstones that have yielded other significant discoveries along the West African transform margin.”
Maxi Okwu, factional leader of APGA, initiates moves to bring peace to the crisis-torn party
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE protracted crisis in the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, may soon come to an end if the stakeholders decide to embrace peace. Maxi Okwu, national chairman of the governor Peter Obi-led faction, has constituted a committee to reconcile with the Victor Umeh-led group. He said that the party will henceforth stop further altercations with other opposing leaders in order to give its reconciliation efforts the chance to succeed.
Okwu said the truth, justice and reconciliation committee headed by Ochiagha Reagan Ufomba had made significant progress in resolving the dispute. He said that the committee had met with Umeh, embattled chairman of the party. “I have taken notice that the truth, justice and reconciliation committee of the APGA leadership set up on June 10, has swung into action. Information reaching me shows that the committee led by Ochiagha Reagan Ufomba has met with Chief Victor Umeh and they are moving in the right direction. I urge its members to work assiduously along the terms of reference and the three weeks time frame given to them,” he said.
He said he will keep to the three-week unilateral truce so as not to pre-empt or jeopardise the committee’s work. “During this period, I will not criticise or condemn the leadership of our challengers. This, I do as a gesture of good faith and goodwill believing that the party needs everyone that has a positive role to play and is committed to the ideals, aims and objectives of the party. I urge Victor Umeh to exhibit similar restraint and compromise, and if possible to also desist from needless litigation.”
Ufomba said that the committee is on a tough assignment, but believed that members’ consultations so far would bring a lasting peace to the party. “We have been going round the country and meeting with the various stakeholders. We have met with Chief Victor Umeh, the national deputy leader, governor Peter Obi, and Ralph Uwazuruike, and we are in contact with Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu. We are in search of unity in our party. In the end, we will have a united, cohesive, peaceful and progressive APGA. We have talked to the aggrieved and they are opening up. A problem known is half solved. We are meeting with Chief Martins Agbaso and his brother Jude, the former deputy governor of Imo State,” he said.
According to him, it does not matter how many committees are put in place to bring about peace, what is important is the achievement of that objective, which is a united APGA. “We met Victor Umeh, the following day after our inauguration, and that alone is a remarkable success. We are very hopeful that everybody is willing to make concessions in the interest of our party, in the interest of democracy in Nigeria and in the interest of Igboland where APGA is very, very dominant. People see APGA as their religion in that part of the country and we are drumming this to their very consciousness and it is making sense to all the people we have spoken to.”
However, Umeh, who is still holding on to recognition by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was reported to have insisted that any meaningful reconciliation must be based on respect for the rule of law. He also said that the party would perform well in the Anambra state governorship election, despite the crisis rocking it. He assured the party supporters that there was no cause for alarm as APGA had the record of performing well at elections that came up during its trying moments.
“The person who is wrong is the person doing things that are contrary to the party’s constitution. We have to respect the party and the decision of the courts. What I am saying in effect is that I want everybody to come together under one leadership that made APGA what it is today. As for the coming election, I am calling on all those who are rebelling against the party to return to the party and let’s work together to produce the next governor in Anambra. Truth is imperishable; anything anybody does in life that infringes on truth is wrong, so people should go and search their consciences and examine whether what they have done is wrong or right,” he said.
John Nwosu, a gubernatorial aspirant, said the move was a step in the right direction, adding that in every human society, there is always the possibility of misunderstanding. He said since power belonged to the people, they should be allowed to elect who they feel would be their leader.
The attack by the Boko Haram sect on Government Secondary School, Mamudo in Potiskum, Yobe State, on Saturday, July 6, is as seen not just another act of terrorism, but a deliberate act to discourage Western education in the North
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IT WAS, no doubt, a big setback for Nigeria’s campaign against Boko Haram insurgents in the northern parts of the country. When everyone had thought the military campaign in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states was making great success in pushing out the Islamic sect, the group’s attack on the students of Government Secondary School, Mamudo in Potiskum, Yobe State, on Saturday, July 6, has again brought to the front burner how far the sect would go to discourage Western education in the North. At least 22 students and a teacher were killed in the attack.
To forestall a repeat of such incident, Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, a navy admiral and chief of defence staff, directed deployment of security men and women in schools and other sensitive government buildings in the troubled states. “The CDS has directed that even schools without threats from Boko Haram should be heavily protected in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. We will certainly secure all the schools in the flashpoints,” a military source was quoted as saying.
Prior to the deployment, Boko Haram which literarily translates as ‘Western education is forbidden,’ had sent threat letters to some schools to close down or face the wrath of attacks. However, the July 6, attack has continued to attract wide condemnations from individuals and organisations in and out of the country, especially among international non-governmental organisations.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, July 8, described the killing as wicked, horrific and barbaric. He said that the killers would go to hell. The President, in a statement by Reuben Abati, his special adviser on media and publicity, said his administration would not allow itself to be undermined by any group or persons. “The killing is barbaric, completely wicked. Anybody who will target innocent children for any kind of grief of emotional dyfunction will certainly go to hell. Mr. President wants to assure Nigerians that this kind of desperate Nigerians will be flushed out of the system,” the statement said. The President, however, promised his commitment to the issue of the protection of lives and properties of all Nigerians and assured that the war against terrorists which had been launched would continue until the menace is completely wiped out. David Mark, Senate president, and Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, also condemned the pupils’ killings.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, said that the attack should be “condemned absolutely by all communities,” pointing out that a total of 48 pupils and seven teachers had been killed in the four attacks since June 16. Manuel Fontain, West African director of UNICEF, said that, “there can be no justification for the deliberate targeting of children and those looking after them.” Reacting in the same manner, the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN, a non-governmental organisation based in the United States, said it shared “the deep and profound pain of those who have lost relatives” in the brutal terrorist attacks, and renewed its call on the US state department to designate of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, FTO.
“We are also particularly worried that this level of attack was conducted successfully and effectively under a state of emergency. This is really disturbing! It is a significant setback for the emergency rule declared in Yobe State,” the CANAN statement said. The group therefore, called for an urgent investigation so that justice is done swiftly, saying, “This will send clear deterrent messages to the terrorists who may be regrouping as they could see the Yobe killing as a boost… Anything short of that would be an unmitigated disaster to government’s ability to do its primary duty of protecting lives and property and could make mincemeat of the reputation of the entire Nigerian security apparatus.”
On its part, the Amnesty International, AI, wants the Nigerian government to take steps to prevent further attacks on schools to protect children’s lives and their right to education. “The protection of children’s lives is paramount, and the Nigerian government has a duty to ensure that the country’s educational sector is not further threatened by the killing and intimidation of students and teachers and the destruction of school buildings,” Lucy Freeman, AI’s deputy director for Africa, said in a press release on Monday, July, 8. Freeman was particularly worried about effects of attacks on educational institutions. “The damage and resultant consequences can be major and far-reaching. Access to basic education in a country where education is mostly seen as a privilege, requires that proper structures and services are in place and that students can access adequate books and materials,” she said.
According to Abubakar Aliyu, deputy governor of Yobe State, a total of 209 schools had been razed by the terrorists in various parts of the state. Speaking to members of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North led by Kabiru Turaki, Aliyu said that the state had spent more than N4 billion battling the insurgents.
The Yobe incident was the second of such deadly attacks by the Boko Haram sect on schools and students in Yobe State. Last month, six students, two teachers and a resident were killed at the Government Secondary School, Damaturu, when gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members attacked the boys’ school. Similarly, in Maiduguri, Borno State, nine students and six teachers were killed when armed men believed to be members of the sect stormed a public school in the metropolis and shot sporadically, killing the final year students who were writing their Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, SSSCE, organised by the National Examinations Council, NECO.
The current attacks on schools and students by the Boko Haram insurgents have been seen as deliberate acts to create fears and discourage Northern parents from sending their children to school. Already, there is apathy towards Western education in the north. A recent article, Increasing Access to Education in Northern Nigeria by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, gave a chilling indication of the educational backwardness of the North. It said in part: “Forty-two percent of primary-age children in this country, about 10.5 million, are out of school. Less than a third of primary school children proceed to junior secondary school and even fewer go on to complete secondary school. The situation is worse in predominantly Muslim Northern Nigeria where primary school attendance and academic achievement are far below national averages.” Little wonder that at the last common entrance examination to unity schools, only 86 pupils from Yobe State sat for the examination in the state that has 2.3 million residents. Besides, more than 40 of those students were from other parts of the country. To encourage students from the north to fill their quota at the 104 unity government schools across the country, the states such as Yobe, Taraba and Zamfara, recently had their cut-off marks lowered to two, three and four points for male students and 27, 11 and two points for female students. Whereas students from Anambra, Imo and Enugu states are expected to score 139, 138 and 134 points for both males and females to get admission to unity schools.
Observers attribute the educational backwardness of the north to a number of factors, from early marriage to nomadic life of many of them as well as religious education in the form of almajiri, which has pride of position above Western education. To encourage the populace to embrace Western education governments in the north have virtually made education free from primary to tertiary level. But the problems are not restricted to all that.
The situation is also compounded by lack of qualified teachers. According to Aminu Sharehu, director-general of the National Teachers’ Institute, NTI, in Zaria, Kaduna State, 80 per cent of school teachers in most northern states are not qualified for the job. Speaking at a national conference on Quality Assurance and Control in Teacher Education as a Tool for Achieving Millennium Development Goals, organised by the Federal College of Education, Zaria, on July 3, Sharehu urged northern state governments to give priority to training teachers working in their various institutions. “You need to train and retrain teachers because the National Certificate in Education, NCE, is just a starting point. In the teaching profession, we do not have learned people, but learning people because we believe that there is no end to learning. So, it is only lawyers that are proudly calling themselves learned. As for what are really responsible for poor qualification of teachers in the north, I will keep that for another day. But there is need for increase in teachers’ salaries and continuous increase in their remuneration to make them better teachers,” Sharehu said.
However, Governor Muhktar Yero of Kaduna State, who also spoke on the occasion, said that only 50 percent of the teachers in his state were not qualified and not 80. Yero, who was represented by Mohammed Usman, commissioner for Education, said: “The Federal Ministry of Education stipulates that the minimum teaching qualification in our schools should be NCE. But majority of teachers we have today in the system are not NCE holders. So how can they qualify to teach in the new curriculum? As a measure to improve education in the state, Governor Muhktar Yero has given an approval to recruit 1,800 teachers.”
The commissioner said his ministry would make sure that it recruits qualified teachers for the state.
“When I came on board as the Commissioner for Education in Kaduna State, I discovered that 50 per cent of the teachers, particularly the primary school teachers, are under qualified. There is no way they can do the job very well. I had to give them a time frame of five years within which to upgrade themselves and become NCE holders,” Usman said.
The commissioner noted that there were some teachers in the system, who had never attended any education programme in the past 20 years. Besides, he said that about 1,840 teachers within the system would be flushed out because of fake certificates.”
While government officials are working assiduously to normalise things at the education sector for the benefit of the community, the literacy level may further reduce because of the attacks on schools by the terrorist group. This has been the concern of Nigerians who fear the negative effects of the attacks on socio-economic and educational development of the north. They also fear that illiterate north will be a fertile ground to breed terrorist and radical groups.
Tijani Musa, a former editor of the rested Triumph newspaper in Kano, in a telephone interview with Realnews, said the attack was terrible and unacceptable. He said it would further compound the already bad socio-economic and educational system in the north. Besides, he said, it would further make the region more disadvantaged in education.
Achike Chude, a public commentator, blamed the government for the attacks, saying security should not have been lax in school areas when the group was already known for fighting against Western education. “We all know that terrorists do hit and run. There were areas that were supposed to be well guarded. We must tell our politicians that the life of those children were more important than ambition of any of them. What has happened has shown the gross incompetence of this administration. This country has failed those children; the president has failed them; the state governor has failed the children. Our country is in a serious state of collapse. The people who have taken us to this situation cannot take us out. So, they should get out and let people who love this country take over,” Chude said.
Speaking in the same vein, Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda, a pastor and security expert, said it was a terrible thing to attack innocent school students. “Those innocent students have not contributed to anything happening in the country. It was the worst crime anyone has committed against innocent students in this country,” Ekpe-Juda said adding that the terrorists had attacked the students to discourage parents from sending their children to school. “No one will like to send his or her children to school to go and die. For doing that, many parents would rather have children at home or in the farm. It is a retrogressive thing when children of school age are made to idle away while their mates all over the world are getting education,” he said, adding: “Those who have done that to those children will not escape the judgement of God; their own children will also suffer the injustice done to those children.”
THE House of Representatives has rejected the operational loss of N384.9 billion by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, between 2009 and 2011. The lawmakers expressed disbelief when the corporation asked to be exempted from remitting a certain part of its operating surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF, on the basis that it has never made any profit.
The NNPC made N6 trillion between 2009 and 2012 as internally generated revenue IGR, but refused to remit N142 billion to the CRF as demanded by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, FRA, 2007. The NNPC had informed the House of Representatives committee on finance probing federal government agencies’ remittances of surplus to the CRF, that the three years under review have been financially negative for the corporation.
The breakdown, as contained in the corporation’s presentation to the committee showed that crude oil loss to vandalism was 2.316 million barrels in 2010, while 6.391million barrels were stolen in 2011. In 2012, the loss to vandalism was 3.045million barrels. The total loss recorded was 11.753million barrels between 2010 and 2012.
Financially, losses recorded in the NNPC’s upstream, midstream and downstream operations, amounted to N298 billion in 2009, N110.9 billion in 2010 and N37.6 billion in 2011. Benard Otti, group executive director, finance and accounts, NNPC, said that there were indications in the presentation that the NNPC was not in the position to remit any surplus to the CRF. “Quantum of losses is indicative of crude and pipeline vandalism and unrecovered subsidy claims. It seems as if we are only working for thieves and vandals. Our business model defies description,” he said.
What Nigeria Loses to Gas Flaring
THE Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, has said that Nigeria is losing more than N735 million daily to gas flaring. George Osahon, director, DPR, said that in spite of the country’s massive hydrocarbon endowment, Nigeria was yet to fully benefit from the resources.
According to him, Nigeria’s gas reserves endowment is up to 600 trillion cubic feet, TCF, hence the country is often described as a large gas haven with little oil. “Oil production stands at 2.5 million barrels per day, while gas flared stood at 1.4 billion cubic feet per day. This means that an average of 4.9 million dollars worth of gas is being flared on a daily basis which translates to about 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas flared daily by the international oil companies,” he said.
Osahon, who was represented by Oliver Okparaojiako, deputy director, DPR, during press briefing in Lagos, said that gas flaring would be curtailed when the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is passed into law. “It will help in the creation of a modern petroleum legal frame work, align with the Nigerian Gas Standard to meet international best practices and enhance transparency,” Osahon said.
He further said that the objective of the PIB was to increase exploration activities and expand reserves and formulate a National Oil and Gas Policy. He said that whenever the PIB is eventually passed into law, it would ensure that gas would be widely used for domestic purposes.
PIB Will Change Nothing If…
THE possibility of passing the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB into law is being threatened. Benjamin Dikki, director-general, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, said that the bill may not attract investors as expected. Dikki expressed the fears when the Senate committee on privatisation visited his office on its oversight function. He explained that if the bill does not separate policy formulation from operation and regulation, it would run into problems, adding that if the bill does not delineate the powers of the regulator from those of the agencies, no investor will come. Dikki told the lawmakers that this accounted for why investors had not established refineries in Nigeria, despite the profitable nature of the business.
He said that in the present bill “you have regulatory power domiciled in the ministry, domiciled with the regulator and domiciled with other agencies. That is confusion. One, it is more or less not changing the status quo because that is what exists now.”
He noted that as the petroleum industry is being operated presently, it has regulatory powers in the hands of different agencies and the change has not been effected in the bill before the legislature, arguing that it is confusing since it has not changed the present status quo. He, however, advised that if the reforms in the petroleum industry are to commence effectively, government must delineate the roles of the agencies.
“It is more or less not changing the status quo because that is what exists now. Now the DPR has a regulatory power. The NNPC has some regulatory powers and the ministry has some regulatory powers. If these reforms are to take effect, you must separate policy formulation from regulation and operation. Now if you don’t clearly delineate those roles, whatever bill you pass, will run into problems. Now if you look at the PIB, you have regulatory powers domiciled in the ministry, domiciled in the regulator and domiciled in other agencies. That is confusion. One, it is more or less not changing the status quo because that is what exists now,” he said.
A new publication identifies Africa as a continent with the youngest population which can be a blessing if properly managed or a disaster if abused
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE teeming youth population in Africa has been described as Africa’s greatest risk or future asset. With one billion people in Africa today and a projected 2.3 billion people, mostly youths in 2050, the continent’s greatest assets, or risk, in the coming decade will be its capacity to harness this rapidly expanding reservoir of human capital, according to a new publication One Billion People One billion Opportunities: Building Human Capital in Africa.
The book said that after Asia, Africa is the world’s largest and most populous continent, with about 15 percent of the world’s people. Africa is also the youngest region and in the mid-2011, the top 10 countries with the youngest populations were African.
By 2040, Africa will have the largest workforce, surpassing China and India. Within the continent, East and West Africa will be the youngest regions. “A large “youth bulge” can be an opportunity for change, progress and social dynamism – or a risk. If the talents of the rising youth cohort are harnessed and channeled to the productive sectors of the economy, the opportunities for the economic and social development are endless,” the book which was edited by Agnes Soucat and Mthuli Ncube, vice president and chief economist, African Development Bank, AfDB, said.
It said that children in Africa born in the next 15 years will be the movers and shakers of the 22nd century Africa. The magnitude of the population growth and its impact on human development is staggering. Over the next 15 years, roughly 600 million children born in Africa will then be parents, teachers or nurses leading Africa as it nears the 22nd century. “To benefit from the demographic dividend and build a highly skilled labour force, Africa’s graduating cohort of high school and technical vocational education and training, TVET, students need to increase dramatically.
Roughly 5.3 million students (only 23 percent of children enrolled in primary education) graduated from high school in Africa in 2010. According to the United Nations Population Division, 34.4 million children will enter primary school in 2013 and that 75 percent of them (25.8 million, half of them girls) will graduate from high school, a fivefold increase from today. Africa’s economic growth amid uncertainty in the global economy has been remarkable. Spanning 2001 – 2010, six of the world’s fastest growing economies were in Sub-saharan Africa, and this is expected to increase to seven by 2015.
The continent’s growth in 2012 was expected to accelerate to 4.5 percent from 3.4 percent in 2011, with the recovery in North African economies and the sustained improvement in other regions. Of the 53 countries, 24 more than doubled their per capita income from 1990 to 2010 and the past decade of robust growth has reduced poverty, the book said
The elasticity of poverty to growth in Africa has been much lower than in other regions, and the poverty gap remains high. Poverty declined by 0.5 percent a year between 1990 and 2008 in Africa (excluding North Africa), compared with 2.3 percent in East Asia and 1.0 percent in South Asia. The burden of poverty is borne disproportionately by women and rural dwellers. According to the book, rural poverty fell 5.1 percent between 1998 and 2008 in sub-saharan Africa, far less than 68.8 percent in Latin America and the Carribean, 51.4 percent. South-East Asia’s heavy investment in education at all levels to provide human capital and spearhead its industrial transformation attest to the potential benefits in the short and long term.
According to it, Africa is experiencing profound shifts, with repercussions for building human capital. Demographically, Africa’s young and rapidly growing population is the world’s most dynamic. Economically, African countries have been growing five percent on average over the past decade, as they continue to weather the global crises. The private sector has a much larger presence than ever before.
Technologically, Africa has been benefiting from a shift of the technological curve, leapfrogging its access to new information and communication technologies, ICTs. By 2025, mobile phone coverage will be nearly universal, implying scope for changing the financial services reaching the poor, even in fragile states. This has expanded opportunities and enhanced connectivity to the rest of the world. Politically, Africa’s democracies are gaining ground, and governance standards are improving thanks to greater demand for voice and accountability, which has fostered democratic reforms and reduced conflicts and civil wars.
Environmentally, Africa needs to ensure that it remains a net biodiversity creditor and addresses the consequences of environmental changes that hurt the poor the most. These are (pollution, waste and environmental degradation arising from increased urbanization food security and displaced populations.
Although street foods are very popular in many Nigerian cities, most of those who patromise them are not aware of the risks involved
| By Chinwe Okafor | Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
OBIMDI Ewuzie, a staff of Kenneth and Cole Communications firm, Apapa, Lagos, likes eating bean cake and pap for breakfast because the food is less expensive compared to those served in regular restaurants around town. Ewuzie doesn’t bother about breakfast until he gets to his office where he orders for his usual breakfast at a nearby ‘joint’. “I prefer eating from food vendors because I’m an early riser and wouldn’t be able to take breakfast at home before I rush out for work in the morning so as to beat the usual early morning traffic on the Lagos roads,” he said.
Wilson Ikokwu, a Lagos-based trader in Ikeja, usually takes the normal sliced fruits which are put in a tray and hawked around because he likes to start the day with fruits. He enjoys taking his lunch from food vendors popularly known as ‘Mama Put’ because it’s less expensive. “I am already attracted to the food, but my only fear is the unhealthy condition and environment where the foods are being prepared and sold,” he said.
Ewuzie and Ikokwu are patrons of local food vendors like millions of others. Though these foods are readily available, very economical and as tasty as those who patronise them say, but they are apparently ignorant of the health risks associated with the unhygienic environment in which they are being prepared. Studies have shown that there are many risks involved in eating from a roadside vended food because of food borne diseases which can be contacted from such unhealthy environment.
Obiora Ngadi, a doctor, said people who patronise street foods need to be aware of the dangers of eating or buying foods in an unclean environment because such foods could be contaminated by microorganisms which are present in the air, water and even on the hands of those who sell them. These microorganisms, he said, contaminate foods and anybody who eats them stands the risk of contacting food borne disease.
“These food vendors do not adhere to basic rules of hygiene in the preparation of their foods and even places where they sell the foods are very unhygienic .There are flies, mosquitoes, carbon fumes and dust in the air which settle on these foods and make them unhygienic for human health. Diseases like typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea and cholera could be contacted through these foods,” Ngadi said.
A lot of Nigerians patronise street food vendors when they are out of their homes because they see the ready-to-eat food or drink, cheap, compared to restaurant meals. Ada Alaneme, another doctor, with Imo State Teaching Hospital, Orlu, said that the consumption of badly exposed foods could be harmful as a result of other factors even unrelated to hygiene. She said that fruits that are being sold on the road sides are an open invitation to ailments. Alaneme, therefore advised fruit vendors to cover them properly when hawking.
Besides, she wants food vendors to be sensitised to make them aware of the risks surrounding the unhealthy foods they sell to people. Although, many consumers attach importance to hygiene in selecting vendors, some don’t care because they are unaware of the health hazards associated with street vended foods.
But, Chika John, a freight forwarder, said he has not fallen sick from eating roadside foods because he makes sure the environment where he eats or buys food from is clean and sound at all times. He only eats where they practice good food hygiene and also makes sure that the method of preparing the food is very clean. Toyese Elisha, a civil servant, said he is very mindful of where and how food is prepared. “The environment where the food is sold or cooked goes a long way to determine if I will actually patronize the vendors. I am aware of the diseases I can contact when I eat in an unhygienic environment,” he said.
Iya Jumai, a popular street food seller at Festac town, who trains her children in school from the gains she makes from the cooked meals tries hard to keep her environment clean at all times to attract customers. She said she knows the health risks involved in preparing foods in an unclean environment. She recounts the ordeal she sometimes face in the hands of law enforcement agents who always come to humiliate and extort money from her. “I have no choice other than to give them money in order to continue in the business and send my children to school, but I believe that it will soon come to an end when my children complete their education. I know that the future is so bright”, she said.
Regardless of attendant health risks, street foods remain popular, especially among youths not just in Nigeria but in many other developing countries. It requires low initial capital to start the business. The foods often found on the includes, barbecued meat known as suya, roasted yam or plantain, boiled and roasted corn, cut fruits put in trays as well as local restaurants known as ‘mama put’ where local delicacies are served. They are inexpensive, convenient and relatively, nutritious food centers for urban and rural people as well as a source of attractive varied foods for tourists.
It is also a major source of income for a large number of persons, particularly women and a chance for self-employment and the opportunity to develop business skills with low capital investment.
As the world celebrates the 95th birthday of former President Nelson Mandela on Thursday, July 18, the world iconic elder statesman lies critically ill in hospital fighting to live
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
FOR more than one month, family members, admirers, supporters and government officials have been keeping vigil in and around the hospital where he is receiving treatment for lungs infections. But as he turns 95 on July 18, the world would go into celebration of the birthday of a man who led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. But unlike previous celebrations, Nelson Mandela will not be physically present to share in the cuisine and wine for the occasion. He is critically ill in the hospital, fighting for his dear life.
Mandela was admitted into the hospital on June 8, the second of such admission this year. Perhaps, for the umpteenth time President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, issued a statement to alert the world that Mandela was still critically ill, but in a stable condition, on Thursday, July11. The South African president has routinely visited Mandela to monitor his condition. More so, reports said Mandela was being kept alive by a breathing machine and faced “impending death.” Some of the reports similarly indicated that the former president’s health was “perilous,” and could lead to death. “The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds,” a court file said. This, probably led to rumours making the rounds that the former freedom fighter was in ‘vegetative state.’ However, Zuma has denied the rumours, saying his doctors assured him that he was not vegetative.
Nevertheless, keeping Mandela on life support is dangerous. According to medical experts, a younger person can be kept on mechanical ventilation – life support – and later be weaned off the machine to recover. But it can be difficult or impossible for an older person. According to Adri Kok, chief executive of the Faculty of Consulting Physicians of South Africa, who has no connection to Mandela’s care, the longer a person is on ventilation, the less the chance of recovery. “It indicates a very poor prognosis for recovery because it means that he’s either too weak or too sick to breathe on his own,” Kok said, adding: “Usually if a person does need that, any person, not keeping in mind his age at all, for any person, it would be indicative of a grave illness. When they say ‘perilous’ I think that would be a fair description.”
However, the lie about his purported vegetative state was disclosed recently when David Smith, a lawyer, acting for the family, was taken before a disciplinary committee of the South African Bar Association for allegedly exaggerating the severity of the ailing statesman’s ill-health. Smith was said to have used the statesman’s health condition to obtain a speedy hearing, while acting for Makaziwe, Mandela’s oldest daughter, Graca Machel, his wife and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife. He was quoted as telling the court that the 94-year-old was in a “permanent vegetative condition” and doctors had advised that his family think about switching off his life-support machine.
The claim that Mandela was close to death prompted the judge in the case to order an immediate hearing into Makaziwe Mandela’s case to have the bodies of three of the former president’s children exhumed and moved to a grave he is expected to share with them in Qunu, his rural home in the Eastern Cape. Makaziwe won the case and the bodies were exhumed and reburied within days.
The family members had brought the court case against Mandla Mandela, a grandchild of the elder statesman, who moved the bodies to the nearby village of Mvezo two years ago. Smith may also lose his license if it is discovered that he had lied to court about Mandela’s health.
The claim was made in a closed court hearing on June 26, but later leaked to the media. The family has since refused to comment on the veracity of the claim, but Denis Goldberg, a family friend and fellow anti-apartheid activist, who claimed to have visited Mandela, said that he opened his eyes and tried to speak to him. He also said that Machel told him the doctors had advised “not even to think about” turning off the life-support machine because, “they think he has a very good chance of recovery,” Goldberg said.
It has, no doubt, been a tough going for the family of the first black South African president, who spent most of his productive years in prison because of his struggle for the abolition of apartheid in his country. Since his admission into the hospital on June 8, his condition has remained critical, which has also raised speculation that the family has been trying to keep him alive to give him the privilege to attain 95 years on earth.
There has been international outpouring of emotions, with calls for prayer for him while some people have also been keeping vigil in front of his hospital, singing, dancing and praying for him. So deep has been the show of affection in South Africa for Mandela that the thought of his death seems incomprehensible. Although death is inevitable for the old man, a good number of South Africans appear to be unwilling to let him go yet. Somadoda Fikeni, head of the South African Heritage Resources Agency, SAHRA, captured the situation in an interview with the BBC: “We no longer have an icon on his level, not only here in South Africa but in the world. People see him as the antidote to the current social ills we are faced with. That is why people are still holding on to him.”
Despite his importance to his people and the world at large, Andrew Mlangeni, a fellow prisoner at Robben Island, upon hearing that Mandela had again been admitted to hospital, was quoted as saying: “The family must release him so that God may have his own way with him… once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow,”
According to Isintu, a traditional culture in South African, no sick person dies unless the family “releases” him or her spiritually – only then will they be at peace in surrendering to death. Fikeni also reasoned that perhaps, Mandela, also known as Madiba, in his clan name, is fighting death because he has some unfinished business to do. “It may be that squabbling within his family is troubling him and that needs to be addressed while he is still here. He may not be well received on the other side until these issues have been resolved,” Fikeni said.
This, was perhaps, in reference to a recent court case in which Makaziwe and Zenani, Mandela’s daughters attempted to expel three of his aides from companies linked to the former ailing president. Even at the reburial of his three children decided by the court case, Desmond Tutu, a retired archbishop and family friend, had to appeal to the family to give peace a chance. “Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves; it’s almost like spitting in Madiba’s face. Your anguish, now, is the nation’s anguish — and the world’s. We want to embrace you, to support you, to shine our love for Madiba through you. Please may we not besmirch his name,” Tutu said in a statement.
The statement added: “It’s not a case of wishing him to die. It’s a case of making sure that by the time he dies, his dying wish has been fulfilled. We have a belief that should you ignore a dying wish, all the bad will befall you.”
Speaking at fundraising function that will be named after him recently, Machel said Mandela was in a stable condition but sometimes feeling uncomfortable. “Whatever is the outcome of his stay in hospital, that will remain the second time where he offered his nation an opportunity to be united under the banner of our flag, under the banner of our constitution,” she said.
But what everyone awaits and dreads is when the family would say the phrase that could change it all: “Siyakukhulula tata,” which means in Xhosa, the Madiba’s clan language: “We release you, father.”
Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years during white racist rule and was freed in 1990. He was elected first black president in multiracial election in 1994. He spent only one term before handing over to former President Thabo Mbeki who was his deputy. He won the Nobel Peace Prize along with former President Fredrik .W. de Klerk in 1993. For his role in peace-making and reconciliation within and outside South Africa, the United Nations declared July 18, his birthday, as Mandela day to celebrate the iconic figure.
LAST week was the first time, in my memory, that a U.S. president came to Africa with investment at the top of his agenda and prioritised meeting with the continent’s business leaders, who are the true drivers of development. President Obama should be congratulated for his vision, and for providing the clearest proof yet that the rules of engagement with Africa are genuinely changing.
The age of aid is ending. The type of aid that will help Africa most, and should receive the highest priority, is aid for business. I believe that the African private sector has the power to transform the continent through long-term capital investments, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth. I call this development approach “Africapitalism,” and without a doubt, it holds the most promise for the sustainable development of Africa.
So it was refreshing to see African businesses at the table, financing and investing as partners, and making sure that Africa asserts its proper role in this opportunity.
I can already feel the impact of Obama’s new dialogue with Africa. In interviews I had with international media covering his trip, aid and corruption were not the focus, thankfully. Journalists addressed topics like “capital,” “investment,” and “trade.”
The impact of this shift will be immense.
Power is the single biggest obstacle to Africa’s development, and as such, it is the most catalytic and strategic investment anyone can make in Africa. That is why President Obama’s focus is so timely—and so necessary. Doubling our generating capacity will double Africa’s GDP, and move us toward sustainable, domestically led growth. Given its economic importance, the power sector also presents an attractive investment opportunity for long-term investors: there is little competition, and so the return, when it comes, will be high. It will be similar to returns that early investors in African telecommunications realised before the sector became saturated and highly competitive.
As an investor I believe in doing well and doing good. Investing in the power sector meets both criteria. That is why Heirs Holdings has committed US$2.5 billion in investment that will expand our recently acquired Nigerian power plant at Ughelli, as well as develop new brown and green-field projects across Africa.
But filling Africa’s energy gap requires long-term investment and a huge capital outlay: it will cost US$1billion just to acquire the Ughelli plant and bring it up to its full installed capacity of 1000 megawatts. Given Africa’s huge capital requirements for the power sector, an initiative like Power Africa is essential for bringing together international investors and financial institutions to support Africa’s changing power paradigm.
Nigeria was one of only seven countries included in the program—countries at the forefront of power reform in Africa. The world-class privatization process personally driven by President Goodluck Jonathan demonstrates that Nigeria deserves that place. And it means that Nigeria’s power sector will have access to preferential terms and an unprecedented focus by funders looking to deliver on their public commitments under the Power Africa initiative. Power Africa also offers a model for the 47 African countries that did not make the initial pilot list. The continent will not close its energy gap unless more African leaders urgently reform their policies and encourage this kind of private sector-led investment.
As an entrepreneur, I know that attracting capital is not and has never been the problem. I have always believed that if the policies and environment are right, investment will flow into Africa. Investors need to know that the rule of law and the protection of property rights are assured—this is one of capital’s most important requirements. That is why I urge global leaders like President Obama to impress upon more African leaders that investment-led development requires more investor-friendly policies. I see a willingness in African leaders to seize these opportunities, but they need support and in some cases direction. The vision may be clear, but they may not know how to get there.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame is another positive role model for the continent—a progressive African leader who evinces both vision and commitment. Rwanda now ranks higher than any other sub-Saharan African country on global competitiveness, and ranks third in Africa overall. President Kagame and his team have created the sort of enabling environment that investors can only dream about elsewhere in Africa. For this reason, Heirs Holdings, Berggruen Holdings and 50 Ventures, chose Rwanda as the home for our East Africa Commodity Exchange (EAX), which will launch on July 15th.
The EAX will bring liquidity, transparency, and pricing power to farmers, while reducing lending risk to banks. The impact will be to create social wealth in local communities, and support development in the region. Like investments in the power sector, the EAX demonstrates Africapitalism in action: highlighting the huge development role of the African private sector. When I met with President Kagame last year, he immediately understood the significance of a commodity exchange for the East African Region, and he pushed hard to make it happen. The Rwandan government delivered on all its promises, which enabled our investor group to deliver on our promises: the right investment team, partnering with a supportive government, will improve the lives of farmers across the region.
By following these models—of Power Africa and the EAX—we can transform the entire African economy, starting with the power sector. One day, the 70% of Africans who don’t currently have access to consistent affordable power, will take it for granted that they can flick a switch and transform their homes, offices and schools. And they will remember Obama’s visit. Because with private sector involvement now guaranteed, that day will soon become a reality.
In Tanzania I shook hands with an Africapitalist, who also happened to be the most powerful man in the world. It was a hugely significant event for me, a life-long African investor, and I believe Obama’s visit was a significant event for Africa. It will refocus the world’s attention on investment in Africa. It is already changing perceptions and mobilising international investors. It will even change the view of many African investors, who will realize that we must lead the way. Because if we come forward and show confidence in our continent by directing our savings into long-term investments in Africa, others will follow. This is one of the pillars of Africapitalism: Africans for Africa.
Obama’s visit was a milestone, one long hoped for, and one with lasting impact. It confirms that the age of aid is ending. It is now time for the private sector to lead.
Tony O. Elumelu is Founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Chairman of Heirs Holdings Limited, and is the leading proponent of Africapitalism; the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa.
IT WAS a celebration of life well spent as family members, friends and people from all walks of life gathered in Imo State, to honour Marcel Ejike Obi. Obi, 83, died on May 27 and was buried on June 5, at his home town, Urualla, Ideato north local government area of the state.
Obi who was born in 1931, to a pagan family of Mgbada Obi and Ikediya Mmadubuike established Highbred Maxwell Publishers, a company that published many books.
Obi would be missed, especially by his wife and nine children. During the burial, the funeral oration written by Chukwudi Obi, his first son , said though his father was dead, his achievements in life would continue to live after him.
Obi would also be missed by books and stationary dealers association Ogbaru main market, Onitsha, Anambra state. Anthony Achusim, chairman of the association said “Highbred Max, your death has created a vacuum in this association; during your days with the members of this association, we knew you as a good perfect gentleman in every ramification, you never quarreled nor made any case with your fellow members, instead you played a fatherly role to anyone that came across you.”
Chimdindu Ositadimma Igwenagu, an 18 year-old author, focuses on how children should broaden their approach and perception of the society
Title: Wasted Gift
Author: Chimdindu Ositadimma Igwenagu
Reviewer: Okafor Chinwe
Publisher: God’s Glory Press
Year of Publication: 2012
IT IS rather very difficult to say whether a teenage boy of 18 years can really understand and master the environment or society in which he finds himself, let alone write a book designed to help youths to broaden their societal views. This is exactly what Chimdindu Ositadimma Igwenagu has set out to do.
His first book titled Wasted Gift is written to capture how children approach and perceive life. The novel portrays the evil and illicit ways children prefer to live their lives instead of resorting to hard work. In the author’s view, the world is not a bed of roses but rather is a place full of ups and downs in which hard work is the only key to success.
The 75-page story book has 14 chapters, each dealing with lives of children and issues relating to them. It is written to teach children basic morals and at the same time meet their basic needs. The stories that make up the book are interesting, very educative and also written in simple language that can be easily read and understood by the youths.
Igwenagu, showcases in the story, the virtue of contentment in the seventh chapter where Uche, a boy from a comfortable family was never contented with what he had until he was initiated into a secret cult that almost took his life. The story revolves around bad attitudes of children in the society and the negative effects they attract. The reader gets to know the pains, challenges and deprivation he or she will suffer whenever he or she is involved in any act that is abhorrent to the family and the society at large.
From the book, the reader can see how the society frowns at disobedience, stealing, pride, envy, disrespect, lies, discrimination and evil communication while obedience, wisdom, righteousness, contentment and devotion to God, should be encouraged by parents. There is this saying that “pride goes before a fall.” That is the situation with the story of Nkechi a village girl who had the gift of singing but when the tree of pride grew in her, she no longer respected her boss and sought to follow men until she made a mistake that cost her life. Another interesting story is the Reward of Righteousness, in chapter 13, where an orphan boy is being rewarded handsomely for helping out a stranger he met on the road.
This book, therefore, with its rich stories on morals will exert a lot of influence on the youths who go through it. He or she will be a better citizen and consequently a good leader. The book captures the need for children to be obedient at all times and in any situation they find themselves; it also offers useful lessons to children on leadership.
During an interaction with Realnews, the teenage author said Wasted Gift was based on life experiences. He took to writing books for children and youths because he knows that they are the leaders of tomorrow and if the society affects them negatively, then the future would not be bright. He said writing is a God-given talent which he would make use of wisely to impart knowledge and good morals in the society.
Igwenagu, completed his SSCE exams in July 2012 and is currently waiting for an entry into the university. He intends to study microbiology.
AFTER spending fifteen years in detention, an Appeal Court sitting in Lagos on July 12, 2013 discharged and acquitted Hamza Al-Mustapha, chief security officer to the late Sani Abacha, former head of state, of conspiracy and murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of late Moshood Abiola, undeclared winner of the 1993 Presidential election, who was assassinated in 1996. Justice Amina Augie, who presided over the court, ruled that the Lagos High Court that convicted Al-Mustapha for the murder of Abiola was stroked to secure a conviction by all means.
The court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that there was no direct circumstantial evidence that he conspired with anyone as evidence of prosecution witnesses in that regard were contradictory. Justice Rita Pemu, who read the lead judgment, said that based on facts and evidence before the court, it is certainly not Al-Mustapha who pulled the trigger and murdered Abiola. The court holds that he is liable to be discharged and acquitted.
A Lagos High Court on January 30, 2013, sentenced Al-Mustapha to death for conspiracy to commit murder. But he appealed against the judgment. Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court, had found him guilty of the offence, and accordingly convicted and sentenced him to death by hanging. Counsel to the appellants had however, appealed against the death sentence, 24-hours after. In the notice of appeal, the appellants contended that the death sentence handed over by the lower court was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.
THE change of police uniform by the federal government has generated controversy in the country. The new uniform means different things to many Nigerians. Below are what Nigerians said on the issue.
Christian Ifeanyichukwu, Banker: The idea of the new uniform is unnecessary, uncalled-for and tantamounts to wastage of public funds. The police have been facing many challenges, ranging from lack of sophisticated weapons to combat of crime, incessant killings of police officers by Boko Haram, among others. These are the issues the government should urgently look into and find solution.
Damian Chigozie, Public Servant: It means nothing to me and many other Nigerians. The new uniform should reflect a new police force. The changed uniform is like putting a bad product in a new package. Government should first of all reorient police, refurbish police training colleges and re-equip them before changing the uniform.
Moses Diugwu, Civil Servant: It means nothing to me. Changing police uniform does not make them better police officers. What the police need is to change their corrupt attitude, inhuman nature, mindset and mentality not the uniform. Changing the uniform is a case of an old wine in a new bottle.
Odinaka Enuka, Student: Is it that the government didn’t see anything better to do to for the Nigerian police other than changing their uniform? Government should try and look for a way to make them more effective and not looking good. Imagine the way the police intimidate and kill Nigerians on a daily basis. I doubt if there are any security features on the uniform.
James Awalawa, Hotelier: Changing police uniform doesn’t change anything, but it’s a step in the right direction. The black on black, has been a symbol of horror rather than relief to many Nigerians. Though there are many more important things to bother the government and police, I advice them to use the opportunity of the new uniform to change the image of the police.
Alex Ejiofor, Businessman: Police don’t need a new uniform; what they need now is attitudinal change, constant training of and motivation of officers, so that they can diligently discharge their duties. For example, the Nigerian Army has never changed its uniform, yet, it is not found wanting when it comes to efficient discharge of its duties. Besides, it is known for discipline, commitment and dedication to duties.
David Medaiyese Jemibewon, retired major general, lawyer, politician and former minister of police affairs, 73, July 20. Born in Iya Gbede, Aiyetoro Gbede, Oyi, Kogi State, he was educated in Nigeria, England, and the United States of America. He holds the traditional title of Jagumolu of Ibadan, Oyo State, among other titles.
Lateef Kayode Jakande, journalist, publisher and former governor of Lagos State, 84, July 23. Born in Lagos, he was educated at Lagos Public School, Lagos, 1936-1939; Banharn Memorial Methodist School, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, 1939-1943; King’s College, Lagos, 1944; Ilesha Grammar School Ilesha, Osun State, 1945-1949. He started his career as a reporter, with Daily Service, 1949-1950; sub-editor/proof reader, Daily Service, 1950; acting editor, Daily Service, 1953; editor, Nigerian Tribune, 1953-1956, and managing director/editor-in-chief, Allied Newspapers Limited, 1959-1968. Jakande is a recipient of several awards including the best reporter of the year by the Sunday Times in 1977. He was governor of Lagos State from 1979-1983.
Eniola Bello, journalist, columnist, 49, July 21. Born in Aiyetoro-Gbede, Kogi State, he was educated at Onuydo Grammar School; University of Lagos and University of Ilorin. Bello worked with Daily Times, Vanguard, African Concord and PM News, all in Lagos. He is the managing director of ThisDay newspapers
Ado Bayero, retired police officer, diplomat and the Emir of Kano, 83, July 25. Born in Kano state, he was educated at the Zaria Clerical Training College, now Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was appointed Nigeria’s ambassador to Senegal in 1962, and later turbaned as Emir of Kano. He was also pro-chancellor University of Nigeria Nsukka.
THE political terrain in the country now is tensed and filled with a lot of intrigues. Only the strong hearted will be able to wade through the political mine field and come out successfully in the much anticipated and talked about 2015 general elections. Those who want to emerge as candidates in all the positions due for future elections have started early to scheme, maneuver and outwit their opponents. Nowhere is the scheme so intense than in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is the party of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. The office of the president which will be vacant soon is costly to clinch. Any politician, who wants to replace Jonathan has to cross the proverbial seven seas and seven forests and contend with all the spirits (both evil and good) before reaching the desired destination – Aso Rock. The story is also the same for Jonathan if he wants to return to Aso Rock for a second tenure.
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of hiccups in the ruling party. This makes it doubly difficult for Jonathan whose body language has shown that he is interested in emerging as the candidate of the PDP, and eventually winning the hot race. At times the discord in the party makes it look like a rudderless ship about to sink. At other times, it appears to have mastered the game and is poised to be formidable and the party to beat. As leader of the party by virtue of his office, the president has been contending with a lot of nerve-racking issues in the country to convince the electorate that he is indeed the right man for the job come 2015. The issues ranged from the dissension in the party, the quarrel in the Nigerian Governors’ forum which is being attributed to the president’s ambition in 2015, the insecurity in the country, explosive youth unemployment to poor infrastructure, especially inadequate electricity supply, which is wrecking the manufacturing sector of the economy. A look at the political horizon, shows that the odds against Jonathan appear insurmountable with his opponents and traducer painting him black mercilessly. But the president’s yeomen are also at work thwarting every attempt to rubbish him. In all this, what one sees is a president walking gingerly through a political minefield trying very hard to succeed without stepping on the mines. Will he make it to the end without any of the mines exploding midway to truncate his ambition? The answer is contained in the cover story of this week entitled: Politics 2015: Jonathan’s Walk through Minefield. It was crafted by Olu Ojewale, general editor. You will be happy to read it.
President Goodluck Jonathan has many booby traps placed on his political route to 2015 but he is masterly waltzing through them
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
WITH the rumble and tumble in the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, President Goodluck Jonathan looks like a man working on landmines. His ambition to go contest for re-election in the 2015 elections is not only being challenged in court, members of his party are divided over his ambition. Besides, some northern groups and members of the opposition have told him that he should forget about going for a second term in 2015 election.
Although Jonathan has not declared his intention to seek for re-election, his body language suggests that he is interested in contesting for another term. But for him to do that, he needs to work through the landmines being laid on his way. One of them is the court case instituted by Cyriacus Njoku, a PDP chieftain, challenging Jonathan’s eligibility to contest for the presidency in 2015. A federal high court in Abuja, recently dismissed the case saying going by the provision of section 137 (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), President Jonathan is eligible to run for the highest political office in the country. But Njoku is not convinced and has thus taken the case to the Appeal Court. Political watchers say the determination of the court is going to play an important role in what happens to the president in 2015.
Njoku is not the only PDP member who does not want Jonathan to remain in office beyond 2015. The crisis in the PDP is being traced to one of the means of getting rid of the president ahead of 2015. But the president looks determined to navigate his way out of the mines. He had supported the election of Bamanga Tukur as national chairman, last year, to help him hold the party together. But since his assumption of office, Tukur happens to have made so many enemies for himself in the party that there were and still, are plots to get rid of him. It was the intervention of Jonathan that saved him from being removed from office when the party held its National Executive Committee meeting, on June 20. The president was said to have appealed to the members that since it had been widely speculated in the press that the chairman would lose his job, the media would simply say he had sacked him or that his enemies had won and that would be a disgrace for him.
According to sources close to the PDP, the plot to remove Tukur would be re-enacted when the party holds its mini convention in August. One of the allegations against Tukur is that he was too heavy-handed in dealing with members, especially state governors. First, the National Working Committee of the party, which he leads suspended Governor Chibuike Ameachi of Rivers State, and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, for refusing to reinstate a suspended local government chairman and councillors in his state. He also led a committee that suspended Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, for anti-party activities.
Feeling the heat of the brewing crisis, President Jonathan set up a committee headed by Pius Anyim, secretary to the government of the federation, to proffer solutions to the problems confronting the party. The committee completed its assignment and recommended the lifting of the suspension placed on Wammakko. It also recommended the convening of the long overdue NEC meeting as well as the resignation of NWC members whose election was faulted by the INEC. In line with the committee’s recommendations, the Sokoto State governor was recalled and the NWC members resigned. Although there was no upset as widely speculated, analysts believe that did not necessarily mean that the party has been able to mend the cracks in its fold. But Amaechi could not be recalled because the governor had already challenged his suspension in court.
Amaechi as chair of the NGF was perceived as a renegade, who was not using his position to rally his fellow governors to support Jonathan. He is believed to have an ambition to become a vice-presidential candidate to a northern candidate in the 2015 presidential election. To whittle down Amaechi’s influence in the NGF, President Jonathan and the PDP appointed Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum formed early this year. Akpabio has since been the arrow head of Jonathan’s campaign among the state governors. He is also working alongside Tukur and Anenih to help facilitate the president’s firm control of the party machinery.
Little wonder that at the PDP dinner held at Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, May 30, Anenih told the gathering that Jonathan should be adopted as the PDP’s consensus candidate for the 2015 presidential election. Anenih’s kite has flown into turbulent weather within the party. Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, who has a presidential ambition, has voiced out his opposition of automatic ticket for him as proposed by Anenih, saying the measure would be against the constitution of the party. Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, on his part, has said for the umpteenth time that Jonathan had reached an agreement with the party hierarchy before the 2011 presidential election that he would only serve for a term in office. Both the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, have both kicked against allowing the president another term. Anthony Sani, national publicity secretary of the ACF said: “The proposal by the PDP BOT Chair, Chief Tony Anenih, that the president and governors should not be subjected to primaries is clearly against the provisions of the Electoral Act on internal democracy within political parties. The intendment of the Electoral Act is to inspire full participation of party members in choosing who becomes the candidate of the party. The Electoral Act does not allow candidates by consensus. And that is why even if the candidate is only one, there must be yes or no votes by the delegates.”
It appears that the president has not been sitting on his oars either. To neutralise the effects of the opposition among the northern groups, he has gotten some of them on his side. Prominent among them are Lawrence Onoja, a retired major-general and John Washpam, a senator and some members of the NEF. Both Onoja and Washpam were said to have gone to Aso Rock Vila to ask the president to contest for a second term.
The president is also believed to be working on the sentiments of women and traditional rulers to get their support for the 2015 elections. Speaking at a book launch in his honour in Abuja, Wednesday, June 26, the president said: “We shall continue to do all that we can to create a brighter and enduring future for all Nigerians-a future of hope and prosperity; a future where we can be a strong and developed nation, a shining example for a mighty continent. We hope to leave a legacy of proud and prosperous citizens where everyone is treated equally and women are able to reach their full potentials in all aspects of human development.”
The book presentation, which was in honour of the president: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan: Champion for Women, was edited by Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of Petroleum Resources. It was seen as a subtle way of campaign for the president’s return in 2015. It also formed part of his administration’s mid-term report. Jonathan also used the occasion to present himself to the Nigerian public as a considerate leader who would want to continue to work towards the sustained growth of the country’s economy, and promised that under his leadership, Nigeria would not just be a land of great potentials but also a nation where positive changes would transform the lives of the people. Part of that dream, he said, is to allow Nigerian women to take their rightful place in any facet of human endeavour in order to improve the lives and opportunities of women.
He said his decision to entrust women with the responsibilities of high office could be traced to the exceptional zeal displayed by Eunice, his mother. “My admiration for the ability of women to thrive in challenging and adverse environment is drawn directly from watching my mother’s strength when I was growing up. She was, indeed, a true ‘multi-tasker,’ watching her manage the various tasks involved in bringing up my elder sister and I imbibed in me a healthy respect for the ability of women to take control in difficult circumstances,” he said. He thus, commended the efforts of the women in his cabinet for their laudable achievements.
His gesture to help women realise their potentials was also demonstrated when he allowed women to be enlisted at the Nigeria Defence Academy to be trained as combatant officers. It is the first time women would be allowed such a privilege in the history of Nigeria. The president’s foremost supporter among the Nigerian women is, no doubt, Patience, his wife. The first lady apparently defied the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s, instruction that there should be no campaigning for 2015 elections yet. Patience, who was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for one week, between June 15 and June 23, practically kick-started the campaign for Jonathan’s re-election by addressing traditional rulers and other stakeholders in the state about the importance of returning her husband to office.
She paid a courtesy visit to Nyenwe-Eli Omunnakwe Nyeche Nsirim, Apiti of Rumueme and president-in-council, Rumueme Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, on Tuesday, June 18. During the visit, she called on the people to support her husband anytime he declares his ambition to re-contest for the presidency in 2015. “My husband is also your son and by the grace of God; we’ll not disappoint you and will never forget you. I thank you people so much for supporting my husband; I thank you people for promising that if he comes out by 2015 that you will stand by him. I am happy to thank you people for that. I always know my people will always stand by me, your daughter, and my husband is equally your son.” The first lady’s campaign has been criticised by the opposition groups, who have asked that she should be called to order. But the president and members of the PDP have decided to keep mute over the matter.
In any case, the first lady’s trip seems to have softened the ground for the president’s endorsement by the traditional rulers from the South-South and South-East. The monarch, who spoke at the Ijaw House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, during the inauguration of the South-South and South-East Traditional Rulers’ Forum, on Tuesday, July, 2, approved the leadership style of the Jonathan administration and promised to support the president’s second term ambition in 2015. They claimed that Jonathan had provided effective leadership despite the challenges confronting the country. Besides, they claimed that both the South-East and South-South are from the same family and should be united. Cletus Ilomuanya, chairman, South-East Council of Traditional Rulers, noted that the two geopolitical zones share a common heritage. “Historically, we are one people of the same lineage but for political expediency and administrative convenience, we now pretend to be people from two different zones of the South-South and South-East. Therefore, it is one of the aims of the South-South and South-East traditional rulers to re-orientate and galvanise our people to begin to think and act as people of one cultural and traditional identity,” he said.
The meeting, which had traditional rulers from other parts of the country, commended the president for his achievements so far. Okunade Sijuade, the Ooni of Ife, and Da Buba Gyang, Gbong Gwom, Jos, described him as one of the best leaders to have ruled the country. Sijuwade, who was represented by Aderemi Adedapo, general-secretary of the Council of Yoruba Monarchs, said: “Dr. Jonathan’s emergence as president was a fulfilment of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s prediction that an Ijaw man would rule this country some day in the future. We thank God today that we have an Ijaw son as a good and great leader of this country. If you were there on May 29, 2013 in Abuja where I was representing the South-West, you will agree with me that this man (Jonathan) has surpassed many leaders we have ever had in this country. I am not a politician, I’m a traditional ruler. We thank God for giving us this President at this point in this country.” Adedapo said.
After commending the president, Gyang appealed to the political class to give constitutional role to traditional rulers to enable them contribute to decision-making in the affairs of the country. He said: “Let me say with humility that the traditional institution in Nigeria is not asking for any executive powers that will bring us at loggerheads with constituted and elected democratic rulers. We are asking for recognition for the obvious reason that governance itself today requires the role and input of the traditional institution.”
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, businessman and politician, called on Nigerians to give Jonathan a second chance. He claimed that there was no time the president pledged to serve a single term. “Today, I have gone round everywhere in this country and I feel a sense of joy and happiness that Jonathan has not disappointed us. He has done well. However, I am surprised to hear some people in some circles talking about four years’ tenure when our Constitution allows him to run for eight years, if he wishes to do so. Some people even say there is an agreement to that effect, but I am telling you royal fathers, that there was no such agreement,” Iwuanyanwu said.
In his address to the forum, Jonathan lauded traditional rulers across the country for complementing government’s efforts, especially in the maintenance of peace and order in their respective domains. Represented by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, Jonathan urged them to partner with stakeholders in the ongoing efforts to build an egalitarian and prosperous Nigeria. “You are the critical link between our cherished history and the past. You have a duty which, of course, you are doing well to maintain our values, traditions and cultures. And hopefully, working together with other stakeholders, we believe that you will also successfully transfer these same values to the future generation of our people. I thank you all for the support that you have been giving to those of us, who are in secular leadership because you cannot talk of mobilising and influencing our people positively and even maintain law and order without the role of traditional rulers,” Jonathan said. Dickson also acknowledged the role of traditional rulers in the maintenance of peace and advocated the need for the political class to support traditional rulers to enable them perform their duties effectively. Among those present at the meeting were, Abubakar El-Kanemi, Shehu of Borno, who represented the Sultan of Sokoto; Nnachi Enwo-Igariwey, president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, as well as Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Ikedi Ohakim, former governors of Bayelsa and Imo states.
If the president has been able to get the much needed endorsement from the traditional rulers, he is not neglecting his constituency either. Despite the crisis rocking the PDP, Jonathan has been demonstrating to the public that he is a peaceful and accommodating leader. Notwithstanding his widely publicised quarrel with Governor Amaechi, he did not allow a photo opportunity go by on Saturday, June 29. Then, the president was at the Port Harcourt International Airport, to board his plane to Abuja after performing a function in Bayelsa, his home state. He was met at the airport by Ameachi. The two gladiators shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and embraced. None of them made any public comments about their disagreement before the president eventually boarded his flight to Abuja.
Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, however, tried to play down the event, saying there was nothing to it that Amaechi was at the airport to see the president off. He said it was in line with established protocol which requires that when the president is in any state, the governor or his deputy should be on standby to receive him on arrival and see him off when he is departing. Besides, he said there was no face-off between the president and the governor. “In this case, anytime the president is visiting Bayelsa State, he passes through Port Harcourt and the governor receives or sees him off. There is no rift between the president and the governor in the first place,” Abati said.
The denial has, however, not erased the common knowledge that both the president and the governor have not seen eye-to-eye in what observers see as part of the political struggle in the build up to the 2015 elections. The frosty relationship between the duo came to a head when the governor contested and won the NGF election against Jonah Jang, his Plateau State counterpart, said to have been sponsored by the president and the PDP. The president, however, seems to have penetrated the constituency of Amaechi. On Thursday, July 4, Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State and Nyesom Wike, minister of state for education, as well as some leaders of the PDP in the state that are opposed to Amaechi, had a closed-door session with Jonathan. Felix Obuah, factional chairman of the PDP in the state, told journalists that the leaders were pained that Amaechi had remained the main champion of opposition in the country against the president and the federal government.
Indeed, it appears that the president has not been able to rally every member of his party behind him. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is yet to reconcile with him and has not stopped the criticism of his administration. The former president’s opposition is said to be responsible for the PDP crisis in Ogun State. But leaders believe that would be resolved with the mini-convention slated to hold for the South-West in August.
Obasanjo and leaders of the yet-to-be registered All Progressives Congress, APC, have also criticised the president for not performing. In order to shame his critics, the president has decided to put the achievements of his transformation agenda in the past two years in a booklet form so that people can read and identify some of the projects in question. He also mandated his ministers to showcase and enlighten the public on the achievements of their respective ministries in the past two years. That, indeed, has been going on since May 29, when the administration celebrated its second year in office.
Right from inception, Jonathan said he was basing his programme on a transformation agenda, which, according him, would effectively change every facet of the way the country is being run in order to engineer development. Recently, Ruquayattu Rufa’i, a professor and minister of education, took the rostrum at the ministerial platform to explain what her ministry had accomplished. Based on a four-year plan, Rufa’i said some of the key issues in the plan included improving the quality of teachers, provision of infrastructure, vocational education, funding, curbing out-of-school syndrome, among others. She, however, acknowledged that funding for the sector had increased considerably, adding that the increase had contributed to the achievements so far recorded in the sector. “If you look at the period between 2010 and 2013, you can see how the federal government has made an improvement in funding for the sector; we never had it so good. There has been an increase from N234 billion or N235 billion to N426 billion or N427 billion this year. The budget to the sector has actually improved; even though much of the budget is going into recurrent expenditure,” the minister said.
On his part, Nyesom Wike, minister of State for education, said that no fewer than 103 principals and head teachers of junior secondary schools were trained to enhance their skills in instructional leadership, as part of efforts to promote quality education in the country. In addition, he said: “out of a total of 124 Almajiri schools slated for construction, 85 have been completed and some are already in use. The remaining 39 Almajiri schools under construction have reached between 80 per cent and 90 per cent completion rates,” he said. Wike, however, bemoaned the apathy of many state governments toward accessing funds made available for the development of basic education in the country, stressing that N35 billion, which had yet to be accessed, was still in the banks.
What perhaps should worry the ministers more is the indefinite strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. The strike began on Tuesday, July 2, because the government reneged on its agreement with the union on provision of certain amenities and infrastructure in federal universities. The agreement was said to have been signed since 2009.
Perhaps, the only monster that has not been tamed by the Jonathan administration is the availability of electricity. But the administration appears not to be giving up. The government has invested N162.9 billion to reactivate the Zungeru hydro-electricity power project in Niger State. Speaking at the occasion, Jonathan said that the hydro dam project, when constructed, would generate 700 megawatts of electricity for the country. He said the Zungeru Hydro Electricity Power Project was conceived in 1982, but due to constraints of funds the construction work could not begin and that his administration had now solved the financial challenge by making funds available to build the dam. The administration’s privatisation drive has been going on smoothly and government has promised to increase electricity generation to 10,000 megawatts by the end of this year.
Before its dissolution, the party’s NWC commended the president for his achievements in the past two years. Olisa Metuh, the then national secretary, said in a statement that the leadership of the party and, indeed, Nigerians were happy with the administration but added that the ministries should strengthen their publicity department to enlighten Nigerians more on their activities. “The National Working Committee, NWC, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is indeed, very surprised at the extent of achievements recorded so far by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP administration. We are aware that the administration has recorded tremendous successes in executing its mandate in the critical sectors of the economy, but the scorecards presented by ministers in the on-going PDP ministerial briefing have shown that this administration have actually achieved more than have been widely acknowledged,” Metuh said.
Indeed, Sunday Ekanem, state leader, South-South PDP Forum, Lagos State, told Realnews that based on his achievements, it would be difficult to deny the president a second term in office. “It is not all about Jonathan, it’s about PDP. The PDP should give him the return ticket that’s all. Those who want to contest like Amaechi and the rest of them should wait till after 2015 because they are the people over heating the polity. The president is representing the South-South zone; he is on his first term, so he deserves a second team… Let’s work as a party and we will win. As for the transformation agenda, Mr President has done more than every other president in transforming the country. He is winning and has done more than any other person. Those who are eyeing his position should wait and learn from him,” Ekanem said. According to him, the division in the NGF crisis is a fall-out of the northern agenda because the North wants to get the power back at all cost. “They are the ones using Amaechi to cause problems for the president and I hope Amaechi will retrace his steps back,” he said.
The PDP leader also dismissed the opposition’s chances of defeating the president in the 2015 election. “We don’t have any opposition party in Nigeria as far as I’m concerned. Is it the APC, a party that 82 per cent are Muslims. This is a circular state, but in their national executive committee today, 82 per cent of them are Muslims. Is that the kind of people we can entrust with power in this country, where the Boko Haram sect is bombing everywhere?” he said. Ekanem, however, agreed that for the PDP to be taken serious, it must put its house in order.
Kolade Olalere, a former PDP member in Ibadan, Oyo State, said for now, there is no better candidate to beat Jonathan in the 2015 election. He told Realnews that Jonathan would be lucky to win the forthcoming election because he has not done well in his his first term. “I cannot see anything he has done. As far as I can see, he has not done enough to earn another term in office. It is all noise. The party hierarchy is just giving a false impression that the president is doing so much. I am not impressed,” Olalere said.
Shehu Sani, president, Civil Rights Commission, said Jonathan had wasted the immense goodwill he enjoyed in the run-up to the 2011 election. Speaking in an interview, Sani described the president as the most divisive leader ever in the history of this country. “His presidency has polarised Nigeria more than any other president in this country. His supporters and foot soldiers have been engaged in fanning the embers of discord and disunity. His supporters have heightened the tension in the polity. Jonathan’s divisive approach to governance has disappointed his friends and emboldened his adversaries. Jonathan’s presidency has destroyed the historic political solidarity and cordiality between the North and the South-South. Under Jonathan, the unity of Nigeria and its future has come into question as the nation is subjected to voices of disintegration and disunity,” he said. Sani also does not think that the president has done enough to get another term.
Tam David-West, professor of virology and former minister of petroleum, said that President Jonathan had frittered away the goodwill that won him the presidential election in 2011 through ineptitude. “I don’t support people on sentiment and I don’t allow sentiment to determine my actions. I only support people who have good qualities and not people who lack good qualities. President Jonathan lacks the qualities of a good leader and that is why I always criticize him,” he said.
Indeed, for President Jonathan to convince Nigerians that he deserves a second term in 2015, he needs the unity of the PDP and a lot of ego to massaging in the North. Acknowledging the enormous problem ahead, Anenih said for the president to win in 32 states, all hands must be on deck. “We need to work hard now because we have a (presidential) mandate to move beyond 23 states in our control and win at least 32,” the PDP BoT chairman said recently. He also believes that the PDP is the party to beat in the 2015.
President Jonathan is not under any illusion. He knows that for him to get a second term in office, he has a lot hurdles to scale through. But how he does that will depend on his peace efforts and how widespread his transformation agenda is able to accomplish in the next one and half years from now.
Stakeholders in the oil and gas sector raise a 13-man committee to examine all issues raised by the industrial unions in the industry
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IN its bid to promote industrial harmony in the oil and gas sector, stakeholders in the industry have adopted a-12-point resolution aimed at addressing issues raised by industrial unions in the industry. The stakeholders have appointed a-13-man committee led by Andrew Yakubu, group managing director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to look into the all issues raised by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN.
In a 12 point communique jointly signed by the representatives of all stakeholders and government, the issues of insecurity, pipeline vandalism and oil theft, the stakeholders said that government has put in place a committee to x-ray the issues, relating to insecurity, pipeline vandalism and oil theft. It stated that PENGASSAN and NUPENG will be further informed by all the relevant government agencies and other security institutions on the progress being made.
The issue of bad roads also received attention. It was noted that government was already dealing with the issue extensively including applying resources from the SURE – P, and promised to continue in its efforts to rehabilitate the roads that are still posing challenges. It was resolved that poor access road to the Port Harcourt refinery would be captured in the ongoing reconstruction of the East–West road. It was agreed that the current rehabilitation of the railways be sustained to complement the road network in the country.
On the issue of unfair labour practice, it was resolved that the unions should submit the list of all unfair labour practices to the 13-man committee headed by the permanent secretary, ministry of petroleum resources. On alleged breaches of the guidelines on contract staffing and outsourcing in the oil and gas sector, the trade unions were encouraged to make available specific cases on such breaches to the 13–man committee and the federal ministry of labour and productivity. The forum was unanimous in their resolve that unionisation is an inalienable right of workers as established by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and the standards of the international labour organisation.
It was agreed that all issues of casualisation, contract staffing outsourcing, contract service and collective bargaining agreements should be referred to the 13-man committee. The stakeholders also resolved issues of nomenclature and harmonization, Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, pension, National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, petroleum tanker drivers and Federal Inland Revenue Service imbroglio.
Emeka Wogu, minister of labour and productivity, said subsequent stakeholders’ meeting would be held jointly with the ministers of petroleum resources, and labour and productivity, as the need arises. He stated that though the petroleum minister was away on a presidential assignment in Moscow, he has her concurrent approval to convene the forum.
Commenting on the resolutions, Igwe Achese, national president, NUPENG, commended Yakubu for his fatherly role in ensuring industrial harmony in the sector. “We want to specifically thank Yakubu for his role in ensuring an end to the strike and in convening this stakeholders meeting. Indeed, if we continue in this direction, strike will be a forgotten issue in our industry,” he said.
Yakubu thanked the unions and other stakeholders for their understanding while assuring the public that the NNPC has enough stock of petroleum products to stabilise the system after the 48 hours strike action by NUPENG. “I want to assure Nigerians once again that we have enough volumes to go round, I can confirm that PPMC depots have commenced loading and we are doing everything possible to normalise the system,” he said.
The meeting was attended by Wogu, Yakubu, Godwin Onwughalu, permanent secretary, ministry of labour and productivity, Achese, Batunde Ogun, national president, PENGASSAN, Ayoola Sadiq, national deputy president, NARTO, as well as the representatives of the IOCs.
Motorists agonise as fuel station operators close shop in major towns and cities in Nigeria following a three-day warning strike embarked upon by NUPENG members
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE three-day industrial action embarked on by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, may have been suspended but the suffering and agony Nigerians passed through would live on for a while. The strike which started on July 1, was called off on July 3, after persistent pressure from the government and the masses.
Igwe Achese national president, NUPENG, told Realnews that the decision to end the industrial action was in the interest of the public and the intervention of Andrew Yakubu, group managing director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Igwe said if these issues that prompted the strike were not quickly resolved, the union would not give further notice to the government before embarking on an indefinite strike.
He noted that the essence of the warning strike was to bring government to the negotiation table with a view to addressing some critical challenges facing the country’s oil and gas sector. According to him, some of the crucial issues that require urgent government attention include unfair treatment of Nigerian workers by the international oil companies, IOCs, high level of insecurity in Nigeria, bad state of the roads, rising oil theft in the Niger Delta, non-adherence to guidelines on contract staffing, abuse of expatriate quota and the need to evolve policies that conform to international best practices.
The strike was also embarked on to protest the refusal of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, to implement the signed collective bargaining agreement with petroleum tanker drivers. He alleged that rather than calling the IOCs to order, the federal government was giving them support.
Meanwhile, the first two days of the strike, witnessed long queues in most of the major cities in the country, while most of the petrol stations in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and other cities were under lock and key.
The NUPENG strike came a few days to the expiration of the ultimatum issued by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, PENGASSAN, which has also threatened to embark on an indefinite strike, citing anti-labour policies and poor working conditions amongst several other issues.
Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings and former managing director of United Bank for Africa, wants African Capitalists to invest in long term development of the power sector in Africa
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
AS part of his commitment to deliver affordable and accessible power to the continent, Tony O. Elumelu, chairman, Heirs Holdings, is committing $2.5 billion to investment and financing in energy which will generate an additional 2,000 megawatts of electricity capacity over next five years. This investment is part of the Power Africa initiative which President Barrack Obama of the United States launched in South Africa, during his town hall meeting at the University of Cape Town last week. Earlier this year, Elumelu’s company, through Transnational Corporation of Nigeria, Transcorp, purchased the Ughelli power plant, one of Nigeria’s largest power assets, which it plans to restore to its full generating capacity of 1000 megawatts.
“The investment we are making demonstrates our intent to become a significant player in the power sector. It also shows in a clear and meaningful way that African capital can and should be part of the solution to Africa’s challenges. We need more African companies to step up and get involved in Africa’s development.”
“Heirs Holdings’ investment in Power Africa is not just about creating value for shareholders. We want to conduct business in this strategic sector for the long term, in a way that links economic return to social benefits – a key component of what I call Africapitalism. Access to affordable, uninterrupted power will have an immeasurable impact on the economic ecosystem. The cost of doing business will come down, entrepreneurs will expand and innovate, and jobs will be created as a result. That is a very tangible example of what Africapitalism is about: the private sector creating economic prosperity and social wealth,” said Elumelu, who expoused the theory of Africapitalism at the African Development Bank annual meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, last May.
Elumelu’s latest commitment to the power sector through his pan-African proprietary investment company, Heirs Holdings, is the single largest investor included in the White House statement announcing the Power Africa initiative. It will leverage private sector investments, beginning with more than $9 billion in initial commitments from private sector partners to support the development of more than 8,000 megawatts of new electricity generation in sub-Saharan Africa.
Apart from Heirs holding’s commitment, General Electric also commits to help bring online, 5,000 megawatts of new, affordable energy through the provision of its technologies, expertise and capital in Tanzania and Ghana. Symbion Poweraims to catalyse $1.8 billion in investment to support 1,500 megawatts of new energy projects in Power Africa countries over the next five years.
Aldwych International commits to developing in Kenya and Tanzania, 400 MW of clean, wind power which will represent the first large-scale wind projects in each of these countries, and an associated investment of $1.1 billion. Harith General Partners commits to $70 million in investment for clean, wind energy in Kenya and $500 million across the African power sector via a new fund. Husk Power Systems will seek to complete the installation of 200 decentralized biomass-based mini power plants in Tanzania – providing affordable lighting for 60,000 households. The African Finance Corporation intends to invest $250 million in the power sectors of Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, catalysing $1 billion in investment in sub-Saharan Africa energy projects.
Power Africa is a multi-stakeholder partnership between the United States, the governments of Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Ethiopia, and the African private sector, with the shared objective of accelerating investment in Africa’s power sector over the next five years. These countries have set ambitious goals in electric power generation and are implementing utility and energy sector reforms to pave the way for investment and growth. Power Africa will also partner with Uganda and Mozambique on responsible oil and gas resources management.
Power Africa is expected to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity, and more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lack access to it. Power Africa will build on Africa’s enormous power potential, including new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas, and the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy. It will help countries develop newly-discovered resources responsibly, build out power generation and transmission, and expand the reach of mini-grid and off-grid solutions.
According to International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa will require more than $300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. Only with greater private sector investment can the promise of Power Africa be realised. With an initial set of six partner countries in its first phase, Power Africa will add more than 10,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity. It will increase electricity access by at least 20 million new households and commercial entities with on-grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions. And it will enhance energy resource management capabilities, allowing partner countries to meet their critical energy needs and achieve greater energy security.
Power Africa will bring to bear a wide range of U.S. government tools to support investment in Africa’s energy sector. From policy and regulatory best practices, to pre-feasibility support and capacity building, to long-term financing, insurance, guarantees, credit enhancements and technical assistance, Power Africa will provide a coordinated support to help African partners expand their generation capacity and access.
The United States will commit more than $7 billion in financial support over the next five years to this initiative, including: theU.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, which will provide $285 million in technical assistance, grants and risk mitigation to advance private sector energy transactions and help governments adopt and implement the policy, regulatory, and other reforms necessary to attract private sector investment in the energy and power sectors.
Other organisations which will contribute fund into the project are theOverseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC,which will commit up to $1.5 billion in financing and insurance to energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa and the U.S. Export-Import Bank, Ex-Im,which will make available up to $5 billion in support of U.S. exports for the development of power projects across sub-Saharan Africa. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, MCC, will also invest up to $1 billion in African power systems through its country compacts to increase access and the reliability and sustainability of electricity supply through investments in energy infrastructure, policy and regulatory reforms and institutional capacity building.
Also, OPIC and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, USTDA, will provide up to $20 million in project preparation, feasibility and technical assistance grants to develop renewable energy projects. These efforts will be coordinated through the U.S. – Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative, US-ACEF, and supported by the recently launched U.S. – Africa Clean Energy Development and Finance Center, CEDFC, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The U.S. African Development Foundation, USADF, will launch a $2 million Off-Grid Energy Challenge to provide grants of up to $100,000 to African-owned and operated enterprises to develop or expand the use of proven technologies for off-grid electricity benefitting rural and marginal populations.
In 2014, OPIC and USAID will jointly host an African energy and infrastructure investment conference. The conference will bring investors, developers, and companies together with U.S. and African government officials to demonstrate the opportunities for investment and the tools and resources available from the U.S. government and other partners to support investment.
According to fact sheet from the White House released June 30, Power Africa directly addresses constraints to investment in order to accelerate progress. Instead of taking years or even decades to create an enabling environment for energy sector investment, Power Africa takes a transaction-centered approach that provides incentives to host governments, the private sector, and donors. These incentives galvanize collaboration, producing near-term results and driving forward systemic reforms that pave the way to future investment. To achieve these ambitions, Power Africa includes: an interagency transactions solutions team to provide the catalysts needed to bring power and transmission projects to fruition by leveraging financing, insurance, technical assistance, and grant tools from across the U.S. government and our private sector partners.
Field-based transaction advisors have already begun their work in each of the partner countries, to help governments prioritise, coordinate, and expedite the implementation of power projects, while simultaneously building the capacity of existing host government ministries to deliver results.
The fact sheet said that building host-government capacity to develop, approve, finance and ultimately bring power projects on line is critical to the success of the initiative. To support this need, Power Africa will work with host governments to launch or further develop “delivery units” charged with driving progress on specific projects. These delivery units will help increase technical skills and accelerate energy sector regulatory, market structure and enabling environment reforms.
In Tanzania, for example, Power Africa will support the “Big Results Now!” program, which is establishing new delivery units within government ministries. In Nigeria, Power Africa will provide staffing support, capacity building and technical assistance to an existing delivery unit. Establishment of a delivery unit in Ghana will be closely coordinated with the MCC’s Compact slated for signature in 2014.
The recent discoveries of oil and gas in sub-Saharan Africa will play a critical role in defining the region’s prospects for economic growth and stability, as well as contributing to broader near-term global energy security, it said. Yet existing infrastructure in the region is inadequate to ensure that both on- and off-shore resources provide on-shore benefits and can be accessed to meet the region’s electricity generation needs.
“Although many countries have legal and regulatory structures in place governing the use of natural resources, these are often inadequate. They fail to comply with international standards of good governance, or do not provide for the transparent and responsible financial management of these resources,” the fact sheet said. It added that Power Africa will work in collaboration with partner countries to ensure the path forward on oil and gas development maximises the benefits to the people of Africa, while also ensuring that development proceeds in a timely, financially sound, inclusive, transparent and environmentally sustainable manner.
The Nigeria Communications Commission shrugs off pressures from telecommunications operators to further extend SIM card registration deadline given to them
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IN SPITE of pressures from telecom operators, under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, ALTON, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, said there is no going back on SIM card registration deadline. The ALTON is asking the NCC for a three-month extension of the exercise. But the regulatory agency has insisted that all the subscribers that failed to meet the deadline must be disconnected.
The regulatory agency said any telecom operator that failed to disconnect unregistered subscribers would face sanctions. Tony Ojobo, director of public affairs, NCC, told Realnews that no operator would go unpunished if it failed to comply with the directive to switch off all unregistered subscribers. “No extension of time has been given and we have given directives to all operators to disconnect all unregistered SIM cards. We are not going to sit down at the switches of the operators, but we know how to monitor them. If we establish any non-compliance, they will be sanctioned. For now, we don’t have the number of SIM cards that have been disconnected but we are monitoring the situation,” he said.
Ojobo said that any subscriber who could not register his or her SIM card for 27 months deserved to lose the line. He explained that there was a deeper interest in SIM card registration as unscrupulous elements were hiding under the anonymity they enjoyed with unregistered SIM cards to unleash terror on their fellow human beings. “The exercise was supposed to end in April but the operators pleaded for more time. It was granted. Now they are asking for more time. The NCC will not acquiesce to such a demand. SIM card registration has gone on for 27 months. If within these months, any subscriber could not go and do his or her SIM registration, such a subscriber deserves to lose such line.”
He noted that any operator who failed to provide short codes to its subscribers to enable them know their SIM card registration update must lose those subscribers. “What people don’t seem to understand is that there is a security dimension to SIM card registration. Therefore, it cannot continue to go on indefinitely. It has to end. The more you extend it, the more you create opportunity for unscrupulous elements to commit terror against the nation. The national security dimension is usually not played up because security matters are usually not discussed on the pages of national dailies. So, SIM card registration must end and those unregistered SIMs deactivated from the networks,” Ojobo said.
However, he said there is still a window of opportunity for any subscriber that falls victim of the disconnection. According to him, what the subscribers will lose is the old line while they could still buy new SIM cards, register them and continue to enjoy the dividend of the revolution.
Investigations at some of the telecom operators visited by Realnews have showed a reasonable degree of compliance with the NCC directives. Funsho Aina, MTN Nigeria external relations manager, said the company had fully complied with the NCC directives to disconnect unregistered subscribers. According to him, all subscribers that were not registered as at June 30, have been totally disconnected. He said that 13 percent of the MTN subscribers were not captured in the SIM card registration.
Osondu Nwokoro, director, special projects and regulatory affairs, Airtel Nigeria, said the company had complied with the NCC directive. “It is a directive from the telecommunications regulator and it has to be obeyed. Really, the subscribers who did not register will be hard-pressed,” he said.
However, most telecom operators’ devised means to encourage subscribers to register their SIM cards before the deadline ended on June 30. Most of the operators gave free recharge cards and promised other incentives to subscribers on their networks to get them to register their SIM cards. MTN is presently giving 1000 minutes worth of airtime to the subscribers that complete their SIM registration as incentives.
African-led International Support Mission in Mali transforms into the United Nations Mission on July 1
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jul. 15, 2913 @ 01:00 GMT
THE African-led International Support Mission in Mali, AFISMA, on July 1, metamorphosed into the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission, MINUSMA, in that country. This brings to an end the months of processes and meetings geared towards the re-hating of the AFISMA. One of such last minute meetings involved the defence and security chiefs of ECOWAS troop contributing countries who convened in Bamako on June 30, with UN officials to discuss final modalities for the transformation of AFISMA.
The Bamako meeting ahead of AFISMA re-hating involved nine ECOWAS troop contributing nations including Ambassador Cheichk Toure, ECOWAS special representative in Mali, who is also deputy head of AFISMA, and Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko, the CCDS chairman and Cote d’Ivoire’s chief of defence staff.
The meeting was one of the key recommendations of the just-ended two-day 32nd ordinary session of ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, CCDS, in Accra, Ghana, last month. The participants discussed personnel, equipment and logistics issues, financial reimbursement to the 6,237-strong AFISMA contributors towards ensuring a seamless transformation into a 12,600-strong MINUSMA before the planned national elections in Mali on July 28.
The CCDS meeting also recommended that the operational capacity of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau, ECOMIB, should be strengthened, especially with the provision of adequate accommodation and beefing up ahead of the crucial national elections in that country by the end of the year. It also recommended that the ECOWAS-supported Defence and Security Sector Reform Programme, DSSRP, should also be implemented effectively.
The CCDS Accra meeting under the theme: “Enhancing ECOWAS Military Cooperation, For Peace, Stability and Development,” also discussed the proposed African Immediate Crisis Response Capacity, AICRC; Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea and regional counter-terrorism initiatives.
The meeting was opened by Ebenezer Okletey Terlabi, Ghana’s deputy defense minister, and addressed by Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, ECOWAS commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security. Also in attendance were the Force Commanders of AFISMA and ECMIB and the Chief of Staff ECOWAS Standby Force, General Hassan Lai.
Jude Akubuilo, Enugu State commissioner for commerce and industry, has urged South Easterners to start to think of citing their business at home before elsewhere
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
PREPARATIONS for the 2013 South East Economic Summit have entered the speed gear with the inauguration of its planning committee in Enugu. The Summit is scheduled to hold from October 29 to 31 at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Enugu, with the theme: Opening up South East Nigeria for Increased Trade & Investment. Jude Akubuilo, commissioner for commerce and industry in Enugu State, said during the inauguration that the peculiar history of the South East and current events across the nation, required that the people of the zone should start to think homeward when considering the siting of their businesses.
He observed that Nigerians from other zones hardly set up businesses outside their geopolitical zones but the people of the South East site theirs in practically every corner of the country and in the process, they help to develop those areas to the detriment of their own zone.
“People of the zone are often the targets of exploitative taxes and other obnoxious policies of the government of the states where they do business and, indeed, are the usual victims of the serial crises that have come to defile the Nigerian nation. Governments of the five South East states have to team up in a new spirit of brotherhood to provide a conducive environment for business in the zone,” he said and called on South Easterners in business outside the zone to adopt the think home philosophy.
Chris Obiefuna, chairman of the planning committee, said the theme of the summit was very apt and relevant to the current needs and aspirations of the South East. He said that the summit itself “is an appropriate platform for fashioning out the medium and long-term economic development agenda of the zone.” He described this year’s summit as a natural follow up to the last two summits and assured that it would leverage on the positive results they have achieved in raising the overall development profile of the zone.
He also noted that the summit would help the zone to prepare its medium and long term economic development agenda for integration into the proposed South East – South-South development plan which, when implemented, would position the economy of the two zones to lead economic activities in the West and Central African sub-regions within the next ten years.
Obiefuna thanked the governors of the five South East states for their support and encouragement which, he said, accounted for the phenomenal success of the first two summits. He assured them that this year’s summit would, in the same tradition, continue to yield practical dividends that will propel economic activities in the zone far above their investments in the project.
“This year’s summit will engage identifiable leaders and stakeholders in every sector on a one–on–one basis to ascertain their problems and how to nurture them so as to harness their potentials to the fullest. The summit will also ascertain the reasons why businesses in the South East business hubs like Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi are relocating to Lagos with a view to finding solutions that will arrest the situation and restore the South East to its past glories in business and economy,” he said.
Obiefuna further expressed optimism on the success of the 2013 summit since majority of the members of the planning committee were part of the team that delivered the last two successful summits. He, however, appealed to them not to be carried away by their past achievements but to gird their loins for a more serious challenge ahead by adopting self denial, sacrifice and hard work in order to take the summit to the next level of success.
Presenting an executive brief on the theme of the summit, Ifediora Amobi, executive director of Afri-Heritage Institution, said that the theme of this year’s summit was specially chosen to promote some of the recent key infrastructural developments in the zone that are bound to create the right environment for injection of fresh capitals into the South East and, as well, boost trade and investment. These, he said, included the recent commissioning of the remodeled domestic terminal of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, and the laying of the foundation stone of the international terminal, the approval for the establishment of a free trade zone that would extend from 9th Mile Corner to Akanu Ibiam International Airport and the designation of Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri as an International Cargo Airport.
African Union, Nigeria condemn undemocratic removal of President Mohammed Morsi by Egypt military
| By Chinwe Okafor | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
ONE year after Mohammed Morsi, first Egyptian democratic president was elected, the military overthrew his government, on July 3, after he failed to meet demands to share power with opponents, who thronged the streets of Cairo, in protest. The military took over after Morsi failed to meet the 48-hour ultimatum issued to him to resolve the country’s deadly crisis.
Adly Mahmud Mansour, a top judge of Egypt’s constitutional court, had been sworn in as an interim leader hours after the military ousted Morsi and put him under house arrest because of his anti-people’s policies. Mansour said after the swearing in that fresh elections would be conducted soon, but gave no indication of when it would be held. “The time had come to stop our industry of making tyrants. Elections would be held based on the genuine people’s will not a fraudulent one. This is the only way for a brighter future, a freer future, a more democratic one,” he said.
The removal of the president followed four days of mass protests against Morsi and a 48 hour ultimatum issued by the military, which expired on July 3. In his televised speech, Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, a general said the armed forces could not ignore the call of the Egyptian masses. He outlined the new roadmap for the future, and said Mansour would be given the task of running the country’s affairs during the transitional period until the election of a new president.
World leaders have responded to the dramatic events in Egypt following the army’s overthrow of Morsi. The US President Barack Obama, said his government was deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution. “I call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under US law for our assistance to the government of Egypt. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard including those who welcomed the developments and those who have supported President Morsi” he said.
David Cameron, British prime minister, said he was not in support of military intervention in Egypt. He noted that what needed to happen in Egypt “is for democracy to flourish and for a genuine democratic transition to take place. All parties need to be involved in that, and that’s what Britain and our allies will be saying very clearly to the Egyptians.”
Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, said what Egypt needs at this moment of continued high tension and uncertainty is calm and dialogue. “An inclusive approach is essential to addressing the needs and concerns of all Egyptians. Preservation of fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and assembly remain of vital importance. In their protests, many Egyptians have voiced deep frustrations and legitimate concerns. At the same time, military interference in the affairs of any state is of concern. Therefore, it will be crucial to quickly reinforce civilian rule in accordance with the principles of democracy,” he said.
Bashar al-Assad, Syrian President, said what had happened in Egypt was the fall of the so-called political Islam. “This is the fate of anyone in the world who tries to use religion for political or factional interests,” he said.
Morsi became Egypt’s first Islamist president on June 30 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair following the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, former president. Morsi’s presidency was marred by constant political unrests and a sinking economy. The mass protests that led to the army’s intervention were called by the Tamarod movement, in response to worsening social and economic conditions. As at press time, neither the African Union, AU, nor any member country had commented on the coup in Egypt.
The African Union is not amused by Morsi’s ouster and has urged the military to ensure his safety. Erastus Mwencha, AU deputy commissioner, said the union would soon meet to discuss the latest developments in the country. He said already the union has an agenda on what has happened in Egypt and if the country fails to listen to the continental body, it could lead to its suspension because the AU has zero tolerance for forceful seizure of power from a democratically elected leader.
“The road map ahead is to get in touch with the interim authority and to work with it to bring the country back to constitutional order. Under our principles, the route is quite clear for any undemocratic or unconstitutional change of government. Such a country is suspended immediately, and can only rejoin the organization once the constitutional order has been reinstated,” Mwencha said.
The Nigerian government has also condemned the ouster of Presient Morsi, by the country’s military. It therefore called for an immediate restoration of constitutional rule in the country. The ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement that the development is a truncation of the aspirations of the Egyptian people to freely express themselves through the ballot box. “This unfortunate development is a gross violation of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which prohibits unconstitutional change of government. It constitutes a serious setback to the remarkable progress which Africa has made in fostering the culture of democratic governance in the continent. Nigeria calls for an immediate restoration of the democratic order in Egypt and urges the Egyptian Armed Forces to allow the democratic culture to thrive in the country.”
A federal high court in Abuja voids the appointment of service chiefs by President Goodluck Jonathan without the confirmation of the Senate
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jul. 15, 2013 01:00 GMT
IN NIGERIA, it is very rare to see lawyers have the same opinion on judgments given by a court of competent jurisdiction. In most cases, lawyers will have different opinions and some will even advise their clients to appeal a judgment that is not in their favour. But this is certainly not the case in the ruling given by Justice Adamu Bello of the Abuja Federal High Court on July 2, declaring the appointment of service chiefs in the country as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. Most lawyers Realnews talked to agreed with Bello’s ruling and advised the president not to appeal the case but, instead, do the proper thing by sending the names of the service chiefs to the Senate for screening and confirmation.
Bello’s ruling restrained the president and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, from henceforth appointing service chiefs without the approval of the Senate. The judge made the declaration while ruling in a case instituted in 2008 by Festus Keyamo, a lawyer, who asked the court to determine whether the president had the powers to unilaterally appoint service chiefs.
In the suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/611/2008, the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, the attorney-general of the federation and all the service chiefs were listed as the defendants. The court was asked to determine whether, by the combined interpretation of section 218 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Section 18 (1)(2)of the Armed Forces Act, capA.20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 was not in conformity with the 1999 Constitution, so as to fall within the category of existing laws under Section 315 (2) of the 1999 Constitution that the president, may, by order, modify its text, to bring it to conformity with the provosins of the Constitution.
In his judgment, Bello answered both questions in favour of the plaintiff and as a result granted all the orders sought in the suit. The ruling will affect the current service chiefs including Lt.Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, chief of army staff, Air Vice Marshall Alex Badeh, chief of Air Staff, and Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba, chief of naval staff.
Emeka Ngige, SAN, advised the president to regularise the appointment of the service chiefs without delay and that pending the time such is done, the service chiefs should cease to perform their functions and vacate their offices in obedience to the rule of law and come back after a week or two when their appointment would have been regularised. Ngige sees the ruling as “an indictment on the Senate which allowed such an illegality to go on without raising eyebrows especially when it is fond of making noise about its oversight functions. The senators must have kept quiet over this illegality out of ignorance or timidity.” The judgment is as clear as the daylight. The law was made during the military era. I don’t think that the Senate should pose any problem in regularising their appointments in view of the security situation in the country. The president should regularise their appointments by quickly forwarding their names to the National Assembly for confirmation.
Similarly, Onyekachi Ubani, president of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, said in a country where there is due process, the service chiefs would not have been appointed without going through the Senate for screening. According to him, appointments of service chiefs since the advent of civilian administration in the country had been done in breach of the Constitution.
He lauded the solo effort of Keyamo to correct this anomaly, adding: “It is very proper to screen those we put in charge of our security to attest to their competence to hold such sensitive posts. The process should not take more than two weeks. It is time to comply,” he said.
A lawyer, who once worked in the office of the attorney general, told Realnews that he did not think the federal government would appeal the case. He said even though the judgment did not specifically ask the present service chiefs to vacate their offices, he thinks that the message is clear and that the government would have realised by now that it made a mistake.