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Weighed Down by Culture and Tradition

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Imelda Ozokwere

In Spite of the intensified global campaign for equal rights, women in Nigeria are still victims of certain customary and cultural practices which deny them fundamental human rights

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT IS a test case of endurance, determination and perseverance in her quest for justice as well as stop her brother-in-law from abusing her fundamental human rights and the economic and psychological violence he inflicted on her. Imelda Ozokwere’s travails started when she lost her husband 29 years ago.

Ozokwere from Amihie village in Orsu-Ihiteukwa, Orsu LGA of Imo State married Cyprian Ozokwere of blessed memory in 1975 after the fulfilment of all traditional marriage rites.  As a young, vivacious teacher, Imelda also had a high society wedding with late Cyprian, a teacher turned-business man. They had blissful relationship until his death when her ordeal started with her husband’s brother, Alex Ozokwere, a catholic Knight of St John.

Alex and family in a happy mood
Alex and family in a happy mood

When her husband was alive, the only problem they had was childlessness. Because of this, her husband was prevailed upon by relatives to marry another woman. But this act did not stop the harmonious relationship between Imelda and her husband. In fact, Cyprian respected her and provided for her every need as well as made her a partner in all his business dealings.

But tragedy stuck in 1983 when Cyprian died untimely and his brother confiscated all his property without any form of consideration for the widows his brother left behind. A petition Imelda sent to Hilary Okeke, the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, revealed the brutality and the extent of his brother-in-law’s inhumanity towards her. The petition dated May 20, 2011, stated that Imelda’s husband died intestate and that her brother-in-law cunningly took her to the Probate Office of the Enugu High Court to process letters of administration. The letters were granted to her as the widow/principal; her brother-in-law, Alex, and her father-in-law. “He took the original and I thought that I was dealing with a genuine and God fearing Christian. I was dead wrong. After this, my life turned upside down. Alex seized all my late husband’s assets,” Imelda said.

According to her, “The most painful thing is that after my husband’s death, he took all the household properties and rented out our flat without my consent and knowledge. Alex also drove away Scholastica, the second widow with her baby girl.  “Initially, he confined me to one last room in our village house, and presently, I am totally banned from entering the village house and compound. He and his family are the sole occupants of our village house. He first accused me of bringing thieves into the compound. That gave rise to him changing the door and the gate keys just to deny me access. I now see the gate of my house but cannot enter inside. If I die now, he will not allow my corpse to be brought in and buried in my late husband’s compound,” Imelda lamented.

“Alex has been threatening my life, and has invested his time and money to make sure that I die without any child. I wonder what he will gain by seeing the lineage of his senior brother, who lifted him to an enviable height, closed. I made efforts to see that his lineage continues, but each effort had been thwarted by Alex,” she said appealing to Okeke to intervene to save her from Alex.

Some other atrocities Alex meted out on the lady included locking her up at the police cell because she tried to marry a wife according to Igbo custom and tradition, who will bear children to sustain the linage of her husband. He also tried to prevent her from adopting a child. Her tenuous situation prompted Imelda to ask in the letter to the bishop: “Do I have any fundamental human right? A Knight of St John of the Catholic Church, out of greed and avarice, has claimed that he is marrying more than one wife. This ceremony is archaic, and I have not witnessed one. Does nkuchi marriage involve sexual relationship and taking care of the woman, or denying her of her late husband’s estate? His membership of the Knighthood should be reviewed.”

Imelda, victim of domestic violence
Imelda, victim of domestic violence

Imelda has carried her battle for justice far and near, petitioning many human rights and non-governmental organisations, the wife of the Anambra state governor and the Catholic Knights of St John. In 2012, her deplorable case attracted the attention Maureen Chigbo, former general editor of Newswatch, who promptly sent a reporter to investigate the story. When Newswatch got to Imelda in Ihiala, on Saturday, July 16, 2012, for an interview, her pitiable condition shocked the senses out of the reporter. Her home in Ihiala looked like a hovel and Imelda looked sallow; a shadow of her former self – a lovely pretty woman that was captured in a photographic image when she was living with her husband.

Newswatch wrote: “Her impoverished life did not stem from the failure of her husband to provide for her. In fact, he left enough inheritance in landed property, cars and wares to make her have a comfortable living. But all these were allegedly appropriated by Alex who devised an ingenious way to alienate her from her husband’s wealth. Assets left behind by her late husband were made up of a three- storey building of eight flats at 16, Ichida Street, MCC, Onitsha, three big sheds/stores at the Onitsha Main Market and two empty plots of land that comprised  a double and single plots, one of which is 7, Anyaeji Omenwa St, Nkpor, near Borromeo.

Others were a house in Lilu that was fully furnished to taste, household properties in the flat they occupied at 16 Ichida St, a 505 saloon car, judgement debt of millions of Naira, in favour of Ozokwere Brothers Foundation Enterprise and share ownership in Ozokwere Brothers Foundation Enterprises, a company floated by the late Cyprian with Alex and Imelda as part of the shareholders.

The story put the heat on Alex and prompted the Catholic Knight of St. John to look into the matter seriously. When Alex saw that the matter was not going his way he tried to preempt the Knights. Consequently, Knights of St. John International Commandery 43B of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha, in a letter dated February 16, 2013, suspended Alex. The letter referred to the decision of the disciplinary committee of the Commandery, which was adopted by its Board of Trustees after exhaustive deliberations of the case brought against Alex by Imelda Ozokwere, his brother’s wife, and recommended that the rights of the woman be restored.

The recommendations are that Alex should recognise Imelda as her late brother’s legitimate wife because she was properly married in both the church and in accordance with the Act and was never divorced by your late brother as documents available have clearly shown, including letters of administration of his estate. The letter, which is in possession of Realnews, recommended that Alex should make available to her an equal share of the judgement debt of $186,990 in favour of Ozokwere Foundation Enterprises against First bank Plc.

Letter suspending Alex Ozokwere
Letter suspending Alex Ozokwere

The letter which was signed by Major Donatus Mgbakogu, president and Major Jude Ugbana, secretary and copied to grand president of the Knight of St John, its spiritual adviser and Imelda, said that in the alternative, Alex should show clear evidence that the matter is still pending in the courts. The letter also said that Alex should surrender four flats out of eight at 16 Ichida Street, Onitsha to Imelda and also concede to her  one plot of land and a shade at the Main Market, Onitsha, as her share of the properties of Ozokwere Foundation Enterprises.

The knights also asked Alex to vacate the country home of his late brother to his widow and seek alternative route to the building being put up by him behind the bungalow. “This is necessary because your countenance throughout the deliberations showed clearly that you can’t live peacefully together”, the letter stated. The Knights also asked Alex to recognise Imelda’s adopted child – Master Ozokwere junior, since the child was properly adopted as supporting documents clearly show. “Your blatant refusal to accept any of the recommendations of the Commandery’s Board of Trustees, coupled with sending the case to the Grand President even before the Commandery has taken any definite decision, made nonsense of the enormous efforts expended by the Commandery in amicably resolving the matter. The Commandery has therefore decided to place you on an indefinite suspension pending the review the Grand Commandery promised several months ago”, the letter said.

Hillary Okeke
Hillary Okeke

The latest development in Imelda’s fight for justice is heart-warming but it is still far from the justice she needs to provide a livelihood for her family. No one knows when the Grand president of the Knight of St John will take action to remedy her situation. But her travail represents the kind of violence many women especially widows go through in our society. The violence is still going on despite all the plans of action taken at various women conferences to end violence and discrimination against women.

The most celebrated plan of action in the country is that of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995. This was followed-up by a one- year campaign to eliminate violence against women. Almost 17 years after the campaign which raised the level of society’s awareness of the dangers of violence against women, the perpetration of various acts of violence is very much on the increase in the society. Such acts range from rape of women especially minors, to domestic violence and wife battery, discrimination in offices, psychological, religious and culture-induced violence like denial of inheritance and ownership of land rights as shown vividly in the case of Imelda.

The spate of violence is made worse as law enforcement officers do not see the need to tackle to the problem by enforcing the law especially in the case of rape and wife battery. There is even an archaic law in Nigeria which encourages wife battery.

Perhaps, the spate of violence against women in the society prompted former President Olusegun Obasanjo to ask a pertinent question at a recent regional summit on women and youth in the promotion of cultural security and development in Africa. “Should we continue to uphold the culture that says women have no share in their parents’ and husbands’ inheritance? And as we have been told, 70 percent of our foods are provided or produced by women who are landless by our culture and have no access to anything that will help them in production and productivity in their farms”, he asked.

The answer to Obasanjo’s questions on the inappropriateness and violent aspects of certain cultural practices might be hovering in the winds. But according to Ngozi Anyaegbunam, a gender activist and media consultant, who participated in the Beijing conference, the issue of violence against women is multi-faceted and manifests in so many ways, even in churches. Violence comes to the weak. Violence is guaranteed where there is no justice.”

She is not just talking of judicial justice but also the political situation in the country which is also violent and prevents women from participating effectively. Violence is visited on women in every sphere of life even in the movies. One of such movies which depicts the level of violence against women is entitled “Super Woman” which portrayed the major actress as bad and that her only daughter died as a punishment because of her ambitions.

“I felt disgusted when I watched the movie. “Super Woman” is violence on women. I wonder why women actors cannot adjust scripts that portray women badly before accepting to play the role. A woman should not be put on the cross. The woman in the movie was under constant harassment to balance home chores with that of the office, she said, adding: “There are many ways women are held down. Violence in the society is all encompassing. It is perpetrated not just on women but women bear a large chunk of the violence”.

Abike Dabiri
Abike Dabiri

Anyaegbunam is right. Women and girls bear the brunt of violence in the society as it is now common that no day passes without media reports of rape and abuse of girls who are minors by adults and in some cases by their parents. Recently, Gloria Ode, a mother, told an Abuja High Court how Micheal Dimono, 20, a neighbour, lured her six-year-old daughter to his apartment and raped her April 27, 2010. Dimono of Gwaladima village, Lugbe, Abuja, was arraigned December 3, for allegedly raping the girl. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail.

Also, Edet Etok-Akpan, 42, was quizzed at the headquarters of the Cross River State Police Command for torturing Edidiong, his six-year-old daughter, because a prophetess in his church branded the girl a witch. Edidiong was beaten by her father and locked up in a room with her hands, mouth and face bound for four days without any food before she was timely rescued by neigbhours after she was inadvertently discovered by another girl who went to their veranda to pick up a broom.

Perhaps, the prevalence of violence against women and girls in the society prompted the theme of this year’s March 8, Women’s Day Celebration entitled: “A Promise is a Promise. Time to take Action to end Violence Against Women.” This is why, on that day, many activities and programmes will be examining the progress countries have made to eliminate violence against women. Many women travelled to the United States for a meeting on women at the UN Women, in New York office, to mark the event.

It is heartening to note that in Nigeria, the legislature is attempting to pass a law on  violence against persons. If the law is passed and accented to by the President Goodluck Jonathan, among other things, a rapist risks a life imprisonment. Persons convicted of gang rape of a victim shall be liable jointly and severally to a minimum of 20 year’s imprisonment without an option of fine. However, where the offender is 14 years, he shall be liable to a minimum of 12 years without an option of fine.

The lawmakers specified five years or a fine of N100,000 or both for anyone convicted willfully of causing or inflicting physical injury on another person by any means or any substance or object. It was also specified that any person who compels another person by force or threat to engage in any conduct or act of sexual misconduct or otherwise to the detriment of the victim’s physical or psychological well being commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding N500,000 or both.

Female circumcision and general mutilation also drew punishment as any person convicted of performing it or engaging someone to carry it out, risks a four-year jail term or a fine not more than N200,000 or both. The provision that a rape victim has the right to terminate pregnancy resulting from rape was rejected by the lawmakers and deleted from the report. The next phase is to seek Senate’s concurrence on the bill before it is sent to President Goodluck Jonathan for his assent.

Abike Dabiri, chairman, House Committee on Diaspora, said while presenting the 51-clause bill recently that it had become expedient for the bill to become law going by the rising cases of violence against persons in the country. When the bill is finally passed, the likes of Imelda will have a legal instrument to fight their cause.

The Scourge of Maternal Mortality

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Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health

Nigeria still ranks high among countries in Africa with high maternal and infant mortality despite the efforts of past and present federal governments to reduce it

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

EIGHTEEN years after the Beijing Conference, the scourge of maternal mortality and other health issues still persists in Nigeria. Most women in the country die from a wide range of complications in pregnancy, child birth, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, breast cancer among others, which in most cases, are caused by poor health and inadequate health personnel.

According to reports from the United Nations, UN, World Population Prospects and the Institute for Health Metric Reports of 2010 published in 2012, Nigeria still ranks high in Africa among the countries with high maternal and infant mortality rates with a ratio of 545 to 630 per 100,000 live births on the maternal mortality index and 75 per 1,000 live births on the infant mortality index.

These alarming rates of women and infants dying during child delivery prompted world leaders to meet at the United Nations Millennium summit in 2000 to adopt eight Millennium Development Goals. Of the eight goals, infant mortality was weighted fourth while maternal mortality was fifth with the aim of achieving 75 per cent drop from the level of maternal mortality in 2015.

Meanwhile, the 2012 reports of the National Agency for the Control of Aids, NACA, showed that about 3.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and 58 per cent of them are women. The statistics posted on NACA website indicated 1.72 million women are living with the virus and that 55 percent of those dying of AIDS annually in Nigeria are women and young. The report revealed that in Nigeria, HIV among young women aged 15 to 24 years is estimated to be three times higher than among men of the same age. Also about 300,000 new infections occur annually with people in the same age bracket and that in sub-Saharan African, 60 perecnt of the people living with HIV are women, while women make up 50 percent of the global epidemic.

Ado Mohammad
Ado Mohammad

Aside maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS, a report from the World Health Organisation, WHO, also revealed that other health issues that affect women and children in Nigeria are heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression, malaria and autoimmune diseases. According to the report, heart disease in women is responsible for about 29 percent of the recorded deaths. It was against this background that the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and other multilateral donor agencies released funds annually to enable developing nations, like Nigeria, to improve their infant maternal health record and other health-related issues that affect women.

Surprisingly, no meaningful success has been achieved in the fight to stop the rate at which women die from probable preventable diseases in the country. Despite the efforts of past and present administrations to reduce the trend, Nigeria is still ranked second highest maternal and child mortality country in the world after India. According to the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, report, most of the victims of maternal deaths are women between the reproductive ages of 15 and 45, adding that 52,000 of these vulnerable women die in Nigeria annually.

To effectively confront the scourge, Ado Mohammad, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, said Nigeria needs new strategies that would be targeted at achieving a sustainable policy plan capable of ensuring the safety of women in the country.  He lamented that over the years, the implementation of the fantastic plans as enshrined in the agency’s document have been impossible mainly because they were not as practical as they were more political.

Mohammad stressed the need for the country to develop a new implementable plan that would naturally fit into the agency’s agenda, their partners’ and other stakeholders’ efforts towards the rapid reduction of infant and maternal mortality, polio eradication, HIV/ AIDS among others.

Eric Nwosu, a medical practitioner with the Bose Specialist Hospital in Lagos, said that government should provide the necessary health care facilities to reduce maternal mortality and other health issues that affect women in the country. “Apart from the government providing the necessary primary, secondary and tertiary health care facilities for its citizens, it is also important to emphasise the need for the women, especially those in the rural areas and the illiterate ones to be tutored in basic reproductive health education. In our practice, we have come across a lot of avoidable child and maternity deaths. Most of them stem from complications that could have been noticed during antenatal care if they had gone through the right channel,” Nwosu said.

Olusegun Obasanjo, former president also called on the federal and state governments to address health issues that affect women. Obasanjo, who spoke recently during the Abel Guobadia Memorial lecture, organised by the Women’s Health and Action Research Centre, WHARC, said that the achievement of the desired economic and political growth by governments at all levels would be difficult if the challenges facing women in the country are not addressed.

He said affirmative action must be designed and implemented to give women an opportunity to address health issues that concern them. “If they are shut out, national development in health and other sectors will be hard to realize. Majority of Nigerians particularly women are poor and they are susceptible to diseases and that is bad for any nation. If about 50 per cent of our population are women, anything that affects the bulk of that population affects the nation directly and this is in addition to the issue of direct effect on women’s health, children and the family. The issue of women’s health must be treated within the other issue of power, control and decision making,” Obasanjo said.

Perhaps, the federal government is listening, Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health has assured Nigerians that the country will meet the MDG goals 4 and 5 before the end of 2015. He said the federal government has adopted a strategy known as the Millennium Development Goals Acceleration Framework to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality and other health issues that affect women in the country.

According to Chukwu, the plan, if operational, would offer a new urgent way to curtail challenges of accelerating progress with the MDGs in the country and identify priorities in the area of interventions that would help reduce the high level of maternal mortality in the country.

“In order for Nigeria to succeed in achieving Goal 5 by 2015, a concerted effort is required to mitigate this growing in-country divergence. By comparison to progress in other Goal areas, for instance Goal 4 where progress is around 13 percent reduction per year, progress in Goal 5 is only a 4 percent reduction per year. This initiative would help fast track the efforts of the health sector in accelerating progress towards the MDGs by 2015,” he said.

Still A Man’s World

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Mike Omeri

Eighteen years after the Beijing conference in which governments agreed to equal rights for men and women, Nigerian female politicians are still struggling to get equality in elective and political positions with their male counterparts

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT IS still a man’s world. That is one reality women are faced with as they celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day with the theme: A Promise Is A Promise: “Time for Action To End Violence Against Women”, Friday, March 8. Although the lot of Nigerian women has improved since the much talked-about Beijing conference, at which governments agreed to equal rights for men and women in every sphere of human affairs in September 1995, there are still much catch-up to do by the female folk. The theme for this year’s women’s day would provide a platform for women activists to argue for more political representation which seems to have eluded Nigerian women when compared with their counterparts in other countries where women have been elected presidents.

Nigerian women could be said to have gained political prominence since the return of democracy on May 29, 1999. It cannot be overstatement by saying that democracy in the country has brought about an increase in the number of women political appointees, but the number of women seeking for elective political offices is still very insignificant. This glaring lopsidedness in the political landscape has been a great concern for a good number of persons and organisations who are clamouring for 30 per cent affirmative action for women both in appointive and elective positions. They believe that making it a constitutional issue would see the affirmative action entrenched and guaranteed for women.

Indeed, the highest elective position held by any woman in the country so far was that of the speaker of the House of Representatives. Patricia Ette held the post of speaker of the House, which made her the number four person in the country, from June 6 to October 30, 2007, before being forced to resign. She allegedly misappropriated some millions of naira. She was later absolved of all the fraud allegations by her colleagues, the accusers. Efforts to elect another woman as speaker of the House were frustrated last year. Opposition within her ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party and others ensured that Mulikat Akande was not elected to the post.

In the current dispensation, of the 109 elected senators, only seven of them are women. That translates into 7.63 percent of women representation in the Senate. The House of Representatives does not fare better. Of the 360 elected members, only 19 of them or 5.28 percent are women.  In 2003, the percentage of females was 2.7 for the Senate and five for the House. In 2007, the figure rose to 8.25 per cent in the Senate and 7.22 per cent in the House. The female representation at the National Assembly is a far cry from the 30 per cent affirmative action prescribed by the International Women’s Conference in Beijing, China in 1995.

Maureen Popoola
Maureen Popoola

Without doubt, women have been elected councillors, but no state has ever elected a woman as governor except in Anambra State where Virginia Etiaba temporarily succeeded Governor Peter Obi, following his impeachment by the state House Assembly. In the previous and current dispensations, women were elected as deputy governors.

The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan appears to be following in the footsteps of his predecessors by appointing women to head key ministries, agencies, boards and parastaltals. With the calibre and number of women in his cabinet, Jonathan has not done badly for the women folk. The list include, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, finance, Diezani Alison-Madueke, petroleum resources; Jumoke Akinjide, federal capital territory; Olusola Obada, defence; Ruqqayatu Rufai, education; Stella Oduah, aviation; Hadiza Ibrahim Mailaga, environment; Viola Onwuliri, foreign affairs; Sera Ochekpe, water resources; Zainab Maina, women and social development; Zainab Kuchi, Niger Delta and Amma Pepple, minister of housing and urban development.

In the judiciary, women are not doing badly. For the first time in the history of the country, women are heading both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Justice Aloma Mukhtar is the nation’s chief justice, while Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa is the acting president of the appellate court. All these achievements pale into insignificance when compared with other nations where women have been elected head of governments or presidents, such as in Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Malawi and Liberia.

From the look of things, Nigeria is not likely to elect such a high ranking female personality yet. The country still has a very low participation of women in politics. In an effort to re-awaken them, the National Orientation Agency, NOA, organised a national workshop on Promoting Women Political Empowerment, for Peace and Security in Nigeria, in Asaba, Delta State, February 28, this year.

Mike Omeri, director-general of the NOA, in statement in Abuja, March 1, said that the Nigerian women had not been taking their rightful position in politics and urged them to get more involved, especially in elective offices. He said the agency organised the workshop to create awareness and promote women participation in politics. “Nigeria is blessed with brilliant, resourceful and intelligent women. Therefore, the nation needs your wealth of knowledge and experience to further consolidate and sustain our democracy,” Omeri said.

In the same vein, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, who was represented by Amos Utuama, his deputy, blamed culture and religious constraints as major impediments that would not allow women to fully participate in politics. He said despite the constitutional guarantee of equal rights in politics, women were still being held back by religious and cultural biases against them.

Joseph Edozien, the traditional ruler of Asaba, in his contribution, called for concerted efforts to remove obstacles against women which include preventing girl-child education and forcing them into early marriage, among others. These constraints, Edozien said, had created psychological and emotional barriers for women in the society and debarred their participation in politics. The Asagba of Asaba, while commending the NOA for organising the workshop, said that the nation could not afford to neglect about 50 per cent of its population in the scheme of things and expect to succeed.

The workshop similarly dealt with some other issues militating against women venturing into politics. It noted the issue of discrimination among the men folk, both in voting for candidates and in allocating political offices to women. In the party setup, analysts said because men were more dominant in the hierarchy and women always constitute a smaller percentage, it behoves on the men folk to make decisions, which more often, favour them at the expense of women.

Analysts similarly observe that women also have issues of social, cultural and religious attitudes of different Nigerian societies to contend with as most of such practices tend to relegate them to the background. Based on these realties, they say only very few men, even among the educated ones, would allow their wives to participate in politics or contest elections. In the North, for instance, the one major impediment preventing women from participating in politics has to do with putting women in the purdah system or house seclusion of women.

Governor Uduaghan
Governor Uduaghan

The issue of education is also believed to be very crucial. According to statistics, women constitute a larger percentage of the illiterate group in the country. Although the number of female enrolment in school has increased over the years, some parents still prefer to send males to school at the expense females. This has left a good number of females uneducated and therefore, unable to participate fully in the political process unlike their male counterparts.

Apparently, these are issues that concern some gender-based organisations who are fighting for the emancipation of women. Comfort Idika-Ogunye, a lawyer and executive director, Female Leadership Forum, FLF, a gender-based organisation, in a newspaper interview recently, expressed sadness about the level of women participation in politics. “For Nigerian women particularly in areas of political participation, women are not there yet. In Nigeria, women’s participation in governance is still very, very low; we are still about seven; we are still the lowest in the world. And Nigeria has also been identified as one of the worst countries that women can live in. We must improve on some of these indicators and benchmarks,” Idika-Ogunye said.

According to her, the Nigerian political system does not favour women because most parties are usually formed by men with financial muscles. “Also, a lot of the women do not have the financial capacity to operate in most of these political parties, because our political system has been highly monetised,” she said.

Idika-Ogunye agreed with the opinion of Edozien that culture and religion are also major factors limiting most women from participating in politics. She argued that both culture and religion, at most times, emphasise that women should be seen and not heard, and that “a lot of them (women) often carry this perception into the political arena.”

To a large extent, the activist said women’s participation in politics is often to support the women folk. “We need to give the women a chance to show their worth. Only a woman understands how a woman feels. Let’s support all women in politics to help them overcome their challenges,” she said.

But Maureen Popoola, a lecturer at the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, disagreed. She said women who have been elected or appointed into political office have not been helping their women folk. “I don’t even give a hoot about how much they have risen in politics because they have not used their position to better the lot of the rural women. Women are still being abused daily; widows are still being maltreated; the issue of girl-education, rape and others are still very prevalent in the society. Our women in power are not helping their counterparts that are suffering,” Popoola said.

She agreed that since the Beijing conference, many women have become presidents and held several important posts across the world. She also noted that a lot of Nigerian women have gone up in the political ladder in the past few years. But she regretted that despite the stride Nigerian women have made in politics, it has not translated into bettering the lot of the poor and rural women.

Whatever political divide one may chose to belong, Nigeria’s history is replete with political achievements of great women such as Margaret Ekpo and Janet Mokelu who were members of the Eastern House of Assembly, the late Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, and Gambo Sawaba, among others. Their dogged fights against injustice and cultural emancipation of women in Nigeria are still good reference points for Nigerian women.

Why Women Opt for Paid Employment

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Briony Mathieson
Briony Mathieson

A New study of about 6000 women in six countries including Nigeria reveals that most of them prefer to be in paid employment for various reasons

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

A NEW study conducted by Olam, an agricultural supply chain and food ingredients company, has revealed that most women opt for paid employment because it gives them independence and choices. The study was done in support of the International Women’s Day, March 8, and “The Gender Agenda, Gaining Momentum”.

Olam’s  unique survey into the social impacts of female employment in its cashew processing plants in emerging markets involved about 6000 women from rural communities in Côte d’Ivoire, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Vietnam. They were asked to choose the single most important reason they value their job, beyond the obvious financial benefits.  Thirty-six percent identified that working “gives me independence and choices”.  Thirty-three percent singled out the impact on ‘status and confidence’, while 19 percent felt that “I learn useful information to take back to my family”.  Just 11 percent of the respondents answered ‘none of these’.

Commenting on the findings, Briony Mathieson, head of Corporate and Sustainability Communications, said, “As a global employer, Olam is well placed to help understand how opportunities in agricultural processing, rather than in subsistence farming, are supporting women in remote rural communities.  These findings – although only an anecdotal snapshot – strongly suggest that these jobs provide much more than just a wage packet.

“The findings of our survey clearly reinforce that the value of working together in a sociable and supportive environment cannot be under-estimated.” Briony said but added, “It is clear that employment helps to build confidence and status among women, giving them choices and improving prospects for their children.  If the theme of International Women’s Day is gathering momentum through gender equality, our research suggests that more focus on rural employment would be a big move in the right direction.”

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, report, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries is women.  It notes that ‘new jobs in high-value, export-oriented agro-industries offer much better opportunities for women than traditional agricultural work’. It goes on to state: “A very large body of research from many countries around the world confirms that putting more income in the hands of women yields beneficial results for child nutrition, health and education. Other measures – such as improving education – that increase women’s influence within the household are also associated with better outcomes for children.”

The research reflects Olam’s commitment to creating positive impacts in the communities in which it operates. For example, processing crops, such as cashews, closer to where they are grown not only reduces financial costs but retains economic value from the crops within the country of origin and creates more employment in rural areas, particularly for women.  In its sourcing operations, and through collaboration with partners, Olam provides education and business skills development for women employed in ‘traditional agricultural work’.  These programmes, which put equal emphasis on men, help to improve crop yields, secure income and create greater capacity for self-sustaining communities.

PIB Scales First Huddle

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David Mark

In spite of the hostility that characterise its debate, the Petroleum Industry Bill passes second reading and was subsequently sent to Senate joint committees for more work thereby|raising hopes of its eventual passage

 By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AFTER two days of heated arguments, the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, was passed for the crucial second reading in the Senate on Thursday, March 7. The joint committee (Upstream), Petroleum (Downstream), and Justice and Human Rights now have six weeks to work on the Bill and conduct public hearings before returning it back to the house for consideration. The seamless passage of the Bill must have surprised many Nigerians who had witnessed or heard about the heated arguments which attended the debate on the Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday.

David-West
David-West

While reviewing the submissions of members, David Mark,  Senate President,  said that the PIB would be sent to joint committee for more works and public hearing and that “by the time it comes back, there will be amendments, additions and subtractions.” He urged that the PIB should not be seen as North versus South affair, “because what is good for the North is also good for the South and what is bad for the South, is bad for the North.”

Mark remarked that a lot of work still needed to be done on the Bill and made it clear that “the draft bill that has been given to us is not sacrosanct.” He added: “So, I want to say that the Bill is a worthy Bill. The important thing is whether the Bill guarantees the transparency we want in the petroleum sector, because that is a key issue and for now there is no transparency at the moment.”

He said that the Bill, like most Senators had pointed out, is the life-wire of the country with national and international interest. Mark disclosed that the Senate had agreed that the Bill would give so much power to the minister, especially where the minister can grant lease unconditionally and can also revoke lease unconditionally. Mark assured the country that a whole lot of things would be looked into to ensure that Nigerians get a fair deal. On the issue of giving 10 per cent of the net profit made by oil companies to host communities, for development, Mark  assured that all the senators agreed that the host communities should get some benefits but the method of getting that benefit was the contentious issue. “The fear is whether the 10 per cent for the host community will be another pipeline where a few characters would hijack it at the expense of the host community,” the Senate president said.

The two-day debate was a rowdy session during which the Senate was split on ethnic lines on Tuesday, over a provision which requires operating oil companies in the Niger Delta, to pay 10 per cent of their net profits to the fund for the development of host communities. But several senators from the north opposed the Host Community Fund in the Bill, saying the oil communities should be contented with the 13 per cent derivation being provided currently.

Apparently angered by the development, the supporters of the PIB were jubilant on Wednesday, when Ita Enang, chairman of the Senate committee on business and rules, revealed that 83 per cent of oil blocs in the country are owned by northerners. “There should be equity and federal character in the allocation of oil blocs in this country. Eighty-three per cent of all present oil blocs are held by northerners,” he said. Therefore, Enang, who is representing Akwa Ibom North-East, (Uyo) Senatorial District, demanded a review of oil bloc licences in the country.

PIB Scales First Huddle
PIB Scales First Huddle

To back up his claim, Enang read out a list of major oil blocs and their owners. Prominent among them were  Mai Deribe of Borno State who allegedly “makes an average of about N4bn monthly;” Theophilus Danjuma, retired general and former minister of defence; Sani Bello, retired colonel; Rilwanu Lukman, former minister of petroleum; Abubakar Atiku, former vice president; Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, late president and Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano. Others are Aminu Dantata; Yinka Folawiyo; Emeka Ofor; Saleh Mohammed Gambo; Mike Adenuga, all businessmen.

Tam David-West, a professor of virology and former Petroleum Resources Minister, has blamed General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), former military president, for the lopsidedness in the award of oil blocs in favour of northerners. Speaking in an interview with a national newspaper, David-West, said that the ownership of 83 per cent of the blocs by northerners  was “unacceptable and politically explosive.”

He recalled that during his tenure as minister under the General Muhammadu Buhari government, no oil bloc was awarded without following due process. David-West said: “None of those oil blocks was awarded during General Buhari’s regime. All these terrible management of oil started during the tenure of Babangida when most of the strict rules were set aside. It is very unacceptable and politically explosive to have a situation where 83 per cent of the  oil blocs belong to people from a particular section of the country, especially when oil is the main stay of the country’s economy.” The professor said he was shocked that one of the oil blocs belongs to Lukman, a former minister of petroleum. “It is very unfortunate and terrible for an oil minister to own an oil block. It is corruption,” he said.

Indeed, the oil industry is reputed for corruption and working like a mafia setup. “I do not know what is happening in that industry and I have tried to (know) but it looks like a Mafia world where nobody is willing to tell you anything,” Mark said. However, he said the PIB “must ensure that the industry is opened up and there is transparency.”

Conoil’s New Lubricants

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Mike Adenuga, Chairman of Conoil
Mike Adenuga, Chairman of Conoil

Conoil has introduced four new brands of lubricants in the Nigerian market

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 10:00 GMT

CONOIL Nigeria PLC has introduced four new brands of lubricant into the market. The lubricants are Golden Super Motor Oil SAE 40, Tro-Tro Golden Super Motor Oil SAE 40, Golden Super Diesel SAE 40 and Quatro Heavy Duty Generator Oil 15W40.

Already, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON has certified the products as high performance engine oils that provide maximum benefits to the users of modern vehicles and machinery. According to SON, the lubricants have met the specific requirements of relevant Nigerian industrial standards after series of rigorous and extensive tests of the contents and production procedures. The correct usage of these lubricants ensures prolonged and trouble-free vehicle and machine operation.

Golden Super Motor Oil gives adequate protection to petrol engines, with good detergent and adequate viscosity retention with temperature. Golden Super Diesel engine oil is a top quality oil specially formulated to give reliable all-year-round service in light and medium duty, naturally aspirated engines.

The Quatro Heavy Duty Generator Oil which is infused with a comprehensive additive package and good anti-wear properties is the ideal choice for generating sets. Tro-Tro Golden Super Motor Oil is a quality multi-grade lubricant suitable for major, light and medium duty vehicles that are fuelled by petrol or Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

The Company, in a statement, described the latest SON certification as an attestation to its relentless efforts to adhere to global best practices, produce high quality lubricants comparable in international standards and to provide excellent service that meets consumer satisfaction, in line with its objective of becoming the preferred marketer of lubricants in Nigeria and the West Coast.

The SON had previously certified other lubricants by Conoil, like Quatro HDX, Okada Golden Super 20w50w and Quatro Ultra 20w50, confirming their status as world-class quality lubricant brands.

Meanwhile, the company has highly skilled and experienced engineers capable of developing high quality lubricant products, innovatively, using modern technology. The company’s major lubricant plant in Apapa, Lagos is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for testing lubricants, greases as well as upgrading existing products on a continuous basis.

Hot Air Without Substance

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Alison-Madueke, Petroleum Minister
Alison-Madueke, Petroleum Minister

A joint House Committee probing allegations that the NNPC got $1.5 billion without National Assembly approval, has been told by a consortium of banks the money they paid was for crude oil sales

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Andrew Yakubu, GED, NNPC
Andrew Yakubu, GED, NNPC

THE Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has had a respite over the controversy trailing its proposal to sell crude oil to banks to enable it clear its debt. A consortium of banks which gave the money to the NNPC, said the $1.56 billion facility given to the corporation was not a loan but forward sale of crude oil with advance deposits made to the corporation on standard NNPC sales terms at the prevailing market prices. This explanation probably made Muraina Ajibola, chairman of Petroleum Resources Upstream, to adjourn the public hearing on the alleged loan indefinitely.

Before the adjournment, Ade Adeola, managing director, project and export finance, Standard Chartered Bank, on behalf of the consortium, told the Joint committees of the House of Representatives probing the alleged loan procurement without the approval of the National Assembly, that the sales agreement which was brokered by four Nigerian banks, was designed to enable the NNPC reduce the debts accruing from petroleum products imports.  The banks are First Bank Plc, UBA Plc, EcoBank Plc and Standard Chartered Bank Plc.

“The key idea is to enable the NNPC to immediately raise the sum of $1.5 billion to pay down outstanding debts. This is based on a forward sales arrangement which allows a sale of agreed quantities of 15,000 barrels per day of crude oil for a period of five years in consideration of an advanced amount of $1.56 billion paid to the NNPC,” Adeola said.

The sale of crude oil by the NNPC will be a true sale for which the price is calculated on the basis of the open market Nigerian crude oil selling price. According to Adeola, “The structure is the same as implemented on both international and other recent NNPC Joint Venture transactions and is therefore well understood by the international and local financing market.”

Ade Adeola
Ade Adeola

Peter Nmadu, group executive director, Corporate Services of the NNPC, who stood in for the Andrew Yakubu, group managing director, NNPC, told the committee that as a public entity, the NNPC is always willing to cooperate with the National Assembly in the execution of its constitutional oversight function.

Previously, Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of Petroleum Resources, and Yakubu had in separate presentations to the House Committee explained that the $1.56 billion instrument was not a loan but a proposed forward sales agreement to enable the NNPC settle outstanding debt obligations.

For Customers’ Sake

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Andre Beyers
Andre Beyers

Airtel rolls out mobile HD voice service in Africa. The voice service will enable customers on its network to hear better in noisy environments

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AIRTEL customers on 3G networks will now experience a significant improvement in their voice communications. This will be possible with the aid of a HD mobile service recently launched to enable the customers to hear better in noisy environments. Bharti Airtel, a leading telecommunications services provider with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, rolled out the service in March, for its subscribers in Africa.

The development comes as the first step in Airtel’s ambition to make mobile HD voice accessible in all its operations across the continent. Mobile HD voice enables high-quality voice calls because it reduces background noise often heard on a regular call. To enjoy the maximum benefits of this new technology, both the calling and the called parties need an HD-Voice compatible mobile phone. However, improvements in call quality are also perceived when using an HD voice-enabled phone to call a non-HD Voice phone.

Mobile HD Voice based on AMR (Adaptive Multi Rate) Wideband technology (W-AMR) operates with nine different bit rates, providing high-quality voice calls. Compared to the current narrowband speech codec, the W-AMR speech-compression algorithm doubles voice bandwidth and produces better results. After years of trials, HD Voice services were launched in 2009 and they are now available in 35 countries around the world.

According to Airtel, the results of a recent survey shows that 96 percent of customers are satisfied with HD Voice calls, hence the rapid pace of commercialisation of the services across the globe.

Airtel becomes the third operator to launch a mobile HD voice service in Africa. The telecommunications company aims to make HD voice a reality on the continent. Further launches will be scheduled in 2013. HD voice is the most significant improvement in voice communications in the past two decades. Mobile HD voice offers crystal clear audio quality and will enhance user experience on Airtel mobile networks. “Surveys confirm that customers place a high value on HD Voice”, said Andre Beyers, chief marketing officer, Airtel Africa. “The new service will enrich end-user experience for Airtel subscribers”.

Bharti Airtel Limited, headquartered in New Delhi, India, ranks amongst the top four mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers. In India, the company’s product offerings include 2G, 3G and 4G wireless services, mobile commerce, fixed line services, high speed DSL broadband, IPTV, DTH, enterprise services including national & international long distance services to carriers. In the rest of the geographies, it offers 2G, 3G wireless services and mobile commerce. Bharti Airtel had over 262 million customers across its operations at the end of January 2013.

Good Year for West Africa

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Ouedraogo at the opening of the 42nd Summit of HSG
Ouedraogo at the opening of the 42nd Summit of HSG

West African regional growth rate in 2012 put at 6.9 percent, is more than double the global rate recorded last year

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

“IN spite of the global economic slow down, the West African regional growth remained robust with a growth rate estimated at 6.9 per cent,” according to the 2012 annual report of the ECOWAS Commission. The report, which covered various aspects of the organisation’s activities and programmes for the year under review, was presented by Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, president of ECOWAS Commission at the 42nd Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’ Ivoire in February.

According to the report, West Africa achieved an economic growth rate of 6.9 percent in 2012, which is more than double the global rate and an increase over the 5.9 per cent recorded by the region in the preceding year. The figures which compare favourably with the 5.3 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa and 4.5 per cent for Africa over the same period, were driven mainly by good rainfall and positive developments in the mining and petroleum sectors. Of the 15 ECOWAS countries, Sierra Leone recorded the highest economic growth rate of 18.3 per cent compared to expected rate of 8 per cent for Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Niger, while Mali recorded a recession.

But for the political crises in Guinea-Bissau and Mali, the President said, the Community implemented its 2012 work programme in an atmosphere characterised by “relative political stability and improved political and economic governance.”

He said the region has also finalised its draft Common External Tariff of 5794 tariff lines in five categories with accompanying measures that will provide member states with additional instruments for protection and flexibility within the context of creating a Customs Union for the region.

On free movement of people and goods, which has been dogged by impediments, the President said 11 of the 15 member states have institutionalised ECOWAS passport with common features, while a programme launched in 2012 for the use of biometric identity cards as travel documents will become operational in 2015.

Also, 24 projects valued at 426.8 million Euros were being processed under the Regional Indicative Progamme of the European Development Fund, while other measures have been taken to improve agricultural productivity through  interconnection of information systems, and adoption of a collaborative approach for coordinated and harmonised responses to food crises, he said.

The region has also procured and installed equipment that will enable it use satellites to monitor rainfall, drought, small water bodies and fires as well as  and finalised a draft document on the implementation of the strategic work programme for adaptation to the environment. The project cost is 9.5 million US dollars. To improve its early warning capability, the region has launched a study on the Sahel Saharan conflict systems, and with another ongoing study on the Mano River conflict systems.

Ouédraogo also announced that the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions, along with the Nigerian government, would provide 10 million US dollars to strengthen democracy and stability in Guinea-Bissau.

The report equally covered the activities of other community institutions such as ECOWAS Parliament, which is implementing activities under its four-year strategic objectives designed to strengthen citizens involvement in decision-making, as well as strengthen its institutional role in the integrating process, promote and defend human rights and related issues in the region and collaboration with related institutions.

The President said the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, was also involved in equipping the Abidjan Reference Laboratory for the diagnosis of diseases with epidemic potentials and designing of a road map for combating malaria.

To improve energy availability and access, he said, the West African Power Pool, WAPP, was actively working on inter-connection projects for energy trading, including those connecting Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

WAPP expects, by the end of 2013, to complete the 60-MW Felou Hydro Power facility, the 9.6-million-Euro project linking Côte d’Ivoire with Liberia and the commissioning of the Ghana component of the 330-KV Ghana-Togo interconnection project.

The President also announced that ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, EBID, has seen its total balance increase by 15.1 per cent between September 2011 and September 2012 to 341 million Units of Account, enabling it to increase lending to support the private sector and contribute to stimulating the regional economy.

Expanding Nigeria’s Debt Profile

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

African Development Bank approves $300-Million Loan for Nigeria to enable it carry out certain reforms

|  By Maureen Chigbo   |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

NIGERIA’S loan profile is increasing. On February 27, the board of directors of the African Development Bank Group approved a loan of $300 million to finance the transport sector and economic governance reform program and the Nigeria Country Strategy Paper, CSP, for the period 2013-2017.

Idris Umar
Idris Umar

The loan aims to support the Nigerian government to accelerate reform implementation in the transport sector, governance, and public expenditure management. The Reform measures include the establishment of a Federal Road Authority, National Road Maintenance Fund, Road-Tolling Policy, and Axel Load Control Policy. In the areas of public financial management reform, the program involves the adoption of international public sector accounting standards, IPSAS, internal audit modernisation plan, treasuring single account, TSA, government integrated public financial management, GIFMIS, and transparency and compliance in procurement and audit practices.

The program will also create fiscal space for increased investment in road infrastructural development. It is an integral part of a broader set of interventions of the Bank designed to support Nigeria’s transformation agenda with emphasis on economic governance and infrastructural development.

The country strategy paper outlines the Bank’s engagement and assistance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It will focus on two strategic pillars, namely supporting the development of a sound policy environment, and investing in critical infrastructure to promote the development of the real sector of the economy. The strategy is aligned with the government’s long term development agenda.

Adefaye Out, Adesina In

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Femi Adesina
Femi Adesina

Mixed reactions trail the organisation of the March 1, Nigerian Guild of Editors’ convention in which Femi Adesina, deputy editor-in-chief, emerged as president of the Guild

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS an election that many feared would result in acrimony, confusion, division and bad blood. But at the end of it all, the comradeship between Femi Adesina, the newly elected president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and his opponent, Tukur Abdulrahman, managing director, New Nigeria, was re-enacted as the two gladiators exhibited the spirit of sportsmanship. As soon as the results of the elections were announced by Mohammed Haruna, former managing director, New Nigeria Newspapers, who was the presiding officer, Abdulrahman congratulated Adesina with a big hug.

It was a great departure from the 2010 election where the loser and his supporters staged a walkout. This time, the winner was humble in victory and the loser was magnanimous in defeat. At the Gala Night, Abdulrahman again, congratulated Adesina and expressed his confidence that he would take the Guild to a greater height. Adesina, in return, thanked Abdulrahman for his sportsmanship and for demonstrating to Nigerian politicians that elections should be free, fair, and devoid of rancour and ethnic coloration. He pledged to begin work to realise his campaign promises, especially the dream to build a befitting secretariat for the NGE in Abuja.

That election did not result in a fiasco was a product of understanding and gentlemanly agreement reached between the two main gladiators in the elections. Sources close to the two camps said they had promised to respect the outcome of the contest no matter who won. They also agreed that theirs would not be a do-or-die election.

Nevertheless, the election had its own share of intrigues and moments of subtleties. For instance, Realnews learnt that before the convention, some powerful traditional rulers in the north had met to raise a large sum of money for Abdulrahman. One of them allegedly called one of Adesina’s bosses at The Sun Newspapers to ask him to withdraw from the race with a promise to refund all he had spent on his campaign. But the boss told the monarch that he was not aware that The Sun’s deputy editor-in-chief was contesting an election. Besides, he said, he was not in the habit of interfering in staff personal’s affairs.

Even among the editors, Realnews learnt that some of them tried to fan ethnic sentiments to get votes for their candidates. A delegate from the north told this reporter that he campaigned for Adesina because he was aware of the insincerity among some of his colleagues in the north. “Can you imagine that the people who called Adesina to come and contest are now those who are opposing him?” he said. Interestingly, a Yoruba man who spoke to this reporter, said he had decided to campaign for Abdulrahman because he felt it was time to elect a northerner to the office. He warned that if Adesina should be elected now, it would affect the Yoruba editors in future because they would have exhausted their chances to lead the Guild. He said it would be unfair to elect another Yoruba into the office being vacated by a Yoruba man. “It is not because Tukur is my boss, but I think we should give another person from another part of the country the opportunity to lead the Guild; then we have a better opportunity in future to contest the post,” he said. Mercifully, the election results did not reflect any ethnic bias. The new president scored 149 votes to defeat his challenger who scored 57 votes.

Away from election results, a good number of the editors who were not given accommodation felt left out of the hospitality of Oyo State government. The affected members said they were not told in advance that they would have to provide accommodation for themselves. Explaining to Realnews on phone, Isaac Ighure, secretary-general of the Guild, said that he called to warn some of the new inductees that they would not be accommodated. “That you bought form does not mean you are already a member. You can only be a member when you are inducted that is when you are recognised as a member of the Guild,” Ighure said. But one of the inductees, who was not accommodated by the Guild, said no such warning was given by Ighure even though she had fully paid her annual dues.

Gbenga Adefaye
Gbenga Adefaye

According to the secretary-general, Oyo State Government provided 250 rooms in Premier Hotel and 11 other hotels, for members and fellows of the Guild, even though the editors were more than 300. It was thus, decided that the Guild would pay for the accommodation of others when the 250 rooms had been taken. “But this did not include the inductees,” he, said. Ighure insisted that as far as he was concerned, no new inductee was accommodated by the Guild.

But Realnews can say categorically that a good number of new inductees were given accommodation by the Guild. This writer knows a lady from Plateau State who was supposed to be inducted at the Convention but could not because the NGE secretariat claimed that she had not submitted her form. She was accommodated by the Guild when she arrived on Friday, March 1, the day of induction.

Realnews is also aware that those who registered and paid their subscription fees in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, last year, without being inducted, were also given hotel accommodation. Asked whether it was the new policy of the NGE not to accommodate new members before induction, John Ndukauba, former secretary general of the Guild, said there was no policy on provision of accommodation for members whether new or old. Ndukauba said it had been the practice of the Guild over the years to accommodate everyone. He recalled that some years ago when the Guild held its convention in Bauchi and the available hotel rooms could not go round, he had to pair up with a colleague as others. “There must be some logistic problems. In my view, it was not proper to ask editors to go and pay for their accommodation when they paid their way to Ibadan. That is putting an additional cost on them; in my opinion, this is unfair,” he said.

Steve Ayorinde, managing director of National Mirror Newspapers and chairman of the NGE planning committee, in a telephone interview seemed to be taken aback that the aspect of hotel accommodation should be reported at all. “Why should such a story be of interest to you?” Ayorinde asked. He then said he was not aware that some editors were not given accommodation.

Be that as it may, Ighure said he was happy that the convention had gone smoothly without complaints. He was particularly glad that the election was “free, fair, and just.” He said the Guild had been able to show politicians the way to conduct elections in an orderly manner. Speaking in the same vein, Ndukauba commended the NGE for organising a well-attended national convention. He said the mood at the convention reflected the kind of change the editors wanted by voting for a new executive.

Adesina, deputy editor-in-chief, who doubled as deputy managing director of The Sun Newspapers, alongside other members of his executive, took over from Gbenga Adefaye, general manager, Vanguard Newspapers, whose two terms of four years ended same day, March 1. In the other offices contested Aisha Sule emerged the deputy president with 137 votes, while Suleiman Uba Gaya was elected the vice president (North) with 102 votes.

The remaining offices were occupied unopposed. They are Victor Agusiobo, vice president (East); Steve Ayorinde, vice president (West); Isaac Ighure (general-secretary); Mustapha Isa (assistant secretary); Ogbang Akwaji (treasurer) and Funke Egbemode (social/publicity secretary). The team will be in office for two years.

Prior to the conduct of the election, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State had, appealed to the NGE to ensure that the election was credible, pledging support also to the winner.

Ajimobi called the attention of the Guild to the new face of journalism and the way the internet was affecting the practice. “Online journalism is the new way and it guarantees availability and it is easier to engage in. However, this is a threat to hard copy publications. There is therefore the need for journalists to call a conference to discuss its positive and negative effects. If politicians can call for a political conference, why can’t the media, champion a reform, in the light of the growing popularity and abuse of the social media?”  He noted that the availability of news online has affected the fortunes of newspapers. “This has given room for people to engage in unethical practice that destroy people’s image,” the governor said.

Adefaye in his farewell address gave an account of his four-year stewardship. “Four years ago, we traversed the entire country like politicians, seeking your mandate, making promises to improve the profile of the NGE and not put you to shame. We successfully re-focused the editors on national issues through our flagship, all Nigerian Editors Conference. We built a virtual office and reviewed outstanding reports on our constitution,” Adefaye reminisced. He said the present funding of the Guild through N10,000.00 membership fees, conference fees and donations were no longer adequate and that the NGE should look for other means of raising funds to carter for its numerous needs.

Ray Ekpu, chairman of the convention, in his speech, stressed the importance of training and retraining of journalists. “As gate keepers, we face a lot of challenges every day. Our people must brace up to the challenges as the society generally does not like the truth. Our role is prescribed by the constitution. We all fought for the Freedom of Information and now that we have it, we should ensure that we use it. It will help this society,” Ekpu said. He also urged the new executive to continue to lift the banner of the Guild in good light. “We are happy that Gbenga (Adefaye) is not asking for a third term. As journalists, we must do what we say others should do,” he said.

What Nigerians Want

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John Obuh, Flying Eagles Coach
John Obuh, Flying Eagles Coach

Nigeria’s Flying Eagles start the 2013 African Youth Championship in Algeria March 16, with high expectations

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AS the Flying Eagles of Nigeria prepare for the 2013 African Youth Championship in Algeria, expectations of many football lovers in Nigeria are very high. Football analysts in the country expect the team to win the championship for the seventh time. Most of them are optimistic that the Flying Eagles will make the country proud in the tournament. The two-week championship will start on March 16 and end on March 30.

Etim Esin, former Flying Eagles player, said he expects nothing less than the gold from the team. He hailed the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, for the support it has so far given to all the national teams preparing for different assignments. Esin, who represented Nigeria at the 1987 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile, expressed confidence in the Flying Eagles’ ability to successfully defend the AYC title won two years ago in South Africa.

“The Nigeria Football Federation has been behind the success of all the national teams in recent times and I hope the Flying Eagles will have a good tournament in Algeria. Again, the coach in charge has been with the team for a while and there are some of the players in the previous Flying Eagles team who are still within the age limit and that could turn out to be positive in the end,” Esin said.

Flying Eagles Team
Flying Eagles Team

According to Esin, there is pressure on the Flying Eagles to retain the championship, but he believed that the number of friendly matches the team played so far would help them in delivering the trophy to Nigeria. “For John Obuh, the coach and his boys, there is a measure of pressure on them to deliver because of Super Eagles’ Nations Cup win. I believe that the friendly matches they played will also help them a lot in the tournament.”

Michael Obasi of Hot FM said he expects a wonderful outing for the Flying Eagles. He claimed that as far as the African Youth Championship is concerned, the Flying Eagles know how to get to the final stage. He noted that as the defending champions, he would not be surprised if the current team wins the trophy. “Looking at the history of the African Youth Championship, the Flying Eagles are always rated as the favourites. I strongly believe that they will go far in the tournament,” he said.

Matthew Edafe sport presenter with Brila FM, Lagos, said he expects Nigeria to, at least, qualify for the semi-finals, to enable the country represent Africa in the World Youth Championship. To him winning the trophy would be a bonus to the team. “Well, it had been a tradition for Nigeria to win the youth championship. I tell you, my expectation is nothing less than the gold. The country needs to retain the trophy to tell the world that we are the powerhouse in African football,” Edafe said.

Meanwhile, Bolaji Abdullahi, sport minister, said the ministry has provided for the team all the necessary support it needs to thrive in Algeria. “As the defending champions, we have to maintain that stance, we are hopeful that the Flying Eagles will do us proud just as their senior counterparts have done. The Super Eagles have set a high standard and we expect the Flying Eagles to continue in that tradition of excellence. The ministry has therefore given them all the support that they need. We want to show the world that our African Cup of Nations triumph was not a fluke and it was achieved through a conscious effort to build an enduring system of football,’’ Abdullahi said.

Tug-of-War in APGA

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Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State
Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State

Governors Peter Obi of Anambra State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State drag APGA in opposite directions thereby deepening its crisis

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE crisis rocking the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, has assumed a new dimension with the recent appointment of a new National Working Committee, NWC and a National Executive Committee, NEC, by the Governor Peter Obi led faction of the party. The re-composition of the party organs followed the sacking of Victor Umeh and his executives by an Enugu High Court.

The Obi-led group has Maxi Okwu as the interim national chairman of the party and Sani Shinkafi, as the acting national secretary. It also has Tim Menakaya as the chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT. But the Governor Rochas Okorocha-led group has condemned the appointments and dragged APGA to a merger with other political parties in the country.

Victor Umeh; Embattled Chairman of APGA
Victor Umeh; Embattled Chairman of APGA

Umeh has also disowned the interim leadership appointed under the auspices of the party’s national caucus. He described the national caucus that appointed Okwu and Shinkafi as illegal and working outside the provisions of the party’s constitution. Umeh had also appealed against the judgement of the Enugu High Court and applied for stay of execution. He said the composition of an interim national working committee with Okwu and Shinkafi as chairman and secretary, respectively cannot hold as none of the persons involved in convening the meeting was authorised by the constitution of the party to do so and none of the persons present at the meeting was a bona fide member of the national caucus of the party.

 “It is illegal for anybody in the party to constitute another body to function as the National Working Committee, NWC, and National Executive Committee, NEC, when my appeal is yet to be determined. The action taken by the Peter Obi-led group and the other members of the party to constitute another NWC and NEC of the party can only have the semblance of legality if it has been the Supreme Court that had delivered judgment on the matter. So, I still remain the only competent person to speak on this matter because I was personally sued in the case and neither APGA nor any member of the party was joined in the suit. Therefore, their action is illegal” Umeh said.

But Mike Udah, chief press secretary to governor Obi, defended his principal over his role in the APGA crisis. He said that the governor constituted the party’s National Working Committee, and National Executive Committee, in order to bring sanity to the party.

According to Udah, Umeh and his cohorts are accusing his principal of masterminding his recent sack  by an Enugu High Court and was destroying APGA because he had joined the PDP. He explained that all the allegations were spurious and that Obi has no plans of leaving APGA. He said rather than Obi benefiting from Umeh, it was the other way round as Umeh benefited from Obi’s stature in the party and support when he was elevated from the post of a treasurer to that of the national chairman when Chekwas Okorie, its founding national chairman, was removed.

Rochas Okorocha, Governor of Imo State
Rochas Okorocha, Governor of Imo State

Shinkafi has rejected the new position given to him by the Obi group. He said he cannot move from being a substantive secretary of the party to accepting being an acting secretary. “I will not submit myself to an illegality. I remain the national secretary of APGA until the final determination of the appeal filed by Umeh.  There is no way I will accept to become an acting national secretary of the party when I am the substantive secretary.  I will continue to align myself with Umeh as far as the leadership tussle in the party is concerned,” he said.

Some chieftains in the party have blamed governors Obi and Okorocha for the latest crisis rocking the party. Willy Ezugwu, a founding member of the party, said it was unfortunate that the power tussle in the party had been elevated to a point of ruthlessness which could lead to its disintegration if care wasn’t taken.

“There is nowhere in any party’s constitution that the governor takes decision by himself without recourse to the party’s NWC, NEC and the leaders. Obi has been doing this. He has created factions in APGA and is responsible for its infiltration and the leadership crisis currently rocking the party. I dare say he is doing this for the PDP and this is sad,” Ezugwu said.

He also explained that there have been disagreements amongst stakeholders in the party over the bid by Okorocha to drag the party into a merger with other political parties. “There is no way APGA could just be dragged into this merger bid by an individual without due discussion amongst members. The painful factor in all these is that these persons allegedly discussing the merger bid are just newcomers who do not even know how the party was formed. They only used the party to win elections and now feel they can become lords over the party. That, to me is unfortunate and highly regrettable.”

On his part, Marshal Okafor Anyanwu, chairman of the party in Imo State, has accused Obi of destroying the party to satisfy his pay masters in the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.  He said instead of Obi bringing the party together for national unity, he was busy destabilising the structure he met on ground.

As the feud continues, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has stepped in to clarify the position of the APGA constitution regarding the holding of a national convention. In its reply to governor Obi’s request for an approval to organise a national convention, Emmanuel Umenger, director of public affairs of the commission, said Obi had no authority under the party’s constitution for such purpose adding that only the national chairman of the party has the constitutional powers to convene a national convention. He explained that the electoral body took the decision after studying the constitution of the party. “There is nowhere the APGA constitution gave you; Governor Peter Obi, the powers and authority to convene a national convention of the party. INEC cannot accede to your request to convene a national convention of APGA,” Umenger said in the letter sent to Obi.

Meanwhile, the All Progressive Congress, APC merger committee has revealed that APGA was not granted a full status because of the crisis within the party. The crisis has led to the exclusion of the party in the consideration of APC logo which was released on March 6, 2013.

In another development, Victor Umeh, whose national chairmanship of the party has been declared illegal by an Enugu High Court, last week announced the appointment Emeka Ojukwu, Jr as a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, to fill the seat left vacant by the death of his father.

War Against Malaria

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President Ouattara (2nd R) assisted by Ouédraogo (1st L) as he cuts the tape to unveil the plaque at the ceremony
President Ouattara (2nd R) assisted by Ouédraogo (1st L) as he cuts the tape to unveil the plaque at the ceremony

The war to get rid of malaria in West Africa gets a boost with ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of three factories to produce biolarvicides in three ECOWAS countries

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT IS described as the disease of the poor and a major development challenge in Africa.  Official statistics shows that malaria kills more than 10,000 pregnant women and 200,000 of their infants every year in the continent. The burden of malaria is said to be heaviest in West Africa. In Africa, malaria has killed more people than all the wars in the continent combined with a child dying every 30 seconds from the scourge. It also accounts for around 40 percent of public health expenditure in endemic countries, and costs Africa some 12 billion US dollars in lost productivity.

This is why the continent especially the ECOWAS region, is cheery about the news of the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of three factories in West Africa to produce biolarvicides under the regional malaria elimination campaign programme that took place in Abidjan, February 28, during the 42nd ordinary summit of ECOWAS heads of state and government. The factories will produce malaria vectors that will attack anopheles mosquitoes which carry malaria parasites.

The three West African biolarvicide factories are to be located in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Rivers State, Nigeria with technical assistance of Cuba and the financial support of the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, under a tripartite agreement between the two countries and ECOWAS for the elimination of malaria in West Africa. The tripartite agreement signed in 2009 focuses on the strengthening of the vector control component of the region’s multi-sectoral malaria control strategy.

Prior to this, pilot programmes using the vector control in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria showed encouraging results with 75 per cent reduction in Accra over three years, a 63 per cent reduction in Port Harcourt, Rivers State over two years, while Ouagadougou, the Burkina Faso capital, recorded a 15 per cent reduction during 5 months of application.

The ceremony, which formally marked the beginning of the processes for the construction of the factories, included the unveiling of a plaque by President Alassane Outtara of Côte d’Ivoire, who is also chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS heads of state and Government, and Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, President of ECOWAS Commission.

Ouédraogo said the ceremony demonstrated the determination of regional leaders to win the war against malaria through the vector control programme that has been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as the only mode of intervention that can reduce malaria transmission from its present high level to zero.
Ouédraogo also extolled the efficacy of the vector control component of the malaria control strategy and pledged the commission’s support to member states in implementing it in the spirit of its vision of a people-centred regional integration agenda.

The World Health Organisations, WHO, has recognised vector control which encompasses biolarviciding as one of the major effective strategies for malaria elimination.

Birthdays

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Obinna Chukwudum Uzoh
Obinna Chukwudum Uzoh
Ebongabasi Ekpe-Judah
Ebongabasi Ekpe-Judah

Obinna Chukwudum Uzoh, lawyer, administrator, industrialist, politician and the managing director/chief executive officer, Gocuz Group Limited, 50, March 17. Born in Ihiala, Anambra State, he was educated at the University of Lagos; the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, and Lagos State University. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Master’s degree in Marketing, and LLB in law. He also holds a doctorate in Economics from the Lagos State University. A philanthropist who has touched the lives of many people through the award of scholarships to students, educational endowment, sport development, and building of places of worship, Uzoh is the chairman, Board of Trustees, Madonna University Okija, Anambra State; member, Nigerian Bar Association; fellow, Institute of Cost Management; fellow, Institute of Internal Auditors; member, Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, and member Nigerian-Asian Chamber of Commerce, amongst others. Uzoh is also a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as well as a former gubernatorial aspirant of the party in Anambra State. He is married with children.

Emeka Etiaba
Emeka Etiaba

Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda, managing director, Acts Resources Limited, Okota, Lagos, 56, March 16. Born in Nigeria, he attended Holy Family College, Abak, Akwa Ibom State, 1971-1976; University of Maiduguri, 1978-1982, and University of Ibandan, 1985-1986. Ekpe-Juda was employed as management trainee, United Africa Company of Nigeria, UACN, PLC, 1984-1985; branch manager, UACN, 1987-1988; assistant director, Data Science Nigeria Limited, Ikeja, Lagos, 1992-1993. He is a member, Nigeria Institute of Management, NIM, and member, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR. Ekpe-Juda is also a member of Intercessors for Nigeria, Africa and beyond. His hobbies include football, volleyball, lawn and table tennis, squash and swimming. He is the author of the Bewitched Church.     

Osuagwu Ihechinyerem Kelechi, physician, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, chief medical director, Newlife Specialist Clinics and Maternity, 41, March 16. Born in Okpanku, Amumara, Ezihinitte, Mbaise local government area of Imo State, he was educated at Central School, Amumara, 1978-1983; Archdeacon Dennis Junior Seminary, Mbieri, Owerri, Imo State, 1984-1990, University of Ibadan, 1991-1998. He was medical officer, Kaltungo General Hospital, Gombe, 1999-2000; registrar, obstetrics and gynaecology, Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, 2001-2005; senior registrar, Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, 2005-2008; head clinical services, Princess Medical Centre, Port Harcourt. He is a fellow, West African College of Surgeons, FWACS; member, International Aids Society, European Society of Gynaecological Oncologists, and zonal chairman/South-East regional coordinator, Nigerian Cancer Society. He is director Jasonik Global Services.

Ibrahim Coomasie
Ibrahim Coomasie

Emeka Etiaba, lawyer, philanthropist and politician, 48, March 16. Born in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, he was educated at Nike Grammar School, Enugu; Okongwu Grammar School, Nnewi, and University of Jos in 1988. He attended Nigerian Law School and was called to Bar in 1989. He has been in private legal practice and his law firm has branches in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Nnewi. He is a member of the International Bar Association and Ikoyi Club. He was governorship aspirant under the People’s Progressive Alliance, PPA, in Anambra State 2010 governorship election, but lost in the party’s primaries.

Ibrahim Coomasie, former inspector general of police, 70, March 18. Born in Katsina State, he was educated at the Provincial Secondary School, Zaria; Barewa College, Zaria; Detective Training College, Wakefield, UK, and in Institutions based in Washington DC, US.

Awarded

Josephine Odumakin, Nigerian human rights activist, awarded the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award, on March 8, 2013. The US merit award was conferred on Odumakin for her exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment. She was honoured alongside nine other women around the world as an event marking the 2013 International Women’s Day.

Appointed

Ebere Onwudiwe
Ebere Onwudiwe

Professor Ebere Onwudiwe, as the new executive director, Ken Nnamani Centre for Leadership and Development, KNCLD. Onwudiwe is a professor of political science and economics at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, US. Until his appointment, he was the executive director of the Centre for International Studies, Central State University, Ohio. He was also a lecturer at the Ohio State University, Antioch College and the United Nations University in Costa Rica. He has served as a governance consultant with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu 

— Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Bright Future for Women Farmers

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Women with hip pump irrigation tool

– 

Airtel Africa partners with UN Women to assist women farmers in East and Horn of Africa share information and tools through Airtel Mobile networks

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

WOMEN farmers in the East and Horn of Africa have cause to be happy. Airtel Africa has signed a memorandum of understanding with UN Women (The United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women) to provide the farmers with practical information-sharing tools via Airtel’s mobile networks. The MoU will enable UN Women identify the farmers to be covered under this initiative, whilst Airtel will package and deliver the appropriate mobile solutions to support their livelihoods and enhance their efficiency.

Under the agreement, Airtel Africa will establish a Farmer’s Information System, which will enable women farmers to access real time information related to weather, changes to the policy environment (such as taxation and regulation), available support services; as well as other areas. In addition, Airtel will also offer internet protocol messaging services and closed user groups.

Andre Beyers
Andre Beyers

Mobile connectivity gives rural communities access to education, banking facilities and opportunities to increase trade. By connecting rural communities through its mobile networks, Airtel aims to create positive community impact, greater social interaction and opportunities for economic development.

The two-year partnership between Airtel and UN Women aims at building the skills, capabilities and resources of women entrepreneurs. Women provide approximately 70 percent of agricultural labour and produce 90 percent of all food, and yet do not always share equally in the economic benefits of the industry. Airtel and UN Women are dedicated to helping women farmers enhance their productive capacity and international competitiveness in the countries where they jointly operate. Airtel believes that entrepreneurship and the development of the private sector are essential to achieving economic development and poverty eradication. Under this agreement, Airtel will also co-finance initiatives and projects promoting the empowerment of women and the girl child.

Andre Beyers, chief marketing officer, Airtel Africa, said: “The empowerment of women is essential to economic development, especially in rural and agricultural economies. We are pleased to partner with UN Women and contribute to their agenda of gender equality and empowerment of women by leveraging the possibilities mobile telephony has to offer.”

Women farmers investing in agriculture
Women farmers investing in agriculture

Christine Musisi, UN Women’s Regional programme director for the East & Horn of Africa, said: “This exciting new partnership will use the power of mobile telecommunications to engage and empower women in rural and urban areas”.  According to her, working with Airtel, UN Women can reach entrepreneurs faster, through communications platforms as they already own mobile phones.

“Increasingly, both the public and private sectors recognise that empowering women is smart economics, and that women must be brought to the heart of Africa’s development. We will work closely with Airtel to train women so that they, their families, and the region can reap the benefits of this opportunity,” Musisi said.

 UN Women is the youngest UN agency. Established in 2010, it is dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. It has five priority areas: ending violence against women; enhancing women’s economic empowerment; increasing women’s leadership and participation; engaging women in all aspects of peace and security; and making gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting. UN Women East & Horn of Africa’s mandate includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

What do you think about signing of the 2013 budget by President Goodluck Jonathan?

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George Ekenechukwu
George Ekenechukwu
Adekunle Joseph
Adekunle Joseph

THE 2013 budget which was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan on February 26 has generated a lot of controversies among Nigerians. Some people believe that signing of the budget at the end of February means that the implementation may start in the next two to three months, while others believe that there is still time for the president to implement the budget. Below are what Nigerians think about the delay in the signing of the 2013 budget.

Adekunle Joseph, Accountant: I’m happy that the president has finally signed the budget into law. The problem now is its implementation. This is where the problem of this country lies. The president and the National Assembly should ensure full implementation of the budget by the end of the second quota of the year.

James Adebayo
James Adebayo

James Adebayo, Civil Servant: There is nothing special about this budget. They did not implement the 2012 budget and that is the reason why most Nigerians are suffering today. I consider this budget as a yearly ritual which government performs to enrich certain individuals.

Moses Diugwu
Moses Diugwu

Moses Diugwu, Politician: I’m not happy with the PDP government in the way it is handling issues that concern the masses. The budget which was submitted to the president since last December has just been signed it into law. When will the implementation start? This is one question which the president and his team must answer. I’m sure by next month or thereabout, you will hear that there is no money to implement the projects.

Stanley Nwaila, Teacher: My concern and worry are that this budget has nothing to impact on the lives of the Nigerian masses. For instance, as a teacher in a private school, what will I benefit from this budget? I buy fuel to run my generating set on a daily basis, pay for my drinking water and so many other issues. Tell me what I will benefit from it at the end of the year.

Stanley Nwalia
Stanley Nwalia

George Ekenechukwu, Engineer: It is a good development that the president has finally signed the budget. I’m among those who believe that the National Assembly and the presidency can resolve their differences irrespective of their conflicting interests in the issue under discourse. I believe they will speed up the implementation.

Odey Cyril
Odey Cyril

Odey Cyril, Public Servant: I don’t like to comment on issues like this, but I think what we should be talking about now is the implementation of this budget and how it will better the lives of Nigerians. Everything that happened before signing the budget is now history, so the most important thing is how to judiciously utilise the funds budgeted for projects.

Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu 

— Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Africa’s Richest Man

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Aliko Dangote
Aliko Dangote

Forbes, an international fortune-rating magazine, still lists Aliko Dangote, president of Dangote Group of companies as the 43rd richest man in the world and first in Africa

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

FOR the third time in a row, Aliko Dangote 55, has retained his position as the richest man in Africa and moved from 76 in 2012 to 43 in the latest world ranking with a net worth of $16.1 billion as at March 4, 2013. According to Forbes, Dangote is self-made, making money from his investments in cement, sugar and flour.

The fortune rating magazine is impressed with Dangote’s dexterity in making money, especially with his charity works through which he gives back to the society. In the wake of the flood that ravaged many cities in Nigeria, killing at least 360 people and left more than two million people homeless, Dangote donated N430 million to the victims and the presidential committee, headed by Dangote also gave N2.5 billion to the relief effort.

His words: “We should give while we are alive and also when we are young and capable. Sometimes, we need to have the genuine experience of deprivation and poverty in order to appreciate the need to be our brother’s keeper.” Recently, Dangote gave N6million to the families of the slain health workers in Kano State and donated N130 million to the Super Eagles of Nigeria for winning the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa.

Dangote, who was born on April 10, 1957 in Kano, now lives in Lagos. He read Business Studies at the Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. On November 14, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan awarded him Nigeria’s second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.

Mike Adenuga
Mike Adenuga

Mike Adenuga, 59 chairman of Globacom was the second Nigerian on Forbes’ list. He was ranked the 267th richest man in the world, 5th in Africa and second in Nigeria. He made his mark through his telecommunication and oil and gas companies. He is using his foundation to help the society in all human endeavours by supporting initiatives that will enhance the socioeconomic development of the country. He is using the foundation to raise young Nigerians through Glo football academy, Glo scholarship and promotion of primary health care in the rural areas. He also donated $1 million to the Super Eagles of Nigeria after winning the continental tournament in South Africa.

Adenuga was born on March 29, 1953, in Ogun State. He read Business Administration at Northwestern State University, Alva, Oklahoma, US. On September 17, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan awarded Adenuga Nigeria’s second highest honour, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.

Editorial Suite

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WHEN the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was established in 2003, it was supposed to be an instrument of justice, a platform through which criminals are brought to book and appropriate punishment meted out to offenders. Nowhere was it stated in the Act establishing the Commission that it was to be used by powerful interest groups as an instrument of oppression or retribution. But right after it was established by the administration of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, the commission has been a willing tool in the hands of government and powerful interest groups to oppress and intimidate lesser mortals.

There have been cases where the EFCC has  been unleashed on states where their governors are at daggers drawn with the federal government. The EFCC acted with impunity when Nuhu Ribadu was its first chairman and continued to do so even when his successor, Farida Waziri took over after he had left. The tendency for the financial watchdog of the government to veer off its duty has also continued with the administration of Ibrahim Lamorde as the chairman of the EFCC, who, incidentally, admitted that there are corrupt officials in the Commission at the confirmation hearing in the Senate after he was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

But the deviant behaviour of the commission has not changed as Nigerians. who can afford, use it as an attack dog or as an instrument of vengeance. It all played out in the case of Uzoma Cyril Attang, director in the federal ministry of Communication Technology, who has been having a harrowing experience in the hands of the EFCC,  which is being used by one Chukwuemeka Anagor, who in the first instance, duped Attang and her husband. The gory tales of the EFCC complicity in the trail of Attang is what Realnews decided to expose in the cover stories in this issue entitled: Desperation of A Blackmailer and EFCC, The Attack Dog. The stories were written by Mike Akpan, our capable editor-in-chief who did the magazine the honour of writing his first cover stories. It is a rare occurrence. But it shows the passion he has for the defence of justice. He wrote it in a grand style and provided in graphic details of the rot in EFCC which militates against its effectiveness as an organ of government fighting financial crimes in the country. The stories are a must read. Enjoy it.

Maureen Chigbo
Editor

— Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Desperation of a Blackmailer

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Chukwuemeka Anagor

For refusing to prevail on her husband to withdraw two criminal cases against him in Abuja courts, Chukwuemeka Anagor, a businessman, is using false petitions to anti-corruption agencies to tarnish the image of Uzoma Cyril Attang, director in the federal ministry of Communication Technology

|  By Mike Akpan  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

UZOMA Cyril Attang, director, federal ministry of communications technology, has learnt one bitter lesson that is likely to live with her for the rest of her life. The lesson is that she will never underestimate the criminal intention of anybody who approaches her with any business idea or proposal. She underestimated the criminal intention of Chukwuemeka Anagor, former staff of Grand Products, Apapa, when he approached her with a business idea of investing in general importation and distribution of household and office equipment in 2007. Today, she and her family are paying the price of that naivety.

Uzoma Attang
Uzoma Attang

Even though Cyril Attang, an engineer and former group managing director of Modandola Group of Companies, had known Anagor since 2003, he was somehow hesitant to embrace the business idea when he first introduced it to him orally in 2007. Determined to push ahead with the idea, Anagor approached Uzoma, who was then an assistant director in Police Pension Fund, to prevail on the husband to give serious thought to the business idea. And she did. Thereafter, Attang asked Anagor to put the business idea in writing. He promptly complied.

After the proposal was approved, Anagor demanded for and collected N2 million from Attang to rent a shop at Peoples Plaza located at Plot 1263, Jere Street, Garki, Abuja, as the branch office of Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited, RDBL. The amount was approved and paid into his account number 0286050100004 in Fidelity Bank Plc on July 23, 2007. Anagor was specifically directed to rent the shop in the name of Attang pending the incorporation of the new company.

After the company was incorporated in October 2007, Anagor was formally employed as the Abuja branch manager of Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited in January 2008. In that capacity, he submitted a business plan which the company approved and released N15.2 million immediately for its implementation. The money was transferred from RBDL’s account in Zenith Bank for onward payment to the branch manager. The amount was to be used for the purchase of stocks and  sales/delivery vehicles for the Abuja branch office. As branch manager, he got the mandate from the head office in Lagos to recruit the staff he needed to work with and to issue the company’s identity cards to them. He was authorized to personally sign the company’s identity cards of the staff.

The business  started on a good note but soon went awry when, sometimes in late 2008, Olagunju Ojuade & Company, a firm of chartered accountants based in Lagos, was hired by the company to do an initial stock-taking and also put in place a proper accounting and reporting system to ensure a smooth operation in the Abuja branch office. The stock-taking and valuation reports which were jointly signed by the auditor and Anagor had some shocking revelations. Anagor could not produce some basic receipts like the receipt for the rent paid and the tenancy agreement of the rented shop. More so, he had diverted sales proceeds amounting to N11 million to his private account.

Cyril Attang
Cyril Attang

This revelation necessitated the employment of a branch accountant for the Abuja branch office who also discovered that the N2 million Anagor had collected from Attang for a two-year rent of the shop was actually inflated. As against N1 million he collected, the annual rent for the shop was N 500,000. By implication, Anagor pocketed the other N 1 million. But that was not all. Early in December 2008, the headquarters of the company wrote to the shop management in Abuja requesting for the tenancy agreement of the branch office. Shockingly, the tenancy agreement sent to Lagos bore the name of “RDBL Ltd” which Anagor signed on behalf of the company. Even at this point, the company still underestimated the criminal intention of Anagor probably because all the stock cards, receipt booklets, invoices and waybills in the shop located at Peoples Plaza, Plot 1263, Jere Street, Garki, Abuja, were still bearing Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited whose acronym was interchangeably written as RDBL. But unknown to  Attang and Uzoma, Anagor had fraudulently incorporated a new company in June 2008 to take over Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited as his own property. In the new company, he and his wife were the only directors and shareholders. Curiously, James Ocheche Adeka, a lawyer, who Anagor introduced to Attang as a friend, undertook the incorporation of both Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited and RDBL Ltd. at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC. Although rearranged, the Articles and Memorandum of Association of the two companies were similar, an indication that the twosome were up to something.

The plot came to light after the Garki police, which investigated a reported case of fraud at the Abuja branch of the company, arraigned Anagor on a four-count charge of criminal breach of trust, cheating, store-breaking and theft at an Upper Area Court, Abuja, on December 22, 2008. In a desperate attempt to forestall the trial, Anagor instituted two civil suits in Abuja high courts. One was to secure a court order to stop the inspector- general of police from investigating him in respect of the reported crimes for which he was standing trial. In another civil suit at the federal high court, Abuja, Anagor lay claim to the ownership of Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited. In the suit, RDBL Ltd. and Chukwuemeka Anagor were first and second defendants respectively while Uzoma Cyril Attang, Cyril Attang,  the Commissioner of Police, Abuja and Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited, were joined as first, second, third and fourth defendants respectively.

Mohammed Abubakar
Mohammed Abubakar

The first claim of the plaintiffs in the suit was that the court should declare that Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited is their bona fide property. The second claim which was also a prayer was that the court should grant an injunction restraining the defendants, their agents and privies from interfering with the plaintiffs’ occupation and enjoyment of the aforesaid shop. They also prayed the court to grant them N50million as general damages for their mental anguish, strain, stress and defamation.

Expectedly, the fourth defendant also came up with claims that countered those of the plaintiffs. The first was that the counter-claimant was the bona fide and lawful occupier of its branch shop at Plot 1263, Jere Street, Garki. The second was that the fourth defendant was the lawful owner of its properties comprising household and office equipment and other stocks in its Abuja branch office. The third was a prayer that the court should make an order restraining the plaintiffs, their agents, servants, privies, assigns or such other persons howsoever described, acting on their behalf from trespassing, interfering or disturbing the counter-claimant from enjoying the tenancy of its branch shop in Abuja. Another prayer was for the court to order Chukwuemeka Anagor (second plaintiff) to refund one million Naira being specific damage for the balance of its two-year rent of the branch shop in Abuja. Altogether, the fourth defendant submitted 10 counter-claims.

David Mark
David Mark

On November 27,2012, Justice Ugochukwu A. Ogakwu, who presided over the suit, No.CV/1059/2009, dismissed all the claims of the plaintiffs while some counter-claims of the defendants succeeded. The civil suit of the plaintiffs was, indeed, an eye-opener to the Attangs who pressed on for a thorough investigation of how Anagor and Adeka had conspired to dispossess them of the bona fide property of the family. After a thorough investigation, the police slammed a five-count charge of joint act, making false documents, forgery, using as genuine forged documents and possession of forged records on Anagor at the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Wuse, Abuja. For the part Adeka played in the sordid affair, Attang addressed a complaint to the chairman of the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee. The letter dated March 4, 2009 and entitled: Re: Complaint of Gross Professional Misconduct Against Mr. James Ocheche Adeka — A Legal Practitioner, which was signed by Attang on behalf of his company, was duly acknowledged by Linda Bala, who identified herself as the legal adviser of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. The acknowledgement letter was dated March 23, 2009. At this point it was very clear to Anagor and Adeka that they were about to stew in their own juice. As a last resort, they turned to Uzoma and started to mount pressure on her to prevail on her husband to withdraw the criminal cases in courts against Anagor and the petition against Adeka. When the threats and blackmail failed to move her to do their bidding, they resorted to negative media campaigns against her. The  next stage of their campaign was the series of false petitions Anagor addressed to all anti- corruption agencies, David Mark, Senate President, as well as other relevant federal government agencies accusing her of looting N240 billion during her tenure at the Police Pension Fund. How he came about that staggering amount is anybody’s guess because in the five charges that the EFCC has linked her with, the amount mentioned is not even close to N60 billion. And Anagor has never been a staff of Police Pension Fund to lay any claim to being an insider.

EFCC, The Attack Dog

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Ibrahim Lamorde
Ibrahim Lamorde

Nigerians who have one score or another to settle with perceived enemies use the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as the attack dog

|  By Mike Akpan  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Chukwuemeka Anagor
Chukwuemeka Anagor

WHEN Ibrahim Lamorde appeared on the floor of the Senate last year for screening and confirmation as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, he was manly enough to admit that some corrupt elements have infiltrated the anti-corruption agency. Lamorde knows better. He is a foundation member and also one of the longest serving staff of the Commission established in 2003 with Nuhu Ribadu as the pioneer chairman. Then, Lamorde was the pioneer director of operations. When Ribadu was removed as chairman by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in December 2007, Lamorde acted as chairman before Farida Waziri was appointed the substantive chairperson. And when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan kicked out Waziri last year, Lamorde was reappointed the substantive chairman pending his confirmation by the Senate.

Uzoma
Uzoma

Although he was saying the obvious, it was the first time any head of an anti-corruption agency in Nigeria would openly admit that he was presiding over a sick institution. But it is very doubtful whether, apart from his open admission, Lamorde has done anything to reduce the level of corruption in the Commission ever since he took over as the substantive chairman. Apart from corruption, the Commission is still wearing the crest of an attack dog, a notoriety it earned during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Today, people who have one score or the other to settle approach the Commission with false petitions which some corrupt elements in the anti- corruption agency will jump at. A case in point is a petition sent to the Commission by one Chukwuemeka Anagor against Uzoma Cyril Attang, a director of finance  in the federal ministry of Communication Technology. The petition alleged that Uzoma stole N240 billion from the Police Pension Fund between December 2007 and August 2008 when she served as deputy director in the Police Pension Fund in Lagos. Similar petitions had also been forwarded to the inspector-general of police, chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices (and other related offences) Commission, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, State Security Services, SSS, the Senate President, David Mark, and other relevant federal government agencies. The petition was written against Uzoma, not because Anagor is a patriotic Nigerian, who wants to help in the war against corruption in the country, but because he felt he could use the Commission to ruin her civil service career for refusing to pressure her husband, Cyril Attang, an international businessman and engineer, to withdraw two criminal cases hanging on his neck. The two criminal cases in Abuja courts have to do with the fraudulent activities of Anagor when he served as Abuja branch manager of Royal Diadem Business Logistics Limited, owned by the engineer. The deputy director played a key role in convincing her husband to buy into a business proposal which Anagor submitted to him for which more than N35 million sunk into it had gone down the drain.

Waziri
Waziri

On the basis of Anagor’s petition, the IGP, ICPC, CCB and the SSS went into action and probably, after an exhaustive investigation, in addition to written submissions and documents forwarded to them by Uzoma, arrived at reasonable conclusions  on the issues raised by the petitioner. Before then, the engineer husband of the deputy director, who is also party to all the suits that had emanated from the court cases for or against Anagor, also submitted his written representations and documents on the same matter. What Waziri did at the EFCC before she left was to refer the petition to Lamorde’s operations department to investigate. On that basis, a team headed by one Pascal, was set up to handle the investigation. But as soon as Pascal’s team started work, another team led by one Suleiman, sprang up for the same assignment. As if that was not enough embarrassment, on March 22, 2011, a third team led by one M. Yakubu also emerged for another round of investigation on the same subject matter. All these, probably, were meant to break her spirit. And despite the many teams set up on the same matter, the Commission is yet to conclude its investigations on Anagor’s petition after more than two years. EFCC officials continue to subject her to rounds and rounds of invitations for explanations and interrogation on the same matter. The incessant invitations, arrests and detention compelled Perry Ikoro, one of her counsel from S. A. Agwe & Company, to write to the chairman of the Commission on March 23, 20011, insisting that the various files in respect of the investigation be harmonised so as to do justice to the matter.

Ribadu
Ribadu

Apparently, following the letter, the Commission has decided to bring charges against her along with Esai Dangabar, Atiku Abubakar Kigo, Ahmed Inuwa Wada, Mrs. Veronica Ulonma Onyeabula, Sani Habila Zira, Christian Madubuke and John Yakubu Yusuf. Of the 20 charges brought against the accused persons, Uzoma is linked with only five. A close analysis of the charge sheet has revealed that the amount of funds Uzoma was said to have stolen from the Police Pension Fund is nowhere near the N 240 billion being touted by Anagor. All the cheques bearing the various amounts she was said to have stolen bore the name of the director of the Fund. If her only offence was that she signed the various cheques bearing the various amounts allegedly stolen, she was not a sole signatory to the Police Pension Fund accounts. It is therefore very curious that none of the other co- signatories is facing any of the charges for which she is facing trial in court. Besides, most of the people charged along with her are those she has never met in her life having left the Fund early on August 7, 2008 and most of the frauds were said to have been carried out between January 2009 and 2011. Uzoma had made it very clear during interrogations and in written submissions and documents made available to her interrogators that she never handled any cash throughout her tenure in the Police Pension Fund and that before she co-signed any cheque, the relevant voucher must have been verified by all the relevant units in accordance with extant civil service rules and financial regulations before approval by the director of the Fund. It is after all these procedures had been complied with that a cheque would be raised for her to co-sign. The question now is: Have EFCC officials faulted this claim 10 months after commencement of trials of the suspects even as Uzoma is still being interrogated or before rushing her to court or are they playing the script of the blackmailer which is a calculated design to embarrass her or ruin her civil career? Time will tell.

Alison-Madueke Must Go Campaign

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Alison-Madueke
Alison-Madueke

An anti corruption group demands the sacking of Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources, for the alleged mismanagement of N1.035 trillion in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

A CAMPAIGN to remove Diezani Alison-Madueke as minister of Petroleum resources is on the card. Anti Corruption Network, a group led by Dino Melaye, former member of the House of Representatives, leads the campaign that the minister must be sacked immediately for mismanaging funds running into about N1.305 trillion. The group also gave the federal government a 14-day ultimatum to remove the minister or face serious consequences.

The group claims that the report of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, from 2009 to 2011 on the oil and gas sector audit, indicted the minister and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, for mismanagement of funds. The group also threatened that failure to sack the minister would lead to an unprecedented mass action from the group. Although the report did not mention the minister’s name, the Anti Corruption Network noted that the financial mismanagement discovered in the NNPC was done under her supervision.

According to the report released on the NEITI website, federal government lost N2.153 trillion to unwholesome activities of the NNPC. The report also revealed that the federal government earned a total of N22.24 trillion from the oil and gas sector between 2009 and 2011.

The audit, which commenced on March 1, 2012, also revealed that the NNPC owed N1.305 trillion to the federation account as at December 31, 2011. The report further accused the NNPC of continuing to short-change the federation through inaccurate conversion rate to the tune of N98.3 billion.

A breakdown of the revenue lost to the activities of the NNPC as contained in the report showed that financial flows from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, including dividends and repayment of loans, of which $4.84 billion was received by the NNPC, but did not reflect in either the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN account or to the federation account.

The report disclosed that subsidy payments claimed by NNPC increased by 110 per cent within the period of the review. “It rose from N198 billion in 2009 to N416 billion in 2012. In 2011 alone, it rose to N786 billion. The increase between 2009 and 2011 was 186 per cent,” it stated.

The NEITI report said that the revenue accrued to the federation account from the oil and gas sector within the period was mostly made up of proceeds from crude oil sales, royalty, signature bonus, concession rentals, gas flaring penalties as well as petroleum profit and companies income taxes.

“Unresolved differences between what government received and what companies claimed that they paid within the period was $68.4 million while the sum of $311.85 million, representing flows to the federation account, were claimed to have been paid by covered entities to the relevant accounts, but such payments were not confirmed to the CBN bank statements,” the report finding said. .

The report also covered all major oil and gas companies, including Shell, Total, Agip, Mobil, Chevron, Conoil, Addax, among others as well as the federal government agencies which either receive, regulate or manage revenue accruing from oil and gas such as CBN, FIRS, DPR and OAGF.

Reacting to the report by NEITI, the NNPC said that the drafters of the report were misinforming the general public over N1.305trillion subsidy claims made by the corporation as unremitted funds to the federation account. Tumini Green, spokesperson of the corporation, said all subsidy claims were duly verified, approved and authorised for payment by relevant agencies.

“The subsidy claims due to the NNPC are not cash payments as amounts duly approved are backed out from the Gross Domestic Oil revenue due to the federation account in any given month. On the total amount of N1.305 trillion deducted, the report deliberately ignored and or omitted the factors responsible for the increasing amounts paid especially the price of crude oil which accounts for 82 percent of the price build-up for petroleum products. The debt portion of the N928 billion had been paid in the first quarter of 2012 on the relevant due dates. This can be verified from the relevant authorities. One would have expected NEITI to take cognisance of this process in the report to avoid misrepresenting NNPC’s debt profile,” Green said.

Nigeria’s Gas Ambition

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Ige, GED, Gas and Power, NNPC
Ige, GED, Gas and Power, NNPC

Nigeria is set to become a regional hub for gas in 2017

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

NIGERIA is gearing up to become a regional hub for gas, petrochemical and fertiliser by 2017, according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, projection. David Ige, group executive director, Gas and Power, NNPC, said February 21, that gas development reform and capacity in the country were being redoubled and that a few years from now, the entire nation would be wired up for gas. “All that we need to make Nigeria a regional hub of petrochemical and fertiliser is in place,” he said.

According to Ige, the federal government has started a major gas infrastructure development initiative which is designed to create flexibility of movement of domestic gas nationwide. The government has, over the years, invested billions of Naira to develop gas infrastructure. Some of them include the Ajaokuta-Kano-Kaduna gas line, which is at an advanced stage of design and would supply gas to the northern part of the country for power generation and gas-based industries.

”The massive investment in gas infrastructure has led to improvements in gas supply and power availability and it depicts the holistic approach of this administration in resolving the power crisis in Nigeria permanently,” Ige said, adding,
”the nation is on its way to achieving gas export parity, a development that would encourage greater investment by the private sector in the gas exploration and production.”

One of the fallouts of the policy of increasing gas production and utilisation in the country is the growth of domestic gas usage. Already, 300 taxi drivers have converted their cars to run on gas in Benin. This information was provided by Ige, who received the prestigious Man of the Year Award from the Oil and Gas Year book that chronicles the Who’s Who of the Global Energy Industry in Abuja.

It should be recalled that Nigeria’s dream of becoming a hub for fertiliser got a boost recently when the African Development Bank approved $100 million loan to Indorama Eleme Fertiliser and Chemicals Limited, IEFCL, for the building of a gas-urea fertiliser plant in Port Harcourt. The plant will serve markets in Benin, Brazil, Ghana, India, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The plant is expected to start production in 2015, and will allow Nigeria, which relies heavily (80 per cent) on imported fertiliser, to progressively become self-sufficient and a major exporter. Ultimately, the project will act as a catalyst to support job creation in the area in addition to striving towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the areas of food sufficiency and a cleaner environment.

Checking Oil Pipeline Vandals

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(L-R) Momoh, Yakubu and Peter Nmadu, GED, corporate services, NNPC
(L-R) Momoh, Yakubu and Peter Nmadu, GED, corporate services, NNPC

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation devises strategies to end oil pipelines vandalism in Arepo near Lagos

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is determined to stop vandals from wrecking its pipelines. The corporation has deployed a state-of-the-art technology to maintain a comprehensive surveillance of the pipeline, especially the System 2B artery in Arepo, Ogun State.

Already, an indigenous engineering firm, ENIKKOM, has been mobilised to redirect the pipeline from the reach of vandals with modern technology to monitor it on a regular basis. ENIKKOM Construction, an engineering firm, is bringing modern technology to bury the pipelines 40 metres deep into the ground on the right of way. The company is to complete the work by May.

According to Andrew Yakubu, group managing director, NNPC, new pipelines will be used to change the configuration in order to keep the Corporation’s critical infrastructure away from vandals.” Yakubu was at the project site, February 26, to ascertain the extent of work done by the Nigerian Army Engineering Corps code named SAPA, on the clearance of the pipeline right of way at Arepo.

Yakubu said in matching words with action and in order to continue to improve the right of way of the pipelines, the NNPC has also built a watch tower and a police post, and would ensure that the hot spots would be completely secured, adding that this would also prevent the loss of lives. The NNPC will also build a long wide platform that will ensure easy access at anytime for the security forces over the swamps.

The project has a very high cost benefit to the NNPC, which records a loss of N600 million every week that the System 2B is hacked down by vandals. The project also has the full support of President Goodluck Jonathan and the top leadership of the security agencies. Yakubu appealed to state governments, local government, communities and other stakeholders to join hands with the NNPC to stamp out pipeline vandalism so that the economy will grow.  He also seized the opportunity to confirm that all the refineries were running at different levels of effectiveness, noting that TAM for Port Harcourt refinery, PHRC, has been scheduled for April this year.

The NNPC boss was accompanied by Haruna Momoh, managing director of the Pipelines and Products marketing Company, PPMC, Emeka Okonkwo, a brigadier.-general, .who represented Azubuike Ihejirika, chief of army staff and Edward, managing director, ENIKKOM Construction, the company laying the pipelines.

Momoh allayed the fear of the public over shortage of petroleum products due to pipeline vandalism, when he said, that with the two hundred and fifty eight tanks in 21 depots and a holding capacity of 2.6 billion litres of petroleum products and with the over 5,000km network of pipelines across the country, the NNPC was ready to constantly wet the nation with products. He assured Nigerians that the NNPC would continue to do all within its ability to ensure that fuel queues remained a thing of the past.

For Okonkwo, it is the duty of the army to support civil authority and that the army is in Arepo to re-establish the right of way of the NNPC pipeline from Mosimi to Ibadan within 90 days. He assured that the military engineers would deliver on its mandate.

The management of the NNPC mobilised the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps to the NNPC System 2B artery in Arepo, after the January 12, pipeline damage to check the tide of pipeline hacking in the area.

It should also be recalled that three NNPC engineers lost their lives to the pipeline vandals last year. Many of the vandals had been arrested and some of them are already being trial in court.

Jonathan’s Accent At Last

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Jonathan
Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan finally succumbs to pressures from lawmakers, signs the 2013 federal budget

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

THE cloud hovering over the 2013 budget lifted on Tuesday when President Goodluck Jonathan signed it without any more ado. The budget has been in limbo since it was passed December 2012, by the National Assembly, shortening the joy Nigerians had because they thought that both the Executive and Legislature had got their acts together by breaking the jinx over budget delays.  But it took more than two months for the president to sign the N4.987 trillion 2013 Appropriation Bill into law. What the president sent to the National Assembly was about N4.6 trillion budget.

The signing of the bill came without fanfare amidst unresolved issues concerning constituency projects, no budgetary allocation to Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC and the alleged increase of the budget by the National Assembly as against the original figure submitted by Jonathan. The signing was done after  Jonathan, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, finance minister and other top government officials met the leadership of the National Assembly comprising David Mark, Senate president and Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker, House of Representatives.

David Mark
David Mark

Realnews learnt that the meeting did not end on a friendly note as Mark and Tambuwal stormed out of the presidential villa and a reluctant Jonathan was advised to sign the budget to pre-empt any unforeseen action the National Assembly could take that could be detrimental to the image of the federal government. Constitutionally, the National Assembly could override the president if he fails to accent to the bill after 30 days had elapsed.

Meanwhile, Nigerians and some international financial institutions in the country are not excited by the development. Most people who talked to Realnews could not comment on the budget because the details were not yet out. An official of a multi-lateral organisation, which has office in Nigeria, said he will have to study the details before he could comment, hinting, however, that emphasis of the budget should be on capital rather than on recurrent expenditure for it to be meaniful.

Aminu Tambuwal
Aminu Tambuwal

A former staff of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, who wishes anonymity, is of the view that Jonathan allowed himself to be browbeaten into knowingly signing a corruption laden (referring to the constituency allocations) bill into law. According to him, the constituency projects are euphemism for corruption and the president should not have resisted so long only to sign what the National Assembly presented to him.  “If the president had resisted signing the bill for so long, why does he do so now? The constituency projects did not emanate from the ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs of the government, but from the National Assembly. The National Assembly should not be doing appropriation for capital projects. It is an aberration in law. For many Nigerians, it is a disappointment that Jonathan signed it as proposed by the National Assembly.” he said. He, however, added that it is good that the country now has a budget to work with.

Emmanuel Isokpan, a financial consultant with Transnational Consulting, said the details of the budget was shrouded in secrecy. “Until we see it, we can’t make any comment. For sure, they can’t implement the budget because of their quarrel over it,” he said.

Enemies from Within

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Gov. Amaechi
Gov. Amaechi

President Goodluck Jonathan and Peoples Democratic Party governors are on each other’s jugular fighting for the control of the party machinery ahead of 2015 general elections

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

WHEN President Goodluck Jonathan took oath of office on May 29, 2011 as Nigeria’s 14th  head of state, he had no illusion that members of the opposition political parties would be the greatest critics of his policies and style of governance. But what he probably did not bargain for was to be on a war path with the governors from his own political party – Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

In the last two years, the president has been perpetually at war with the governors who have exploited their powers in the governors’ forum and the party’s national working committee, NWC, to act against the president’s interest. One of the battles the president had with the governors is for the control of the party machinery. But this has been a big task for the president. The reason is that the governors currently hold the ace in the PDP national executive committee, NEC, because of their overwhelming influence on the state chairmen and secretaries of the party who are members of the NEC. And with this advantage, they have persistently demanded for a NEC meeting where they plan to remove Bamanga Tukur, the PDP national chairman from office. But Tukur himself, apparently to forestall his removal, has refused to convene the NEC meeting.

Goodluck Jonathan
Goodluck Jonathan

Also, recently, the governors, in league with former president Olusegun Obasanjo, almost succeeded in pulling victory against the president during the last botched Board of Trustees, BoT, election.  Analysts said had the election taken place, Ahmadu Alli, Obasanjo’s preferred candidate, would have emerged as the BoT chairman against Tony Anenih, the anointed candidate of President Jonathan. To forestall the defeat again, the Tukur-led PDP was said to have scuttled the process on the ground that the membership of the NWC, the body that enjoys the privilege of voting for the BoT chairman, would have to be reviewed before the election.

The governors have also ganged up to frustrate the aspect of the constitution review that sought to give autonomy to local governments in the country. This stance differs sharply with that of the president who has said on many occasions that without autonomy for the local governments, there would be no development in the country.

With the kind of power the governors wield in the party, analysts believe that they are likely to frustrate whatever ambition the president has in 2015. Kasir Yasin, a political analyst and founder of Global Awareness, a non governmental organisation, said Jonathan has conceded too much to the governors and that if he does not initiate steps to clip their wings, he would go down in history as the first president  in the country to fail in a re-election bid.

But the president appears to have also taken the battle to the governors that are standing on his way. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which was a veritable tool used by the Obasanjo presidency to check the governors that crossed his path, appears to have been let loose on aides and family members of some of the dissenting governors.

Early in January, the EFCC launched investigation in the three PDP states of  Jigawa, controlled by Sule Lamido, Rivers, where Rotimi Amaechi holds sway and Delta presided by Emmanuel Uduaghan, over allegations of corruption. The eldest son of Lamido is also standing trial over allegation of money laundering. These investigations are coming on the heels of rumours that Lamido and Amaechi have presidential ambitions in 2015.

But Ahmed Gulak, special adviser to the President on Political Affairs, has dismissed the insinuation. “What I know is that my principal and most of the governors are members of the PDP and when there is a crisis in the PDP, they will sit down and look for ways to settle the problem in a way that would carry everyone along,” Gulak said.

To give weight to the insinuation that the president and the PDP governors are on a war path, Godsday Orubebe, minister of Niger Delta Affairs, recently descended on Amaechi, who is also chairman of the Governors’ Forum, accusing him of diverting the “huge” resources accruable to the state to “bribing the rest of Nigerians because of his interest to become vice president in 2015.

But the most scathing attack against the governors came from an expected quarter – Edwin Clark, Jonathan’s closest political confidant and former federal minister of information. Clark wants the Governors’ Forum outlawed because, according to him, they have become a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.

“I wish to dwell on some of the offending activities of the Governors’ Forum which are driving the country to madness but which, as members you do not care about, provided you achieve your purpose and the Forum’s over-bearing influence on the Peoples Democratic Party, the supremacy of which you have hijacked. The Governors’ Forum is now acting as an opposition party to the federal government. It deliberately breaches with impunity, the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and the constitution of the PDP, without any challenges. The Forum has now become a threat to the peace and stability of Nigeria. Most of the governors today, are more dictatorial than the then military governors. The President should ban them,” Clark said.

Yasin, however, warned that if there is no reconciliation soon, the situation would only lead to implosion in 2015.

Boost for Renewal Energy in Nigeria

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Donald Kaberuka, AfDB president
Donald Kaberuka, AfDB president

Nigeria gets $50 million from Climate Investment Fund to support renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Climate Investment Fund, CIF, is to provide Nigeria with $50 million to support an African Development Bank-supported programme of financial intermediation for renewable energy and energy efficiency through local banks. The funding agreement, which was announced in February, is part of the country’s national investment plan endorsed by the CIF in 2010. The money, being provided under the CIF’s Clean Technology Fund, CTF, is designated to stimulate alternative and efficient ways to generate electricity and also reduce dependence on energy sources which contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

The funding will be used to stimulate investment in downstream opportunities that would lead to greater energy efficiency through a range of technologies, including industrial energy efficiency investments, renewable energy, renewable-based hybrid systems, and cleaner fuels and combustion processes. The CTF money will complement support provided through the AfDB private sector window, to help the country address energy efficiency in critical sectors such as power, agribusiness, transport, telecommunications, and education by targeting local financial institutions to invest and support the shifts to clean, efficient and affordable energy in the sectors.

The work to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewables is in line with the country’s national policy framework designed to lead the country to an ambitious set of energy goals, including rural energy scale-up and actions to ensure energy efficiency through a combination of regulations and incentives at the national scale. Established in 2008, as one of the largest fast-tracked climate financing instruments in the world, the $7.6 billion CIF provides developing countries with grants, concessional loans, risk mitigation instruments, and equity that leverage significant financing from the private sector, multilateral development banks, MDBs, and other sources.

Five MDBs – the African Development Bank, AfDB, Asian Development Bank, ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD, Inter-American Development Bank, IDB, and World Bank Group, WBG – implement CIF-funded projects and programs.

Jonathan’s 2015 Strategies

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Tony Anenih
Tony Anenih

President Goodluck Jonathan has devised various strategies to ensure that he gets the the People Democratic Party presidential ticket for the 2015 election

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  | Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Amaechi
Amaechi

FOR the second time in his political career, Rotimi Amaechi, governor of Rivers State, is again faced with a decisive political battle that could either make or mar him. The first was in 2007 when he emerged as governor of Rivers State after winning a court victory that ousted Celestine Omeha from Creek House, the seat of government in Rivers State. But unlike the Omeha victory which came through the aid of the judiciary, Amaechi is now locked in a political battle with President Goodluck Jonathan. Can he survive this one?

Of course, the president holds the ace in this battle because he controls the vast resources in the country. And with that, it is believed he has started implementing plans against Amaechi which include removing him as chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, where Amaechi seemed to hold sway.

Before now, the forum was known to be in harmony in taking unilateral position on issues in the polity. Amaechi’s problem with some of his colleagues, allegedly sponsored by the Presidency, might not be unconnected with his reported ambition to run on the same ticket with Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, for the president in 2015. But since that ambition clashes with the 2015 second term bid of the president, the NGF has since been split into two camps – the pro-Amaechi group and those against him.

The rivalry between the two camps was said to have given birth to the formation of another parallel body of governors called the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum, which is led by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State. This is because Amaechi still presides over the NGF, at least until May when his tenure will end. A source said the plan was to vote out Amaechi on February 25, but having survived the plot, the meeting ended in a stormy session in which some governors were said to have engaged in a shouting match. Both Amaechi and Lamido have denied such ambition.

President Jonathan
President Jonathan

The NGF’s opposition is said to have prompted the president to be working on strategies to free himself from the clutches of the governors hostile to his 2015 ambition, by empowering ministers, especially those from the PDP states. But how he intends to do that is still unclear because most of the ministers were nominated by their respective state governors.

That notwithstanding, there are some ministers who are already working for the president’s ambition. Recently, Amaechi, and Godsday Orubebe, the Niger Delta minister, and a supporter of Jonathan, engaged in a media war over the poor state of the East–West Road. They used the media to discredit themselves and make unsavoury allegations against each other.

On January 24, Edwin Clark, an elder statesman and former minister of information, said the NGF was a threat to the nation’s democracy. Clark, a confidant of the President, added that members of the forum were violating the nation’s constitution with impunity as well as behaving like an opposition party to the Federal Government.

Amaechi’s ambition is not the only thing that has brought him on a collision course with the president. About four years ago, the governor and Patience Jonathan, the first lady, quarreled openly over the demolition of the Waterfront in Okrika, Rivers State. The governor also incurred the wrath of the president when he showed support for Timipre Sylva, former governor of Bayelsa State during the power struggle in the president’s home state. Sylva eventually lost in the law court and could not re-contest the governorship seat. But the vexed issue that pitched him against the president, it is believed, was when a campaign poster for 2015 appeared showing him and Lamido as vice-presidential and presidential candidates in the coming election.

Obasanjo
Obasanjo

That, perhaps, has prompted the President to step up his machinery to help him strategise for 2015. On Tuesday February 26, the PDP Board of Trustees, BoT, announced the election of Tony Anenih, former minister of works, as its chairman. It is Anenih’s second coming as BoT chairman, having served previously under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. The election of Anenih as BoT chairman is seen in the political circles as an indication that Jonathan will run for the 2015. Another pointer in that direction is that Obasanjo was reported to have kicked against his re-election bid in 2015, and had therefore struggled to control the BoT chair, the position Obasanjo himself vacated last year. Hence, two previous attempts to elect the party’s BoT chairman, had been stalemated because both Jonathan and Obasanjo wanted their candidates in the post. While Obasanjo was rooting for Ahmadu Ali, a former PDP national chairman and former minister, Jonathan’s anointed candidate was Anenih, who is widely known as Mr. Fix It. Now that Anenih is on the driving seat, observers say Jonathan’s re-election bid on the PDP platform is guaranteed.

The president has also started putting his own men in some key areas to further his interest. On Friday February 15, the national executive of the PDP sacked Bode Mustapha, national auditor of the party and Segun Oni, the national vice-chairman (South-West) and also dissolved its South-West Executive. The sacked officers are believed to be loyalists of Obasanjo. Mustapha was immediately replaced with Adewole Adeyanju.

Mustapha has threatened to take the party to court over his sack and dissolution of the party executive in Ogun State. But in spite of the threat, the PDP went ahead on Wednesday, February 20, to swear in the caretaker committee led by Ishola Filani for the South-West branch.

It was the same South-West caucus’ case that led to the removal of Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the national secretary of the PDP. Oyinlola is also one the loyalists of Obasanjo. Ogun State is the home state of the former president Obasanjo and its coming under the ambit of Jonathan it is believed, will swing votes in the state in favour of the president. Jonathan’s message seems to be coming clear to all that he would not brook opposition, especially from his party, to get the party’s ticket for re-election.

No Compromise On Sanitation

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Ladipo market
Ladipo market

Lagos State ministry of environment vows to enforce sanitation laws in Lagos markets

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Lagos State ministry of environment is determined to enforce sanitation laws in all major markets in the state. That was why it shut down the popular Ladipo market in Mushin local government last Monday due to degradation of the environment by the traders.

The decision to shut the market came after several warnings by officials of the ministry failed to change the attitude of traders towards environmental cleanliness.

Tunji Bello
Tunji Bello

Bayo Sulaiman, chief superintendent of police and chairman, the Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) unit, did not pretend over what he meant when he led a fully armed team that stormed the market as early as 4.00a.m and shut it. Sulaiman stated that the state government had a lot of issues with traders in the market, ranging from poor sanitary condition of the market to degradation of the environment with diesel and fuel products.

“We came here two weeks ago but the officials of the market did not show up. There is serious trading going on in the streets and there are lots of shanties here. We will make sure that this time around, proper sanitation is done by the traders before this market will be re-opened and they have to submit to the chairman of Mushin Local Government,” he stated.

The action of the special taskforce has received the commendation of Olatunde Adepitan, chairman, Mushin local government area. Adepitan described the closure as long overdue and which was aimed at moving the market forward. He lamented that every attempt made to bring the traders to obey the law has been misconstrued by them as an attempt to victimise the non-Yoruba traders.

Tunji Bello, commissioner for the environment, said he ordered the closure of Ladipo market after the traders failed to abide by the government environmental laws despite several warnings and meetings with the market leadership and traders about the deteriorating state of the market. “The environment is seriously polluted and degraded with oil; full and half engines, spare parts and human wastes are dumped into surrounding canals while illegal structures are built along drainage paths and all the canal have been turned to shops and trading points,” Bello said.

According to Bello, some of the conditions that might warrant the re-opening of the market include: complete removal of all illegal structures and attached structures built along canal paths and that traders must be confined to the main markets.

Mile 12 market
Mile 12 market

Ladipo was not the only market shut by the officials of the state government because of filthiness.  Mile 12 market, described to be the largest food market in Nigeria, was shut early this year because of the inability of traders to comply with the state’s environmental laws. The market was also shut last year for the same reason. The poor sanitary condition of the market has posed a serious threat to the health of traders and customers.

Before shutting the market, officials of the taskforce complained that many traders had not been complying with the Thursday environmental exercise declared to keep markets and business offices in the state clean. As a result of indiscriminate parking of trucks by drivers, the gridlock between Ketu and Mile 12, a distance of about one and half kilometers usually take motorists up to 30 minutes.

But Shehu Usman, financial secretary, food stuff dealers, Mile 12 market, has urged the government to invest more in the market by providing facilities that would make the market one of the best in West Africa. To address the problem of poor sanitation, Usman said the market association leaders have constituted a committee to make sure that all traders in the market comply with the Thursday environmental sanitation. A taskforce comprising members of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, National Union of Road Transport Authority, NURTW, and market officials was constituted to ensure that truck drivers do not obstruct traffic along Ikorodu road. A trader, who craves anonymity, expressed surprise that despite the huge revenue that comes from the market, the government did not deem it necessary to develop the market. “We generate a lot of revenue for the government, but unfortunately, the government has not done much in terms of providing and upgrading facilities in the market,” she said.

 The popular fruits market in Ketu, was also shut down in January  before it was reopened when the traders agreed to abide by the sanitation laws and stop using the market for residential purposes.

What Iroko’s Promised Ondo People

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Mimiko; Promises better things for Ondo people
Mimiko; Promises better things for Ondo people

Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, starts a second term in office with a promise that he would not relent in his efforts to make the state a model for others

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AKURE, capital of Ondo State, was agog on Sunday, February 24, as Governor Olusegun Mimiko was sworn-in for a second term in office. The grand occasion hosted political giants of different parties, captains of industry, religious leaders and community leaders, among other interest groups. Accompanied by his wife, Olukemi and members of his immediate family of three girls and a boy, Mimiko was sworn-in by the Olaseinde Kumuyi, the state chief judge. About 30 minutes earlier, Alli Olanusi, the deputy governor, had been sworn-in by Kumuyi. The eventful inauguration was the climax of a week-long event that included prayers in churches and mosques, a lecture and hosting of guests at a gala night.

In his address, Mimiko said in his first term, he restructured the education sector to produce “truly competitive and socio-economically-relevant products, who will be equipped to climb the social ladder,” with the aim of producing a vibrant middle-class that would drive development in the state. Rather than relenting, Mimiko, a medical doctor, promised that the next four years of his administration would bring “governance closer to the people by recording greater achievements on all fronts.”

The governor, who is nicknamed Iroko by his admirers, thanked everyone in the state for the support he enjoyed during his first tenure and promised that his second coming would enable him to serve the state better. He promised that he would not leave any abandoned project, and that the next four years of his government would focus on an aggressive creation of jobs for youths in the state through innovative and durable programmes that would engender sustainable livelihood. He also emphasised the need to keep the youths engaged so that they would not be involved in hooliganism, kidnapping and other vices.

Among the important personalities that witnessed the ceremony were two Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, governors, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Ibikunle Amosu of Ogun State who was represented by Segun Adesegun, his deputy. Governor Tanko Almakura of Nassarawa State, who was elected on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, was also in attendance, and Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, and traditional rulers from both within and outside the state including Oba Okunade Sijuade, the Ooni of Ife.

Others were General Abdusalam Abubakar, former head of state, Aliko Dangote of Dangote group of companies, Great Ogboru;, Onyebuchi Chukwu, health minister; Oba Otudeko, chairman of First Bank Plc; Tunji Braithwaite, former presidential aspirant; Gbenga Daniel, Ayo Adebanjo, Rasheed Ladoja and Ayo Fayose, all former governors.

The rest included Olu Falae, former presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, Bolaji Akinyemi, a professor and former minister of foreign affairs and Fredrick Fasheun, leader of OPC, among other personalities across the country.

However, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was not impressed. It criticised the inaugural ceremony, which it described as absolutely elaborate and flamboyant and expressed the hope that Mimiko would soon be sent packing when the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal delivers its judgment. A statement issued by Ayo Fadaka, the party’s director of publicity, said Mimiko was only acting as an interim governor.

The statement said in part: “Despite the fact that millions of unemployed youths roam our state, Mimiko found it convenient to spend over N1 billion on a needless inaugural ceremony that saw to the invitation and hosting of various dignitaries from far and near, including the Diaspora.”

Mimiko was declared winner of the October 20, 2012 governorship election in Ondo State by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Battle for Newswatch Ownership

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(L-R) Aruwa, Kunle Oyesanya, their Lawyer, Agbese, Ekpu and Akinrinade
(L-R) Aruwa, Kunle Oyesanya, their Lawyer, Agbese, Ekpu and Akinrinade

As the legal fireworks over the ownership of Newswatch Communications Limited begin in Lagos, Justice Ibrahim Buba, presiding judge, warns parties not to do anything that undermine the integrity of his court

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS a fierce legal battle, February 26 and 27, at the ongoing hearing at the Federal High Court, Lagos, over the ownership of Newswatch Communications Limited. Nuhu Wada and Jibril Aminu, both former external directors of Newswatch, brought the case against Jimoh Ibrahim, the core investor in Newswatch Communications Limited. The-two-day sitting of the court was marked by legal maneuvering and a show of wits between  Ray Ekpu, former chief executive officer, CEO, of Newswatch, who is a witness for the plaintiffs and Bolaji Ayorinde, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and the lead counsel to Ibrahim.

On the first day of the hearing, both Ekpu and Ayorinde, locked horns in an attempt to outwit each other. For instance, in a bid to maneuver Ekpu, Ayorinde had asked him that as one of the founding fathers of Newswatch, he should know everything about the company.  Ekpu aptly replied: “Everything! I know a lot; not everything.” Not satisfied, Ayorinde wanted to push further but Ekpu maintained his stance. “I know a lot; not everything”, Ekpu said.

The ding-dong continued the following day as Ayorinde tried to extract answers from Ekpu about the shareholdings of his colleagues (Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and Soji Akinrinade) including Wada and Aminu. Ekpu said he only knew his shareholding which is 3.4 million shares. But Ayorinde would not give up. He asked Ekpu again how much was paid to his colleagues as their retirement benefits. Ekpu replied that he only knew his which is N79.5 million but since he wasn’t the accountant, he would not know the exact figures they were paid. But he added that he knew that Jimoh Ibrahim cheated them all by shortchanging them.   At this point, Ayorinde interrupted Ekpu and said, that wasn’t the question he had asked him. But Justice Ibrahim Buba, the presiding judge, told Ayorinde that it was already too late because he had already entered that part of Ekpu’s evidence into his record. He then asked Ekpu to continue.

Ekpu continued: “The four of us had a meeting with Mr. Ibrahim. He called one lady to read the figures of what we were going to be paid. The figures were less than what we submitted to the board on May 5, 2011. When we told him that the figures were less than we expected, he said, ‘that is the money that is available!’. He paid us what he wanted to pay us”,

When asked how his N109 million retirement benefit was calculated, he continued: “In the year 2002, we had applied to the board of Newswatch under the chairmanship of chief Alex Akinyele that we wanted to retire one after the other. The board set-up a committee to find out what would be the retirement benefits of people like us in similar institutions. A financial report was submitted which the board approved. But the board said to us: ‘you cannot retire now. We are working to bring in fresh investments into the company. If you leave now, the company may be unattractive to potential investors’. That is why we did not retire in the year 2002. When we were retiring on May 5, 2011, we had to pull out that report and submit to the board”, Ekpu said and added “out of the money paid to us, Jimoh deducted 10 percent from each of us and said he was going to pay tax with it and that he would give us receipt. But up till now, we have not been given the receipt despite several demands made for it.”

Ayorinde later showed Ekpu exhibit P3, the sales purchase agreement entered by the parties in the sale of Newswatch. He argued that only Newswatch Communications Limited was party to the agreement and that Newswatch Books Limited, Newswatch Properties Limited and Lastop were missing in the SPA. But Ekpu said Newswatch Communications Limited registered the companies and the companies came as a group to enter the agreement.

Before the hearing commenced on February 26, Justice Buba had chided those who brought two complimentary copies of Newswatch Dailies to his office. “I found an unsolicited gift on my table and when I opened it, I found two complimentary copies of Daily Newswatch of February 10 and 11. The issue here is, sending copies of the subject matter of a suit before me, is not ordinary. It is not ordinary because a judge is also on trial over the case he is handling”, he said. He then warned parties in the suit to refrain from doing things that would undermine the integrity of the court.

The case was then adjourned till March 18 and 19 for further hearing.

Doubts over Nigeria League

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Bolaji Abdullahi
Bolaji Abdullahi

Sponsors are still at loggerheads over who owns the rights of the Nigeria league just as club owners are kicking against the change of name adopted by the interim governing body

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE crisis dogging the Nigeria Premier League over title sponsorship has taken a new dimension. After it was resolved to settle the two-year-old case out of court, both Total Promotions, representing MTN Nigeria and Globacom are again locked in a disagreement over the amount of money that will be paid as compensation for the sponsorship rights. Globacom is accusing Total Promotions of demanding N1.5 billion before it would relinquish the title rights, while the former said it only asked for N250 million.

Nigeria Premier League
Nigeria Premier League

Funke Akinrele, public relations officer of the Total Promotions, has described the allegation that it demanded N1.5 billion from Globalcom before relinquishing the title rights to the company as a rumour. She said that what the company demanded from Globacom was N250 million as an outright buy-out of the title rights.

“We did not demand N1.5 billion from Globacom. What we told them is that Total Promotions would have made N1.5 billion in television activation if MTN had been allowed to sponsor the league. How they arrived at that N1.5 billion figure is part of their agenda to call dog a bad name so that they can hang it. But it will never work. Nigerians are too enlightened to be hoodwinked by the interim body. We are not a charity organisation. We got the title rights because we are in business and we won’t have to fold up because we demanded for a buy-out which is the norm everywhere in the world. We want to stress that at no time did Total Promotions demand for N1.5 billion neither did we go back on our concession to pass the title rights to Glo. But the snag was the inability to work out an agreeable term,” she said.

But Mohamed Jameel, chief operating officer of Globacom Group, claimed that Total Promotions had refused to relinquish the title sponsorship of the league to them as agreed. It further said that Total Promotions’ position on a final settlement of N1.5 billion, negates the commendable efforts being made by the minister at finding a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute.

“We firmly believe that Total Promotions does not deserve the N100 million compensation we agreed. But by accepting the terms, Glo was only responding to the minister’s patriotic call for all parties concerned to cease fire in overriding national interest. We want to stress that we have a good case in court but our decision to abide by the terms of settlement is therefore an altruistic sacrifice to prevent the Nigeria Premier League from suffering any further haemorrhage,” he said.

League Sponsors
League Sponsors

Earlier this year, Bolaji Abdullahi, sport minister, after a meeting with all the stakeholders, reportedly resolved the controversy surrounding the sponsorship of the Nigerian league and named Globacom as the sponsor for the next three seasons. Having done that, he expressed satisfaction that he had been able to end the crisis over the title rights of the league.

“I am happy that we are able to resolve this issue out of court with all the parties involved. We agreed that Globacom would be the title sponsor of the league for three seasons, and would also pay N100 million to Total Promotions as compensation for giving out the rights,” Abdullahi said. The agreement for compensation had been brokered by the interim management committee set up by the sports ministry.

Meanwhile, the club owners have rejected the attempt by the interim committee to rename the Nigeria Premier League as Nigeria Professional League. They also kicked against an abridged 2012/13 league season. The Club owners have also threatened to boycott any abridged edition of the league in whatever name it may be called. It is believed that the interim body wants a name change for fear of litigation but the stakeholders would not have any of it. The season is expected to take off on March 9, but it was still unclear if the new date would still be kept even though the federal government has pledged funds to start the league.

The Return of Koroma

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President Ernest Koroma
President Ernest Koroma

President Ernest Koroma begins a second-term journey following his inauguration in Seirra leone February 22

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

ECONOMIC Community of West African States will continue to support Sierra Leone on its march to deepen the democratic culture both in the country and the entire region. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission, gave that assurance at the inauguration of President Ernest Bai Koroma for a second term in Freetown, February 22. Ouédraogo congratulated Sierra Leoneans for their commitment to democracy as demonstrated by their first post-war peaceful, transparent and credible elections that resulted in the re-election of President Koroma. By their peaceful and commendable conduct during the November 2012 polls, conducted by Sierra Leoneans themselves after a decade of devastating civil war, the citizens had shown a strong determination to ensure that democracy is entrenched in their country, said Ouédraogo.

Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo
Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo

ECOWAS monitored the November 2012 polls in Sierra Leone. Describing Koroma’s re-election as a renewal of confidence in him by his compatriots, Ouédraogo wished the country and the President well, and enjoined them to build on the political success to intensify efforts on national reconstruction and socio-economic development in line with the ECOWAS objectives to make West Africa a region of peace and economic prosperity.

The colourful ceremony at the Freetown National Stadium, was attended by a number of ECOWAS leaders including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, the Prime Ministers of Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal as well as  Ghana’s Vice-President. Other member states sent high-level official representations. David Mark, Senate President, led the official federal government delegation to the ceremony. Patience Jonathan represented her husband President Goodluck Jonathan. Also in attendance was Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, former Sierra Leonean president.

The inauguration ceremony featured military band performance and display, as well as a military parade, and a march past by military, para-military and uniformed services including the police as well as school children.  There was also the pouring of libation by paramount chiefs giving the ceremony a traditional flavor after Chief Justice Madam Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh had administered the oath of office on President Koroma, for another five-year mandate following his first election as president in 2007. A resplendent Koroma dressed in a flowing white gown with a cap to match, pledged to consolidate the gains achieved by his administration for the progress and development of the country.

Earlier, Ouédraogo, who was welcomed on arrival by Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s foreign minister, was received in audience by Koroma. The ECOWAS high-powered delegation to the inauguration included the commissioners for administration and finance and political affairs, peace and security, Khadi Saccoh and Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, respectively.

Award for An Amazon

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Oputu
Oputu

Sun Newspapers honour Evelyn Oputu, managing director of Bank of Industry with the 2012 Sun Banker of the year

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS an honour well deserved, when on February 23, in Lagos, Evelyn Oputu, managing director, Bank of Industry, BOI, was awarded the 2012 Sun Banker of the Year. Some of the achievements of Oputu that earned her the award were the introduction of a paradigm shift initiative in 2006. The policy has succeeded in expanding the BOI credit operations from N9.8 billion in 2005 to N238.04 billion in 2012.

The policy has also succeeded in creating about 1.719.708 jobs in 2012 from 150,000 in 2005. The total assets of the bank had also increased from N12 billion in the year 2005 to N222.441 last year. For increased efficiency, the BOI, under Oputu, recruited additional 27 hands to bring the total number of staff strength from 147 to 174.

Oputu, an indigene of Delta State, was born on 13 August, 1949. From a humble beginning, she started her education at St. Theresa’s College, in Ibadan, South-West of Nigeria, from 1960 to 1964; Federal School of Arts and Science, Lagos, from 1965 to 1967; and Temple School Secretariat, Washington DC, between 1968 and 1969.  She earned a B.Sc. Business administration at the University of Lagos, between 1972 and 1975. Oputu was also at the Harvard Business School, Boston, in 1987 where she obtained a Diploma in mass general management.

Between 1997 and 2005, she was made the chairman and CEO of KES products limited, a medium-sized manufacturing company engaged in polyethylene blown films and polypropylene lines of packaging for industrial and domestic uses. She was also a lead consultant of NDALI consultants, a financial concern engaged in raising funds for both debt and equity for private and quoted companies.  Her clients included FAAN, NCAA, NAMA, and Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, NCAT, as well as financial consulting for two merchant banks.

In 1991 to 1992, Evelyn Oputu became an executive director, First Bank of Nigeria Plc  where her main assignment spanned all technical aspects of the Bank’s operations. Earlier, between 1982 and 1990, she was also at the International Merchant Bank, where she worked in the Treasury and Financial Division, Corporate Finance Division, Capital Market, as well as in the project and financial advisory service areas. An executive director in 1990 and chairman, committee on the financial management of Aviation Parastatals, between 2000 and 2001, Oputu, had also been a member of board of several buoyant companies which are engaged in a wide range of financial build-up.  They include insurance, mining, oil and gas, medical and manufacturing.

Pope Who?

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Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

The month of March is crucial for the Catholic Church as more than 100 cardinals gather in the Vatican City to elect a new head of the papacy, to fill the vacuum created by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI February 28

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT IS perhaps the most advertised vacancy in the world. But unlike the conventional job, this vacancy is the exclusive preserve of a group of cardinals to fill. As from March 1, members of the College of Cardinals are expected to assemble in the Vatican City and be lodged in the Casa Di Santa Marta, a $20 million hotel-style residence, where they would stay until a new Pope has been elected.

Cardinal Arinze
Cardinal Arinze

Pope Benedict XVI recently signed a new law to allow the cardinals to begin the process of electing a Pope early instead of waiting for the traditional 15 days after the death of the former Pope. Benedict had reasoned that having the conclave early, would allow the new Pope to be sworn-in by March 17 and hold the all-important mass of March 24, (Palm Sunday), which ushers in the holy week.

Benedict himself had caused the need for electing a new Pope when he announced his resignation February 11, saying he would step down on February 28. Analysts say that would give him the rare opportunity of influencing the election of his successor, even though he is past the age of being an elector (only cardinals who are below 80 years old are eligible to vote).

Ahead of the conclave, a number of cardinals have been tipped by some bookmakers to emerge as the new Pope. They are Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria; Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada. Until press time, Ouellet was the leading frontrunner.

Arinze, 80, is the most senior cardinal from Nigeria. He has been in the Vatican for more than 25 years, and was once the world’s youngest bishop. Analysts say if Benedict, 85, could give up the post he is supposed to hold unto until his death, could cite old age for his resignation, they wonder how much strength Arinze would have at his age to perform effectively.

At 64, Turkson has age on his side. But he does not seem to have the experience of being in the system for a long time. He was appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace only four years ago by Pope Benedict. Turkson was reported to have caused a controversy last year when he showed a screened video at an international meeting of bishops on the rise of Islam in Europe.

The leading candidate, Ouellet, 68, is the Vatican’s main staff director. But the problem is that he has not shown enough interest in the position. Ouellet has variously been quoted as saying that being a Pontiff “would be a nightmare,” and that a Pope’s duties “are perhaps not very enviable,” and described responsibilities of a pope as “crushing.”

Cardinal Turkson
Cardinal Turkson

If none of these so-called frontrunners emerges as the new Pope, it would not be a surprise either. There are many eligible others around the world, including Nigerian-Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, 75, retired archbishop of Lagos, and Cardinal John Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja. Although the votes of the 118 eligible cardinals are the determinant factor, the Holy Spirit is believed to hold a very important role in determining the eventual winner.

But some terrestrial things such as age, experience, personality, nationality (if not colour of the skin) as well as issues relating to doctrine, also come in to play in the choice of the person to be elected as the Pope. Analysts are not ruling out international politics either, as reports indicate that Italians are seriously scheming to get the seat back for their own person.

In any case, the congregation of cardinals that would elect the new Pope stay behind the closed doors of the Vatican’s famous Sistine Chapel, completely isolated from the outside world. Insiders said that the first ballot could be held on the first afternoon of the conclave, immediately after morning mass. Thereafter, the conclave would hold two ballots in the morning and two ballots in the afternoon until a Pope eventually emerged.

After every round of voting, the tradition dictates that the ballots are bound together and burnt in a special oven made for the purpose inside the chapel. The smoke rising from the chimney normally signals to the expectant faithfuls the outcome of the voting session. If the smoke is black, with the aid of a chemical compound burning along with the ballots, it means that no candidate has achieved the two-thirds majority needed to win. Then, another round of balloting would take place and if the smoke is white, it means that a new Pope has been elected.

Cardinal Ouellet
Cardinal Ouellet

There is also the fear among some watchers of the Vatican that the new pope may not be his own man for at least as long as the Pope Emeritus (as Benedict would now be called) remains alive and living in the Vatican City, as he plans to do. Analysts say some believers who may be unhappy with the future Pope may go to him for counsel and spiritual assistance thereby creating two parallel governments in the Vatican. But others say since Benedict has said he was tired and would like to spend more time with God and his books, supporters of the future Pope have nothing to worry about.

The latter argument seems to hold true. As far back as when he was just Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict had said that a Pope should resign if he could no longer carry on. He drove this point home in 2010, when he said in an interview that a Pope should resign if “he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.” But added a caveat: “One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say someone else should do it.”

The resignation of a Pope is not unprecedented in history. In fact, Benedict would be the fifth Pope to have resigned from office. The first was Marcellinus, who abdicated or was deposed in 304 after succumbing to the Roman emperor’s order to sacrifice to pagan gods. Benedict IX, resigned in 1045, having sold the papacy to Gregory VI, his godfather. It was the overwhelming demand of the office that chased out Celestine V in 1294, while Gregory XII resigned as pope in 1415 in order to restore the unity of the Catholic Church, which had been fractured by schism for nearly 70 years. After his resignation, Gregory lived on for only another two years.

Benedict, who was elected Pope April 19, 2005, at 78, following the death of Pope John Paul II April 2, said in a farewell address on Wednesday, February 27, that in his eight-year tenure, he sometimes “felt like St. Peter with his apostles on Lake Galilee,” in reference to the story in the Bible when the disciples were confronted with heavy storms before Jesus appeared to them. Nevertheless, Benedict said he decided to step down “in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit.” He told the crowd that his papacy had been a heavy burden but that he accepted the challenge because he was sure that God would guide him.

Cardinal Onaiyekan
Cardinal Onaiyekan

Indeed, the almost eight years of Benedict has had its own share of troubles in internal struggles and global crises, including the prosecution and conviction of his butler for stealing and passing on papal documents to a journalist who wrote a book on internal power struggles in the Vatican. He has since forgiven the errant butler. Like some of his predecessors in office he had his share of revelations involving sexual abuse reports of some priests across the world.

The latest being that of Keith O’Brien, a cardinal and Britain’s highest-ranking Catholic clergy. O’Brien, 75, resigned February 25, following allegations made in The Observer, a British newspaper of Sunday, February 17, that three priests and a former priest had filed complaints to the Vatican alleging that the cardinal acted inappropriately with them in the 1980s. There were no details about the alleged inappropriate behaviour. For that purpose, O’Brien would not be going to the Vatican City for the election of the new Pope.

However, whoever becomes the new Pope would need to sanitise the system to make it meet the new challenges facing the Church and also deal with previous issues that have been putting the Church in bad light.

How Do You See the Police Handling of Maina’s Case?

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Juliet Okonkwo
Juliet Okonkwo
Chukwuma Ejigionu
Chukwuma Ejigionu

THE police handling of Abdulrasheed Maina, the embattled chairman of Pension Reforms Task Team, PRTT, since he was declared wanted over his refusal to honour the National Assembly invitation has continued to generate a lot of mixed reactions among Nigerians. Some believe that the police knew the whereabouts of Maina, while others said police has performed its statutory function by declaring him wanted. Below are what Nigerians think over police approach in handling the case.

Juliet Okonkwo, Banker: The police know where Maina is. They are protecting him. There are policemen attached to him and the police are telling Nigerians that they don’t know his whereabouts. Why didn’t they instruct those policemen to arrest him? Or did those policemen assign themselves to Maina without the knowledge of the police force? I believe that the Inspector General of Police has questions to answer concerning the handling of Maina’s case.

Alumona Ozoemena
Alumona Ozoemena

Chukwuma Ejigionu, Civil Servant: The issue of Maina should be tackled once and for all. Now the Senate has succeeded in projecting the police as the cause of the man running away. No, I don’t think so because there are strong powers in the government that are protecting Maina. I believe that those set of people also benefited from his fraudulent activities. 

Alumona Ozoemena, Civil Servant: The police know what they were doing. They refused to arrest Maina intentionally. Maina said that he was not running away and the police know his house in Abuja. Why didn’t they go there to arrest him if they were serious?

Tansimaria Kwaghtaher
Tansimaria Kwaghtaher

Tansimaria Kwaghtagher, Businessman: The police helped Maina to run away. They refused to perform their duties, even Maina said that the police know his house. Why didn’t police arrest him after that comment? Has he given the police some of the money he stole from their treasury? The police are the problem of this country. Now they want to give money to anybody that provides information on Maina’s whereabouts. The corruption continues.

Audu Ali
Audu Ali

Audu Ali, Teacher: The Nigeria police are never sincere in their handling of criminal matters and the Maina case is just one of them. How can the police declare Maina wanted and make us believe that he is wanted when you have police and men of the SSS all as his personal guards?

Simon Okechukwu
Simon Okechukwu

Simon Okechukwu, Social Commentator:Well, I don’t see anything wrong in the way police handled the case. The National Assembly gave police an order to arrest Maina and the same police helped Maina to travel out of the country. What do you expect the police to do in this matter, are the police the immigration officials who monitor the airports? Our top government officials should tell Nigerians the whereabouts of Maina.

Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu 

— Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

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