Showing posts with label Latest News Updates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Latest News Updates. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Dalung visits Commonwealth Youth Games  in camp 

Athletes in camp, preparing for the forthcoming Commonwealth Youth Games scheduled to hold in Nassau, Bahamas in July, have been charged to work hard and present themselves as worthy ambassadors during the games.

Barrister Solomon Dalung gave the charge when he visited the athletes in camp at the Package B Hostel, National Stadium Abuja at the weekend.

He urged them to believe in their ability to excel and back it up with hard work through consistent training and discipline.

“I came here to encourage you and to see how you all are faring in camp. I’m aware that you have already spent one month and will be leaving for the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas soon. I want you to believe in yourselves because self confidence will help you not only in your career as athletes but also in life. Do your best and maintain a high level of discipline in camp. I urge you to be the best that you can to lift your career and also win laurels not only for yourselves but for our country, Nigeria.

“I want to assure you that all your camp allowances will paid in time without complaints but to whom much is given, much is also expected. We implore you to do your best and ensure that Nigeria’s flag is hoisted in the Bahamas during the Youth Commonwealth Games” Dalung said.

Responding, the captain of the team Miss Knowlege Omovoh promised on behalf of the athletes, that they will make Nigeria proud.

The 17-year old 200m and 400m runner from Delta state thanked the Minister, whose visit she said, will boost the morale of the athletes.

“I want to thank you for finding time to visit us in camp today. We are grateful to you for your motivational talk. We promise that we will put in our best to make the country proud”

Team Nigeria will be represented  by 26 athletes taking part  in 7 sports namely; swimming, athletics, beach volleyball, cycling, boxing, tennis and judo.

About 50 athletes are currently in camp at the Package B Hostel , National Stadium Abuja while the boxers are camping in Lagos.

The 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games which is the 6th edition will feature athletes between the ages of

14-18 years from 70 nations.

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Ex-taekwondo boss Nnaji gets WTF award in Korea

For his meritorious service to taekwondo, the former President of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation, Jonathan Nnaji, has received an award from the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) during the world taekwondo ruling body general assembly in Muju, South Korea.

Nnaji was honoured for his immense contribution to the development of Taekwondo in the world in his capacity as WTF council member.
The award which was personally delivered by the newly reelected President of WTF, Dr Chongwon Choue, during the on-going World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, South Korea, was one of several given to distinguished personalities from around the world.
Nnaji was NTF President when Nigeria last won its first and only recorded Olympic medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. He was also in charge when the country qualified for London 2012 Olympics and he is currently on the board of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation as the highest ranked International representative, and threw his full support behind the historic election of first woman leader of the Federation, Margaret Binga.
The in-coming President, who facilitated Team Nigeria’s trip to South Korea, commended the World Taekwondo Federation for the recognition given to her former predecessor.
“Chief Nnaji has done well to put Nigeria on the political map of the Africa Taekwondo Union and World Taekwondo Federation. He is a very valuable asset to the country and we will work hard to ensure that his relationship with the International bodies generates benefits for Nigeria Taekwondo”
For Chief Jonathan Nnaji, the award will serve to inspire. “Nigeria did not qualify for Rio 2016. I will be happy if the work I do supports the Federation and ensures we secure our qualification for Tokyo 2020”

Today, Edwin Samson will begin his campaigns in the men’s event of the Worlds just as some members of the National Taekwondo Team brace up for their matches in Korea, Nnaji and the NTF Secretary-General, Taiwo Oriss, will be around to witness the current performance of the team and assess the challenges that lie ahead of the Tokyo 2020 vision.

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Nigerian referees, assessors, fitness trainers all set for FIFA Elite Programme

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‘PDP remains dangerous to Nigeria’s future’

The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Osun West senatorial by-election, Senator Mudasiru Hussain, on Sunday enjoined Muslims across Nigeria and particularly in Osun to pray for the peace of the nation and be confident that the APC government has what it takes to take Nigeria to the promised land.

Hussain, in an Eid-il-Fitr Message released Sunday morning, said nothing exalts a nation better than the readiness of the citizens to sacrifice for the future of the country.

The senatorial by-election candidate of the APC, in the statement signed by his Media Aide, Opeyemi Kamil Ayelabowo, urged Nigerians, particularly Muslims, to remember the sacrifice of the last one month and the rewards that lay ahead after the period of self-denial.

“We are all rejoicing after the end of Ramadan. We have all spent one full month in sacrifice and were ready to let go many things we would have desired all in obedience to Allah’s injunctions.

“If we therefore extend this to our national life, it is certain that our nation is on its path to recovering its glory.”

Calling on residents of the Osun West district to continue to reject politicians he accused selfishness and lack of clear programs for the citizens, Hussain said the APC has shown at whatever level it is in charge that Nigerians can only entrust their future in the hands of the Peoples Democratic Party at the risk of immediate and future of the common wealth.

“The case of Osun is enough reason for us to be confident that there is no alternative to the APC in terms of good governance. The PDP misruled Nigeria for 16 years at the centre and the destruction is what we are battling with now. Anywhere PDP shows its face, it is to the detriment of Nigerians and the case of Osun West is no different.

“This is why we call on our people in Osun to show once again that the PDP is a rejected party,” the statement noted.

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Omotola Jalade reveals why she played strong sex scenes in her latest movie (photos) - #1 News, relationship & entertainment site

Leading actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, has returned to Nollywood. After a three-year hiatus, the 39-year-old is lined up to debut “Alter Ego” alongside Wole Ojo and Jide Kosoko. PREMIUM TIMES had an exclusive interview with the award-winning actress who has appeared in over 300 films. Omotola opens up about her career, marriage and playing a controversial […]

Omotola Jalade reveals why she played strong sex scenes in her latest movie (photos)
Bhadmus H.

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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Bobrisky asks Nigerians for prayers as he gears up for ass surgery next month - #1 News, relationship & entertainment site

Self-acclaimed king of Snapchat and Nigerian male barbie, Bobrisky, who we reported sometime last week is getting ready for his ass surgery, has come out to ask for prayers from fans  – Remember we also reported that the cross-dresser said he was scared of the surgery-ish, and added that he has already deposited money for it. In […]

Bobrisky asks Nigerians for prayers as he gears up for ass surgery next month
Bhadmus H.

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Quit notice to Igbo is treasonable, says Ohanaeze

• Blasts Police, security agencies
over non-arrest of Arewa youths
• Sets up committee on economic,
political policies

The Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday branded as treason, the recent quit notice issued to the Igbo resident in the north by a coalition of Arewa youths.

More worrisome to Ohanaeze is “the clear incapacitation of the police and unwillingness to arrest them, their renewed aggression following the issuance of another statement involving an association of wider youth organisations in the north and the support offered to them by splinter elements of the Northern Elders Forum.”

The President General of the group, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, likened the Arewa youths, utterances to the events preceding the mayhem against the Igbo in 1966.

“Are the rhetoric of today not similar to the rhetoric before the 1966 pogrom? If there should be a repeat performance what explanation can we make to our people?” Nwodo said at the inauguration of a 100 member National Executive Committee to formulate economic and political policies for Ohanaeze.

He said: “Quite recently, we have witnessed very provoking and unpatriotic remarks from Arewa youths. Their remarks have grown from whispers to a national quit notice to the Igbo to leave Northern Nigeria.

“Whilst we applaud the immediate and unequivocal condemnation of their utterances by the Governor of Kaduna State, the Northern Governors Forum, the Middle Belt Forum and the rather mild and equivocal condemnation from the Arewa Consultative Forum, the defiance of the Arewa youths by threatening and daring the police to arrest them, the clear incapacitation of the police and unwillingness to arrest them, their renewed aggression following the issuance of another statement involving an association of wider youth organisations in the North and the support offered to them by splinter elements of the Northern Elders Forum point to a swell of reasonable support from a section of Northern Nigeria.

“What remains worrisome is the incapacity of the police to make needful arrests in this situation pointing to double standards from our security forces. A desire and public proclamation for the State of Biafra cannot be too different from a quit notice which amounts to a declaration for a new state of Nigeria without the Igbo.

“In the latter case, an obvious violation of our constitution points to treason, a declaration to take inventory and acquire property not belonging to one amounts to conversion and a declaration to commence ‘mop up’ action if the quit notice is not complied with at a certain date is a declaration of war.

“If our security forces, firmly in command and control by mainly officers of Northern Nigeria, fail to carry out lawful and needful arrests of criminals amongst Arewa youths, or coup plotters in the army and their civilian collaborators, how can we expect them to heed to the orders of the Acting President to protect our people in the North? What should we advise our people in the North to do in the circumstance?

“Against this background our young men and women are spiralling out of control. The jury is still out in Igbo land regarding the choice between self-determination and restructuring as a solution to our current impasse.

“Whereas a lot of the elderly, the business class and the professionals want to preserve our continued existence as one indivisible, united and restructured Nigeria, a number of the young ones are resolute about self-determination.

“How do we resolve this duplicity that gives the impression that we all are on one of the sides depending on who is making the assessment?

“We have, as Ohanaeze, maintained absolute restraint in our public utterances. The Acting President by his interactions with all concerned groups shows that he is prepared to engage everyone in order to ensure that justice is done.

“His proclamation that government will guarantee the security of life of all Nigerians and their properties wherever they live is reassuring.

“What worries us, however, is whether the Arewa youths are acting out a plan that may spiral out of control. Why have disclosures that some soldiers are talking with politicians not led to any arrest?

“Why has none of the Arewa youths been arrested in spite of the orders of the Inspector General of Police and the Chief Security Officer of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai?”

Nwodo hailed the ‘solidarity’ of Afenifere and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) with the Southeast on the quit notice, stressing: “We acknowledge and fully associate Ohanaeze with their stand that any quit notice to one Southerner is a quit notice to all Southerners.”

Inaugurating the Professor Charles Soludo-led committee, Nwodo said the task before it in the political sector was more urgent in view of the quit notice served on Igbo living in the North.

His words: “Your Committee is faced with a very delicate assignment in advising our National Executive Committee and Imeobi on our appropriate response to these developments.”

The Ohanaeze president urged the committee members to weigh the issues and allow them to engage their attention in the days, weeks and months ahead.

He said the group has an understanding with the Southeast governors that the recommendations of the committee would be used where found useful to formulate integrative economic programmes for the five states in the geo-political zone.

“In the economic front, it is obvious that our people are in the main sustained by the private sector. In an era of declining oil revenue and low capital allocation by the various governments, the private sector remains our most reliable engine for growth,” he said.

“Our people are highly versatile, economically enterprising, but fiercely individualistic and unaccustomed to joint corporate ventures that will improve management efficiency and catalyze growth.

“No meaningful economic growth can therefore be achieved here without our developing policies that will change our mind set and encourage the build up of capital for gigantic economic programmes.”

Responding, Soludo thanked Ohanaeze for giving them the opportunity to serve the Igbo nation.

He said that the extra-ordinary number of the members of the committee and the calibre of persons in it bore eloquent testimony to the tasks they have been assigned to carry out.

Soludo said that the committee would try its best to deliver on the mandate given to it while calling on other Igbo to send in memoranda.

Present at the inauguration were Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Amb. Frank Ogbuewu, Chief Adolphus Wabara, Chief Ferdinand Agu, Prof Chigozie Ogbu, Prof Aloy Okoli, Dr. Emma Ajero, Prof Osita Ogbu, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, Chief Onyemauche Nnamani, and Prof Joy Ezeilo, among others.


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Senators, Reps to Fashola: Stop blackmailing us

• National Assembly accuses minister of misleading public on budget slashing

The Senate and House of Representatives are squaring up to Works, Housing and Power Minister Babatunde Fashola over allegation that the legislature messed up the ministry’s 2017 budget.

They labelled the minister’s allegation as wrong information, half truth and blackmail.

Fashola, last week, accused the lawmakers of slashing his ministry’s appropriation for some critical projects, and at the same time introducing 100 new projects to the 200 uncompleted ones he inherited from the Jonathan administration.

The first response came from the Senate whose spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said Fashola did not give the public full details about the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Abdullahi said the project commenced as a private finance initiative whereas the minister prefers an arrangement that allows the Ministry to continue to award contracts and fund the project through government budgetary allocation at a time when the nation’s revenue is dwindling.

According to him, the Bureau of Public Procurement, and the Federal Executive Council in 2013, approved the reconstruction, rehabilitation and expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway as a Public Private Partnership project using the Private Finance Initiative, with the Federal Government providing about 30 percent of the funding while the balance shall be provided by the private sector.

The project was on course for completion by end of 2017 when the private finance initiative was being implemented, with over 30 percent completion rate attained as at early 2015.

Abdullahi further noted that in a blatant disregard for existing agreements, constituted authorities and extant laws, Fashola on assumption of office got government through the Ministry to start voting money for the implementation of the project.

“Even as at last year the 2016 Appropriation Act voted N40 billion for the project on the insistence of the Ministry and only N26 billion was released. If we had known, the rest N14 billion could have been allocated to other critical roads across the country”, he said.

He added: “In the spirit of consensus building and effective stakeholder engagement, the leadership of the Senate met with key relevant stakeholders, including the Ministries of Works and finance.

“It was agreed that we should give the Private Finance Initiative a chance to complement government’s resources in the delivery of critical infrastructure assets across the country. Hence, in this year’s budget, we have engaged with the Government and private sector groups who have assured that they will resume funding of the project.

“So, we only provided the fund in the budget that would ensure work does not stop before the funds from the private sector start coming in .What we reduced from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in the 2017 budget estimate was spread on Oyo-Ogbomoso road in the South-west, Enugu-Onitsha road in the South-East, and two other critical roads in the North-East and North-West; and this was done to achieve equity. The Minister should realise he is Minister for the entire country and not just that of Lagos State.

“It is our view that the Federal Government cannot fund the reconstruction and maintenance of all the 34,000 kilometres of roads under its care. We are looking for private funds for some of these roads, particularly those with high potentials of attracting private investors. These include the Enugu-Onitsha road, Kano-Abuja road and Abuja-Lokoja road. It has been our hope that the Lagos -Ibadan road would be a model for private sector funding of infrastructure in the country.”

The Senator said Fashola’s   statement was in bad taste and should “desist from spreading half-truths.”

“When he said the National Assembly imported projects into the 2017 budget, he did not mention that these include the 26 projects which the Federal Government approved in the 2016 budget, awarded contract for them in January 2016, but totally omitted them in the 2017 budget. One of them is the Abuja-Kaduna road. These ones would have become abandoned projects. We reduced funds across board to make provision for these omitted projects that are of critical importance to the socio-economic development of the country in line with equity and fair play.”

For its part, the House of Representatives said Fashola’s remarks were meant to paint the National Assembly as an irresponsible institution, “one not concerned with the welfare of the people, and set the Executive and Legislature on an unnecessary collision course on matters of power rather than issues that benefit the Nigerian people.”

House Spokesman, Abdulrazaq Namdas said ” the decision to redistribute the projects proposed by  the ministry was in order to ensure an even spread of projects across all regions, which the proposal of the executive had failed to do.

“Considering that the funds that were allocated for the second Niger Bridge in 2016 were returned untouched at the end of the year, the National Assembly decided to reduce N5 billion from the 2017 Budget for 2nd Niger Bridge to fund other projects from the South East, leaving N7 billion for the second Niger Bridge.

“The truth is that in the 2016 Budget, N12 billion was appropriated for the second Niger Bridge and not a kobo was spent by the Ministry. Not a kobo. The money was returned. The Ministry could not provide the Committees of the National Assembly with evidence of an agreement on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) or a contract for the 2nd Niger Bridge.

“The projects include – N2.5 billion extra for Enugu/Onitsha Road, N1 billion more for 9th Mile/Nsukka/Makurdi Road; additional N500m for Oturkpa- Makurdi to take care of evacuation of agricultural produce up to Maiduguri; N1 billion more for Ikot Ekpene-Aba-Owerri Road etc. These are strategic Roads in the South-East and North Central parts of Nigeria that had inadequate allocations.

“The National Assembly had to intervene to fund some other critical roads that were totally neglected in the Executive Budget proposal, including the Abuja- Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road that had Zero allocation from the President’s proposal and no contract, even in spite of due process certification.

“N5 billion was provided in the 2016 Budget. It was not utilised. In 2017 Budget, the National Assembly again provided N3 billion for this very critical road that connects many states and where incidents of kidnapping are rife because of bad roads, as we believe that all parts of Nigeria deserve attention or would the Minister also claim that this road has no design?”


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Evans: Police arrest Army Corporal, other ‘accomplices’

POLICE operatives have arrested a Lance Corporal with the Army for being an alleged accomplice to suspected kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeje George Onwuamadike, alias Evans.

The soldier identified as Victor Chukwunonso with force number 09/NA/64/6317 was apprehended at the weekend in Lagos after Evans named him and some prominent southeast businessmen as his accomplices.

The suspect, serving at the Army Band Corps, Aba Iti Barracks in Surulere, was arrested around 9pm at Ojo by operatives of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Intelligence Response Team (IRT).

Chukwunonso, a native of Onitsha in Anambra State, it was gathered, confessed to have followed Evans on three kidnap missions.

According to sources, Chukwunonso confessed to have received N2million, N1.5million and N3million as shares from the three operations he participated in.

Our correspondent gathered the soldier was one of many other security agencies being investigated after their names were mentioned by Evans as his accomplices.

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Eid-el-fitri: Buhari preaches peace, unity

• Warns against reckless statements

President Muhammadu Buhari has sent a message of greetings to Nigerian Muslims and Christians on the occasion of the Eid-el-fitri celebration.

In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, the president urged all citizens to resolve to live in peace and avoid making reckless statements.

The statement reads: “I am immensely grateful to God for his mercy in guiding us successfully to conclude another Ramadan fast.

“My greetings to all Nigerian Muslims and our brother Christians on the occasion of Eid-el-Fitri.

“May the lessons of Ramadan namely; piety, self-denial, prayers and generosity to the poor and needy be with us for all time.

“I, again, appeal to all Nigerians to avoid reckless statements or actions against our fellow countrymen.

“We should all resolve to live in peace and unity in our great country, which is the envy of many less endowed nations. Happy Eid-el-Fitri,” he stated

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Tinubu condemns calls for secession, break-up

All Progressives Congress (APC) national stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday berated the brains behind the recent  quit notice to certain  Nigerians to leave the  north, and warned such people  to desist forthwith.

He said, “Voices calling for violence must be roundly condemned for it is wrong to incite brother to go against brother and neighbour to combat neighbour,” Tinubu said in his Eid-el-Fitri message to Nigerians.

“Voices calling for secession and break-up are wrong and should not be followed,” he declared in a statement issued by his Media Adviser, Tunde Rahman.

The spirit of sacrifice, self discipline, goodwill, justice, tolerance, mercy, forgiveness and compassion inherent in the Ramadan Fast, he said, should remain with Muslim faithful to guide their day-to-day interactions and relationships with one another.

He added: “For all Muslim brothers and sisters and indeed for all Nigerians, may this be a happy and peaceful Eid-el-Fitri.

“The holy month of Ramadan is now past but we dare not allow the spirit and the true meaning behind the holy month also pass. We must keep hold of the excellent and wonderful things the holy month of Ramadan signifies.

“Ramadan is more than a month of fasting. We fast to strengthen our relationship and our appreciation of Allah. We fast to make ourselves better servants of both Allah and our fellow man. As such, we must emerge from the fast imbued with the spirit of sacrifice, self discipline, goodwill, justice, tolerance, mercy, forgiveness and compassion.

“As we enter into the celebration that now follows, these attributes must remain with us to guide, as if by compass, our day-to-day interactions and relationships with one another.

“In this spirit also we must face the travails that confront our nation. As people led by the spirit and strength of our diversity, togetherness and charity towards all, we must also proclaim and declare our support for the unity and genuine integration of all Nigerians under one flag, in one indivisible nation.

“Voices calling for violence must be roundly condemned for it is wrong to incite brother to go against brother and neighbour to combat neighbour. Voices calling for secession and break-up are wrong and should not be followed.

“However, in the spirit of understanding, we must listen to the genuine concerns of our fellow Nigerians so that we may make of ourselves a stronger, more unified and prosperous nation built on a foundation of dialogue and collective purpose.

“We must join hands in order to bring progress. We must decide whether our diversity shall be our strength or our weakness. It is for us and no one else to determine. The lessons of the holy month of Ramadan point to the success of unity not the failure of division.

“Let us move in this way that we may make of ourselves a better people and nation in which all people, Muslim and non-Muslim, may live in trust, peace and justice as Allah would have it be.”

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Ex-militants at war over plot to remove Buhari’s adviser on amnesty

•We’re ready for probe, says presidential amnesty office

Tension is rising in the Niger Delta following a plot by a section of ex-militant leaders to launch a campaign for the removal of the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh (rtd).

The group, Niger Deltans for Accountability and Good Governance (NDAGG), has already set up a Boroh-must-go website (http://www.ndagg) to push its case against the coordinator.

It accused   the amnesty coordinator of denying ex-militants their entitlements.

Rooting for Boroh, however, is the Niger Delta Concerned Ex-agitators (NDCE), which in a statement in Yenagoa yesterday , warned anti-Boroh elements to forget the protests and support the Buhari government.

Also behind Boroh are ex-militant leaders of phases 2 and 3 who met in Port Harcourt, Rivers State with him.

The Presidential Amnesty Office dismissed the anti-Boroh campaign as both a hatchet job and blackmail, saying, “Unfortunately, there is a growing culture of some persons mainly from the South -South of the country playing on blackmail to get by or get contracts; this will not work with the Presidential Amnesty Programme,” the Media head of the office, Owei Lakemfa said in a statement.

The anti-Boroh group, NDAGG, plans to kick-start what it calls the mother of all protests against Boroh on Wednesday, July 5.

Follow up protests will be held at a two weeks interval.

One of such protests is scheduled for the front of Abuja House, South Kensington, London, England, where the agitators believe President Muhammadu Buhari is currently recuperating.

Another is scheduled for Consulate General of Nigeria in New York, United States of America (USA).

The group also plans to block the Mbiama axis of the East-West road, NUJ Office Warri, Delta State and Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The group believes it can mobilize over 100,000 Niger Delta youths for the protests.

The group accused the amnesty office of massive fraud and using fake names for empowerment. The opposing group, NDCE, in a statement by its Secretary, Perewari Johnson, condemned “any form of protest that some persons are planning to embark upon against the Boroh-led Amnesty programme.”

It urged “all well-meaning stakeholders and citizens not to allow people with selfish interest to use them against their fellow Niger-Delta son who has done so well.”

It branded those clamouring for the removal of Boroh as enemies of the development of people in the region.

“They are only antagonizing Boroh’s regime in the amnesty office because unlike his predecessors he has refused to succumb to their demand to award contract that will not be executed and to share monies made for the empowerment and human capacity development of the Niger Delta region,” NDCE said.

It asked security agencies to stop the planned protest in the interest of the peace and commended the federal government for ensuring sustained peace in the region.

The ex-agitators said they were happy that the government took the right steps including increasing the budgetary allocation to the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) by N30bn to stop violent agitations in the region.

They noted that the peace deal had resulted in government’s increased attention to the region and the training and employment of over 200 youths under the PAP.

They pleaded for continued peace in the region and said: “We have confidence in the ability of the coordinator of the amnesty programme as he has been very meticulous in implementing the programme for the benefit of all former agitators and the region at large in the past two years which has translated to lasting peace in the region.

“Only in the month of June over 2000 former agitators from the region have commenced training in farming technology at the College of Agriculture at Iguoriakhi in Edo State and over 200 have been enrolled for an all-inclusive sports programme which will keep our youth gainfully engaged.”

At the Port Harcourt meeting with some ex-militants, Boroh said conflict and violence would not the resolve crises.

He tasked the leaders to constantly remind the ex-agitators in their camps not to breach the peace in the country.

The presidential aide noted that they should ensure that the non-violence agreement signed at Obubra that led to the declaration of Amnesty in 2009 was upheld.

Boroh urged the leaders to use all channels of dialogue in solving problems to allow government’s developmental projects like the rail construction, modular refineries and the community pipeline surveillance to take off.

Ex-militant leaders of phases 2 and 3 resolved at the meeting to support President Buhari’s peace initiatives for the Niger Delta region.

In a separate statement in Abuja, the Media Head of the Presidential Amnesty Office, Owei Lakemfa said the department was ready for probe of its activities, but vowed that it would not succumbed to blackmail from anyone.

His words:” The attention of the presidential amnesty office has been drawn to a group demanding a probe of its activities. As a public institution answerable to the public, the Office is obliged to give account of its activities.

“So in itself, there is nothing wrong with a probe. Also, a probe does not mean guilt; it is merely an inquiry to find out if any infraction has been committed. It is like a man under-going a routine medical check-up which does not necessarily mean he is sick.

“If in truth this group wants a probe, it ordinarily would wait for the response of the authorities it has petitioned and the outcome of the probe.

“To proceed to call for so-called protests in and outside the country until the leadership of the Presidential Amnesty Programme is replaced, is to pronounce guilt even before any investigation is carried out or the officials are given any chance to respond to the load of unsubstantiated claims.

“This is against the laws of natural justice, our national and international laws and ethics which give every human being the fundamental right to defend himself before a competent authority or court of law.

“This exposes the under belly of the probe demand as being far from altruistic; it is an indication that a hatchet job is under way. Unfortunately, there is a growing culture of some persons mainly from the South -South of the country playing on blackmail to get by or get contracts; this will not work with the Presidential Amnesty Programme. It is no more business as usual.

“Also, despite the blackmail, the Office stands by its decision that those on the Amnesty scholarship in tertiary institutions would not be entitled to be paid stipends along with their monthly In-Training-Allowance as this amounts to double payment.

“The Presidential Amnesty Programme is a professional and security interventionist agency designed to bring peace, stability and development to the Niger Delta and has so far succeeded in its primary mandate; it is therefore unpatriotic to seek to politicize it. It is indeed a security programme not a political one and the leadership of the Programme under Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd) the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Programme has strived and has so far succeeded in shielding it away from partisan politics.

“As we know, the Federal Budget was passed about midyear, which led to long delays in payment of stipends, school fees ,projects and In-training-Allowance,  but through pain staking reach out programmes, meetings, explanations and support by all and sundry,  the Boroh leadership has been able to  maintain continuous peace in the Niger Delta.”

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Senate targets Ali over unremitted N4trillion Customs revenue

There seems to be no let up in the Senate’s ongoing investigation of an alleged N4 trillion revenue leakage in the Nigeria Customs Service.

The Nation can authoritatively report that the quest to probe the unremitted revenue may not be unconnected with the lawmakers’ resolve to aid nation’s economic recovery.

Through its standing committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, the upper legislative chamber has vowed to get to the roots of the alleged fraudulent acts, which it said, were perpetrated between 2006 and 2016.

Giving insight on the fresh moves to probe the Customs high command, Chairman of the Senate committee, Hope Uzodinma who had last week confirmed the investigation into the matter, noted that the revenues were lost through lapses and various infractions.

Vowing to ensure the recovery of the funds, Uzodinma had stated that preliminary investigation by his committee revealed that abuse and non implementation of Foreign Exchange Form M by the Customs management led to the revenue leakage.

According to him, wrong classification of cargo under the Harmonised System Codes, non screening of cargoes coming into Nigeria and lack of adequate ICT infrastructure for revenue collection, were identified in the Customs operations.

Uzodinma further stated that his committee’s investigation also unveiled cases of cancellation of pre-arrival assessment reports and abandonment of single goods declaration in Customs operations within the period under review.

In continuation of the probe which started in March, the Senate committee had, in the first week of June, extended invitation to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, over the alleged infractions.

The committee had, in addition to the Customs Service, also invited the Managing Directors of all commercial banks, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

The Customs management team and other government agencies summoned for questioning have appeared before the Senate committee on a number of times but the investigation is yet to be concluded.

Reacting to the ongoing investigation, the spokesman for the Customs, Mr. Joseph Attah, said the agency is open to investigation any day.

In a telephone chat with our correspondent over the weekend, Attah confirmed that the management team of the Customs has been attending the investigative hearing instituted by the committee.

“They have been inviting us and we have been responding and we will continue to respond to their invitation any time they extend it to us,” Attah said.

However, analysts have been vehement in their submission that the Senate committee’s investigative hearing was not borne out of any altruistic move by the lawmakers, particularly the committee chairman.

Recall that the Customs, sometime in 2016, had seized 30 containers of rice imported into the country through the Lagos Port.

The importer, Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited, had declared the contents of the containers as yeast only for Customs officials to discover that the contents were rice.

As part of the moves to recover the containers, Uzodinma, had through his committee, written to the Comptroller General of the Customs, Col. Hammed Ali, seeking his intervention in the matter with the view to having them released.

The letter, written on the committee’s letterhead and dated November 17, 2016, was personally signed by Uzodinma.

The letter read, “The accompanying documents in respect of the above mentioned subject matter refers.

“We have gone through the documents as submitted and wish to suggest that you use your good office to look into the case of this company, Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited.

“It is instructive from the circumstances and accompanying documents that the company, from the inception of the transaction, disclosed the contents of the 30 containers as rice.

“The owner of these containers was probably short changed by their clearing agents. The declaration by the agents that the contents of the containers were yeast may not be with the consent of the importer of the 30 containers of rice.

“May we therefore suggest that you take a second look at this case subject to your internal mechanism because the committee is of the opinion that it would be unjust to punish the owners of the 30 containers because of the sins of the agents.

“We suggest that the agents should rather be sanctioned to act as deterrent to others.”

But the Hammed Ali led Customs had ignored the entreaties by Uzodinma, insisting the law must take its course.

Consequently, in March 2017, the Uzodinma led committee of the Senate opened investigation into the alleged N4 trillion revenue leakage involving the Customs Service and other allied agencies.

The authorities of the Customs have continued to insist that the entire investigation by the Senate committee was a vengeance mission.

For instance, it’s on record that the Customs had, in January 2017, impounded a bullet proof Range Rover SUV said to have been illegally imported into the country by the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

The value of the vehicle, with chassis number SALGV3TF3EA190243 was put at N298 million at the time it was impounded and the Customs ought to have raked in about N74 million import duty on the vehicle.

But the documents presented to Customs officials by the driver of the vehicle, who was intercepted in transit, indicated that Customs duty of N8 million was paid with allegedly forged papers.

In an effort to recover the vehicle, the Senate had forwarded a letter, dated January 17, 2017 to the Comptroller General of the Customs seeking the release of the impounded vehicle.

The letter, signed by one O.A. Ojo who identified himself as Secretary of Procurement, Estate, and Works of the National Assembly, stated that the vehicle belonged to the convoy of the President of the Senate.

But the Customs management had replied through a letter dated January 24, 2017, requesting for the end user certificate and evidence of proper clearance as conditions for the vehicle to be released.

However, the demands have yet to be met by the importer of the vehicle. And just like the 30 containers of rice, the Customs is still holding on to the impounded vehicle.

This also, had led to actions perceived as vindictive on the part of the Senate with invitation to Ali to appear before the lawmakers to explain the rationale behind the obnoxious retroactive import duty regime that the Customs attempted to impose of motor vehicle owners in the country.

While the generality of Nigerians kicked against the unpopular policy, the role of the Senate in the matter was interpreted to be vindictive, particularly coming immediately after the impoundment of the vehicle.

And to prove critics right, the lawmakers, instead of tackling the Customs boss on the obnoxious policy, deviated and derailed the entire exercise by insisting that Ali must appear before them in Customs uniform.

Ali, who had made appearance before the Senate and who appeared ready for questioning, eventually walked away and vowed never to appear before the lawmakers on the same matter again.

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A budget and its controversies

Although Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has signed the budget, he perhaps fired the first salvo when he said the National Assembly went beyond its brief, Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, looks at the controversy around the budget.

The 2017 budget and the many controversies surrounding it are the obvious issues of the moment in the last one week. Of course, following the long wait for the fiscal document before it was eventually signed into law last week by the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, whatever concerns it must interest all.

Unfortunately, the recent tunes emanating from the two arms of government saddled with getting the budget ready, namely the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the national assembly, are at best combative. Before, during and after the signing of the budget into law last week, the two arms of government have constantly disagreed over both the process and the product of the appropriation bill submitted before the national assembly last October.

The original story behind the latest wave of controversy was that acting President Osinbajo last week said the National Assembly has no right to introduce new projects or modify those contained in an appropriation bill. According to reports, Osinbajo said the Executive was disappointed in the legislature for tampering with the 2017 Appropriation Bill which he signed last week.

Co-incidentally, he was speaking at the Old Banquet Hall of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja while flagging off the 2018 budget preparation process. The acting president had reportedly said of the budget process, “I am sure that we understand not just how to do it right, but to get it done in good time.

“This last budget, the president presented it last December. Despite the assurances that it will be passed by February, it was not until May. As it turned out, we were quite disappointed that it spent a bit of time before it was approved. And thereafter, we had to go into negotiations with the National Assembly in order to get it right.

There are issues about who can do what. The first report is about who can do what. When you present budget to the National Assembly, it is presented as a bill, an appropriation bill. And secondly, do not introduce entirely new projects and all of that or modify projects. This is something that we experienced last year and this year again. It now leaves the question about who is supposed to do what.”

Hardly had the acting President finished talking before Nigerians from all walks of life started commenting on his argument. While many aligned with his grouse over the alteration of the bill presented to the national assembly as the 2017 budget proposal, there were those who had different opinion from his over the matter.

One of those who agreed with Osinbajo is the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), who insisted that the National Assembly has no power to introduce any project into the budget. He specifically warned the upper and the lower chambers of the national assembly not to cross their bounds in the discharge of their legislative duties.

But the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, submitted that the controversies over the actions of the national assembly on the budget were uncalled for. According to the lawmaker, the power to decide what should be spent and how it should be spent in a presidential system, is that of the legislature.

Raging controversy

And just as Nigerians were thinking the dust raised by Osinbajo’s comments will pass away unnoticed by the national assembly, senators and members of the House of Representatives took it upon themselves to condemn, albeit in strong terms, what they regard as the attempt by the acting President to downplay their power to tinker with the budget.

“The Acting President’s statements after signing the budget are mere afterthoughts probably designed as usual to incite members of the public against the legislature. But this time, the presidency got it pretty wrong. It is unfortunate that in spite of telling the world a day before that the national assembly displayed maturity in handling this year’s budget, Osinbajo went to town with another story a day after,” a member of the House of Representatives said.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, while reacting to Osinbajo’s comment, insisted that the National Assembly has powers to introduce new projects into the federal budget, or remove proposed items. He argued that the framers of the Constitution vested the powers of law making in the legislature, implementation in the executive, and interpretation in the judiciary.

“A declaration as to which of the arms has the power and rights, in as much as it is related to the interpretation of the law, is the function of the judiciary and not of the executive. The Appropriation Act is a law enacted by the parliament and public officers including the president and his ministers, had sworn to uphold the Constitution,” he said.

“The refusal or failure to implement the budget is a violation of the Constitution which has consequences. We are men of honour. Whether legislators or executive, we are bound by the oath of office to faithfully execute that law and in the case of the executive, if it is not done, all of us know the very consequences. I don’t want to call it by its name, we know the consequences,” he said.

The Speaker also stated that in the event of refusal to assent to any bill by the Executive, the constitution empowers the National Assembly to override such veto in the interest of the public. Dogara added that the House under his leadership would not be a rubber stamp to the Executive as it would do everything to uphold and protect the independence of the legislature.

But Babatunde Fashola, minster of power, works and housing, says there are aspects of the 2017 appropriation act that violate the constitution, suggesting that the judiciary may have to explain how far lawmakers can go in altering the budget. The former Lagos State governor pointed out that some of the projects included in the budget of his own ministry were a violation of the constitution.

He said, “There may be need for judicial interpretation to lay the controversy to rest. It is the law that affects our day-to-day developmental expectations. In a federal example like ours, nobody should be scared to have a judicial interpretation of the limits of the power the parliament can exercise during appropriation.”

The former governor, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the issue of separation of power should not be taken out of context, maintaining that the three arms of government are “inter-dependent” and no arm can be absolutely independent, if not, the business of government will never be carried out.

“My view is that I don’t think parliament has the power to increase the budget because parliament does not collect taxes. Budget has expenditure as it has revenues, and if executive has formed the view about earning and borrowing subject to the approval of the parliament, I think it is only fair to say we won’t push you beyond what is reasonable. If executive says it is unreasonable, there is room for consultation but to unilaterally increase the budget is not something that lies in the power of the parliament, although they can reduce it,” Fashola argued.

But the House spokesperson, Namdas, would have none of Fashola’s arguments. “We gave our position on this matter already and keep repeating it. The power of the purse, in a presidential democracy, resides with the legislature and Nigeria will not be different,” the federal legislator insisted.

“The Acting President signed this same budget into law after studying it for several days. He knew there were additional projects and he signed. We have a law in place. Is it after the law has come into effect that they turn around to question the powers of the National Assembly over the same budget he willingly signed?”

Commenting on Fashola’s suggestion that the judiciary may have to be called upon to interpret the constitutional provisions regarding the budget, Namdas advised the executive to approach the judiciary for the interpretation of the 1999 Constitution if it was in doubt over any of its provisions. “They are the ones asking questions. Let them go to court,” he added.

For Prof. Sagay, it is amusing that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House are saying that the Acting President had no right to comment on the matter. He, however, laments that the legislature wants to alter the budget for its own benefits.  “They said they have all the powers. The National Assembly has no power to create projects; it approves budgets.”

It is the government, the executive, that takes proposals for projects but this National Assembly does not get the message; it wants to be both legislature and executive at the same time. “The National Assembly itself sees the Nigerian national budget as its personal budget, its money to tinker with at will and then to leave something to the rest of us. It is no surprise that Nigeria’s development remains stunted and misery and poverty remain overwhelming,” Sagay added.

Professor Epiphany Azinge, a former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies, while reacting to the development, submitted that the national assembly has the assignment to ensure good governance in all facet of governance in the country. He insisted that if tampering with the budget will enhance good governance, the legislators are in order by doing so.

“The national assembly has the assignment to ensure good governance in all facet of governance in the country. And constitutionally, they should work for the good of the people. The national assembly makes the law, the executive implements the law. The controversies over who did what to the budget is needless in my opinion.

“The executive should allow the lawmakers to go on a wild goose chase while making the law, and the executive should implement the budget the way they want as prescribed by section five of the constitutional provision. It is unacceptable to say the national assembly lacks the power to appropriate. No matter the insight of the executive, the NASS should be allowed to make the law as appropriate.”

He added, “Don’t expect the federal legislators to fold their arms and not inject the need of their various constituents into the budget. The executive can push aside what they feel is un-implementable. That way, we will avoid controversy. Each arm of the government must be allowed to exercise its powers. The controversy is needless I insist.

“We should appeal to the national assembly for reasonability in the exercise of the powers. The power belongs to the people. So they must be circumspect in what they do with the mandate reposed in them by the people. We must urge them to be reasonable. But the constitution is very clear that they have the power to appropriate. All forms of alterations, be it the funds or in projects, falls within appropriation.

The alterations

Explaining his position on the actions of the national assembly concerning the 2017 budget and the process that led to it, Osinbajo, had cited the federal lawmaker’s decision to increase the budget from N7.29 trillion to N7.43 trillion, as one of the various alterations that ought not to have been carried out by the legislature.

Aside from his stand that such increase remains unconstitutional and outside the purview of the national assembly, the vice President lamented that the increase would make the implementation of the budget difficult. He said the increase would have adverse effects on the planned implementation of some projects captured in the budget would be affected.

He listed these executive projects as the railway standard gauge projects, the Mambilla power project, the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, among others were affected by the alterations as funds allocated to them by the executive were reduced to fund some of the new projects they introduced.

Similarly, Fashola observed, “In my budget, you will find things like motorised boreholes, primary health care centres. That is a violation of the Constitution; it shouldn’t be in the appropriation law of the federal government. If the judiciary decides that it is the national assembly that should make the budget and hand it over to the executive to implement, so be it.

“When I was defending my budget, we didn’t discuss boreholes or primary health care centres, now I have hundreds of them in my budget. I have new roads that are state roads, I inherited over 200 roads when I became minister that we are trying to complete and even the right to add something must be in a context of our national development.

“I don’t think that they can sit down and legislate projects that are not federal projects that would be doing violence to the constitution because there are three levels of government. The local and state governments have their responsibilities and the federal government should be building federal roads not state roads,” the former Lagos governor added.

The Nation also gathered that several billions were injected into the budget by the national assembly to take care of what they termed as constituency projects. A senator who pleaded anonymity told The Nation, “It is not new; you people are just making an issue out of a practice that has been on since 1999. Or are you not aware there were constituency projects during Obasanjo’s regime? So, there is no issue.”

Shedding more light on how the federal lawmakers are working against norms in their handling of the budget, Fashola, said “a federal legislator’s constituency project must be a federal matter otherwise you’ll be encroaching into the territory of the state legislator, that is my argument.” While he wouldn’t want to say expressly that a legislator has no input to make into the budget, he says the question is how and when.

“I had cause to appear before the committee of the House and I even presented a paper at their invitation because they were planning to pass a constituency project law and they were doing a hearing on the bill and they were planning to create constituency offices and I said they shouldn’t do it, it’s not necessary because there are institutional capacities within our national framework for this kind of thing,” he said.

“When the president submits the budget and these committees’ hearings start everyone is excited and we are going from one committee room to the other, you’ll wonder what we were doing then. That is the place I expect that issues about projects that affect constituencies to be brought up but the issues to be taken on must be federal issues,” Fashola said.

Once a legal tango

Meanwhile, checks by The Nation revealed that the current face-off between the executive and the legislature was once the subject of litigation following a suit by renowned rights activist, Femi Falana, with the President, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Assembly and the Auditor-General of the Federation, all listed as respondents.

The Plaintiff (Falana) had asked the Court to determine four questions whether:

1)  By Section 81 of the Constitution, the National Assembly can increase or review upward any aspect of the estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next financial year prepared and laid before it by the Executive;

2) By Section 85 of the Constitution, the National Assembly can audit public accounts of the Federation, appoint auditors for statutory bodies or conduct periodic checks of all government statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly in any manner whatsoever and howsoever;

3) By virtue of sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution, the National Assembly can summon corporate bodies and private individuals while conducting an investigation into any matter, and;

4) By virtue of section 214 of the Constitution, NASS can probe or investigate the allegations of corrupt practices, fraud, murder and other criminal offences committed in statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly in any matter howsoever.

Falana prayed the court to declare unequivocally that by virtue of the stated sections, the legislative arm cannot increase budget estimates, or audit accounts of the Federation (or appoint auditors to do same), summon corporate bodies and private individuals while conducting an investigation into any matter, or probe/investigate allegations of corruption, fraud,


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‘I act like a General’

Comrade Joe Ajaero is the president of the United Labour Congress (ULC), one of the organised labour movements in the country. In this interview with Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf he speaks on his management style and shares his experience about running a vibrant labour movement. Excerpts: 

As a leader of men and resources, what is your management style?

Well, l think there’s one thing common with driving a workers- based organisation: You’ve to get the buy-in of everyone. It’s not like you tell them what to do per se. You actually carry out their decisions; it’s like been a servant leader. For instance, at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting or the CWC meeting, you argue your position and also allow others to air their views. But whatever is now agreed upon, you simply go ahead and implement it. Having said that, l can tell you that to a very large extent, most of us believe in the ideology of workers centricity. Even if people think that the decisions we take may be hasty, risky or even difficult, but for us, the interest of the workers is always paramount. Definitely if you have over 50,000 members in an organisation, you’ll be sure to have experts in different fields. But as the leader your ability to aggregate their position matters. By all means, you must be willing to listen more. It’s when you listen more that you’ll be able to aggregate or maintain a common position because even while you’re saying let’s go right   others may believe that there is need to go left and vice versa. So your ability to control and manage differences of opinion is important.

What philosophy guides your thought process?

You combine a lot. There are situations where people feel you’re laissez-faire. But we try to enshrine internal democracy in all union decisions as influenced by the assignments of the organs. So we’re clearly very democratic in decision-making. But in most instances in the implementation of decisions, you’ve to be resolute. For example, l don’t think when you’re trying to execute a strike action you want to be democratic about it. No. There’s that element of radicalism in every unionist and it’s something you can’t change.

If you’re a shy or timid person, the moment you’re called to lead, you seize to be that person. Naturally, you’ve to wear the toga of a leader who must be ready to act whenever the need arises.

To recap, we adopt democratic system of administration mixed with laissez-faire where everyone makes inputs so much so that we may seem to be over democratic. But if you’re thinking in terms of the ideology most of the labour unions are formed based on some level of social welfare disposition. If you’re not talking about social welfare of the workers, if you’re not looking at civil democracy in all you’re doing   you can’t be a good union leader.

As a labour leader, when does your typical day begin? I remember a union leader once told me he works for ‘48’ hours a day. So tell us what works for you.

(Laughs). As a labour leader, naturally you don’t have a closing time or resumption time; it depends on what’s on ground. I don’t switch off my phones for any reason because a worker may want to reach me at any time of the day. Such a worker may be on night duty or night shift and if there’s any issue he should be able to reach me as his leader. So as a labour leader, you naturally work for 24hours a day even on public holidays.

I can tell you, leading a labour union is not an easy task at all. For example, anytime you’ve a strike action to execute, it consumes you totally, especially if you don’t want it to fail. You’ve to be everywhere and that’s why they say a labour leader is just like a general in the army. Every unionist, especially those who passed through the mill as a matter of course, must know about conflict management and conflict resolution or strike management. I recall that in those days, we used to have a course called strike management because it’s only natural that if you know how to settle conflict, you must equally know how to instigate one too. In labour circles, there’s this belief that nobody sees you as a peacemaker but as a troublemaker and that’s normal.

I’m also aware that in military school, when they teach you about coup foiling, you must first of all learn about coup plotting. In the same vein, if somebody tells you how to break up a strike and he didn’t tell you how to cause a strike that person has not taught you anything. So these are some of the ideal some of us have internalised and that’s why some people tell you that they work for 48hours in a day. It’s not an exaggeration. (Laughs).

As a matter of fact, we run an organisation that has members in all the local government areas across the country so naturally you’re always on demand. We delegate assignments most times but we equally have to be there some of the time too.

What are some other skills you must have to succeed as a labour leader?

You must be an all-rounder: You play the role of a teacher, motivator, good listener, orator, negotiator, name it.

Do you micromanage or delegate as you said?

Absolutely that’s very important. You delegate most times as well as supervise things yourself a lot of the time because you’re called to lead. Normally, if there’s an issue in a particular company or organisation as the case may be, you reach out to the chapter functionaries such as the chairman of that place. From there, you get through to the state chairman and down to the zonal leadership before getting to the national secretariat. That’s the chain of command.

Can you recall one of the toughest decisions you’ve taken in the course of your career?

I have been involved in labour union all through the years from my days at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) to Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and all of that. So to be frank, there’s no decision that is entirely new to me. But l can say categorically that one of the critical moments in my career as a unionist was setting up the United Labour Congress (ULC). It took a lot of effort and conviction on our part before we went ahead to constitute a labour movement. We took that decision when it became apparent that the existing labour union was no longer supporting the aspiration of the workers. When we saw this lack of sincerity of purpose, we decided to move. It was a decision that we all took, it was not a unilateral decision by one man. No. Equally, when we decided to shutdown Arik Air, we took it notwithstanding the hardship it was going to create to Nigerians because we had insider knowledge that Arik was no longer healthy and we took that decision just barely three days of the formation of ULC. ULC came into existence on 17th December, 2016 and then between 21-22nd of December 2016, we shutdown Arik. You can see that it was a decision taken at such a short notice but we took that decision in the best interest of the industry and most especially the workers who were being owed over six months’ salary arrears. To perfect that operation required high level planning. We got the pilot union, NAAPE to comply and we also blocked supply of aviation fuel through our affiliate unions, NUPENG. In fact, when we said the strike had been called off, Arik had to appeal to us specially to help them to beg NUPENG to commence supply of aviation fuel. So what mattered is not the decision but making the decision successful at the end of the day.

In the same token, what do you consider your most favourable decision overtime?

Once again, it brings us back to the issue l raised about running wide consultations. I don’t take decisions alone. Decisions are based on the inputs of the larger committee which normally comprise the national secretariat or heads of departments, the president, the general secretary whether at the NEC or CWC meeting. The moment they take that decision, all you do is to go ahead and implement just like the decision we took concerning Arik; it favoured the workers largely because after the action most of their salary arrears were cleared by the management at the end of the day.

How do you motivate your staff?

We have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational variables which we adopt. The wages are low, no doubt but we try to pay as and when due. If people work very well, and you commend them, they’re happy. Here l think we promoted somebody recently that has not been late to work for about five consecutive years. That kind of gesture make others get serious with their work. But where you have the resources, you provide facilities, even if it’s a low interest loan, you can provide it for them to solve some of their problems. I recall at the Electricity union, what we did at a time was to pay people their entire entitlements while they’re still working. We calculated their gratuity apart from their severance and we paid them. Then you could see that most of the workers even common clerks and messengers started building houses of their own knowing that they will still get their salaries at the end of the month. Many of them invested the money because when they leave the job, whatever you give at the time may not be enough to do something tangible for them. So the best thing in most instances is to make sure that you give them something from what they’ve worked. But it’s usually by choice.

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Our season of mystification

The character of a nation is not the character of its president; the character of a nation is the character of its people—Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator

When Nigeria obtained independence in 1960, the consensus among leaders was that Nigeria was the result of human construction, hence, the various constitutional conferences that culminated in the Republican Constitution of 1963. Nobody, not Frederick Lugard, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, and Nnamdi Azikiwe, called Nigeria a creation of God. It was not common in the world at that time to pass the buck of poor architecture to God, as many highly placed leaders tend to do these days. In order to reinforce the status quo, political and cultural leaders have had for too long the tendency to make claims that are not realistic or rational, namely that it is God who created Nigeria and nobody should do or say anything that challenges God’s design.

For example, long before anybody demanded for revival of Nigeria, many stakeholders warded off demands for restoration of federalism as an attempt to commit sacrilege, an abuse of a celestial or divine process and product, Nigeria.  Much more than before, the notion that Nigeria is a creation of God got transformed into an advertorial in the last few years, particularly since self-styled Indigenous People of Biafra became a force to tame, if Nigeria is to survive as one geographical entity. Former vice presidents, sitting vice president, traditional rulers, governors, and legislators amplified the narrative of divine design of Nigeria, perhaps to put the mind of ordinary people who are perceived as fertile grounds for false consciousness planting at rest and protect such fragile minds from corruption by those calling for any manner of reform of the status quo. In both cases, apostles of the status quo or nothing else were enthusiastic in shutting up demand for reform on the excuse that such demands tamper with celestial design of Nigeria.

Before this season, Nigerians were already used to hearing that it is God that appoints leaders, especially when some nosy citizens accused ruling parties of election manipulation. This happened in 1979, 1983, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2007, and even in 2011, particularly when those who lost elections challenged the integrity of such elections. Resorting to metaphysical explanations of political activities has been for some time part of political rhetoric in the country, but it got to a crescendo in the last few years, particularly since demand for restructuring by a section of Yoruba opinion leaders and later with the rise of MASSOB and IPOB’s call for secession or disintegration.

Mystification and distortion started to become popular during the regime of President Obasanjo, who equated call for restructuring with demand for secession, in order to call the dog of restructuring a bad name to get it ready for hanging. Most Nigerians had no reason to expect that there would be an emergence of such dare-devils as the Kanu group with irrational ambition: breaking Nigeria so that Biafra can be revived, to allow what the group considers a maste- race nationality in Nigeria to move ahead and reclaim its manifest destiny.

When MASSOB and IPOB emerged on the landscape of the country’s geopolitical struggle for the soul of Nigeria, those calling for restructuring got eclipsed by the bellicose rhetoric of IPOB. And some of the new theorists of etiology seized the moment to remind citizens that it was God in his/her infinite mercies that created Nigeria and that nobody born of women has a right to question God’s design. Of course, mystification has its function. It either makes people interrogate what they perceive to be overdone or get them intoxicated or indoctrinated by the sheer force of the oversize image that may have no bearing with reality.

Unfortunately, attempts by political and cultural leaders to create images designed to indoctrinate citizens backfired for all of us. Instead of calling for a dialogue to identify the problems and make amends where necessary, politicians in power used the excuse of recession to de-emphasise the frustration of several Nigerian groups, without even considering that recession itself can be an immediate cause for irrational demand, such as Kanu’s. Kanu’s stature began to rise meteorically and without justification, until the Arewa Youth Organisation decided to occupy what they thought was a vacuum.

Without any belief in the constitution, the Arewa Youth Organisation started to issue ultimatums. They first issued a military type of ultimatum to Igbos living in the 19 states of the north to migrate back home by October 1, failing which they would face extermination. The world quickly expressed shock at what could become a major international refugee problem. Those who have a sense of Nigeria before the civil war that Kanu wanted to re-enact got scared about the possibility of conflagration. The Acting President quickly went to work, calling meetings of regional stakeholders including modern and traditional rulers. Given the sharp response to the first ultimatum, the Arewa Youth Forum issued another ultimatum. This time to the Vice President, to urge him commence disengagement process between Nigeria and Kanu’s Biafra. And the rest is fast becoming history. Some Igbo leaders are showing readiness to accept an offer of the presidency in 2019 as a sufficient evidence of Nigeria’s willingness to de-marginalise Kanu’s followers.

Suddenly, what started as a practical joke by MASSOB and IPOB after the change of presidential power in 2015 grew into a national crisis. Some organisations encouraged Igbos to vacate the North and for Hausa-Fulani to leave Biafraland. Even some Yoruba organisations said that the Arewa fatwa to the Igbos is a fatwa to all the people of the South including Yoruba people, whose recurrent demand since 1993 or earlier has been for return of federalism to Nigeria through negotiation among all federating units. Better put, a threat to the Igbos in the North is a threat to all lovers of human rights everywhere.

For too long, political and cultural leaders have relished in self-delusion by making God responsible for the way Nigeria has become, since gradual erosion of federal provisions in the country’s constitution. Our failure to respond to demands for restructuring on the excuse that this is the way God wants Nigeria to be got replaced by demand for secession, which has now put everyone on his/her toes. Decision by Arewa youth to call the bluff of IPOB has also aggravated the tension. It is reassuring that the VP has moved fast to engage stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise. As one of the northern governors said at one of the meetings with the acting president, “nation-building is a work in progress” that requires appropriate response to inevitability of change. Recently, two states, California and Texas mooted the idea of secession, and such demand did not lead to scattering of the tribes as it has done in Nigeria. Ethiopia has a secession provision in its constitution, and nobody has attempted to invoke it.

It is dangerous for those who profit from understanding of transitive and intransitive use of religion to attribute the way Nigeria is or has been to God. Children who are growing up with a scientific mind with the hope of connecting cause and effect in what they do may be discouraged from cultivating scientific and rational minds. Young students are already calling their mentors in a country that discontinued the study of history for many years to find out what is correct: amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914 by Frederick Lugard or the creation of Nigeria by God?  It is too late in human progress to use mystification to deal with political matters. Doing so increases the risk of irrational demands. If Kanu had wanted to secede, he would not have made a religion of talking about it. He would have confronted the rest of Nigeria with a new Biafran army and await the response.

Those who govern and those being governed need to understand that Nigeria, like any other country, has not been perfectly made, largely because modern countries are not made by God. Citizens have the right to make demands designed to make the country better. Shunning for too long those who call for peaceful reform (such as restructuring) risks emergence of those who are ready to throw away the baby with the bathwater, like MASSOB, IPOB, and the Arewa Youth Organisation behind ultimatums to the Igbos and Vice President Osinbajo. The new announcement of APC governors’ commitment to restructuring for federalism clearly renews and reinforces the progressive party’s election promise to: “initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.”

If there are still people who want to break Nigeria up, they will need to look for new reasons other than marginalisation.

The post Our season of mystification appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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