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December 30, 2005

Mbadinuju charged with murder

ABUJA—THE police yesterday arraigned immediate past Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chinwoke Mbadinuju, before a Chief Magistrate Court sitting at Jabi, Abuja over the September 1, 2002 assassination of the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onitsha Branch, Mr Barnabas Igwe and her pregnant wife, Amaka.

By Ise-Oluwa Ige
Posted to the Web: Friday, December 30, 2005

The arraignment brought to two the number of former executive office holders protected by constitutional immunity, that were charged to court over alleged crime while holding office.

Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was the first to be dragged before the court of law to face trial.

Mbadinuju who looked sober and dejected in the dock was said to have conspired with some criminals, still at large, to arrange the death of the two lawyers. The charge did not give reasons why the governor arranged the killing of the former NBA boss.

Late Igwe and his pregnant wife, Amaka, were assassinated three years and four months ago while on a visit to a family friend in Awada Layout, Onitsha.
According to reports, the former NBA boss (Igwe) and his wife were shot several times by assassins in their private car. After several gun-shots, the assassins allegedly moved closer to the dying couple and inflicted several machete cuts on them before using a vehicle to run over their bodies again and again to ensure that they did not survive the attack.

The assassination followed several death-threat telephone calls received by the couple over a 21-day ultimatum issued the Mbadinuju-led Anambra State government by the Onitsha branch of the NBA led by the late Igwe on salary arrears owed civil servants.

Soon after the death of the couple, several people accused Chief Mbadinuju of masterminding the killing even though he was away to Houston-Texas at the time the incident occurred. The former state governor denied his involvement.

But, in a dramatic turn yesterday, the police dragged the former governor before the Chief Magistrate Court, Jabi for the killing. They said their three-year investigation revealed that it was the former governor that arranged the murder and spread several millions of naira to a number of police investigators to either stop investigation in the case or cover him up.

Also arraigned with him for the murder was one young man, Daniel Anyiego. Anyiego was arraigned for allegedly collecting money from the governor to bribe investigators and powerful security men interested in the case to conceal the real identity of the killers.

But little was known of Anyiego’s identity at press time as the police themselves said he (Anyiego) was a man of no known address.
The duo of Mbadinuju and Anyiego were brought to court by the police in a Peugeot 406 car about noon. They were neither handcuffed nor leg-chained. They looked unruffled until they were called into the dock.

In the not-too-spacious dock, Chief Mbadinuju who wore a red shirt atop a pair of black trousers. Much of the times he was looking down, feeling shy. But he braced up and comported himself immediately the chief magistrate motioned to the court registrar to read the First Information Report (FIR) (charges) already prepared by the police to the accused persons.

The First Information Report (FIR) read out to them:
* That you Chief Chimaroke Mbadinuju, former Governor of Anambra State is accused of criminal conspiracy; abetment of an offence of culpable homicide punishable with death;

* Giving false information with intent to mislead public servants;
* Causing disappearance of evidence and giving false information to shield an offender ;

* Third party benefitting from gratification to shield an officer contrary to sections 97, 84, 162, 121 and 168 of the Penal Code;
* That on or about the 1st day of September 2002 and November 2005, you Chimaroke Mbadinuju, ex-Governor of Anambra State of No 135, Adetokunboh Ademola Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja and Daniel Anyiego of no definite address conspired amongst yourselves and with others at large and agreed to do an illegal act to wit: you use your position and engaged the service of persons whose identity is yet to be unraveled and you aided and facilitated the killing of Barrister B C Igwe, Chairman of the NBA, Onitsha branch and his wife and you gave false information to the police with intent to mislead the police from the true facts of the circumstances of the killing of Barrister and Mrs Igwe;

* That you know and have reason to believe that an offence of murder instigated by you has been committed whereas you caused the evidence of the offence to disappear with the intention of shielding the said persons who committed the offence from legal punishments. In furtherance of your dishonest intention, on or about the month of October 2002 and November 2005, you gave gratifications to the tune of several millions of naira for the concealment of the said offence in order to avoid legal punishment. Investigation has revealed that you Daniel Anyiego, male, received several millions of naira at Rockview Hotels, Abuja from Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju for distribution to security officers to serve as inducement to the security officers to avoid investigations and legal punishments. You hereby committed the above named offences.

Almost immediately the accused persons entered their pleas, the prosecution counsel, Mr Ibrahim Bako urged the court to remand them in prison, saying investigation was on-going in respect of the foot-soldiers allegedly used by the governor to murder the two lawyers. He told the court that the police were ready to go ahead with the prosecution of the case as soon as possible.

But counsel to the former governor, Messrs Gabriel Egbele and Sina Oluwole Femi, orally applied for his bail. It was Mr Egbele that addressed the court first. He invited the court to admit Mbadinuju to bail pending commencement of trial in the case, saying his client (Mbadinuju) was a responsible Nigerian and a lawyer who would not jump bail if granted or interfere with police investigation. Besides, he said at the moment, the accused was not feeling fine.

Opposing the bail application, counsel to the police, Mr Bako said the mere fact that counsel to Mbadinuju said his client was ill was not enough a reason for the court to admit him to bail, having not exhibited any documentary evidence to back up his claim. Bako further told the court that though the grant of bail was purely the discretion of the court, he would implore the court not to move in favour of Mbadinuju because the police were yet to be through with the investigation of the case.

“I also want the court to take cognizance of the national importance of the case. Granting him bail at this point will not be in the interest of justice,” he said.
The Chief Magistrate, Mr Usma Shuaibu, however, did not write his ruling yesterday on the ground that the submissions made were lengthy. He, consequently, adjourned delivery of the ruling till January 3, next year.
But the Chief Magistrate ordered that the former governor and his alleged accomplice be remanded in prison till same date.



Posted by Publisher at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria ex-ruler warns Obasanjo

A former Nigerian military leader has warned President Olusegun Obasanjo not to change the constitution and stand for a third term in office.

The speech by General Yakubu Gowon received a standing ovation at a conference of central Nigerian leaders.

Mr Obasanjo has expressed his desire to retire to his farm when his mandate expires in 2007.

But there is increasing speculation in Nigeria that behind the scenes he is trying to secure a third term.

Divided nation

Correspondents say the ruling People's Democratic Party is deeply divided between those who would like Mr Obasanjo to remain in office and supporters of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

The question of who should succeed Mr Obasanjo is also threatening to divide Nigeria along regional lines.

Both northern and southern leaders have held meetings and demanded that the next president should come from their respective areas.

Southern groups have threatened to seek more power for individual states if a northerner becomes the next president.

Mr Abubakar is from the north, while Mr Obasanjo is from the south.

However, southern ethnic groups have already cautioned Mr Obasanjo against trying to remain in power.

The BBC's Mannir Dan-Ali says the central region, or Middle-Belt, sees itself as a bridge between the two other areas.

"We have to avoid the tendency of leadership to prolong itself or overstaying its acceptability," said Gen Gowon, who ruled Nigeria from 1966 until 1975.

The US has also warned Mr Obasanjo not to change the constitution, prompting Nigerian officials to tell the UN to mind its own business.

Nigeria's parliament is currently discussing proposed constitutional amendments which, if approved, could allow presidential third terms.

Any constitutional amendment needs to be approved by parliamentarians and two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states.

Posted by Publisher at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

Britain slams 29-count charge on Alamieyeseigha

Despite his ongoing prosecution in Nigeria, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, will soon face trial in London on 29 charges.

Yusuf Alli

Investigations by our correspondent indicated that the Crown Prosecution in the United Kingdom had filed the list of charges at the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court on December 19, 2005.

Alamieyeseigha was arrested at the Heathrow Airport, London, on September 15 for allegedly laundering over £1million.

On October 14, the Southwark Crown Court granted the former governor bail on six conditions, including the seizure of his passport.

But on November 21, 2005, Alamieyeseigha jumped bail and fled to Nigeria.

The Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in London on December 8 issued a warrant for the suspect’s arrest.

Although the former governor was removed from office on December 10, 2005, there had been a diplomatic deadlock on whether he should be extradited to London for trial or not.

Alamieyeseigha, however, on December 15 applied for a visa to return to London but the British High Commission in Nigeria rejected his application.

As at Thursday, findings showed that it appeared the problems over Alamieyeseigha’s extradition were being resolved.

It was learnt that the charges were filed at the court in anticipation of the extradition of Alamieyeseigha to the UK.

Out of the charges, 28 border mainly on suspected cases of money laundering and the one-count charge is on his jumping of bail on November 21.

Most of the cases of money laundering were committed between December 14, 2001 and September 28, 2005.

The former governor will be tried under four laws in the United Kingdom.

These laws are, the Bail Act 1976; Criminal Attempts Act 1981; Justice Act 1988 and Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

A copy of the papers filed by the Crown Prosecution, exclusively obtained by The PUNCH further revealed that the 29 allegations against Alamieyeseigha are divided into three existing charges and 26 additional charges.

The three existing broad charges read:

• That he on or about the 14th December 2001 concealed or disguised property, namely a credit of £420,000.00 received into his account at the Midland Bank Plc (now the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Plc), which was, or in whole or in part directly or indirectly represented, his proceeds of criminal conduct for the purpose of avoiding prosecution for an offence to which Part VI of the Act applies. Contrary to Section 93C(1)(a) of the Criminal justice Act 1988;

• That he on or about the 22nd March 2002 concealed or disguised property, namely a credit of £475,724.08 paid into the account of Nedd and Co solicitors, which was, or in whole or in part directly or indirectly represented, his proceeds of criminal conduct for the purpose of avoiding prosecution for an offence to which Part VI of the Act applies. Contrary to Section 93C(1)(a) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988;

• That he on or before the 15th September 2005 concealed, disguised, converted or transferred criminal property namely monies in Sterling and United States dollars, amounting to a total value of £73,749,16 which constituted his benefit from criminal conduct or represented such a benefit in whole or in part whereby directly or indirectly and which he knew or suspected constituted or represented such a benefit. Contrary to Section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Some of the additional charges include:

• That he on or about the 1st November 2004 concealed, disguised, converted or transferred criminal property namely the sum of £949,763.65 debited from the account of Santolina Investment Corporation with the Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and dispatched to Berndadt, Vukic, Potash and Getz at the First National Bank, Cape Town, South Africa.

• That he on or about the 30th August 2005 attempted to conceal, disguise, convert or transfer criminal property namely the sum of £1,853,849.73 from the account of Santolina Investment Corporation with the Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and to Joseph Kokkinos and Co (Clients Account) in Cyprus at the Cyprus Popular Bank which constituted his benefit from criminal conduct or represented such a benefit in whole or in part whereby directly or indirectly and which he knew or suspected constituted or represented such a benefit. Contrary to Section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.

• That he on or about the 28th September 2005 concealed, disguised, converted or transferred criminal property namely monies in Sterling and United States Dollars, amounting to a total value of £73,749.16 which constituted his benefit from criminal conduct or represented such a benefit in whole or in part whereby directly or indirectly and which he knew or suspected constituted or represented such a benefit. Contrary to Section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

• That he on 8th December 2005 having been released on conditional bail in criminal proceedings failed without reasonable cause to surrender to Bow Street Magistrates’ Court. Contrary to Section 6 of the Bail Act 1976.

The PUNCH, Friday, December 30, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

Count INEC out of alleged third term, says Iwu

FOLLOWING allegation that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was being used for the alleged third term agenda, its chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu, has dissociated the body from the plot.

From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu

Iwu, who spoke to reporters yesterday in Enugu said the commission had no hand in furthering the tenure of present elected officials.

He stated that the constitution was clear on the tenure of office of the present officials, adding that the commission would conduct elections in May 2007 in line with the 1999 Constitution.

He also defended his appointment as INEC chief, stressing: "I was not appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo. He only nominated me and I went to the Senate where I was screened and found worthy. The Senate could have as well rejected me if I did not meet the requirements. I was presented to the Council of State and no member said no.

"The mandate I hold is to conduct elections for the country such that Nigerians will feel happy and fulfilled participating in the exercise. That is what I have sworn to uphold. INEC is sufficiently independent, the only thing we need is financial autonomy. We are independent in terms of operation and we have the capacity to increase the spread and that is why we are fully determined to give to Nigerians the most credible elections in 2007,".he added.

He explained that though the amended Electoral draft bill which the Commission submitted to the House for the conduct of the 2007 polls had not been passed into law, the Commission had options which could still enable it conduct polls which would be acceptable to Nigerians.

The INEC boss stated that already, the commission had carried out enlightenment campaigns in most parts of the country, especially on the introduction of the Electronic Voting System (EVS) which it intends to use for the on coming elections. He added that Adhoc staff were being engaged as well as overhauling the operational machinery of the commission to enable them contribute effectively to the success of the elections.

On the EVS, Iwu said that there was no going back as according to him, those criticising it were afraid that the device would not allow them to rig elections.

He said: "People are not comfortable with the EVS because it is rig proof. There is no other better ways of conducting a transparent election at the moment without the EVS. So we are not going back on the exercise. The device will help us determine anomalies and where they are committed".

He said that the device though electrically operated works like the GSM, adding that once the votings were concluded, results would be immediately announced at the polling centre.

He said the commission would not tolerate any iota of violence during the polls, adding that a lot of constituencies would be cancelled or declared "inconclusive." He also warned politicians to beware of acts capable of truncating the rules of the exercise.

Posted by Publisher at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

Egunje rocks Lagos, Speaker impeached; Tinubu dazed

FOLLOWING allegation of financial misconduct, Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Jokotola Pelumi was yesterday impeached. A new Speaker, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji (Epe 1) was immediately elected and installed.

FUNKE ODUWOLE

The motion for Pelumi’s impeachment which was moved by the Chairman House Committee on Education, Hon. Kolawole Taiwo and seconded by Hon. Adefarasin Hassan was endorsed by 33 out of the 40 member house.

But news of the House proceedings jolted Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was attending a book launch commemorating the 60th birthday of Professor Segun Gbadegesin at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) on Victoria Island, Lagos.

After receiving a telephone call apparently on the impeachment, Tinubu stormed out of the venue and for about 20 minutes when he returned to his seat looked distraught.

Later at a press briefing the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Babajide Omoworare, said that the Speaker was impeached because of the need to reposition the House.

According to him, the goal of the House is to deliver selfless service to members of the public, adding "I am not aware if the former Speaker was not representing the interest of the House properly, section 92(2)(c) does not state that a reason must be stated for an impeachment of the speaker, I don’t think there is a provision for such."

"Our desire is to reposition the House, we will always collaborate with the executive arm of government, but the separation of powers will always be maintained."

However at the House session which commenced at 2.10 p.m lasted for 45 minutes and had virtually all the lawmakers in attendance.

The atmosphere was charged upon the commencement of session, with a fresh allegation of impospriety and financial misconduct being levelled against the former Speaker.

He was accused of misappropriating the sum of N12 million earmarked for the House members for Christmas by Gov. Tinubu.

Immediately after reading out the alleged misdemeanor of the former Speaker, by the Clark of the House, the lawmaker passed a vote of no confidence on him and voted for his impeachment.

The Clark said the lawmakers’ action was backed by Section 92, 2 (c) of the 1990 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Swiftly, the motion for the election of a new Speaker was moved and seconded by Hon. Bolaji Ayinla and Hon. Otonyan Bamgbose respectively. The session was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Farouk Adegboyega (Oshodi).

However, there were arguments and counter arguments among the lawmakers before they finally agreed to call for nomination for the post of the Speaker which they said they had waited to effect in the past two years and seven months.

The deputy Speaker before the election reminded the House that the speakership was zoned to Epe Constituency which made it possible for Hon. Jokotola Pelumi to emerge as the Speaker. So he urged the honourable House not to look elsewhere but follow the zoning arrangement.

There was no counter motion against the nomination of Adeyemi Kuforiji from the House members.

Kuforiji in his acceptance speech thanked the members for the confidence reposed on him and the trust they have in Epe Constituency where they had elected a new Speaker for the second time in the last two and half years.

"As you have decided to put the task on my shoulder, please, in the name of Allah, come together and give me your cooperation and support," he said.

According to him, a "speaker must not be lord of the manor but a servant of the House, and at best to preside over the activities of the House". He assured them that within the next three months the House will witness positive changes.

Hon. Jokotola Pelumi was absent during the session.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bola Tinubu was jolted by the action of the House members. The governor was at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) attending the book launch commemorating the 60th birthday of Prof. Segun Gbadegesin when the impeachment took place.

He rushed out of the hall when the news got to him, made some phone calls ostensibly to stop the move.

He later rushed back to the Government House. But the deed had already been done.

Posted by Publisher at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

Oyo crisis: Adedibu gives Ladoja conditions

As the delegation from the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tries to resolve the crisis in Oyo State, Lamidi Adedibu, one of the combatants, has given Governor Rashidi Ladoja conditions under which reconciliation can be achieved.

By Sola Shittu
Reporter, Ibadan

Adedibu wants him to immediately secure the release of former Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Akinsola Tokyo, who is now in detention over a murder incident in Ogbomoso during the administration of Lam Adesina.

He also wants him to de-recognise Lamidi Adetoro as the state’s party Chairman as well as get his lawyer, Abdulrahman Shittu, to retract an interview granted The Nigerian Tribune during the week over the face off.

Adedidu gave the conditions just as the PDP delegation waited for another round of reconciliation talks on Thursday night in Ibadan.

But PDP Deputy National Chairman (North), Ibrahim Shema, has said that the impeachment move against Ladoja, by the Adedibu faction in the state Assembly has nothing to do with the peace process initiated by the party’s national secretariat.

Shema, who is leading the four-man delegation of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) to Ibadan, stated this on Thursday when he visited the home of Adedibu.

He said the party’s leadership is committed to the peaceful resolution of the conflict so that peace can return to the state for the people to enjoy the full dividends of democracy.

He urged the people to remain calm and avoid violence, adding that it would be in the interest of all to ensure that peace is maintained.

The delegation had earlier visited Ladoja on the same mission as a follow up to Shema’s visit on Wednesday when he delivered a letter from the party’s national secretariat to him indicating the desire of the leadership to intervene.

It was learnt that a meeting by the delegation with representatives of the two factions was scheduled for Thursday at Premier Hotel, Ibadan.

It was at the same hotel former PDP National Chairman, Audu Ogbeh, led a delegation to resolve the gridlock before it escalated again.

In any case, calm has returned to Ibadan after Wednesday’s wild jubilation by Adedibu’s supporters over the court ruling that the impeachment process against Ladoja is purely a political affair outside court jurisdiction.

But most civil servants at government secretariat refused to resume work on Thursday following increasing rumour that the Adedibu men plan to attack and take over the secretariat.

The faction believes the court ruling gives them the go ahead to sack Ladoja.

Only a handful of workers reported for work at the secretariat, several stood outside their offices discussing the situation.

The National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations, (NACOMYO) in Oyo State has condemned the conflict, saying it has paralysed economic activities statewide.

The group, in a statement, implored Abuja to quickly find a way to end the crisis and called on Nigerians to pray for the success of the democratic experiment.

Posted by Publisher at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

Bomb Scare in Oyo Assembly; Workers stay off work

The tension generated by moves to remove Governor Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo State from office worsened yesterday as a bomb scare forced the group of 18 members of the state House of Assembly routing for the governor’s impeachment to shelve its sitting scheduled to hold at the assembly’s chambers in Ibadan.

By Bolaji Adebiyi, Yemi Akinsuyi in Lagos and Ademola Adeyemo in Ibadan, 12.30.2005

The scare, which was fueled by fear of adverse reactions of the governor’s supporters’ to Wednesday ruling of the state High Court, sitting in Ibadan that declined jurisdiction in the suit filed by the Speaker of the House, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke, and his deputy, Mr. Dauda Atilola, seeking to stop the impeachment of Ladoja, became intensified as the state’s Acting Chief Judge, Justice Afolabi Adeniran, is expected to empanel today the seven-man committee that will investigate the allegations of misconduct against the governor.

Also scared away from work were civil servants most of who said they were yet to recover from the shock of last week’s mayhem, which sacked both the parliament building and the governor’s office. Consequently, the State Secretariat seat of government was deserted yesterday even as the governor’s close aides and staff stayed away from their offices.

But the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Ayodele Adigun, in an interview with THISDAY sued for peace, saying the state government remained committed to its mandate of securing the lives and property of its citizens.
The government’s commitment to the security of the state, a police source told THISDAY in Lagos, received the support of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, who yesterday ordered the deployment, from Lagos State Police Command, of two more mobile police units in Oyo State to help calm restive supporters of the warring factions in the state.

However, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Mr. Babatunde Eesuola, who doubles as the spokesman of the G18 told THISDAY in a telephone interview yesterday that his group had to shelve its planned plenary session because of a security report that bombs had been allegedly planted in the assembly complex, making it unsafe to sit.

“We had planned to sit today to carry out the business of the House, not necessarily over the impeachment of the governor, but we had to postpone this as a result of unfavourable security reports, which said the place was unsafe because bombs had been planted in House,” he said.

He stated that the police were expected to give his group clearance to sit and that when that was not forthcoming, the session was postponed until such a time the House chambers would be conducive to legislative work.

Eesuola who insisted that the only condition for peace in the state was the removal of the governor said his group expected the acting chief judge to empanel the impeachment investigative committee today, saying the ongoing discussions between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fact-finding committee and stakeholders in the political crisis, including the governor’s estranged godfather, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, would not abort the impeachment process.

He said: “I think people are missing the point. There are two issues. One is the quarrel between the governor and his godfather; that one is secondary. The other is the primary issue of a constitutional dispute between the governor and the House. We have leveled allegations of gross misconduct against the governor, and instead of responding to the allegations he chose to ignore us.
“So the intervention of the party and other stakeholders in the state, in my view, only relates to the problem between the governor and his godfather. If they want to settle that we have no business with that. The one that concerns us is the constitutional breaches that we have raised and we intend to deal with that matter decisively.

The G18 spokesman disagreed that the disagreement between Ladoja and Adedibu instigated the impeachment proceedings, saying it was politically expedient for the House and the governor’s estranged godfather to merge forces to redress the wrong he had done to both of them.

“What you are suggesting is that we are dullards, that we do not have a mind of our own. This is far from the truth. We have an axe to grind with the governor; Baba (Adedibu) has his problems with him. I know that it is not all of us that are Molete boys; I do not come from there, I come from Oyo and that it is where my loyalty lies,” Eesuola said.

But as Ladoja’s adversaries intensifies their efforts to oust him from office, his SSG, Adigun, has called for peace, asking that everyone should subject himself to the rule of law. “We want peace in the state. Our mandate is to secure the lives and property of our people and provide a peaceful environment for them to do their businesses. We are determined to do that,” he said.

Contending that the crisis was not caused by disagreements over public policy, he said the state government was not prepared to pander to the whims and caprices of any person or group who might want to turn the state to its private estate.

“It is unacceptable for any group of people to sit down and insist on imposing their will on the people,” he said, adding that anyone who had any grievance should redress in accordance with the law.

Meanwhile the PDP fact-finding committee dispatched by the party’s national secretariat continued its assignment in Ibadan yesterday meetings with the main actors in the political dispute.

Its Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema, told newsmen that the committee was making progress and was hopeful that an amicable solution would be found to the crisis. He said his committee had met with Adedibu and would meet with the governor yesternight.

Posted by Publisher at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

Govt sells NITEL below reserved price

THE Federal Government yesterday sold three state-owned enterprises to investors at prices considered by privatisation officials as ridiculously low but inevitable.

From Mathias Okwe and Betrand Nwankwo, Abuja

Most surprising was the price for the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) Limited and its mobile telecommunication subsidiary, the M-Tel, which were sold for $256 million to Middle East-based Orascom Telcom Holding S.A.E. (Orascom Telcom).

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, noted that the price is far below the over $7 billion that had been injected into NITEL in the last few years. The minister, a former Director -General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), however, added that the development could not be helped following the loss of investor confidence in NITEL.

The $256 million offered by Orascom is far below the $1.3 billion offered for the same NITEL by Nigeria's International Investors (London) Limited (ILLL) in 2001. This was before the government installed the multi-million dollar Nigeria SAT - 3 infrastructure in NITEL, which is considered as the cash cow of the company. The infrastructure was also sold with NITEL as well as the M-Tel component of the group.

Major stakeholders at the NITEL sale in Abuja yesterday also wondered why the government declared Orascom winner for the NITEL and the M-Tel companies when the $285 million license fee it paid to the National Communications Commission (NCC) for the M-Tel is more than the $256 million now offered for the two companies.

El -Rufai, who witnessed the transactions, the first since he left the BPE, described the amount offered by Orascom as disappointing. He, however, blamed the development on the sloppy services offered by NITEL staff, adding that it might have been responsible for the low price it attracted from the investors.

The minister, a member of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), promised to appeal to the investor to review its price offer for the two companies. He asked the staff of other state-owned enterprises yet to be privatised to learn from the NITEL price mishap and said that in spite of the development, the sale would go on.

The minister asked those who were against privatisation to stay out of the way as they might be "crushed" by President Olusegun Obasanjo "or, in the case of me in the FCT, demolish you."

He added: " You either shape up or be ready to be shipped out of the system."

In her remark before the bid's opening, the BPE Director-General, Mrs. Irene Chigbue, had recalled that the initial attempt to privatise NITEL had brought up Investors International (London) Limited as the preferred bidder and Telnet Nigeria Limited as the reserved bidder.

She recalled that IILL paid 10 per cent of its bid price on December 12, 2001 but failed to pay the balance of 90 per cent as required by the deadline of January 12, 2002. This failure, she added, ran counter to the privatisaton rule and IILL was disqualified.

However, negotiations with Telnet Nigeria limited, were inconclusive as the consortium finally declined to take up the offer thus aborting the whole process.

This time, she noted, the Federal Government approved six companies at the start of another privatisation process. They include Telkom/Vodacom, Huaweii/Jacuz, Orascom, Celtel, Newtel and MTN.

But at the end of the exercise, only Orascom Telecom and Newtel International Limited submitted their final technical and financial bids.

The Guardian learnt that BPE is scheduled to meet with Orascom to know if they can raise the amount at least to between $300 million and $350 million since government is not prepared to sell the two telecom firms as low as $256.5 million.

The Special Adviser to the President on Privatisation, Mr. Vena Ikem, who also expressed concern over the $256 million price offer for the two firms, said that there was still room for an upward price review by the investor. He explained that the huge liabilities of NITEL might be responsible for the low offer.

The events leading to the declaration of Orascom as investor in NITEL/M -Tel for the ludicrous price did not come as a surprise judging from how the process began. First, only two companies, Orascom and Egypt-based Newtel International Limited, emerged for the exercise and they opened their price quotations on a very insulting note.

While Orascom quoted $127.5 million, Newtel offered $154.9 million. This attracted cynical comments and grumbles from the audience who refused to applaud the offers even when asked to do so by the NCP Technical Committee Chairman, Mr. Akin Kekere-Ekun.

Kekere-Ekun thereafter charged the two investors to be serious with their quotations, saying that the government was not a charity organisation.

This, according to him, was necessary because the offers were terribly below the reserved price set by the NCP. He then asked them to take 25 minutes outside to review upward their quotations.

It was a more bizarre scenario when after about 30 minutes, only Orascom returned with a reviewed quotation. Newtel had disappeared.

This was the first time in the privatisation exercise in the country for an investor to disappear mid-way into transaction. After waiting in vain for Newtel, the NCP Technical chairman declared Orascom the only bidder and its reviewed offer of $256.5 million a winning bid. He, however, noted that the offer was below the reserved price. He stated that the NCP would meet and decide if it could sell it to Orascom at the rate.

Orascom, according to the BPE profile, is a leading mobile telecommunication company with GSM operations in seven emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. It has a total population under license of approximately 460 million with an average mobile telephony penetration of approximately 11.5 per cent.

The company operates in Algeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The group is said to have 25.5 million subscribers and a yearly revenue of $2.5 billion as at September 30, 2005.

Some stakeholders, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said the NITEL sale transaction was a kangaroo arrangement put together to deceive the public as the companies had since been tactically transferred by senior government officials to their cronies.

Unconfirmed reports claimed that both Orascom and Newtel belong to the same consortium and were brought into the country by senior government officials to act as their cronies.

This, they claimed, explained why the telecommunication companies in Nigeria were barred from participating in the NITEL transaction to pave way for the emergence of Orascom.

The staff of both NITEL and M-Tel, as well as those of the Communications Ministry in Abuja yesterday expressed disgust over "the shoddy and lack of transparent manner in which the BPE handled the transaction".

A group which called itself, The Telcom Collective, in a paid advert, described the two companies as " unknown quantity'' and called on those charged with the sale to disregard them as they were cronies of some selfish individuals in the country. They also linked Orascom to Pentascope, a company they said grossly mismanaged NITEL.

Meanwhile, in the other transactions, Miramar Group International bought over the Federal Government's 75 per cent equity in the Nigeria Machine Tools, Oshogbo for N1.5 billion, defeating its only competitor, Bronwen Nigeria Limited which offered N450 million.

Also, the 75 per cent government holding in Steyr Nigeria Limited, Bauchi was sold for N700 million to a local company, Kaura Motors Limited which the NCP also said was below the reserved price. Kaura defeated another local company, Barbedos Ventures, which offered N306 million for the same plant.

Posted by Publisher at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

Brazil formalizes cancellation of part of Nigeria's debt

Brasília - Brazil will receive only US$ 67.3 million of the US$ 150.4 million owed to it by Nigeria, which incurred the debt over 20 years ago in the form of loans and export insurance. The other US$ 83.1 million will be cancelled, pursuant to an agreement signed yesterday (29) by the acting minister of Finance, Murilo Portugal, and the Nigerian minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

09:45
Stênio Ribeiro
Reporter - Agência Brasil

Portugal affirmed that, despite the cancellation of part of the debt, the agreement represents "an important step for bilateral relations." According to him, it was an old debt, without solution, and the agreement will permit the "revitalization" of commercial and financial relations with Africa's largest petroleum producer.

The political decision favoring an agreement between Brazil and Nigeria was announced by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during an official visit to Nigeria in April of this year, for the sake of what was termed Brazil's "repayment of its social debt" to Africa, as the president put it at the time.

The agreement, according to the Nigerian minister, who is in Brazil on a visit, will enable Petrobras and the NPC (the Nigerian Petroleum Company) to transact business directly, without intermediaries, as they do at present. Moreover, Brazil wants to export more to that country, in order to readjust the trade balance (exports minus exports), which is grossly unfavorable to Brazil.

Data from the Ministry of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade show that Brazilian sales to Nigeria amounted to US$ 505 million last year, as against the US$ 3.49 billion spent on purchases, mainly of petroleum and petroleum derivatives. This represents Brazil's largest trade deficit with a single country, and it is expected to increase this year to something on the order of US$ 4 billion.

Translation: David Silberstein

30/12/2005

Posted by Publisher at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

Galadima returns NFA chairman

THE incumbent chairman of the Nigeria Football Association, (NFA), Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima was yesterday re-elected into the baord of the association at Royal Tropicana Hotel, Kano.

By ADO SALISU

Galadima scored 2 votes to beats former NFA Secretary General, Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi who polled 24. Others elected members, were Mr. Felix Anyansi-Agwu, 1st vice-chairman; Mr. Pickson Adejube, Suleiman Mu’azu, Kachako Bala Gana, and Ben Agary.

The rest include Suleiman David, Sabo Adamu Jumba, Tony Nnachetta, Peter Fabuku Singabeli, Sam Sam Jaja and Barr. Chris Green.

Speaking shortly after the election, the electoral committee chairman, Hon. Nduka Irabor, said that 33 states attended the congress with over 66 delegates representing two third of the quorum supposed to vote in the election.

Hon. Irabor said that they conducted the election on FIFA approved statutes.
In his post election speech after sworn-in by Barr. Halima Usman, the new NFA boss, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, said that the board would continue to work hand-in-hand with the federal ministry of sports for the promotion and development of the game not only in the country but the world at large.

He expressed appreciation to Kano state government for rescuing and hosting the NFA election, adding that the government has justified its interest for sports development in the country.

He commended the electoral committee members for their sacrifice, dedication and committment towards organising a credible election and called on the states FA chairmen to cooperate with the NFA towards upliftment of the game.

Posted by Publisher at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

Hajj: Aviation ministry disown crisis

The federal ministry of aviation has distanced itself from the hitches currently being experienced in the airlift of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia emphasizing that “the positioning of Aircrafts for airlifting of pilgrims to the holy land is the responsibility of the carriers and the directorate of pilgrims affairs of the foreign ministry.

by Isa Sanusi / 2005-12-30

A statement signed by the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Imoro Kubor expatiated that the ministry is only responsible of ensuring that all aircrafts for the airlift of pilgrims are in good condition of Airworthiness at all times, adding that the ministry is committed to ensuring hitch free Hajj operations by insisting on compliance with aviation regulations.

“It is instructive to note that the provisions and positioning of Aircrafts for airlifting of pilgrims to the Holy land is the responsibility of the carriers and the Directorate of Pilgrim Affairs. The statement further said the ministry and its agencies are working to ensure that all facilities at the airports including navigational Aids are all in perfect working condition.

The ministry said it is also committed to ensuring the currency and proficiency of the technical and cabin crew of airlines contracted for pilgrims airlift
The airlift of pilgrims for the 2006 Hajj is facing hitches as a result of the failure of some airline companies to deliver with less than ten day to the closure of Jeddah airport to pilgrims.

Posted by Publisher at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria questions Abacha official

Nigerian officials are questioning a leading member of former dictator Sani Abacha's military government.

Former Lagos Governor Mohamed Buba Marwa has been held for a week, in connection with his alleged possession of funds looted by Mr Abacha.

Correspondents say the allegations arose from Mr Marwa's time as Nigerian military attache in Washington.

Mr Abacha was in power from 1993 until he died in 1998 and is believed to have embezzled more than $2bn.

A spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) described the investigation as the first serious case undertaken by them regarding the missing Abacha money.

Mr Marwa had said he planned to run for president in Nigeria's 2007 elections.

Nigeria's government has received some cash back from Swiss bank accounts. Money has also been found in the UK, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Austria but the process of recovering the money is a painstaking one.

Posted by Publisher at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2005

MARWA:Probe links $7m Abacha loot to Albarka - It’s witch-hunt, say aides

Amid controversies over the motive behind the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) arrest and detention of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), Daily Trust exclusively gathered that $7million of the Abacha loot for which he is being investigated was allegedly transferred into an account belonging to Albarka Air Plc.

by Ahmed I. Shekarau & Austine Odo / 2005-12-29

Two aides of General Marwa have alleged that the current probe of the former military administrator of Lagos state is “politically motivated”, and an alleged witch-hunt intended to stop the general’s bid to run for the presidency in 2007.

Specifically, the Public Relations Manager of Albarka Air Plc, Chief Biodun Odunuga and Secretary General of the Marwa Movement, Engineer Mohammed Lawal told Daily Trust separately that they suspect the National Security Adviser, Lieutenant General Aliyu Gusau (rtd) mopped up the case to smear their boss’ image and scuttle his ambition to run for the presidency in 2007.

According to them, “the case was investigated in 2001 and nothing culpable had been found against him (Marwa), so why are they reviving the matter now?”.
But Daily Trust findings show that General Marwa himself did not deny involvement in the deal, though he denied “personally making any monetary gain” from the transaction.

Also, a letter written by Marwa himself to president Olusegun Obasanjo on the matter dated 15th of April, 2004, which was shown to Daily Trust states that the two times military administrator confirmed that Late General Sani Abacha had indeed directed him in 1995 to sign a contract on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), for the supply of 1,500 TATA vehicles for use by some establishments in the country.

According to Daily Trust findings, sometime in 1995, Late General Abacha directed General Marwa, who was then a Lieutenant Colonel working as Nigeria’s Military Attaché in the Nigerian Mission in New York, to proceed to India and make arrangements for the importation of 1,500 TATA personnel carriers and trucks into the country. Our investigations show that 1,000 of the vehicles were meant for the military and the police, while the remaining 500 were for operations of the erstwhile National Electoral Commission (NECON).

Further investigations show that Marwa inspected the TATA vehicles at the company’s plant in India through a link man said to have been introduced to him by the Nigerian Presidency by name Mr. Romanus Nwosisi, who is now deceased.
The PDP presidential aspirant in his letter of 15th April last year to president Obasanjo, said he was “surprised” that the late head of state directed him (Marwa) to go ahead and sign the TATA supply contract on behalf of the FGN “without passing it through the defence headquarters or ministry of defence or even the ministry of finance”. But that he (Marwa) had to comply because he knew then that he was dealing with “a dictator”.

Marwa also admitted in that letter that shortly after the transaction was concluded and he returned to his beat in the United States, he received a telephone call from late General Abacha instructing him to submit the number of an account through which some money would be transferred. But that such money was only meant to be remitted to someone else, and not for himself.

However, a presidency source who showed our reporters documents to back his arguments, told Daily Trust yesterday in Abuja that “the military administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar took particular interest in the contract because it realised it was inflated by about 100 percent.

“More so, it was discovered in the course of investigations as you can see in these documents that General Abacha’s cut in the deal which was 50percent of the value of the entire contract sum worth over $100million was transferred to the Abacha family through an account the particulars of which were given to Vaswani by General Marwa.

“The government also became interested in a $5million and another $7million making $12million which was paid into an account in Geneva, and then to General Marwa’s account in New Jersey, then to Nairobi in Kenya and Cayman Islands, and other destinations before approximately $7million finally landed into Albarka’s account”, the source stated.

The source who will not disclose the account numbers said while denying insinuations about the political motive of the probe that, “the documents are there and Marwa himself has not denied these transactions. All he is claiming is that in his honour, he has not personally benefited from a kobo of the entire sum”.

Daily Trust reliably gathered that president Obasanjo had earlier asked General Marwa to refund the said amount allegedly credited to his corporate account so that he would be cleared of all allegations, but that the Adamawa-born PDP aspirant maintained his innocence.

Our source revealed that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo was earlier directed to “expedite action” on the investigation, but upon advise from the AGF the EFCC was asked to probe the issue further.

Meanwhile, the two aides of Marwa wondered why a case which was closed in 2001 when their boss was not found culpable, was being resurrected at this time, moreso as Marwa could not have disobeyed the orders of the Commander in chief of the armed forces.

According to them, the whole issue is fixated on politics to ensure that Marwa does not realize his presidential ambition.

Posted by Publisher at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Oyo: Court can’t stop impeachment bid – Judge

For the second time in five days, Ibadan elders met with President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday in Ota to stop the bid by 18 members of the Oyo State House of Assembly to remove Governor Rashidi Ladoja.

Yusuf Alli, Toyin Obadina and Akin Oyedele

Our correspondents learnt of the meeting hours before an Ibadan High Court declined jurisdiction to entertain a suit by 14 members of the Assembly to stop the impeachment proceedings against the governor.

The 18 lawmakers are said to have sympathy for Chief Lamidi Adedibu who is engaged in a face-off with the governor.

A six-member delegation of Ibadan elders had on Saturday visited Obasanjo over the Oyo crisis.

A source said that although Obasanjo told the team that Ladoja must be removed from office, he could not say in concrete terms what the governor did wrong.

It was learnt that the elders decided to give the President a few days to have a second thought on the impeachment proceedings.

The source said that the elders returned to Ota on Wednesday to prevail on Obasanjo to stave off the impeachment process.

Our source said the elders also felt that the presidential intervention could assist in facilitating a truce between the two parties to the crisis.

Findings revealed that the peace initiative might have been informed by the degeneration of the political situation in the state.

Apart from the mayhem at the Assembly, the two petitions sent by the governor to the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party, to nip the crisis in the bud, got missing in transit, till last Monday.

It was also revealed that the elders’ peace move was encouraged by alleged recent rapprochement between Ladoja and Adedibu.

Adedibu, according to our source gave four conditions for reconciliation with the governor.

The conditions are the release of the state chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Lateef Akinsola (a.k.a. Tokyo), from detention; the release of some funds as welfare and palliative package; the allocation of two constituency projects to each of the 18 lawmakers who are against the governor; and unrestrained access to Ladoja.

Investigations further indicated that the government might have given an unspecified amount of money to Adedibu as “welfare package” in the past two weeks to appease the aggrieved PDP chieftain.

The governor also allegedly consented to the allocation of a second constituency project to each of the 18 pro-impeachment lawmakers with a proviso that the first contract should be completed.

But at 5pm on Wednesday, the bid by the 14 legislators to stop the removal of the governor on Thursday (today) suffered a setback as an Ibadan High Court said it had no jurisdiction to hear their suit.

After hearing the suit in the morning, the court deferred ruling till 6pm.

Justice Olagoke Ige, who delivered a terse ruling after listening to the arguments of counsel in the case, said that impeachment and related proceedings of the Assembly were purely political matters over which the court could not intervene.

Ige said it was clear that the jurisdiction of the court had been ousted, adding that the action of the 14 legislators was not justiciable.

“The issue of impeachment is a matter that comes within the internal affairs of the House of Assembly. The court will therefore decline jurisdiction in this matter,” he said.

Counsel to the applicants, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), had in the course of the proceedings tried to change his clients’ application by filing a fresh one.

He lamented that all the court officials expected to attend to the matter deserted their duty posts.

Akintola added that a new case had been instituted against the acting Chief Judge of the state, Justice Afolabi Adeniran, to prevent him from appointing the seven-member panel to probe the allegations of misconduct against the governor.

In the case instituted by two members of the Assembly, Hassan Ogundoke and Babatunde Olaniyan, against the CJ, they prayed the court to declare that the letter requesting Adeniran to raise the panel was unconstitutional.

They also asked for an order restraining the acting CJ and his agents from acting on the letter.

Counsel to the 18 legislators, Mr. Lekan Latinwo, had earlier brought a notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.

After a heated argument, the court upheld the arguments of Latinwo that the objection be heard first.

The judge argued that Section 188 (10) of the constitution ousted the jurisdiction of the court to entertain any matter relating to the proceeding of the Assembly.

He however did not award costs as prayed by the lawyers to the pro-Adedibu group.

Reacting to the ruling, Akintola said he had filed an appeal.

Security was however tight as armed policemen frisked people entering the court premises apparently to forestall a repeat of last Thursday’s mayhem at the city.

However, hundreds of market women besieged the Olubadan of Ibadan’s palace on Wednesday to drum support for Ladoja.

Prince Jide Ogundipe, one of the chiefs in the palace, who received the women on behalf of the Olubadan, Oba Yinusa Ogundipe, said the Oba was abreast of the situation and that normalcy would soon be restored.

The governor held a security council meeting, shortly after which he inspected the extent of damage to the secretariat complex and his office in the aftermath of last Thursday’s violence.

Our correspondents gathered at about 8.30pm on Wednesday that some prominent indigenes of Ibadan had intensified efforts to make the pro-Adedibu legislators jettison the move to remove Ladoja.

Sources however said that the police headquarters had concluded arrangements to deploy more policemen to the city to complement the efforts of the state command.

One of the sources claimed that some of the policemen might be assigned the duty of ensuring that the 18-pro-Adedibu legislators had easy access on Thursday (today) to the Assembly complex.

Already there were speculations that the Adedibu-18 could mount pressure on the CJ to set up the panel to investigate the governor to prepare the grounds for his impeachment in the next few days.

As at 9.45pm on Wednesday, the outcome the meeting between the Ibadan elders and Obasanjo was not known.

The PUNCH, Thursday, December 29, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

Third Term: Presidency reports Cohen to Bush; His comment an incitement – Presidency

President Olusegun Obasanjo has reportedly directed Foreign Affairs Minister, Olu Adeniji, to send a protest letter to the United States President, George W. Bush, after being upset by the comment by a former official of the U.S. State Department.

By Donald Ojogo
Correspondent, Lagos

A source in Aso Rock confirmed in a telephone interview that the directive arose from the remark by former U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Mike Cohen, that the American Government would oppose the rumoured third term ambition of Obasanjo.

Said the source: “Initially, Mr. President felt that Cohen was expressing his opinion on the matter and had decided not to engage him in a debate, especially when the Presidential Assistant on Public Affairs, Femi Fani-Kayode, replied that Nigeria does not need lessons from the U.S. on democracy.

“But with the way the man is going, it is clear that he has an agenda, and that is why Mr. President may have given that directive”.

Fani-Kayode had described Cohen’s statement as an “irresponsible incitement” and said he did not see why the Presidency should make a formal complaint.

Cohen had in an interview with a national newspaper insisted that the U.S would monitor the democratic system in Nigeria especially when the dust raised by the third term speculation lingers.

“The same drama also played itself out during the Abacha regime with the political parties adopting a serving General (as the sole Presidential candidate) to the surprise of the entire world. So America does not want to take chances”, he stressed.

He compared Fani Kayode to Tahir Aziz (Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister), saying the government’s spokesman is lying to the people on the issue.

Cohen’s statement, the second in less than two weeks, comes on the heels of a warning by lawyer and human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi, that Obasanjo should ignore the third term temptation.

Adeniji could not be reached for comment on Wednesday having travelled out of the country.

But Fani-Kayode denied that the President directed him to write a protest letter to the U.S.

His words: “I don’t think there is any reason for that kind of thing. One, you have to draw a line between a serving government official and one that has left office. Cohen is only expressing his personnel views and not those of the U.S Government, so why write to protest the irresponsible inciting comment made by a barrack room bully.

“His comparison of Nigeria with Iraq is the manifestation of crass ignorance, sheer arrogance and insincerity of purpose, but I will not trade insults into him. The Federal Government has better things to think about and do than to waste time in writing the U.S Government over a statement made by a former official, a statement that is ill-mannered and ill-motivated, especially coming from someone like Cohen who knows nothing about Nigeria.

“There is no way the government of Nigeria could be drawn into an unnecessary controversy with the U.S with which we have a very cordial and an enviable relationship. We have a relationship that is predicated on mutual respect as two sovereign nations, hence Cohen should be seen as a security risk to both nations”.

Posted by Publisher at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

FG Deploys Troops to Monitor Oil Pipelines

The Federal Government yesterday ordered immediate deployment of troops from the Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta (JTF), code named Operation Restore Hope, to protect pipelines Right of Way (ROW), following Tuesday’s attack on a fuel pipeline in Adeje near Warri in Delta State.

From Segun James in Warri, 12.29.2005

THISDAY checks revealed that four persons had been arrested by the Federal Task Force on NNPC pipelines the incident just as preliminary investigation suggested that the attackers might have used explosives to blow up the pipelines.

It was gathered that the deployment of troops began yesterday afternoon, the first major deployment in land area since the Federal Government put the military on red alert two weeks ago.

Sources informed yesterday that security operatives who swooped on the site soon after the fire was put out found evidence that some fire works were used to blow up the pipeline which was buried six feet underground.

The arrested persons, whose identities were kept under wrap, according to information, were picked up near the scene of the blast.

The development, it was gathered, forced the management of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC, to meet local government officials and community leaders whose towns and villages border the pipelines Right of Way to discuss ways to prevent further damages, and attacks to the lines.

The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Engr. Funso Kupolokun, was scheduled to visit Warri yesterday to assess the situation.

It is already feared that the Northern part of the country may experience fuel shortages as the affected pipeline conveys petroleum products from the Warri refinery to the North through PPMC pump stations in Benin and Lokoja.

It would be recalled that a similar attack on the Escravos crude oil pipeline near Warri in 2003, led to the shut down of both the Warri and Kaduna refineries for more than two years, forcing the country to rely heavily on importation to meet its needs.

The Federal Government was also forced to deploy more troops to the Niger Delta last week after militants attacked a Shell pipeline in Opobo Channel near Port Harcourt last Tuesday. The attack has presently shut in 15,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil production.

Shell said yesterday that while crude oil lifting was still going on at the Bonny Export Terminal, the force majeure placed on some cargoes because of the pipeline incident, was still in force.

A fresh wave of attacks were launched on oil facilities in the Niger Delta as unidentified persons Tuesday attacked and set fire to a petroleum products pipeline that runs across the Adeje community, near Warri in Delta State.

Huge balls of fire took over the horizon around the Adeje community following the explosion on the oil pipeline belonging to the PPMC, a subsidiary of NNPC. The pipeline conveys petroleum products from the Warri refinery to the Northern part of the country through PPMC pump stations in Benin and Lokoja.

THISDAY reported yesterday that the fire had occurred at several points on the pipeline almost simultaneously which, according to PPMC officials, was an indication that the facility might have been sabotaged.

Tuesday’s incident followed several other attacks on the same pipeline by vandals who used ocean-going barges and trailer tankers to siphon products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol) from the line.

Posted by Publisher at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

PDP Crisis: IBB Should Tell Us Where He Belongs – Buhari; Kalu unites them in Umuahia

Former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, made a sudden appearance in Umuahia on Tuesday where he held a close-door meeting with his predecessor in office, Mahammadu Buhari and Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

By Uche Nwosu
Correspondent, Umuahia

The meeting lasted for about 40 minutes before the trio proceeded to Igbere, Kalu’s home town for a cultural festival.

Buhari explained that he has consistently said his relationship with Babangida is “absolutely normalised” and stressed that both of them rode in the same car to Sokoto three years ago to see the sultan.

“However”, he noted, “I don’t know why people don’t want to believe me. I’m saying that the only difference between me and himself is that he is in the PDP while I’m in ANPP. And unfortunately that difference persists, despite all the fragmentations of the PDP and I’ll like him to tell us which side he’s in now”.

The reason for the parley was not disclosed but sources said it could be part of the plan by activists to scuttle the third term agenda allegedly laid out by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Buhari, Babangida and Kalu are vying for Aso Rock in 2007.

Buhari was an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate in 2003 and Kalu, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) two-term Governor, has declared his interest in the big job and Babangida is believed to be in the running.

After the meeting, Kalu held their hands as they all walked into the Presidential lounge of Government House, Umuahia.

It was there he announced that both men were in the state to settle their differences and that they have resolved to work together for the interest of the country.

He added: “People in their stories will always say these two leaders are quarrelling. Their supporters think they’re quarrelling. We want to re-affirm this afternoon that they’re not quarrelling.

“A few weeks ago they were in Kaduna, in the Northern Senators’ Forum, and we want to tell Nigerians, and indeed the people of goodwill who wish this country well, that in the weeks, months and years ahead that rapport between them will be more cordial”.

Nigeria, Kalu insisted, is at a cross roads and their experiences, togetherness and ideas are needed to keep the country together and moving.

Babangida thanked him for bringing them together, noting that Buhari and himself have been together for 40 years.

“We’ve also been together as battle and front line soldiers and we know what we took for the sake of this country”, he recalled.

“Both of us were frontline soldiers, both of us were almost killed during the civil war. So, the two of us will do everything possible to make sure that the unity of this country is maintained.

“I also want to re-assure you that our relationship had been in existence even when you were still in secondary school (referring to Kalu) but I thank you for this opportunity given to us”.

Buhari stressed the need to rescue the country from “the dangerous drift out of nationhood” and recalled that during the war, both Nigeria and the seceding Biafra lost men and materials which cannot be quantified.

“We couldn’t regain our friends and relatives but we regained our respectability as one nation. Along the line we must thank Yakubu Gowon. Whether he is dead or alive, he’s a good leader.

“We’re extremely serious about the oneness of this country and God willing, we’re going to achieve it. I’d like you to settle down and reflect very seriously. We’re determined to keep the country together because we have enough resources in the land. We’re only hoping that God will bless us with a sincere leadership which will harness the resources properly”.

Posted by Publisher at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

Police uncover illegal armoury

EDO State Police Command may have recorded a major breakthrough in its fight against armed robbery in the state, with the discovery Tuesday, of an illegal armoury, suspected to have been kept by a gang of armed robbers terrorising the state.

VINCENT ADEKOYE, Benin

The discovery is coming on the heels of the dismissal of 24 officers of the command, by the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Muktar Abbas.

Arms recovered by special squad of the Command led by men of the Area Command office, Adesuwa, Benin, included four world class assault rifles popularly called AK-47, four Lark rifles, two Double Barrel guns, two specially made British rifles and one Pump Action rifle.

Other items recovered from the black spot located at Egor Village, in Egor local Government of Edo State, included two police bullet proof vests and four bags of ammunition containing over 50,000 live bullets.

Commissioner of Police when contacted on the major raid told Daily Champion that his command will leave no stone unturned in putting an end to robbery operations in the state, though he informed that he was yet to be officially briefed on the content of the armoury.

However, a source at the office of the Benin Area Command confirmed that men of the Command invaded the illegal armory at Egor Village in the early hours of Tuesday following a tip off by a member of the public.

According to the source who is a senior officer, a special squad from the Area Command office was detailed to the area following the tip off.

"It was a difficult task, but we are all happy that we have achieved this major feat. The area before now is known to be a den of robbers and so when we got the information, we have to apply all tactics in order not to fall prey of some robbers who are out to eliminate police in the state.

"Finally after blocking all approaches, we stormed the black spot where the illegal armoury was located. It was located inside a thick bush in Egor Village. We condoned off the area and what we saw at the end of the exercise was very frightening. I want to believe that the gang of robbers operating the armory was building the place for the purpose of invading or over running the state in due course.

"No arrest have been made in connection with the discovery but I can assure you that very soon, we shall get those behind it," the senior police officer who pleaded anonymity disclosed.

Reports said one of the AK-47 Assault rifle recovered from the spot belonged to a police Inspector that was killed by a gang of rampaging robbers in Benin two weeks ago while another AK-47 rifle was said to belong to another Prison guard attached to the Campaign office of the former Minister of Solid Mineral, Elder Odion Ugbesia who was shot by another rampaging robbery gang in Benin three weeks ago.

It was gathered that the Command has commenced investigation to determine the source of the Police bullet proof vest recovered at the spot.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Abass said those officers dismissed were found guilty of various offences ranging from official misconduct to conspiracy and stealing. He added that while 15 were dismissed between January and May 2005, others were dismissed some weeks ago. According to him, some of them were demoted while others were simply shown the way out of the Force.

Posted by Publisher at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

Buhari, IBB disprove doubting Thomases ...Resolve to ensure democracy sustained

THE much-orchestrated sour relationship between two former heads of state,Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida which over the years caused a serious division in Northern leadership, has of recent assumed a promising dimension that insinuations over this may after all, be mere pigments of black sheeps’ imagination.

This development was attested to last Tuesday when the two military leaders collectively restated their commitment, without mincing words, towards the continuity and progress of their motherland.
In a meeting under the aegies of Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia state which also registered the presence of the defunct Biafran war-lord and APGA leader,Dim Chukwumeka Odumegwu Ojokwu, the two former leaders stressed their resolve to promote the sustenance of democratic political system for the nation.
Dispelling the no-love-lost relationship further, General Babangida said his rapport with General Muhammadu Buhari which spans 40 years, has been most ordeal.
Chippinig his contribution at the occasion during which some prestigious Igbo traditional titles were conferred on them by Governor Kalu, General Buhari, erstwhile ANPP presidential candidate in 2003 election, observed that Nigeria is endowed with enormous human and material resources which should be harnessed for national development.
Earlier, Governor Uzor Kalu had stated that what the country needs, is the experience of each of the nation’s past leaders especially when the country is now at cross-roads.
Others at the historic meeting were former vice president Alex Ekwueme and Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra state.
All of these Nigerian leaders, General Buhari, General Babangida, Dr. Ekwueme, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Governor Ngige and host Governor Kalu later went into a closed door meeting at Igbere in Bende local government area of Abia state before gracing a cultural ceremony where the two former heads of state were honoured with the traditional titles.
General Ibrahim Babangida was conferred with the title of Nwannedinamba (kinsman in Diaspora) while General Buhari got the title of Nwannediahanma (kinsman who is pleasing to all).

Posted by Publisher at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

CNPP enjoins Obasanjo to leave in 2007

ABUJA—The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties has once again called on president Olusegun Obasanjo to leave office honourably in 2007 and allow Nigerians to elect whomsoever they want as president.

By Ben Agande
Posted to the Web: Thursday, December 29, 2005

In a statement in Abuja yesterday, the CNPP noted that the statement credited to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Communication, Chief Fani Kayode to the effect that Nigeria must insist on a leadership like Obasanjo was a veiled confirmation of the third term plot, which Nigerians must resist.

The statement signed by the CNPP’s Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, pointed out the statement by Fani Kayode was reminiscent of the Hilter era in Germany ‘‘where nobody except the Furher is capable of leading Germany and therefore the staus quo must be maintained." “CNPP can imagine from the statement how cronies captured Chief Obasanjo exploiting his innate desire for self glorification and built a cult hero around him, making him believe that without him Nigeria will disintegrate and nobody is capable of running the country.

“CNPP contends that nobody is indispensable and that there is no record that shows that Nigerians are happier today than ten or twenty years ago “We wish to state for the umpteenth time that Nigerian democracy should be allowed to flourish, therefore Nigerians should be allowed to elect whosoever they want as president” he pointed out.

The CNPP commended the catholic bishop of Abuja dioceses, John Onaiyekan for standing in defence of democracy by asking the president to resist the temptation of extending his tenure and called on other Nigerians to do the same.



Posted by Publisher at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Bayelsa speaker named deputy gov

SPEAKER of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi, yesterday emerged as the new deputy governor of the state following his confirmation by the state legislature.

OKEY ONWUCHEKWA, Yenagoa

Governor Goodluck Jonathan had forwarded his name to the House for approval to fill the vacant position.

Ebebi, representing Ekeremor Constituency 1, had shot into national limelight recently when he led the 23-member Assembly to impeach the then governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was succeeded by Jonathan.

A member of the Assembly, Hon. Nadu Karibo, announced the Speaker’s appointment even as he promised to shed more light on the issue.

Also yesterday, the governor presented the state’s 2006 budget of N126 billion to the lawmakers.

Ebebi’s elevation has put to rest speculations on who will clinch the post of deputy governor.

Lobbyists for the post had included Senator David Brigidi, and Ebebi.

It was however, gathered that the choice of Ebebi was favoured for the role he played in chasing out the former governor.

The majority leader of the Assembly, Hon. Adolphus Ofongo is expected to replace Ebebi as the new Speaker.

Meanwhile, Bayelsa State has proposed N126 billion for its services next year.

The Appropriation Bill, if approved will be N10 billion higher than last year’s budget.

Dr. Jonathan said the budget proposal will see the state spending about N86.4 billion on capital projects while N40 billion will go into recurrent expenditure.

A breakdown of the budget showed that works and infrastructure has the lion share of N25 billion while education came second with N15 billion.

Others are public utilities and rural development (N10 billion), Health (N6 billion), Housing, (N5.4 billion) Transport (N3 billion), Information, Culture and Tourism (N1.3 billion), Sports (N1.1 billion), Judiciary (N1.2 billion).

The government plans to construct three major highways linking the three senatorial zones of the state. These roads are Sagbama - Tungbo - Ekeremor - Agge/Amasama - Ebeni - Ekeremor road, Ogbia - Nembe - Brass road and Yenagoa - Oporoma - Ukubie Lobia Road.

"In addition, given that, the Mbiama - Igbogene entrance into the state falls in neighbouring state, thereby, limiting government power to maintain that section of the road, as well as for some purposes, a new deal carriage road that will provide a gateway to the state capital will be constructed to access the state from the East - West road between Mbiama and Kaiama," Dr. Jonathan noted.

He also stressed that his government was determined to restructure and professionalize public institutions, stem corruption, and enhance service delivery.

Meanwhile, Bayelsa State Government has saved N25 billion in its last year’s fiscal estimate, just as the governor, Dr Jonathan announced his intention to appoint a Special Adviser on Due process.

Speaking at the 2006 budget presentation Wednesday in the State House of Assembly, Yenagoa, Dr. Jonathan said the N25 billion saving will help to kick start the capital projects in the new fiscal year."

He said the due process office to be established in his office will be in keeping with the anti-corruption stance of the federal government.

He warned that attempts by persons to lobby for the position of special advisers (Due Process) would earn the lobbyists automatic disqualification in any public office of the state government.

Dr. Jonathan stressed that the Due Process Office will be headed by a competent technical officer of about 15 years post-qualification experience.

Posted by Publisher at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria says attack likely caused pipeline fires

LAGOS, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Fires that broke out along two pipelines in the southern Nigerian state of Delta on Tuesday were most likely caused by an attack rather than attempted oil theft, the state oil company said on Thursday.

Thu 29 Dec 2005 8:46 AM ET
(Adds details, quotes)

"It was a wilful act of destruction," said Levi Ajuonuma, spokesman for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Asked whether NNPC suspected an attempt at stealing from the pipeline -- a common problem in the Niger Delta -- or a deliberate attack, he said: "We are looking at it as an attack."

The pipeline fires in Delta came just one week after unknown gunmen attacked two Royal Dutch Shell pipelines in neighbouring Rivers state, killing 11 people and cutting output by 180,000 barrels per day (bpd). Shell has now resumed production there and the shortfall is just 15,000 bpd.

The Niger Delta accounts for almost all of Nigeria's 2.4 million bpd crude output.

Ajuonuma said the situation at the Delta pipelines was now under control and there was no disruption to supply of petroleum products from the Warri refinery in Delta to northern Nigeria, or of crude oil to the Kaduna refinery in the north.

The pipelines are operated by the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), an arm of NNPC.

"There is a high security alert in the area right now. Government is not going to stand by and let people disrupt our economy. Security agencies are working around the clock to ensure there is no reoccurrence," Ajuonuma said.

He said he was not aware of any deployment of extra troops in the Niger Delta, as reported by several Nigerian newspapers on Thursday.

Posted by Publisher at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

NCC bars V-Mobile, MTN from sale of NITEL

AS the sale of three Federal Government enterprises takes place today, two telecommunication giants, V-Mobile and MTN have been barred by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) from the sale of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).

From Mathias Okwe, Abuja

The other two enterprises up for sale today are the Steyr Motor Nigeria Limited, Bauchi and the Nigeria Machine Tools Limited, Oshogbo.

According to a statement by the Head of Public Communications of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Anichebe Ochigbo, the two telecommunication giants can only participate in the sale if they are ready to forfeit their existing licences.

The statement said opening of bids for the three enterprises will hold this morning at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja from 10.00 a.m.

The government is divesting 51 per cent of its equity holding in NITEL/M-TEL.

The BPE had originally pre-qualified six firms for the enterprise's sale. They included: MTN Group of South Africa; Telkom/Vodacom Consortium also of South Africa; Celtel International B.V and Huwei/Jacuz Consortium as well as V- Mobile Group.

The NCC action may be to guard against market dominance and monopoly. It, however, said the companies could be allowed to participate in NITEL/M-TEL only if they are willing to forfeit their existing licences.

The statement read in part: "The NCC has given an indication that it is not inclined to approve the sale of NITEL/Mtel to existing Nigerian mobile licence holders unless they are willing to forfeit their existing licences. This move, according to NCC, is designed to maximise competition in the industry and prevent the negative implications of market dominance by an over-bearing operator".

NCC argued that this arrangement will ensure the "success of the privatisation programme and not compromise the competitive environment.''

The commission added that a situation where a bidder, considered to hold a significant share in the industry, attempts to acquire another licence by means of the privatisation programme, will have the effect of lessening the competition in the industry and may ultimately lead to the creation of monopoly.

The statement declared: "As you are aware, the role of NCC is to facilitate market entry and promote fair competition in the sector. The commission has the exclusive right, under the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003 to determine, pronounce upon and enforce compliance of all persons with competition laws and regulations as they relate to the communications market.

"The Commission also has the right to issue licences to operators and the licences have several provisions and conditions that must be fulfilled by the operators to ensure competitive environment and a level playing field for all operators". One of such conditions, according to NCC, is that the "commission must give written approval before a licencee can transfer or assign its licence and the commission has absolute discretion to grant or refuse such approval, hence the BPE approached the regulator for guidance on the issue.''

The BPE had planned to conclude the privatisation of NITEL this year and hand it over to a core investor.

But the transaction process had been dogged by controversy, including litigation which sought to bar the Federal Government from selling NITEL with the Nigeria SAT -3 infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the BPE yesterday said it has received N260 million from

Seaforce Shipping Company Limited, being 10 per cent deposit of the bid price for Nigerian Unity Line (NUL).

The payment, according to the bureau, was made on Friday, December 23, 2005 at the head office of the bureau. Mr. Kareem Otaru of Seaforce Limited presented the Zenith Bank Plc draft to BPE's acting director of transport and aviation, Mr. Kayode Khalidson.

In a statement, it said Khalidson commended Seaforce Limited for paying ahead of schedule and expressed the hope that the outstanding 90 per cent would be paid on time. The deadline for the payment of 10 per cent of the offer price is December 29, 2005. Seaforce has a deadline of January 30, 2006 to make the outstanding payment.

At the opening of bids for NUL on December 1, 2005, Seaforce a subsidiary of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, emerged the preferred bidder with an offer price of $20 million. The firm defeated two other bidders: Daddo - Frontline Shipping Co. and Pedmacgrek Shipping and Training International (PSTI) Ltd.

NUL is a public limited liability company wholly owned by the National Maritime Authority (NMA) on behalf of the Federal Government. It was incorporated on January 23, 1995 to serve as a model shipping line for the maritime industry after the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) and to exploit the extensive opportunities that exist in the shipping sector.

As a national flag carrier, NUL is uniquely placed to become Nigeria's first indigenous company to participate in the transportation of crude cargo. It began operations in July 1996.

By its set up, NUL was required to undertake the following businesses:

* Deep sea transportation of wet cargo; Ocean transportation of bulk cargo; Coastal tanker services;


Storage and warehousing; Complete agency services; Freight forwarding; Customs clearance and others.
However, a special resolution led to the incorporation of NUL with the main objectives of engaging in shipping business as: Ship owners, operators, shipbrokers and chatterers and general shipping agents.

NUL has a share capital of N10 million. Its shareholding structure shows that National the NMA is holding three million ordinary shares while Maritime Shipping Lines Limited (Special Purpose Vehicle) on behalf of the Federal Government is holding two million ordinary shares.

Posted by Publisher at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

Unity Bank gets CBN approval

The Unity Bank Group has finally obtained the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) final approval with promise to integrate its operations February 1, 2006.

by Bright Ewulu / 2005-12-29

The chairman of the bank Professor Akin Mabogunje and its CEO, Alhaji Falalu Bello, who disclosed this at a press conference yesterday in Lagos stated that with the granting of final approval by CBN and the sanctioning of its scheme of merger by the Federal High Court last Thursday, were indicators that its consolidation effort has ended successfully.
According to them, the bank is going to be the first to integrate its operations, saying that it’s already working as an organization and that its operational head office will be based in Abuja.
In order to forge a strong operational system, the bank aired that the group has adopted a highly robust and versatile core Banking Application called BANKS certified by oracle, adding that it will run on the latest oracle version platform oracle 109.”
As the chairman stated during the briefing yesterday by top slots of merging “within the last couple of weeks, our group has expanded to include NNB International Bank Plc, Bank of the North Limited and New Africa Bank Limited. The admission of these institutions has at once broadened the scope of the group and placed it in a better stead to harness the abundant opportunities in the Nigerian economy.
“One of the biggest strengths of the Unity Bank group lies in the vast spread of its business outlets which are over 200 with shareholders’ fund of N27 billion upon the conclusion of ongoing verification by the CBN,” he said.
He raised hope that the group will be a shining example of post-consolidation, saying that it will remain a cohesive, dynamic and solid bank.
Said he: “The existing partners in the group have a fairly impressive presence in the six geo-political regions in the country and once full activities commence, the new bank is going to be a major player in retail, corporate and commercial banking in not only Nigeria but the African region.
Going further, the bank maintained that it will remain a customer driven institution that would seek to leverage on skilled and motivated workforce in order to stay ahead of the game.
It should be recalled that CBN had in a letter dated December 22, 2005 conveyed its final approval to the bank and urged it to quickly conclude its integration of BON, NNB and New Africa Bank which recently joined the group within the remaining days.
As the letter read “we refer to your letter dated December 20, 2005 in respect of the above subject and hereby convey final approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the merger of Intercity Bank Plc, First Interstate Bank Plc, Tropical Commercial bank Plc, Pacific Bank Limited, Centre-Point Bank Plc and Societe Bancaire Limited…!
“As a result of the inclusion of NNB International, Bank of the North and New Africa Bank to the group, you are advised to fast-track their integration,” it stated.

Posted by Publisher at 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2005

Gani: 3rd term is suicide mission

OUTSPOKEN lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), yesterday described the speculated third term bid of President Olusegun Obasanjo as a suicide mission and unattainable in present day Nigeria.

RASHEED BISIRIYU

He warned the President against such an ambition and urged him to bow out of office honourably at the expiration of the current tenure on May 29, 2007.

Gani gave the warning in a New Year message to the president, dated December 27, 2005.

Titled: Open New Year Message to General Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Fawehinmi declared in a five-page document that "it is incontrovertible that any third term bid by you is psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and, in every respect, a suicide mission driven by perverted ambition even when it is so glaring that it is unattainable in Nigeria of today."

To him, the third term agenda if allowed to sail through, will not only rock the polity but lay a dangerous precedent, tempt God and amount to ignoring the feelings of the real people.

Already, he stated that "since the third term bid controversy erupted, the Nigerian society has been divided and highly polarised, particularly along dangerous ethnic and tribal cleavages."

Chief Fawehinmi also recalled that in 1979, Obasanjo "proved that a military dictator could hand over power to a democratically elected leader", and wondered why it should be difficult in 2007 for him (now as an elected president) to hand over power to another democratically elected president.

He warned the president not to toe the line of Omar Bongo who had remained in power in Gabon since 1967 or Yoweri Museveni of Uganda since 1986 and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak since 1981. Rather, Gani urged him to take advice offered by Nelson Mandela, former South African President against the third term, which he said was echoed by President George Bush of the United States.

Chief Fawehinmi who noted that 2006 would be crucial in shaping events of 2007 and determining the nation’s future, pleaded with President Obasanjo to seize the opportunity of his next January 1 national broadcast to douse the raging controversy and tension, by reassuring Nigerians that he would quit in 2007.

Said he: "It is not too late for you to change your perilous course. A national broadcast on the 1st of January 2006 that you will hand over government as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 29th of May, 2007 will bring down the negative temperature of the country and bring the country back from the brink of looming catastrophe or calamity. However, Mr. President, if you fail to hearken unto this seasonal message, you have yourself or your soul to blame," he said.

Posted by Publisher at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Buhari, IBB, Kalu in talks on 3rd term plot

UMUAHIA—FORMER Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida; his immediate predecessor in office, General Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State, yesterday, held talks in Umuahia, the Abia State capital on the perceived third term agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

By Jide Ajani, Political Editor
Posted to the Web: Wednesday, December 28, 2005

*As Gani warns Obasanjo not to dare God on 3rd term bid

As they met, Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), warned President Obasanjo not to dare God on the third term bid, because as he (Fawehinmi) put it: “What is it that is bugging you to sit tight at 70 in 2007.”
The two former military leaders, who are rarely seen together in public, were in Umuahia at the instance of the governor. Vanguard was reliably informed that the meeting which took place at Government House, Umuahia, was very private.
The meeting was held between 10:55a.m and 12:15p.m. General Buhari, according to sources close to Government House, Umuahia, arrived the Abia State capital on Monday night while General Babangida arrived Umuahia yesterday morning.
Details of the talks were sketchy at press time. However, sources hinted that it was not unconnected with the present political gyrations in the country.

Vanguard was informed that the alleged third term plot woven around the person of President Obasanjo was central to the discussions. The position of political leaders of Southern Nigeria contained in their communiqué at the end of their meeting last Monday in Enugu, the Enugu State capital, specifically the demand by the leaders that the presidency must remain in the South after 2007, was also discussed.


Fawehinmi warns Obasanjo not to dare God

Also yesterday, Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, in a five-page statement warned President Obasanjo not to dare God on the third term bid issue.

He said: “In view of the importance of 2006, which will determine 2007, I have decided to send to you this Open New Year Message. I have never sent you any seasonal greetings before. And this is not one. Since the course of this nation will be determined in all its ramifications by your third term bid, it is necessary to send this message which is stated below:
“The Obasanjo third term bid
“Do not disturb the polity.
“Do not lay a dangerous precedent.
“Do not tempt God.
“Do not ignore the feelings of the people as they are against your bid.
“The agony, the anguish, the pain and the pang of crushing poverty, which your six years in office had brought on the majority of Nigerians show no sign of abating.

“On Monday, October 1, 1979, you voluntarily handed over power when you were a young 42-year old military dictator to a democratically elected president. On Saturday, October 1, 1999, you became a civilian president and swore to uphold the constitution, which prescribes a two-term presidency and no more.

“On Thursday, October 1, 2003, at the beginning of your second term in office as president, you swore to uphold the same constitution, which prescribes a two-term presidency. Is there any destructive evil lurking somewhere that is preventing you from easily leaving office as an old man of 70 on the 29th May, 2007?

“In 1979, you proved that a military dictator could hand over power to a democracy. Why should it be difficult in 2007 for you as a “democratically elected President” to hand over power to another democratically elected President if you genuinely believe in democracy?

“Mr. President, since third-term bid controversy erupted, the Nigerian society has been divided, highly polarised, particularly along dangerous ethnic and tribal cleavages which virtually now colour every governmental thought, policy, programme and nuances.

“Mr. President, you ought to know if you are sincere to yourself that Nigeria is different in every respect from Gabon where Omar Bongo has lorded it over the Gabonese since 1967, from Uganda where Yoweri Museveni has blinded Ugandans since 1986, from Egypt where Hosni Mubarak has ingloriously sat tight since 1981. And that is African Union (AU) you lead as the Chairman.

"The internationally revered Nelson Mandela warned you against it and your propagandists abused him that he was senile. President George Bush of the United States of America, the current President in his second term, warned you against it but your publicists railed against hint, saying that the Americans cannot teach you democracy, despite the fact that you begged them for debt relief. And you continually plead with them for investment in our country.

“Mr. President, in your capacity as Chairman of the Commonwealth of Nations, you should be aware of the record of the Commonwealth against sit tight presidents. What is it that is bugging you to sit tight at 70 in 2007?
“In 1995, you were found guilty of planning a phantom coup by the late General Sani Abacha. We pleaded with General Abacha not to execute you and others because we believed you were innocent. You served three years in prison. God rescued you despite your ailment. You left the prison to become an “elected President” in controversial circumstances. After the first term, you continued as President in the second term.

“What is it that is bugging you to remain in office at the old age of 70 in 2007? Do not do it. Do not extend your time.
“It is incontrovertible that any third term bid by you is psychologically, spiritually, physically, emotionally and in every respect a suicide mission driven by perverted ambition even when it is so glaring that it is unattainable in the Nigeria of today. It is not too late for you to change your perilous course.

"A national broadcast on the 1st of January 2006 that you will hand over government as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 29th of May, 2007 will bring down the negative temperature of the country and bring the country back from the brink of looming catastrophe or calamity.

“Mr. President, if you fail to hearken unto this seasonal message, you have yourself or your soul to blame; or do you want to make it a case of those the gods want to destroy, they first make mad; and in your own case they first make obstinate, truculently obstinate?
“Wishing you a God-fearing, sane and humble 2006.”



Posted by Publisher at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

OPC withdraws vigilance services

Two months after the arrest of its leaders and their arraignment for treason, the Oodua Peoples Congress on Tuesday directed all its members to withdraw from vigilance services.

Oluseto Olatuyi,Kunle Adeyemi and Semiu Okanlawon

The group had in the last five years engaged in security vigilance services to communities in the South-West, ostensibly to supplement police efforts.

But their mode of operation has always placed them on collision course with the police.

A statement by the National Secretary-General, of the group, Alhaji Lateef Lawal, said the withdrawal from vigilance services was to put an end to the frequent confrontation with the police.

He hoped that the step would stem the mutual suspicion between the organisation and the police.

Factional leaders of the OPC, Dr. Frederick Fasehun and Chief Gani Adams, were arrested on October 22 following a spate of violent clashes between the factions in which many persons were killed and properties destroyed.

They were arraigned at a Federal High Court, Abuja, for treason on December 1.

Lawal, who is a leading member of the Fasehun faction, said, “We have since the arrest and detention of our leaders on October 22, 2005, and their subsequent detention in Abuja discovered that the police hierarchy and the rank and file always nurse a misconception about the complementary role our members have played in the recent past to stem the spate of armed robberies and other vices, especially in the South-West states.”

He lamented that social miscreants and motor park touts usually claimed to be OPC members when they were caught after committing criminal acts.

“We are therefore imploring the police to always demand for a duly signed identification card by our national President, Dr. Fasehun, from whoever falls foul of the law and claims to be a member of the congress,” he added.

When contacted by our correspondent, the Adams-led faction said the two camps agreed on the withdrawal of vigilance services.

An aide to Adams, Mr. Segun Akanni, in a telephone interview, said his faction took the decision two weeks ago when it became clear that nobody had come to the aid of the organisation since the arrest of Fasehun and Adams.

He said, “We are united on the matter. It is true we did not formally meet to take that decision. But we have since realised that nobody appreciates what our group has been doing in the area of protecting lives and property. If they do, at least, people would have risen in defence of our leaders and seek their release.”

The Lagos State Police Command said the OPC’s decision to dump its vigilance services was welcome.

The command argued that the group’s activities never had any positive impact on police work. It added that OPC members created problems for the police.

Spokesman for the command, Mr. Olubode Ojajuni, a deputy superintendent of police, told our correspondents that the police’s task of maintaining security would better be felt without the involvement of the OPC.

He said, “Their so-called vigilance services have no impact on the police. We are not in any pact with them, we never employed them to do that job for us. In fact, their activities usually bring misunderstanding between us and members of the public.”

The PPRO acknowledged that the OPC volunteered to work with the police, but he said the police did not give them the licence to take the law into their hands.

“What we said was that any group that was lawful and had respect for the rule of law would be accommodated by the police and we will work with the group, but the OPC members has always been controversial in their acts,” Ojajuni said.

He cited the Neighbourhood Watch (another vigilance group), saying nobody ever heard any bad report on the way its members went about their activities.

Ojajuni said if some members of the OPC had not been reckless in their activities, the group would have been left to operate like the Neighbourhood Watch.

He added, “What the law says is that anybody or group that arrests any suspect must hand over such person to the police immediately, but these people do all sorts of unimaginable things with the people they claim to have arrested.

“We can do our job, we are equal to the task, our men are doing wonderfully well and some members of the public have attested to that. We need no group to tell or teach us how to do our work.”

The PUNCH, Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

Row over Nigeria debt repayment

A row has broken out in the UK over a deal to cancel part of Nigeria's $30bn (£17bn) debt to Western nations.

Religious leaders say that although the deal would relieve Nigeria of nearly $18bn in debt, it would still have to repay a further $12bn in coming months.

They said it would be a huge burden for Nigeria which is one of the world's poorest countries despite oil wealth.

But critics say funds available from abroad only benefit Nigeria's rich elite, which cares little for the poor.

The head of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Rev David Coffey, said debt relief is a matter of justice, not charity.

"We want to secure that debt cancellation. We applaud the UK and Nigerian governments' efforts to secure debt cancellation for Nigeria," he told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

He pointed out that of the $12bn that would still have to be repaid, "$1.7bn is coming to the UK - and that figure is twice as much as the UK is giving in aid to the whole of Africa in 2005."

The Anglican Archbishop of York and the Muslim Council of Britain are also among a group of religious leaders who have become involved in the debate.

Correspondents say the issue has raised serious questions about debt cancellation, including whether the rich countries have a moral obligation at all to help poor countries which fail to keep their house in order.

Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil producer, and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Posted by Publisher at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

3rd Term: Kure, Akume Opt Out; Fawehinmi warns Obasanjo not to dare

The tribe of governors supporting speculated third term bid of President Olusegun Obasanjo has begun to dwindle as two more state chief executives from the North join forces with their colleagues who are opposed to a constitutional amendment that will permit the President and state governors to have three terms of four years each.

By Bolaji Adebiyi, Samuel Famakinwa and Tokunbo Adedoja, 12.27.2005

The two governors’ obection was boosted yesterday by Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, who war-ned Obasanjo not to accede to the pressure to extend his tenure beyond 2007 as that would amount to tempting God.
The new converts to the side of the opposition are Niger State Governor Abdulkadir Kure and his Benue State colleague, Chief George Akume, who yesterday denied any role in the plan to extend the President’s tenure, saying it would amount to a grave violation of the 1999 constitution.
Although the governors said they were opposed to the extra term plan on the ground that it was contrary to sections 137 (b) and 182(b) of the constitution, which stipulate a maximum tenure of two terms of four years each for the President and state governors, THISDAY gathered that, since Saturday’s publication which revealed that 30 governors had subscribed to the plan, most Northern governors had come under intense pressure from many quarters to review their support for it.
The pressure, according to information, has come mainly from Northern elders massed in the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF),, the Northern irredentist group, that believe the plan will truncate the geo-political zone’s quest for the shift of political power back to the region.
Besides, many National Assembly members, particularly senators from the zone are said to be opposed to the plan because it will jeopardise their ambition of replacing the incumbent governors in 2007.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Mahmud Abdullahi, at THISDAY Headquarters in Lagos, Kure said he was strongly opposed to any move to extend the tenure of the President and governors, adding that he would mobilise lawmakers from his state to kick against it.
He said as far as he was concerned, the tenure of the President and the governors would expire on May 29, 2007, and that by the provisions of sections 137(b) and 182 (b) of the 1999 constitution, none of the two categories of elected officers that had served two terms could seek a fresh mandate.
Kure, however, said he would support a constitutional amendment on the tenure of office of the executive if it would not affect the incumbent holders of power.
Said his aide:"My governor will be the last person to support third term agenda. In fact, he is not happy that he has been linked with the move to extend the tenure of the President and the governors. He believes that it will be morally wrong for any extension of tenure since they were elected under a constitution that prescribed two terms of four years."
The governor said further that he was contented with the two terms of four year-tenure stipulated by the 1999 constitution, which he swore to uphold, adding that he believed that all those that took their oath of office under the existing constitution should not be beneficiaries of any amendment that would extend the tenure of the President and the governors.
He added that although the 1999 constitution prescribes a maximum of two terms for governors and President, he was practically begged to seek re-election in 2003, an indication that he was not a sit-tight governor.
Dwelling further on the moral basis of his opposition to the third term agenda, he said he was one of the governors that went to court in the first phase of the present democratic dispensation to oppose extension of tenure for local government chairmen when their constitutionally stipulated tenure was ending.
He said the governor believed that it would be morally wrong for him to now turn around to support an amendment that would extend his own tenure and that of the President.
Also speaking in separate telephone interviews with THISDAY, Akume’s Commi-ssioner for Information, Mr. Cletus Akaya, and one of the governor’s close associates, Mr. Shima Ayati, denied his involvement in the third term plot, saying the governor was a firm believer in constitutionalism.
According to Akwaya, there was no time the governor either by his utterances or actions supported the extension of the tenure of the current administration, contending that any speculation about his governor’s involvement in a plot to add more years to the President’s 2003 mandate of four years was wholly misconceived.
Ayati told THISDAY that he had interacted with his friend, Akume, and that he had told him emphatically that he was not with the pro-third term choristers. “The governor has told me that he believes strongly that the provisions of the 1999 constitution on tenure of office should be strictly adhered to, and that he is not interested in a third term,” he said.
The governor’s associate added that it was immoral to tinker with the constitution for the purpose of extending the President’s tenure, saying that Akume could not support such immorality.
THISDAY reported exclusively Saturday that 30 governors had signed up to support the speculated third agenda of the President, promising to deliver their state Houses of Assembly, and their representatives in the National Assembly in the bid to amend the constitution.
To achieve the third term plan, sections 137 (b) and 182 (b), which stipulate a maximum of two terms for the President and state governors have been slated for amendment to allow for three terms of four years each.
However, six state governors, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Lagos), Alhaji Attahiru Bafawara (Sokoto), Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Chief Orji Kalu (Abia), Mr. Boni Haruna (Adamawa) and Dr. Chris Ngige (Anambra), have refused to subscribe to the plan. They have now been joined by Akume and Kure.
The opposition to tenure extension started early in the day with civil society groups warning that it could truncate the nation’s fragile democracy. They were joined by such geo-political groups as Afenifere, the ACF, the Movement for Defence of Democracy (MDD), and Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) who have kept the issue in the front burner of public debate.
Also opposed to the plan is the Northern Senators’ Forum, which met in Kaduna recently and warned about its danger, arguing that it would upset the rotation of power arrangement between the North and the South.
The vehemence of Northern political leaders and groups against the plan, particularly because it was based on the fear that it would frustrate their quest to retrieve political power from the South, attracted a gathering of Southern governors and top politicians in Enugu mid December, insisting that power must remain in the South.
The Southern politicians resolved that not only should power remain in their zone, they also asked for constitutional amendments that would restructure the country and make it a proper federation.
Meanwhile, in his open letter to Obasanjo yesterday, Fawehinmi warned the President: “Do not disturb the polity. Do not lay a dangerous precedent. Do not tempt God. Do not ignore the feelings of the people as they are against your bid”.
According to Fawehinmi, the 3rd term bid has already divided and polarised Nigerians along “ethnic and tribal cleavages which virtually now colour every governmental thought, policy, programme and nuances”.
While admonishing that it is not too late for the President to change course, Fawehinmi said: “It is incontrovertible that any 3rd term bid by you is psychologically, spiritually, physically, emotionally and in every respect a suicide mission driven by perverted ambition even when it is so glaring that it is unattaintable in Nigeria of today. Please do not hang yourself.”

Posted by Publisher at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

THIRD TERM:Make your position clear - Monguno tells Obasanjo

Elder statesman and foremost educationist, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno has urged President Obasanjo to make his mind known to Nigerians on the issue of his alleged third term bid.

by Abdullahi Bego / 2005-12-28

He said that the president’s refusal, so far, to state where he stands on the issue is “creating unnecessary confusion not only amongst his party members but also amongst the generality of Nigerians.”
Dr. Monguno said in an interview with Daily Trust in Maiduguri yesterday that because the third term issue has remained about the dominant political issue in the country today, it was time President Obasanjo came out openly to ‘dispel this unfortunate rumour (which is) capable of generating bad blood amongst Nigerians,” he stressed.
Dr. Monguno, who was also federal minister in several key ministries in the past, said he opposed the idea of a third term in office for the president and other political office holders because it was capable of injecting the craze to remain in power for life.
“The constitution provides for only two terms of four years each in office for the president and governors. Once people succeed with this idea that the two terms should be extended to three, there is likelihood of more extensions to a life presidency,” he said.
He said that it was better for the peace and progress of the country if Nigerians know where Obasanjo is heading constitutionally. “The tension generated by the rumour over third term and Obasanjo’s silence on it has made politicians in the country to be under ‘stress’, he added.
Dr. Monguno said that he does not favour the idea of amending the constitution in order to have a dubious backing for extending the tenure of the president and governors.
“Nigerians will surely reject any proposal for amending the constitution to achieve third term. If the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the Constitution or indeed the entire National Assembly is confident, let them put the matter to a referendum. They would see clearly that Nigerians are yearning for a change,” he said.
Explaining why he thinks Nigerians will reject extending the president’s tenure beyond 2007, Dr. Shettima Monguno said the performance of the Obasanjo-led federal government is ‘poor’ in comparison with the enormous resources available to it since it came to power in 1999. “The president seems to be promoting his personal image internationally to the detriment of the important issues at home,” he said.
Dr. Monguno added that many Nigerians now experience hardship at a time that nature’s endowments to the country are more than enough to make improvement in the people’s living conditions.
“There is a lot of hardship all around. This is not confined to just a segment of the society. The general dissatisfaction affects almost everyone. There is no hiding away from this fact,” Dr. Monguno pointed out.

Posted by Publisher at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

Third term agenda: Presidency dumps idea, scouts for successor ...Kano reacts to announcement

Apparently yielding to the enormous pressure being visited on President Olusegun Obasanjo from within and outside the country over his purported third bid come 2007, the Presidency yesterday said that it had started searching for a credible successor, pointing out that the president is interested and willing to relinquish power at the end of his tenure in 2007.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Chief Femi Fani Kayode, said this in an interview with newsmen while reacting to the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Dr. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan’s claim that the country was blessed with thousands of people that could succeed Obasanjo.
The cleric was quoted by some national newspapers at the weekend, to have said in an interview that there were over 5,000 Nigerians that could take over from the President.
Fani-Kayode, however, said the cleric did not only miss the point, but equally misunderstood the position of the Obasanjo administration on what qualities it expects from its successor.
However, reacting to this development on behalf of Kano people in a telephone interview, Alhaji Magaji Dambatta (OFR), said he welcomes the intention of the president not to perpetuate himself in power beyond 2007 as stipulated by the Nigerian constitution and not to even think of recontesting again in future.
Congratulating the president for listening to public opinion and bending to people’s wishes, Dambatta noted that by making it known that he is no longer for the bid, it is now clear to everybody speculations to continue in office were genuine, and this therefore, has portrayed all those people who were accusing others of mere speculation as “greatest deceivers of our time”.
To reassure Nigerians, he further observed, the president should urge the National Assembly to disband, immediately, the Mantu committee on constitutional review set up to start sampling public opinion next month.
According to him, by this development, the committee has no place in the new thinking since it was believed quite justifiably that their motive was to secure third term for Obasanjo.
“Admittedly, there are quite a few areas in our constitution that require amendments, this task is best carried out by the next legislature which would have ample time to do a thorough job and which we hope will consist of members who will be truly elected by the people,” he added.
In this regard, Dambatta stated, the president should waste no time in strengthening, equipping and funding adequately, INEC, so that it can start preparatory work in earnest for credible elections in 2007.
On the part of INEC, the ACF Board of Trustees chairman said the commission must itself ensure that it is truly independent by making all necessary arrangements leading to the elections themselves, diligently and transparently.
As to the choice of the next president, Dambatta noted that the shopping and eventual selection is not in the realm of the Presidency.
He said, instead, it is for the political parties and not individuals or group of individuals that can come up with candidates that are saleable to the electorate and worthy of leading the nation to peace, progress and prosperity.
It could be recalled that stakeholders from Kano state had recently kicked against any move by the present administration to review the constitution with a view to perpetuating the Obasanjo leadership for the third term in office.

Posted by Publisher at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria says two bidders left for telecoms firm

ABUJA (Reuters) - The privatisation of Nigeria's state telecoms firm Nitel is scheduled to go ahead on Thursday but only two of six bidders originally shortlisted will take part, the privatisation agency said on Wednesday.

Wed Dec 28, 2005 4:30 PM GMT

A Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) spokesman said Egypt's Orascom Telecom and Newtel, a little-known company, would bid for Nitel -- a short line-up for one of the most high-profile measures in the government's programme of free-market reforms.

Nigeria, one of the world's fastest-growing telecoms markets, has attracted keen interest from foreign investors, but most of the growth has come from private mobile operators while loss-making Nitel is predominantly a fixed-line business.

The BPE official did not say why South African fixed-line operator Telkom or Chinese equipment vendor Huawei Technologies, which were both still in the running for Nitel earlier this month, were no longer involved.

Analysts speculated that confusion about whether the package on sale would include SAT-3, an underwater cable that is Nitel's key asset, may have scared off investors. The BPE has said all along that SAT-3 was included but the Communications Ministry has said the opposite.

Celtel, Africa's number three mobile operator which is owned by Kuwait's MTC, said on December 1 it had lost interest in Nitel because it would have to take on the heavily overstaffed fixed-line business, not just the mobile arm Mtel.

The following day, South Africa's MTN said it had withdrawn from the bidding to instead focus on launching in Iran, although the BPE said MTN was ruled out anyway because it could not take on Mtel and keep its existing mobile licence. MTN is the number one mobile operator in Nigeria.

Analyst Bismarck Rewane of Financial Derivatives Ltd. said that as well as the uncertainty surrounding SAT-3, the Nitel privatisation process had been undermined by a change in Nigerian telecoms licensing rules scheduled for early next year.

"With the unified licensing regime coming in which allows firms that have mobile networks to also run fixed-line operations, how much is Nitel really worth, versus setting up your own fixed-line network?" he said.

Analysts say Nitel is inefficient, overstaffed and lumbered with outdated and neglected infrastructure and unquantified pension liabilities. SAT-3, the gateway for international calls and Internet connections, is the firm's most valuable asset.

In 2003, Nitel posted a loss of 19 billion naira and a debt of 15 billion naira.

The number of telephone subscribers in Nigeria has jumped from 500,000 in 1999 to over 17 million now on investments of about $10 billion, according to the sector regulator -- but most of the new lines are mobile ones.

With a population of 140 million and a telecoms usage density that remains among the lowest in the world, Nigeria's potential for further growth in the telecoms sector is substantial.

But analysts say Nitel's problems are likely to dash any hopes the government had of making big financial gains from the sale.

It is not the first time Nigeria has tried to sell Nitel. In 2002 a $1.3 billion sale collapsed when the winner failed to come up with the cash. It would have been Africa's biggest privatisation had it gone through.

Posted by Publisher at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

FAAN clears grass with N128m at Lagos Airport

Officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are grumbling over the award of 12 contracts at the Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, by Aviation Minister, Babalola Borisade.

By Rotimi Durojaiye
Aviation Correspondent, Lagos

The total value is N56,887,935.84

Two of the contracts were awarded to two separate contractors for the clearing of bush and grass around Runway 36R at the airport.

M/S Jon Fema Nigeria was awarded one at N34 million on October 24, M/S Quidsworth Ventures got the other at N49 million on the same date.

M/S Tripple A Venture was given the job to clear the grass around Runway 18R for N45 million.

The three grass clearing contracts amount to N128 million.

Investigations showed that the contracts were signed on October 24 on behalf of FAAN Managing Director, Olufemi Shittu, by FAAN Secretary/Legal Adviser, Matthew Chiedu.

The wife of a serving minister (name withheld) was named as the person behind two of the contract awards.

One of the letters reads: “Letter of award; clearing of bush and grassing of area along Runway 36R end of Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

“I am pleased to convey to you, (the) minister’s anticipatory approval for the award of the above named contract to your company. The total contract sum is N39,500,000.00 …. You are to indicate your acceptance or otherwise of the offer, in two copies to the undersigned, within two (2) weeks of the receipt of this letter.

“You are to contact the director of engineering services for further details of the job and the legal department for necessary legal documentation. Please note that this contract takes effect only after the issuance of job/local purchase order by FAAN”.

Borisade himself, through Shittu, was said to have awarded the contract for the supply, delivery and installation of ceiling systems to M/S Vita Construction at N49,703,984.51.

Shittu had presented a memo to Borisade to that effect (reference number FAAN/MD/18D/Vol.1/40, dated November 14) and Borisade gave approval on November 16.

On the same date, he presented another memo to Borisade over the contract to supply and deliver flooring systems. It was approved on the same day and awarded to M/S Almond Projects at N48,803, 190.71.

Also on November 16, the memo for the execution of sundry mechanical and electrical services was sent to him, and it was approved and awarded on the same day to M/S Alzico at N46, 196, 947.40.

The memo on the execution of civil works, including modular kiosks, was forwarded to Borisade on November 14.

It was approved on November 16 in favour of M/S Vira at N47, 649,663.07.

M/S Yoloye Associates was appointed as a consultant for the phase one rehabilitation of the MMA at a fee of N34,037,500 via another November 14 memo by Shittu to Borisade. It was approved on November 16.

The memo for the installation of floor finish materials and provision and installation of relocatable shelters and immigration cubicles was done in favour of M/S Landmark Engineering on November 16.

It was approved on the same day at N44, 142, 151.04.

On November 9, Shittu wrote to Borisade on the review of the financial records of the FAAN and the appointment of Akintola Williams Deloitte Consulting as consultants.

The job was awarded to the company at N90 million “to carry out the review of the financial records of the authority from 1st June 1999 to 30th September 2005”.

On October 28, Shittu sought and got approval for the supply of Apron Bus for Virgin Nigeria by Messrs Contrac Cobus Industries at N35, 927, 251, 56.

On the same date, he requested for the purchase of the same bus for use at the MMA at the same amount. The contract was awarded to the same company.

Some officials of the FAAN question the desirability of the contracts, but one stressed that the contracts went through due process before the approval, based on the recommendations of the Priority Actions Committee inaugurated on September 2 by Borisade.

The committee is headed by the ministry’s suspended Director of Planning, Research and Statistics (DPRS), Esai Dangabar.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had accused officials of the ministry and its agencies of corruption when he met with the industry’s stakeholders in Abuja recently.

Posted by Publisher at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

Ibadan elders, Obasanjo meet over Oyo crisis

Leader of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Emmanuel Alayande, will today lead elders, leaders, business moguls and investors in Oyo State to Aso Rock to find a way to end the fracas between Governor Rashidi Ladoja and Lamidi Adedibu in which no fewer than 10 persons have died.

By Lekan Sanni (Lagos)
Paul Mumeh (Abuja) and
Sola Shittu (Ibadan)


On the entourage is President of the Council Of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Bode Amoo.

But just as they are putting heads together, tension continues to mount over the impeachment notice served on Ladoja which expires today.

Some indigenes in the state have expressed dismay at the attitude of President Olusegun Obasanjo to the conflict, smelling bias in his utterances at the Ibogun Day celebration on Monday.

The visit to Obasanjo was said to have been shifted to today because of the state of health of Alayande who insists on leading the team because of the impact the resolution of the crisis may have on democracy.

One of those in the team said “we have resolved to go to Obasanjo today. We have been watching the situation since last week. It is not that we have not been doing anything about it but we feel that we just have to save the situation now because of the atomic impact it is likely to have on democracy.

“We are concerned about it, especially from the hindsight view of Nigeria’s politics. We would not want this democracy to collapse”.

Many of Ladoja’s supporters point accusing fingers at Obasanjo and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Vice Chairman (South), Olabode George, as the men behind the gridlock.

Most of the placards they carried last week proclaimed, “Obasanjo leave Oyo alone, don’t destroy democracy”.

They allege that he sponsors “Abacha politicians” against the people of the state.

Obasanjo said at Ibogun on Monday that Adedibu is a force to reckon with in Oyo State politics as the man himself rode on horse back to the event.

The President, however, appealed to him to maintain peace and security in the state.

But there is general unease in Ibadan as the 14-day impeachment notice served on Ladoja by the Adedibu faction in the state Assembly expires today.

Adedibu and the legislators insist that Ladoja must go this week.

Babatunde Eesuola, Assembly Publicity Committee Chairman, has said that one million court injunctions cannot stop the impeachment process.

His words: “The impeachment or removal of the governor or the deputy governor is one of the constitutional duties of the state House of Assembly and not of any court.

“No court can stop the impeachment initiated by any House of Assembly. If you follow the impeachment move closely, you will notice that we are following the constitutional process so that it will be a proper and constitutional exercise. I can tell you that since we are following the normal process, the impeachment is on the right course.

“It is not beyond the powers of a state House of Assembly to initiate impeachment moves as well as to impeach either the governor or the deputy governor as it is clearly stated in section 188 (10) of the Constitution”.

He added that with Section 188(10) of the Constitution, no proceedings or determination of the panel or of the Assembly or any matter relating to it could be entertained or requested in any court.

On the allegation that his group of 18 does not constitute two-thirds majority of the Assembly to carry out the impeachment, Eesuola explained that since the seven members of the Adeleke group have been suspended, the remaining lawmakers are just 25 in number.

“If you divide 18 by 25, you will find out that we have constituted the two-thirds majority to carry out the impeachment process”.

Meanwhile, PDP National Publicity Secretary, John Odey, confirmed on Tuesday that the combatants have been invited for a peace meeting in Abuja.

He said the party is disturbed by the degenerating situation in Oyo State and would do all it can to halt it.

He urged the factions to sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign.

Odey recalled that it was intra-party squabbles that led to the collapse of the First and Second Republics but stressed that at “this level of our development, we must not allow such crisis to disrupt democracy”.

However, Lagos State Commissioner for Works, Rauf Aregbesola, says he believes “the only way the PDP can exonerate itself from plotting to destroy Nigeria is to call Adedibu to order. He is heating up the polity and the consequences might be disastrous for the nation”.

Aregbesola hopes to become Governor in Osun State in 2007.

On the rumoured third term ambition of Obasanjo, he noted that the time has come for the President to speak out on the issue because his silence is a dangerous signal.

He argued that there is no basis for the President to nurture another term in office, hence the need for him to distance himself from those urging him to perpetuate his rule.

Obasanjo, he said, is the greatest beneficiary of pro-democracy struggles in the country.

“To that extent, the President owes the Nigerian people the duty to quickly dispel the ugly speculation of his third term bid. It is not in the interest of Nigerians for him to re-contest.

“It would badly affect the integrity of our nation. It would dampen the morale of the people. It would weaken the zeal, the commitment of Nigerians for the expansion of our democratic system. And that would be disastrous for this country”.

Aregbesola insisted that those in the vanguard of a third term for the President are enemies of democracy who have been blinded by personal ambition.

“Nigeria must aspire to be a leading light for the development of the human race, promotion of the democratic culture and the celebration of total freedom and rights for human growth. Nigeria should desire a leader in that respect.

“Obasanjo is a man who benefited from the struggle of the Nigerian people who voted for freedom. This is a man who benefited from the struggle of other people for the rights of men and the sacrifices of the Nigerian people on the struggle for the re-enactment of democracy in our land.

“I doubt very much if in his true consciousness Obasanjo would want to be counted as an enemy of progress, an enemy of Nigeria and an enemy of the Nigerian people”.

Posted by Publisher at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

Again, Militants Attack Oil Pipeline; Shell yet to resume crude exports in Bonny Terminal

A fresh wave of attack was yesterday launched on oil facilities in the Niger Delta as unidentified persons attacked and set fire to a petroleum products pipeline that runs across the Adeje community, near Warri in Delta State.

By Mike Oduniyi in Lagos and Segun James in Warri, 12.27.2005

Although it could not be ascertained if there were any casualties as at press time, the incident came even as Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) said yesterday that the force majeure placed on crude lifting from the Bonny Export Terminal following an attack on its crude oil pipeline near Port Harcourt a week ago, remained in place.
Huge balls of fire took over the horizon around the Adeje community following the explosion on the oil pipeline belonging to the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The pipeline conveys petroleum products from the Warri refinery to the Northern part of the country through PPMC pump stations in Benin and Lokoja.
THISDAY gathered that the fire, which was still raging, occurred at several points on the pipeline almost simultaneously which, according to PPMC officials, was an indication that the facility might have been sabotaged.
Yesterday’s incident followed several other attacks on the same pipeline by vandals who use ocean-going barges and trailer tankers to siphon products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol) from the line.
The latest attack, THISDAY gathered, may create fuel shortage in the North, as already bridging of products from the Port Harcourt refinery had been impacted by the attack on the Shell pipeline.
Confirming the attack when contacted on phone, the Deputy Area Manager in Charge of Operation, Petroleum Products Mar-keting Company (PPMC), Warri, Mr. John Uwaseba said that his men were still battling with the fire as at 4p.m. yesterday.
According to Uwaseba, one of the fire points has been put out but the others are still raging. THISDAY gathered that the fire crews from the PPMC, Shell Petroleum Development Company and the Warri Refinery, joined forces to combat the raging inferno.
As at the time of writing this report, the area has been cordoned off by security operatives while the member of casualty if any could not be ascertained.
Meanwhile, crude oil production deferment caused by an attack on a Shell pipeline near Port Harcourt last week, has dropped to just 15,000 barrels per day (bpd).
A total of 180,000 bpd of oil production was shut in when militants attacked the pipeline in Opobo Channel last Tuesday. Shell said that the force majeure, or its inability to honour contract, which was declared on crude lifting from the Bonny Export Terminal following the attack, was still in place.
A Shell spokesman told THISDAY that the company had raised five teams to work in repairing the damaged pipeline and restoring crude production from the facility which flows crude to the Bonny Terminal.
"Deferment is now 15,000 bpd. Five teams are working on repairs, relief, security and clean-up," said the Shell official, adding that the Nun River, Diebu and Kolo Creek oil fields had been re-opened.
Suspected members of militia groups had blown up the pipeline, with eight people dead and several properties destroyed from the resultant fire from the explosion.
The incident, which triggered rise in world oil prices, also affected crude oil supply to the Port Harcourt refinery as well as gas supply to the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC).
The Federal Government, which has already been put on high alert over security in the Niger Delta, had constituted a Joint Investigation Team comprising representatives from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Shell Petr-oleum Development Company (SPDC) and Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA), to conduct a thorough probe into the incident.
The government through the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Edmund Daukoru said it actually suspected the interference by a third party.
Also, while Shell’s force majeure remained, Nigeriaís overall export commitment has not been affected as the country is still able to meet its total oil production including condensate of between 2.48 million bpd and 2.5 million bpd, said the minister.
Also speaking yesterday, the Governor James Ibori of Delta State said that the only way soldiers now stationed in and around Warri would be withdrawn is if there was sufficient proof that total peace has indeed returned.
Ibori who was speaking through his deputy, Chief Benjamin Elue, at the Warri Peace Concert held at the Warri City Stadium on Charismas Day, said that the deployment of troops of the Joint Military Task Force on Niger Delta, Operation Restore Hope, led by Brig. Gen. Elias Zamani has indeed helped not only in bringing peace to the embattled city, but hope for the people who bears the brunt of the unnecessary crisis.
Ibori said that the Task Force could be asked to leave immediately and the situation left to the Police to handle as demanded by the people, “but we must assure the nation and ourselves that peace has returned and we intend to remain peaceful, democratic and stop the destruction of public property and disruption of our national wealth, so that we will not attract any Federal Force”.
Ibori, therefore, urged the people to save the state and the region from further bloodshed and violence, saying that unless this was done, “we will justify the call for Zamani and his men to leave us alone, otherwise, we will run back to other Nigerians that this peace gathering will be worthless”.
Ibori was full of praise and gratitude to Gen. Zamani for the wonderful job he had done in ensuring peace in the State.
Said he: “For the support of this external Forces, particularly the Operation Restore Hope led by Gen. Zamani, we want to give them a very big thank you for a job well done. We know you will eventually go, for in a democracy the army has no place in policing”.


Posted by Publisher at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

Russian oil smugglers return home

Twelve Russian sailors convicted of smuggling crude oil from Nigeria have arrived back in Moscow from Africa.

The men were convicted earlier this month but later released after having spent two years in detention.

They were among 15 east European sailors arrested after being caught in possession of 10,000 tonnes of stolen oil worth 2m euros (£1.37m) in 2003.

Correspondents say the incident soured relations between Russia and Nigeria - Africa's largest oil exporter.

The tanker - the MT African Pride - mysteriously disappeared from custody last year, causing embarrassment in Nigeria's political circles.

Some 30,000 barrels of oil are believed to be lost to fuel thieves each day in Nigeria.

The sailors received an emotional welcome from family and friends, and television crews, when they flew into Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport on Wednesday.

"I finally believe that we are back, that I am free. There are no words to express what I am feeling now," the team's captain Valery Pakhomov was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

Posted by Publisher at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2005

Govt considers fresh conditions for indigenous firms in oil bloc allocation

STRONG indications have emerged that Federal Government is now considering an option for accommodating the indigenous oil prospecting companies in the final oil bloc award under the 2005 licensing rounds.

By Yakubu Lawal and Taiwo Hassan

This option, which is still at infant stage became necessary in view of the failure of many Nigerian companies not being able to meet the December 15, 2005 deadline given to all companies to pay their signature bonus or acceptance fees in the 2005 oil bloc licensing rounds.

Director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr. Tony Chukwueke, who dropped this hint when the top management team of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) led by the Group Managing Director of the corporation, Dr. Funso Kupolokun, paid a solidarity visit to DPR, said the President is considering what to do with those companies mostly Nigerian companies that have not paid their signature bonus.

"I do know that the President is now considering what to do with the local companies many of who have not paid their signature bonus", he said.

"But, let me add that by law and guideline for the oil bloc award, every company that failed to meet the deadline will lose the right to those blocs," he added.

Chukwueke stated that, the DPR, NNPC, and the ministry officials are working on the final draft of the production sharing contract (PSC), which will be signed by January 10, 2006 with all the successive companies in the bidding round.

Besides, on some of the oil companies that offered to pay large chunk of money on the blocs, the director said that the option of considering those companies depend on the President, but added that the rule is clear and well define, that "if you did not meet the stipulated date, you stand to lose your signature bonus".

According to him, "Mr. President is deciding on the option to take, but I think, if you have not complied with the rule, you have not comply but am too low to say that since the rule was there and you cannot utter the rules and the minister, I think said it to all those who bids for the oil blocs that you cannot toil with the future of the country".

On the issuance of refinery licences to indigenous oil companies, Chukwueke stressed that despite a few refinery licences were given to some private companies in the last four or five rears ago, there have been some improvement on their part, but what is happening now is that Nigerians are worried about the state of the refinery plants, couple of these projects have commenced now being that the setting up of a refinery is enormous. He, however, said that as part of kick-starting the commencement of the refinery, Orient Petroleum has taken a giant stride in the pursuit of its goal on the building of refinery in Nigeria.

Chukwueke also said that there is a serious discussion going on between the Edo State government and a consortium of companies from India to build the Edo State refinery.

"About refinery licence, yes, you are right. Quiet a few refinery licences were given, I think in the last four or five year. But everything that comes to Nigeria, when it happened, people get it and then from there they begin to think about what to do. So this is what had happened to refinery licence", he said.

The director of DPR continued, "the LNG business, when you look at it, took about 30 - 35 years before we saw the first LNG plant in the country. Am not saying that the refinery will take long to start but it will be shorter. Because people applied for the licence and they paid for it.

"Am happy that you named Orient, but Orient is not the only one, there are quiet some state governments that are seriously looking at the refinery directions. There is an offer from the River State government to start a refinery in Port Harcourt to complement the one there. Likewise you must have heard that there is a serious discussion going on between Edo State government and a consortium from India to start up the Edo refinery. A couple of these projects have started," he added.

Chukwueke said that the government sees the setting up of the private refinery as a local content vehicle, that is, the reason that some of the oil blocs in the 2005 bid round were set aside and awarded to Nigerians as a source of feedstocks to the refineries.

Posted by Publisher at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

Pipeline explosions: Minister allays fears over Nigeria's oil export profile

MINISTER of State for Petroleum, Dr. Edmund Daukoru, say Shells' damaged crude oil pipeline, which shut down 170,000 barrels of crude will not affect adversely Nigeria's crude oil exports.

"The incident will also not hamper our production because we are even producing above our quota since we are also producing from our condensate, Daukoru said at the weekend in Abuja in reaction to the incident.

The minister said that eyewitness account revealed that the fire on the pipeline had died down considerably and was not expected to pose any serious threat to lives and property in the affected areas.

"The 28-inch line from Bamu has been isolated resulting in a production deferment of 170,000 barrels per day", Daukoru said.

According to him, a joint investigation team from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) including a Clean Nigerian Association (CAN) is underway.

Daukoru said that a gas leak was also reported on the Nigeria Gas Company (NGC) gas line about 5.8 kilometres from Alakiri.

He assured that there was no cause for alarm and that the incident would not affect gas supply.

However, Anglo/Dutch Shell subsidiary in Nigeria, and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has shut down its Bonny flow station to enable experts extinguish the fire, which broke out last week from its pipeline in Asarama Olowan, Andoni Local Council Area of Rivers State in south-eastern Nigeria.

The number of causalities from the pipeline explosion has risen from eight persons to 13 on Wednesday.

The SPDC pipeline in Asarama Okwan was blown up with dynamite last week Monday by armed youths, who were suspected to be members of one of the high profile militias in Rivers State.

SPDC's Corporate External Affairs Manager, Mr. Don Boham, said that the closure of the flow station would affect the daily export of 170,000 barrels of crude oil and that the affected crude oil volume would be deferred.

The closed terminal is being expanded at a cost of $600 million to raise its handling capacity to 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, up from 170,000 barrels a day, by 2006 when the expansion project is expected to be completed.

Boham said that a joint investigation team, comprising SPDC officials CAN and the pipeline repair group was expected to visit the site last week Wednesday.

The closure of the flow station came a few hours after unknown persons blew up another pipeline belonging to the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at Oma, near Benin in south-western Edo State of Nigeria on Tuesday night last week.

Posted by Publisher at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

Consolidation: CBN refuses deadline extension demand by bank group

THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in granting Alliance Bank Group an Approval-In-Principle (AIP) to consummate their merger process, gave a new deadline of December 30 to conclude the processes, after which "there will be no extension".

From Mathias Okwe, Abuja

A source close to the meeting between the Alliance Bank Group and the apex bank told journalists that the group had demanded for an extension to March next year, to enable them conclude their merger arrangement, a request the CBN reportedly declined to grant.

The apex bank while granting the group the AIP, asked it to meet two main conditions.

The conditions, according to the Head, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Festus Odoko, expected the banks forming the Alliance Bank to collect certain percentage of their insider-related credits, before the group could be given final approval and a demand of an organogram of the Alliance Bank (in-formation) for it to know "who and who" that will be running the bank.

The Alliance Group comprises Fortune Bank Plc, City Express Bank Plc, Metropolitan Bank Limited, Triumph Bank Limited, Eagle Bank Limited, Afex Bank Limited, Liberty Bank Plc, Trade Bank Plc and Gulf Bank Plc.

The group had been granted a pre-merger consent last month by the CBN, which mandated it to conclude the merger process by December 20.

"Having evaluated the issues involved, the proprietary or otherwise, the complexity, the prospect also involved and we have all collectively resolved to give them a chance the idea of having Alliance Bank as a chance to move forward", the CBN governor had said at a press briefing to grant the group a pre-merger consent.

Rolling out the time-table for the Alliance Group, he had said, "we have devised certain clear milestones. By the end of this month, all of them would have conducted their extra-ordinary general meeting. By December 7, they ought to have passed the resolution to pursue the Alliance Bank option to get the bank to achieve the recapitalisation under the Alliance Bank option but where they fail to achieve this, they should have a concurrent resolution which they should also hand over to us authorising us to liquidate the bank if they fail to achieve this by December 7.

We expect to receive both the resolution and the licences of the banks.

"By 14th (December) we will meet to evaluate the progress made and by 20th, we meet again to make the final decision and as of that date, we will be able to make a final determination as to whether".

The group was said to have held a closed-door meeting with the CBN. The meeting, which was to determine the fate of the group lasted hours, dragging into late night and was adjourned till the following day. The apex bank eventually arrived at a decision on the fate of the group, granting it an AIP.

Posted by Publisher at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

Customs seals up "China Town" for selling prohibited items

OFFICIALS of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone "A", Ikeja, on Friday sealed up the

popular "China Town", Ojota and the "Park and Shop" shopping mall, Maryland for selling items on the prohibition list.

The controller of the FOU, Alhaji Umar Daura, who briefed newsmen on the development in his Ikeja office, disclosed that 190 shops at the Ojota "China Town" had been sealed up by his officials "for displaying and selling contraband".

Daura added that some of the Asian traders at the "town" were arrested and were helping officials of the Nigeria Customs Service in unravelling the mystery surrounding how the prohibited items being sold there were able to enter the country.

The controller displayed to newsmen some of the contraband already evacuated from some of the sealed shopping centres, especially textile materials that had been banned outright by the Federal Government.

Daura explained that though his officials went to some big warehouses in the operation that started at 4.00 a.m. on Friday, only those that were found to contain contraband were sealed up.

Armed customs officials were seen at both the "Park and Shop" and "China Town" keeping vigil to ensure that no unauthorised person could have access to the impounded goods in them.

When questioned on the prohibited foreign goods being sold at the Apongbon open market on Lagos Island, Daura explained that his office would require a special permit from the government to raid the place.

He said that such a raid would also create a lot of logistic problems that could lead to loss of lives if not properly planned and executed as the area was known for harbouring hundreds of miscreants, popularly referred to as "Area Boys".

Posted by Publisher at 06:29 PM | Comments (0)

Access Bank secures $30m IFC funding

ACCESS Bank Plc has secured a $30 million facility from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to contribute to the structural and sustainable economic growth being experienced in the country at present. This $30 million facility granted the financial institution is for the promotion and development of the private sector.

IFC supports the private sector arm of developing economies and emerging markets through the loans it grants to credible financial institutions with which its has relationship in such economies.

Access Bank ranks amongst the top Nigerian banks that have a relationship with the IFC. The bank through its relationship with the multilateral body and other leading global financial institutions plans to provide access to medium and long term financing to Nigerian businesses to ensure the continued growth and development of the Nigerian economy, using the SMEs as a viable platform.

Access Bank Plc has continued to demonstrate its capacity to attract investments from international finance and trade organisations to support the growth of the Nigerian economy through its relationship with leading global financial institutions like the Dutch FMO, US Exim, EIB, (European Investment Bank) and others.

Access Bank has attracted over $250 million to support international trade finance and the financing of medium - long-term projects in oil and gas, energy, telecoms and housing among others in the private sector arm of the Nigeria economy.

Posted by Publisher at 06:27 PM | Comments (0)

Italy set to name new bank chief

THE Italian government says it is close to agreeing on a new Bank of Italy governor, in the wake of the banking scandal surrounding Antonio Fazio.

Fazio's resignation was formally accepted by the Bank on last week.

His successor will be appointed according to new rules just approved by the Italian cabinet.

The cabinet agreed to change the central bank chief's lifetime post to a six-year term, with the post renewable only once after that.

The government has come under pressure to find a quick replacement for Fazio after Italy's opposition leader, Romano Prodi said the country faced a "power vacuum" in its banking industry.

Prodi, a former European Commission president, will lead an alliance of centre-left parties in general elections next year.

"Try to imagine the situation that would be created by a 10- to 15-day power vacuum, how do you think the international economic circles would react?" he wrote in Italy's La Repubblica Newspaper.

Italy's central bank is currently being headed by Fazio's deputy, Vincenzo Desarie.

Names being considered for the role of Bank of Italy governor are thought to include former European Central Bank executive board member Tommasso Padoa-Schioppa and former European Union competition commissioner Mario Monti.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday: "I think we are very close to reaching agreement on a candidate who has the necessary characteristics and an international profile.

"This person is esteemed by the financial markets and by the media."

Meanwhile, analysts agreed that Fazio's resignation was a positive step, which would give Italian industry more transparency.

"That whole era is gone for good and not many people will regret its passing," said Lorenzo Codogno, co-head of European economics at Bank of America.

Fazio resigned on last week after a five-month banking scandal that shook Italy's political establishment.

He is accused of favoring an Italian bank in a domestic takeover battle and faces a probe into insider trading.

He arrived at the Bank of Italy's headquarters in Rome for the last time earlier last week for a meeting of the organisation's executive board, which accepted his formal resignation.

Despite his decision to quit, Mr Fazio continues to deny all accusations against him, including that he behaved improperly when deciding to recommend a bid for Italy's Banca Antonveneta by Banca Popolare Italiana over Dutch rival ABN Amro.

His position had became increasingly untenable after prosecutors in Milan revealed they were investigating him for alleged insider trading.

The scandal surrounding the takeover of Banca Antonveneta had threatened to damage international confidence in Italy's banking sector.

Posted by Publisher at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

IMF to write-off poor countries' debts

THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to write off the $3.3 billion (£1.89 billion) owed to it by all but one of the 20 poorest countries in the world.

It has delayed granting debt relief to Mauritania until it makes "satisfactory progress in a few policy areas".

The write-off follows the Group of Eight-debt forgiveness deal, which was struck in July.

Earlier this month, it was feared the IMF was set to withhold help for up to six of the poorest countries.

Debt-relief campaigners ended up warning some intended recipients that the IMF was set to drop them from the list because their macroeconomic policies did not meet its requirements.

On Wednesday, the IMF dismissed reports that it had been back-tracking as "simply not true".

The multilateral debt relief initiative was agreed by leaders of the G8 industrialised states in July after the series of "Live 8" rock concerts drew attention to the issue.

The debts owed by the 19 nations will finally be cancelled once the IMF has the approval of all 43 rich countries that have contributed to an anti-poverty trust set up by the Fund.

"So far we have 37 consents. We're quite hopeful we'll get remaining the six in the next few weeks," said IMF spokesman Thomas Dawson said.


They should receive IMF debt relief by early 2006.

Mauritania, meanwhile, is likely to meet the criteria for the write-off "relatively soon", said Mr Dawson.

"Mauritania will qualify for relief and receive it once it demonstrates satisfactory progress on some policy areas that have been identified," he said.

Oxfam, one of the organisations that feared the IMF would go back on its word, welcomed Wednesday's board verdict.

"It's good that the IMF realised that they couldn't wriggle out of promised debt cancellation during a closed-door session in Washington DC," a spokesman said.

"The IMF must now deliver the funding quickly and without any further delay."

Posted by Publisher at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

Bane of air cargo development in Nigeria, by experts

THE bane of air cargo development in Nigeria has been attributed to lack of warehousing and capacity carriage.

This was disclosed recently in Lagos by speakers at the first yearly cargo conference, with the theme "Air cargo Tool for Economic Development" organised by Aviation Review, an air transport journal.

According to Mr. Clement Afolabi of Jet Set Aviation Consultancy Services, a keynote speaker at the conference, the warehouses, and facilities were not adequate enough to handle freight business coming into the country.

He said that there was no provision for animal shipment, which made it difficult for people bringing in animals and pets, because the warehouses available were not enough for human goods, not to talk of animal.

Another area mentioned by Afolabi, was the absence of cold storage facility.

His words: "Do you know there are some drugs that must maintain a high level of cold temperature, which must not be exposed to heat? But the warehouses we have here in Nigeria do not have the facility for such, and so any importer or pharmacist bringing in such drugs, will run into shortage, because if the goods are not cleared on time, they become perishable."

According to Afolabi, about 10 per cent of incidents in the airline industry came from dangerous goods that were not compatible with other goods, which included radioactive materials. He gave the instance of the fire disaster at Skypower Aviation Handling Company of Nigeria (SAHCOL) as a typical example of such.

His words: "It is the prerogative of the landlords of the airports, that is Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to provide and build warehouses, and it is not only building warehouses, but building warehouses that can house different kind of goods."

Another problem confronting the air cargo industry in Nigeria was the tough procedures involved in the process of clearing goods, which according to him was a major set back to the growth of air freight business in Nigeria.

The clearing process to him should be reduced to a less cumbersome process, a situation whereby there were up to six or seven authorities stationed at the warehouses to check goods made the processes very hectic.

Also speaking at the conference, a representative from Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Mr. Olu Afolabi said that the issue of protection must be addressed.

Protection according to him must cut across agents, freighting companies, customs and others involved in the process of movement of goods.

His words: In other countries, if a good is not delivered, it gets back to the sender easily. The intention to receive goods is only concluded when a waybill is signed for."

According to him, the issue of proper declaration of goods must be taken more seriously, adding that a situation whereby goods were not properly declared was uncalled for.

Goods coming into the country must be properly documented. A lot supervision and review of importation was highly necessary in this aspect, he added.

The Nigeria Customs Service was not let out of this as the customs area comptroller, represented by Deputy Comptroller of Customs at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Mr. Dangaladinma Aminu, said that the role of customs anywhere in the world is to collect custom duties and levees on behalf of government and to facilitate trade.

He added that the customs as a means of making the clearance of air cargo goods faster had introduced what was called the fast track clearance method.

The importer, according to him entered into a bond with the customs, so that as soon as his goods arrived it was cleared immediately instead being delayed. This, he said, was also done to assist importers importing perishable goods.

The General Manager of (SAHCOL) represented by the Quality and Safety Assurance Manager Mr. Akin Olateru, said that the International Civil Aviation Organisation, (ICAO) recommended four hours to clear consignment after aircraft landing, saying that was the reverse in the Nigerian context.

He accused the government of not doing enough to streamline activities of the authorities that were at the airports to carry out checks, saying that there was duplication of efforts in this regard.

On the economic importance of cargo business to the Nigeria economy, he said, cargo business was a 40 billion-dollar business, that the airline and government could make a lot of money from.

Afolabi added that most airlines relied so much on cargo business for revenue generation even though they were not dedicated cargo airliners.

His words, "when you look at the economy in Nigeria today, our major earning is from oil, cargo movement is something we can develop in Nigeria. There is a huge gap between what comes in and what goes out and this is what discourages the major cargo airliner that comes into Nigeria."

The government, according to him should try and close the gap between what came into the country and what went out, since what went out was higher would make the government made more money, the handlers would get more money from it. At the end of the day it would have an overall effect on the economy of the nation.

On why it took so much time before such a cargo conference was convened, he said, prior to that time the awareness was not there about cargo business, but the situation was different as more and more people were beginning to appreciate the importance of cargo business in Nigeria.

Dubai, according to Olateru earned 50 per cent of its revenue from cargo movement.

His words: "When you manufacture goods you take it to Dubai. When you are buying goods in bulk you go to Dubai. There is movement in and out of the country and that has a lot of economy imput into their economy; they improve their bottom line at the end of the year."

Posted by Publisher at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

Customs launches anti-rice smuggling campaign

THE Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has launched a major offensive against rice into the country through the land borders, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.

NAN gathered that over 1,000 (50kg) bags were confiscated within the first week of the operation carried out by a joint unit of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) and the Seme

Command of the service.

The operation began last Thursday with patrol teams at Gbaji, Badagry in Lagos State and Agbara in Ogun State conducting stop-and-search on vehicles coming from Badagry and Ogun State and impounding any bag of rice and other contrabands found in them.

A trader who regularly plied the Seme-Lagos route said: "It has not been easy since the previous week to carry even a bag of rice across. There is a total clampdown on entry of rice through the land borders.

"In the past, they overlooked half a bag or a bag, but the situation has changed. This is the season when we really make profits as imported rice is in high demand during Christmas and New Year celebrations but this year, we have suffered losses,'' she lamented.

NAN reports that on Wednesday, some military personnel and a mobile policeman who had lost some bags of rice to the patrol teams and had besieged the Seme command of the NCS to plead for their release were turned down.

Commenting on the development, the command spokesman, Mr. Ovemeso Ogege, said that the exercise, code-named "sting operation," was meant to put a total stop to the smuggling of rice through land borders.

Ogege said that the country had lost millions of naira in revenue following the flouting of the law by people who brought in rice through land borders.

He said that assorted textiles, garments and bales of second-hand clothing worth millions of naira as well as 105 cartons of frozen poultry products were equally seized during the operation.

The spokesman added that the offensive was launched at this time of the year because of increased demand for foreign goods and in order to completely stamp out smuggling through the area.

Meanwhile, the Seme command of the NCS has foiled an attempt to smuggle over 4,000 litres of fuel in jerry cans valued at N260, 000 out of country through bush paths around Seme.

The command, also in November made significant seizures including 53 vehicles valued at N27, 235,047 with duty paid value of N41.06 million as well as assorted textiles whose duty paid value is put at N14.7 million. Ogege said that the Seme command had by the end of November collected N1.7 billion as import duties and other tariffs for the year and expressed optimism that it would meet the N2 billion revenue target for the year.

He said that as at November this year, 1,241 vehicles had been imported into Nigeria through the Seme border yielding over N284 million duty.

Posted by Publisher at 06:22 PM | Comments (0)

Expert lists challenges before registrars post consolidation

DESPITE the division caused by the imminent introduction of electronic system of paying bonus shares to shareholders of companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), the new device has come to stay based on new challenges post consolidation.

By Gbenga Agbana

The Managing Director of First Registrars, Mr. Bayo Olugbemi who listed the challenges before registrars post consolidation in the finance industry while delivering a paper titled: "The roles and challenges of registrars in a developing market," at a forum organised by capital market correspondents, disclosed that the registrars would go ahead with the e-bonus product because of its advantages for investors.

Bonus issue means that issue of shares by a company to its shareholders in proportion to their existing holdings. It is made by capitalising existing reserves, which already belong to the shareholders and is merely the formal recognition of the increase in the capital invested by those shareholders through the ploughing back of previous profits.

Currently, such shares are issued with share certificates, but registrars of companies are planning a new system whereby it would be paid electronically thus making it without certificate.

This has generated controversy among shareholders groups as some are in support, while some are against it.

Commenting on the e-bonus product, Olugbemi said: "No going back on e-bonus. What we are only doing is to get the modalities right and set modalities for it. W might start it from e-IPO which would make it more easier because everybody would have account with the CSCS."

On other challenges post consolidation, Olugbemi said: "Patronage might reduce in terms of number of banks, but the size of shares will increase. The number of companies will reduce.

He further challenged registrars not to compromise prompt, efficient and effective customer service, courteous and professional staff engagement, treat customers as king; strengthen customer relationship with management.

He advised registrars of companies to ensure that they handled their clients, especially shareholders, professionally to bring superlative performance in terms of service delivery and human resource satisfaction.

Posted by Publisher at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

Abia to boost cashew production

THE 160 hectares of cashew farm located in Mbala Isuochi, in Abia State is undergoing rehabilitation as part of efforts to boost cashew production in the state.

The Abia Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Ukwu Emmanuel, made the disclosure in an address at a one-day workshop organised for rural cashew farmers in the eastern zone, comprising Abia, Imo and Enugu.

In his address, made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, Ukwu stressed that the government was committed to revamping the farm to encourage agricultural activities and boost revenue generation.

He added that it was regrettable that the farm had been left unattended since the end of the Nigeria civil war, but stressed the readiness of the government to partner with the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) and other international organisation to maximise the potentials in the sector.

"My ministry will pursue vigorously the sitting of a cashew processing industries in any of the cashew producing communities in the state," he said.

He listed some problems facing the industry as that of low quality of product due to poor handling, old cashew trees and poor pricing in the international market.

He commended the organisers for putting together the workshop, saying that it would improve the knowledge of the rural farmers as well as boost cashew production and marketing in the state.

Posted by Publisher at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

Industry's flight path to a bumpy cruise

THE aviation industry is reeling in crisis. Recent incidents and disasters have revealed the underbelly of the sector with many calling for a thorough cleansing of the rot in the industry.

By Tunji Oketunbi, Assist. Aviation Editor

To address the crisis, solutions proffered by critics and commentators include the removal of the management of aviation agencies, the grounding of all domestic airlines and the resignation of aviation minister Dr Babalola Borishade.

While other measures have been partly implemented the minister said he would only resign if it would solve the problem on ground. He claimed not to have caused the rot as he came in only five months ago.

While some of his critics agree that Borishade could not have caused the rot in five months they argue that he should go on the basis of luck, at least for having two major disaster during his tenure. But his sympathizers said this would be unfair to the man and the efforts he has been making since he assumed office to put the industry in shape.

The aviation industry, Borishade insisted, was already sick when he came on board and he listed a lot of the ills besetting the sector. He was actually welcomed into the industry with a series of incidents. He came in at a very trying time for the industry. He is surely unlucky to be the aviation minister when the cumulative negligence of the past began to manifest.

Interestingly, however, these are the same ills that previous ministers listed when they assumed office but by six months into office they claimed to have corrected. This was virtually the same list of industry ills that President Olusegun Obasanjo administration met six years ago. How come with all the reforms in the industry and all the casualties the illness appears to be intractable?

The question many are asking is how did the industry get to this level?

A historical excursion into the recent past of the industry may explain how we got here.

A Bureau of Public Enterprise's (BPE) report of 1999 stated:

"The birth of civil aviation in Nigeria was brought about in 1935 when aerodromes were developed and commissioned in Lagos, Kano, and Maiduguri. In 1970 the Federal Government launched Airport Development Plan (ADP), which served as a springboard for the progressive development of the existing airports in Nigeria. The Federal Government's objective was to open up the nooks and corners of the country for easy access and development through creation of airports in each state capital. To date the Federal Government has invested by way of grants N3.8billion and in the form of soft loans an accumulated sum of N1.7billion on FAAN airports. The total assets worth of the 20 airports as at February 1999 was N163.9billion including navigational aids and associated equipment.

"The Nigerian aviation industry enjoyed growth from the oil boom period of the 1970s. During the period, the industry metamorphosed into a multi-faceted, profit driven sector of the national economy. There was tremendous growth in number of operators, airports and passenger traffic. However the industry witnessed serious decline due mainly to growing cost, poor management, bad policies and unfriendly investment environment.


"The stage is now set for a vibrant and profitable aviation sector, with the restoration of democratic governance, genuine demonstration on the part of Government to deregulate the economy and growing investors' confidence in the nation."

So by the time this administration came on board the facilities at the airports were in bad shape, the airlines managing to cope although the market was small, aviation security and safety situation in the country was still suspect. There was little or no investment on infrastructure beginning from the regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Under Gen. Sani Abacha some efforts were made to rehabilitate the airports but only Murtala Muhammmed received major facelift. Navigational and landing aids received little attention. There were, however, legislation and policies in place to kick-start the development of the industry by the end of Abacha regime.

However, a singular decision that dislocated the industry had been taken in 1995 when the then aviation minister Air Commodore Nsikak Eduok (now Air Marshal Rtd) merged the pioneer regulatory body, Federal Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA) with the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and transferred the regulatory functions to the ministry.

Several professionals were sacked in the reform among whom were those being pressured to come and replaced Fidelis Onyeyiri, the Director General of NCAA recently relived of his job.

The effect of that policy, which Captain Dele Ore, an aviation legal consultant then described as 'executive lawlessness' is still telling negatively on the industry.

All through the military era the accusation of corner cutting was always at the airline operators doorstep even as aviation infrastructure were in a terrible shape that the Nigerian airspace was given a black star status.

The Late Captain Jerry Agbeyegbe was fired from the ministry for calling for a safety audit of the aviation industry. He was recently assassinated in cold blood over what many saw as his campaign for safety and good governance in the industry.

Dr Segun Agagu was the first aviation minister under this (Olusegun Obasanjo's) administration. H e had the Vision 2010 on Aviation, National Aviation Policy and the decrees establishing Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, (NAMA) to work with.

He set up the NCAA and NAMA using experts recruited by Arthur Anderson to pioneer the agencies and run Nigeria Airways and Federal airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN. The regulatory functions resided in the Ministry before then.

He worked on the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos to secure a re-certification from the United States of America (USA), which had declared the airport insecure and banned direct flights between it and the US. Not much had been recorded in terms of facilities upgrade.

Agagu spent barely 18 months and was succeeded by Dr Kema Chikwe.

Chikwe within a short time cleared all the management Agagu left behind and since then management instability has continued with each minister appointing new sets of aviation chiefs and bankers for the agencies. She came with a lot of zeal and aviation enjoyed a lot of media hype. She set up more than a dozen committees with few reports ever seeing the light of the day.

Some airport terminals, especially the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos were beautified. The Kano runway was resurfaced at a cost expert say can build another airport but the navigational aids received less attention. Contract for a Total Radar Coverage was signed with heavy financial implication on NAMA. The cost of Lagos runway resurfacing jumped to N1.2 billion from N800 million and later to N1.8 billion during her successor's tenure.

There was a major accident in Kano killing over 120 people and several others crashes with few or no fatalities just as there were several incidents.

The terminal radar in Lagos that the manufacturers had condemned as obsolete and recommended should be replaced were refurbished at about N100 million contract using NAMA personnel only for it to be breaking down regularly later.

The regulatory body never enjoyed free hand just like other agencies. NCAA was over-bloated but with support staff while merit disappeared in appointing the management.

The FAAN she left behind could no longer pay salaries on time following heavy indebtedness with little to show in terms of safety improvement

Mallam Isa Yuguda succeeded Chikwe and continued with the legacy. He listed a lot of ills he met on assumption of office and within months he was celebrating his achievements despite crashes here and there. It was during his tenure that cows were straying into the runway and aircraft were careering off the runway.

Both of them left FAAN with heavy debt running into billions by the time they were leaving that the agency was finding it difficult to pay salaries. A lot of contracts were awarded but with little or no reflection in facilities upgrade. Fire cover for the airports are in terrible situation up till now.

Besides facilities inadequacy past regimes until now have not paid enough attention to the needs of NCAA, to make it function effectively and efficiently.

While Yuguda should be credited for opening up some regional routes to the domestic carriers he also signed off the lucrative international routes to Virgin Nigeria for seven and half years and allowed foreign carriers to take over the Nigerian aviation sector through questionable commercial agreements.

Borishade came on board as Yuguda was being chased out following several embarrassing incidents and accidents although with no fatality.

The new minister who had had a turbulent time in the education sector came in and tried to give NCAA some free hands to operate and address the spate of incidents dogging the industry. However, the issue of inadequate staffing remains, even as some dead woods in critical departments are still around.

He is, however, yet to demonstrate the commitment to protect the domestic market for the airlines and facilitate a level playing ground for all players in the industry.

Borishade is unwittingly also allowing the pressure from the public and the Presidency to force him into taking some decision that could ruin the industry in the long run. It may be too short to assess him but Borishade has to watch it and take a holistic approach to addressing the crisis in the industry.

The problem of the domestic airlines is a long time crisis that has its roots in economic and political crisis. There is an urgent government investment in critical facilities and manpower just as the policy environment requires a positive change.

Will Borishade's removal do the magic? No! Aviation watchers believe that until the system and the policies are changed positively removing a minister or any aviation chief is like scratching the surface of the problem

Posted by Publisher at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

Governor explains Ogun cargo airport project

OGUN state governor, Gbenga Daniel has said that the establishment of a cargo airport in the state was as a result of the need to reposition the state for future challenges.

By Wole Shadare

The governor said this at a stakeholders forum held recently at the Gateway Hotel in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state, the forum had in attendance traditional rulers, community leaders, and people from Remo Ikenne and Sagamu local governments.

A cargo airport according to the governor cannot be delivered overnight which is the more reason the government met all the stipulated requirements, though the project is part of the state's master plan, but the government is using the private sector as its pivot.

Also speaking, the special adviser to the governor on economic planning and development Yosola Akinbi, said the forum was a family affair, which was called to proffer solutions of different ways of moving the cargo airport project forward and, thus ensuring active participation of all relevant stakeholders.

She however promised that all the stages of the development process which will include inputs from the community will be sought and included into execution.

The project co-ordinator, Mr. Ituah Ighodatorr confirmed the determination of the government to act as a catalyst to ensure that the private sector retains its rightful place in the scheme of things.

The director-general of the Bureau of Lands and Survey, stated that the location for the site of the project is considered most viable, saying that the detailed survey of the areas to be covered by the project has been concluded.

He informed the gathering that, recognisance and detailed survey of the areas to be covered by the project have been concluded, while the excision of the coverage area which includes enueration and validation of economic trees for compensation purposes are in top gear, he however assured traditional rulers that they will get perimeter survey of the affected areas before Xmas.

Another area which was dwelled on has to do with the issue of compensation, but the governor said the people should be more concerned with the prosperity and development that the project would bring to their respective communities and should be less concerned about compensation.

The governor who said his government has a good record of compensation stated that: "During the dualisation of the Abeokuta-Shagamu Road we ensured that all those whose lands were affected were duly compensated, we did not demolish any house until we built new ones for the affected families to move in," he said.

Posted by Publisher at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

Chicken republic pursues repositioning agenda

A multi-phases repositioning agenda that will translate to the emergence of 65 outlets of Chicken Republic a fast food eatery formerly called Chicken Licken has commenced.

Babatola Adeyemi

Mr. Deji Akinyanju, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the eatery who disclosed this at a media briefing recently in Lagos lauded government's import ban on some food products which he said has impacted positively on the fast food business.

Akinyanju, who described the re-branding initiative as a revolution explained that it would transform the culture of service and the quality of food in the nations fast food industry.

For effects he said the company has invested enormous amount on a purpose built training college in Ikeja which is to boost capacity about fast food.

He assured that the revolutionised Chicken Republic would daily guarantee fresh from the oven food, the preparation of which consumers can see.

"Ours is not the usual chicken behind the scene style. You can see the chicken and therefor testify to the quality of what you are paying for" he disclosed.

The overall goal of the new agenda, Akinyanju further disclosed is to position chicken republic as a brand that identifies with the people.

He explained: "The new idea is all about the people. Over the years, having started with Chicken Licken, which is a brand from South Africa, we have learnt a lot about customer needs references and taste profile here in Nigeria. As a result of consumer response to out enquiries, we have decided to be more flexible and provide consumers with a brand that adapts to the local food profile, even as we are conscious of quality and the different tastes of the peoples.

The Chicken Republic chief said, unlike Chicken Licken which boasts of a foreign touch, Chicken Republic perfectly meets the expectations of the people terms of mix, style and branding.

"Beyond the food, people want a vibrant brand. And that is what Chicken Republic request's he stressed.

Consequently, he disclosed that the new food outlet would support some popular initiatives like marathon rallies, beauty pageants and other sports activities among others.

Significantly, Akinyanju said that the re-branded eatery is also focusing on the health of the people."That is why, besides providing fresh from the oven food items, we have embraced the deep fry style for our chickens, which is a more healthy option that reduces oil intake.

Interestingly too, to guarantee sustainability of its improved service delivery, the Chicken Republic boss announced the introduction of a consumer taste panel by the eatery next year.

He said the panel would meet on a regular basis, holding tasting (of its food) verities sessions and interacting with consumers to determine their level of satisfaction, complaints or commendation.

"Next year, Cee Dees, tee shirts and others gifts will be given free to customers who buy to a certain amount which we will disclose later" he further disclosed.

Food concept, with Mr. Paul Farrer as the CEO is the parent company of Chicken Republic.

Farrer, whose company manages five different brands, assured that Nigerians are in for a great time with the repositioned Chicken Republic.

Akinyanju said the federal governments import ban was a boost to the Agriculture industry, adding that this has also facilitated increased investment in the sector.

A major benefit from this, he disclosed is that local chickens which the eatery now uses solely ate readily available.

Posted by Publisher at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

FG requires $36 bn to meet electricity needs by 2015

THE Federal Government would require $36 billion from the private sector to meet its electricity needs in the next ten years even as it has introduced initiatives at encouraging foreign and domestic private sectors in the energy sector.

By Luka Binniyat
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Already, Austria has indicated interest in investing $5 billion into the Nigeria Energy sector once Nigeria has a comprehensive Gas policy conducive to Austria's investors.

Special Adviser to the President on Energy Matters, Professor Anthony Adegbulugbe disclosed this to the Press in Abuja last week after returning with a Nigerian delegation to Austria on energy investment drive.
He told the Press that Nigeria is bent on seeing that a ripe atmosphere for massive foreign investment is put in place so that by the last quarter of next year, foreign investors would start trooping in.

“Investment in Gas infrastructure is a huge one,” he said, “no one is going to bring in billions of dollars if he is not covere4d by an attractive policy, incentive, physical security and good return on his investment,” he said.
He said that it is in line with that that the Nigerian Gas Bill will be passed into law very soon, and an integrated study on Nigerian gas wealth and sundry issues is being sponsored by the World Bank at a cost of nearly $10 million.
He also pointed out the Nigerian Government encouraging gas utilisation through the funding of seven medium power plants in the Niger Delta to increase the electric power generation to 10,000 megawatts by 2007, which according to him will eventually be run by private sector operators.

Speaking further on Government’s initiative in the energy sector, Adegbulugbe said they include “the ongoing privatisation of the refineries, the gas to power projects, the ongoing unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the provision of incentives for private investment in Independent Power Plants (IPP).
“Put in mind that government is standing firm that there must be no gas flaring by 2008”, he said, “all this is to encourage gas utilisation in the country.”

On Austria, he said that its government is keen on facilitating its private investors to participate actively in investment in the Nigerian energy sector.
To fast track this noble initiative, both governments have agreed to set up a task force of government and private sector officials to visit Nigeria in February, 2006 towards exploring investment opportunities and possibilities in the sector.
The delegation was received by the Austrian Prime Minister on Capital Markets and Special Austrian Government Projects, Dr. Richard Schenz who assured the Nigerians that the task force will comprise of representatives of Austria’s ten top energy companies, engineering firms and investment bankers, said the Presidential Adviser on Energy.
He said that Dr. Schenz who is also Vice-President, Austrian Economic Chamber and former Chief Executive of the Austrian oil giant, OMV, said that the privatisation policy and other economic reforms being carried out by Nigeria are capable of attracting investment into the country, and called on the Nigerian government to remove bottlenecks that may hamper investors’ entry into Nigeria.

The Nigerian delegation was in Austria at the invitation of Austrian government and private investors to enable the two countries hold bilateral consultations with private investors, and see how Austrian technology and capability could be of assistance to the revitalization efforts of the Nigeria government.



Posted by Publisher at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

Energem’s Nigeria storage facility hits 50% completion

ENERGEM Resources Inc. is pleased to announce that it has reached 80 percent completion of its 50 per cent owned Nigerian oil storage and distribution facility, recording 500,000 injury free construction man hours on the project.
The company is constructing the facility together with 50 per cent Nigerian joint venture partners the Yinka Folawiyo Group (YFG).

By Hector Igbikiowubo
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The facility will be a refined oil product storage facility with its own deepwater jetty in Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria capable of handling multiple refined fuel products.
Nigeria, a country of some 100 million people, is a major crude oil exporting country but remains dependent on imported refined product to service its internal consumption.
On completion, this facility will be the only privately owned refined oil product storage and distribution facility in Lagos with access to a deep-water jetty.

Currently vessels can spend up to 45 days offshore waiting to be discharged, at considerable additional cost. Engineering and Projects Company Limited (formerly Grinaker LTA Process Engineering Ltd), appointed as both front-end engineers and EPCM contractors, have designed a 66,000 metric tonne storage facility with an anticipated through-put capacity of 175,000 metric tonnes per month.

The facility has been designed to operate on a 24 hour basis and design and construction is in accordance with the American Petroleum Institute standard API-650.

The anticipated completion date for full commissioning is the end of the second quarter 2006. During August and September 2005, all the fuel storage tanks successfully passed their hydrostatic tests.
The total estimated cost of the project, including contingencies, stands at US$43 million. Costs incurred and paid for to date amount to US$28.8 million with an anticipated further amount of US$14.3 million to bring the project to completion.
Of the amount spent to date, US$14.6 million has been funded by Energem, US$14.1 million by a project financing facility and YFG have provided the necessary land and jetty.

A project finance facility of US$20 million from Prudent Bank Ltd, a Nigerian Bank, has been secured towards the funding of the project for a period of 36 months, with a 6 month moratorium on the principal repayment at commercial interest rates.
The facility is secured over the project and is supported by a corporate guarantee given by a wholly-owned Energem subsidiary company, Energem Petroleum Corporation Limited.
The facility repayment schedule permits distribution of profits to the joint venture partners in tandem with debt settlement. Tony Teixeira, Energem Resources Inc CEO, in commenting on the project stated: “We are extremely happy with the progress that the project has made to date.

Our partners have been instrumental in ensuring that the project remains on course and we are proud to have such a prominent Nigerian company as our partners.
The level of commitment shown by all our contractors, partners, consultants and staff has been exemplary. Our commitment to see this project come in on budget and on time, whilst maintaining our excellent safety record, is our priority.”



Posted by Publisher at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

NNPC, JV partners plot improved security in Niger Delta

NIGERIAN National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its joint venture partners have concluded arrangements to boost security surveillance in the Niger Delta with the provision of materials for the various security agencies responsible for maintaining peace in the area.

By Hector Igbikiowubo
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Royal Dutch Shell PLC has disclosed that it has signed a deal with Qatar Petroleum to tap into the huge natural gas fields in the Persian Gulf, and is acquiring more pipeline capacity in the United States to channel the gas to the U.S. market.
While speaking in Lagos at the weekend, Dr. Funsho Kupolokun, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC said the corporation had bought flat-bottom barges for the Nigerian Navy to assist the force in tackling criminal activities in the Niger Delta including illegal bunkering and pipeline vandalism.
Kupolokun disclosed that the efforts of the Navy has helped in reducing the incidence of crude oil theft from the 100,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2003 to 30,000 b/d currently.
Similarly, the NNPC boss disclosed that crude deferment has declined to 140,000 b/d from over 300,000 b/d within the same period.

“Significant improvements have been made in the area of security in the Niger Delta. This is as a result of a number of interventions, namely the (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) EFCC and the Navy. They have been wonderful and of course the industry and the NNPC has been playing their own part.
“NNPC had to buy flat-bottom barges for the Navy and they have been deployed. As a result we are seeing significant improvements. We are encouraged to do more and this year we are going to deliver more to the police, the EFCC and SSS and the Navy to help them to help us,” he said.

However, investigations revealed that just as the police, the Navy, the joint task force operating in the area and the EFCC have improved upon strategies aimed at securing the area, so have those intent on causing grief redoubled their efforts too.
Only last week a 24" pipeline operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), conveying crude oil to Bonny Oil Terminal through the Ogoni area was blown up with a substance suspected to be dynamite.
Almost simultaneously a petroleum products pipeline in the Warri area operated by the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC was also vandalised by suspected thieves, calling to question the degree of security in the Niger Delta area.

The Shell promoted Qatargas 4 project will produce 1.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from Qatar’s North Field over the next 25 years, Shell said. The project includes a liquefaction plant and shipping capability. The project will be 70 percent owned by Qatar Petroleum and 30 percent by Shell. Most of the liquid natural gas will be delivered to North America, beginning around the end of the decade, the company said. Exxon Mobil Corporation and the French energy company Total SA were earlier investors in the development of Qatar’s natural gas reserves, among the world’s largest. At the other end, Shell also announced an agreement with a subsidiary of El Paso Corp. to acquire more capacity at the Elba Island LNG terminal in Georgia. It also reached agreement with another El Paso Corp. subsidiary, Elba Express Pipeline Company LLC, to acquire capacity in a new natural gas pipeline. Both projects will be filed with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval in the third quarter of 2006, Shell said. “The project will contribute to Shell’s goal of growing our natural gas production and reserves position, as well as to increased security and diversity of natural gas supply to North America,” Linda Cook, Shell’s executive director of gas and power, was quoted by the company as saying in Doha, where the contract was signed. Shell, the world’s third-largest publicly traded oil company, has been under investor pressure to explore new resources after disclosing in 2004 that it had overstated its proven reserves of oil and gas. Shell said its 2004 gas sales were around 10.2 million tons from projects in Nigeria, Malaysia, Brunei, Oman and Australia, and the addition of Qatargas 4 would help the company double its gas capacity by the end of the decade.



Posted by Publisher at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

NSE records N21.5b turnover in November

THE Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in the month of November 2005 recorded a turnover of 2.39 billion shares worth N21.5 billion exchanged in 90,394 deals as against a total of 3.55 billion shares valued at N30.5 billion exchange in 99,842 deals for the month of October, 2005.

Peter Egwuatu
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The transactions for the month of November were concentrated in the Banking sub-sector, which accounted for 72.04 per cent of the total turnover volume. As in the preceding month, the Insurance sub-sector that accounted for 10 per cent of the total turnover volume emerged second.

As in the preceding month, Oceanic Bank International Plc emerged as the most active stock (turnover by volume) for the month under review. A turnover of 443.2 million shares was recorded , which represents 18.53 per cent of the turnover for the month. Access Bank Plc with a turnover of 183.5 million units, which represents 7.7 per cent of the turnover volume , emerged second. Co- operative Development Bank Plc took third position recording 1723,216,514 unit of shares.
Market capitalisation of listed securities closed the month under review at N2.751 trillion, a decline by 3.2 per cent from N2.842 trillion recorded at the end of October 2005. The decrease in the market capitalisation was largely attributed to price drops suffered by highly capitalised stocks.

Nigerian Breweries Plc remains the most capitalised stock for the month under review with market capitlaisation of N312.25 billion . First Bank of Nigeria Plc followed with a market capitalisation of N160.05 billion. It was followed by Union Bank Nigeria Plc with market capitalisation of N152.010 billion , while Guinness Nigeria Plc occupied the fourth position with market capitalisations of N119.221 billion.
The new issue listed on NSE for the month of November was a total of 11,075,373,027 shares of Prudent Bank Plc . This brought to 33 and 282 the number of equities listed in the Banking sub-sector and securities listed on the Exchange, respectively.

The NSE All share index , which opened at 25,873.81 points closed at 24,555.85 in the month under review. This shows a decline by 5.9 per cent during the month. Eterna Oil & Gas Plc had 101.96 per cent change in price from 2.04 per share to close at N4.12 per share, followed by Adswitch Plc with 33.33 per cent change from 36 kobo to close at 48 kobo.
John holt Plc recorded a drop by 43.40 per cent from N2.65 per share to close at N1.50, followed by UTC Nigeria Plc which declined by 37.50 per cent from N1.20 per share to close at 75 kobo per share during the month under review.
Thirty-seven corporate trading results were announced during the month under review made up of seven full year results, twenty third quarters, five half year and five first quarter.



Posted by Publisher at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

How mountain boy's dream fizzled out under international glare

Having conquered the Obudu Mountain in 46.00 minutes in training and other non-competitive races, award winning international journalist, Ingrid Martens and a host of local athletic buffs believed Martins Ikpe Ugbo, a mountain boy, would conquer not only his mountain, Obudu Mountain, in the November 27 Obudu Mountain Race, they also believed he would beat the world champion and a host of other top runners from different parts of the world.

But when the chips were down, the local boy's dream of winning the race, and the life-changing sum of $50,000 that would have taken him from the bottom of the mountain to the top, fizzled out under international glare, as OLUKAYODE THOMAS who witnessed the race reports.

AS the November 27 Obudu Mountain Race approached, Ingrid Martens, the award winning international journalist from South Africa, was obsessed with one thing: Talking about Martins Ikpe Ugbo, a mountain boy, who lives in an hamlet at the foot of the Obudu Mountain.

But what else would one have expected from a journalist who left her base in Johannesburg to watch an unsung mountain boy overhaul a world class field to win what was the most competitive, and which price money $50,000 made it the most lucrative mountain race in the world.

"If Martins wins tomorrow, his story will be a great story, a story the whole world will love to read", said Marten a day before the race. Her obsession with Martin is not because both of them answer the same name (Martens - spelt the Scandinavian way, Martins - spelt the English way).

Far from it, Martens' obsession with Martins dates back to a chance meeting about a year earlier at the top of the mountain. The lady was in Nigeria to do some story on tourism. She decided to have a day rest. It was that day that she met three young locals training for the Obudu Mountain Race.

Of the trio, it was Martins, incidentally his namesake, that caught her attention as he has what it takes to win the Obudu Mountain Race. Revelations by expatriates on mountain races and that Matins could conquer Obudu in 46 minutes, that it takes the world champion 48 minutes to do same, brought out the reporter in Martens.

Martens had series of interviews with Martins and his colleagues. She visited their hamlet and had extensive interview, through interpreters, with all members of the their families that were available. Obviously, she was gathering materials that would be used to write the epic story when Martins would be eventually crowned the world champion.

Several postponements of the race notwithstanding, Martens kept faith with Martins and his ability to win the ultimate prize and she promised not only to witness it, but also to write the epic story. The race eventually came up, and Martens was there with a full television crew.

But there was a snag, after over a year, Martens could not locate Martins again. His house is just one of the houses scattered on the foot of the mountain. There are no streets, not to talk of the numbers of houses. There are no telephone numbers to call or anybody she could make contact with.

Faced with the prospect of not locating Martins less than 24 four hours, Martens sat alone in the scorching sun on Obudu Mountain, which normally gives way to biting cold in the evening and all night, so much that you will think you are in another planet.

Then she saw a face from the past, a colleague from Nigeria, whom she had met in Johannesburg. After the exchange of greetings and talks about the lost time, Martens could not but start talking about Martins, the local boy who she had tipped to win the mountain race the next day.

This reporter, an athletic reporter for about a decade, had never heard of Martins, so how could a neophyte from nowhere come to overhaul a field that would include Jonathan Wyatt, the world champion, and Ben du Bois and other top local marathoners to win in Obudu. But Martens again reeled out the statistics.

The world champion, she argued, cover 11.25 kilometres in 48 minutes, Martins on several occasions has done it in 46 minutes. Simple arithmetic supports Martens argument. But where is Martins, the rookie that would not only lose obscurity in less than 24 hours, but also his poverty to become a millionaire?

She thought of so many things to locate him, but all the option was impossible. There are several hamlets scattered at the foot of the mountain. Moving from one to the other will take more than a whole day.

"Martins wining here will be a great story, I am here to see history being made, but how do we locate him?" Martens asked rhetorically.

Her obsession and argument won her a convert in this reporter. But where is Martins? How are we going to locate him? For several hours, all options were explored, none gave the clue on how to locate Martins.

Then as the dusk was about to set in, the unthinkable happened. Martens had decided to watch the media race, then she saw a long queue and on enquiry, she was told they were athletes waiting to collect kits.

And from where the queue started, she started scrutinising the faces on the line one by one. As she was doing this, a young black boy came from nowhere and stood before her and screamed madam. Martens exclaimed as someone who has found a lost treasure.

After locating Martins, Martens dashed to where this reporter sat with the speed of lighting and screamed: "I have found him. I have found him. I have found Martins, he is there with the other athletes, they are all collecting their kits and numbers for tomorrow's race."

Like two young adults who have found a hidden treasure, we both dashed to where Martins stood waiting for his kits and number with other athletes. Martens made a brisk introduction and we made arrangement on how we would meet early tomorrow morning before the race. He gave us a vivid description of how we could locate their hamlet.

As the late evening cold bit harder and harder, strategies on how to locate Martins in the morning were plotted. It was agreed that we meet a few minutes before 6.00a.m. at the bar so that we could take the 6.00a.m. cable car to the bottom of the mountain.

With the cable car, it is just 15 minutes to the bottom of the mountain, a journey that could take between 30 minutes to an hour. This we agreed would give two hours to talk to Martins, his family and their neighbours in the hamlet about the expectation and what they could do with $50,000 if one of them eventually won the prize.

All night this reporter could not sleep, the thought of having a foreknowledge about a mountain boy who would make history and how the story would make headlines was just too much to sleep over. By 5.00a.m the reporter was up.

The first sign that the day may not be as one thought it would be emerged shortly after. As the reporter rushed out to meet the 6.00 a.m. time agreed on with Martens, he hit his head against the wall, he thought nothing of it until when he touched his head a few minutes later and blood covered all his fingers.

With the clock ticking fast to 6.00a.m. the thought of seeking first aid treatment or any form of treatment for that matter was quickly discarded.

The body itself has a healing mechanism, and the reporter rationalised that the blood would not only stop flowing, the body, would heal itself, which it actually did.

Martens and cameraman were waiting for me when I got to the agreed place of meeting a few minutes before 6.00p.m. We quickly dashed to the cable car station and took the first car to the bottom of the mountain.

By using the cable car, we could get to the bottom of the valley in 15 minutes whereas it could take between 30 minutes to an hour by car. We got the second sign that thing may not go the way we had predicted when the station manager told us that the first cable car would not move until 7.00a.m.

The only alternative was to get a car. There are no public transport on the ranch, most of the private car owners we approached turned down the request even when Martens was ready to pay an exorbitant fare, but there was no breakthrough.

The situation looked hopeless and impossible until two youngmen came from nowhere on bikes. After giving them an offer they could not resist, they agreed to take us to the bottom of the mountain.

Martens and his cameraman rode on one, while this reporter took the second bike. Travelling by car or lorry on ranch road is ordinarily dangerous, only natives dare take the risk, but faced with the only alternative and the prospect of missing the big story we craved to write, like a drug addict desperately looking for the next shot, we got on the bikes.

We had hardly covered four kilometres out of the 11.5 kilometre sloppy, curvy and with a lot of sharp bends road when the break of the bike on which this reporter was riding cut. And for the rest of the journey, my heart was in my mouth.

Just when one thought the storm was over at kilometre three, Martins' bike almost had a head on collision with a car. It was by a mystery that the accident was averted.

How the two drivers managed to avert accident could only be because of divine intervention. For a few minutes after we got to the bottom of the mountain, Martens was still shivering, the shock of escaping death by a whisker all because of a story was just too much to bear.

Unlike the well-tarred road on top of the ranch, what can be regarded as roads to the houses scattered on the foot of the mountain are only footpaths, full of thorns and foot slipping stones. As one approach the houses, one can feel, see and even hear poverty talk if one listens carefully

The distance between the ranch, at the mountain top and the bottom of the mountain is just 11.5 kilometres, but in reality, they are separated by a million of kilometres. The Flotsam and Jetsam live at the bottom of the mountain.

Most of the houses are built with mud, in contrast to rock, solid, cemented houses on the ranch. They lack basic amenities. Here one is confronted with the monster called poverty, its influence is pervading. Most of the youths are jobless, the few ones that are lucky are engaged as unskilled workers on the ranch.

The elders engage in farming and hunting. The moment the journalists arrived, everything stopped. Almost everybody recognised Martens and they were happy to see her again after about a year.

The family said Martins had already gone to the track. They delegated two people who would fish him out for us before the race began. Martins they said carried the hope of the hamlet.

Winning the race, they argued, would not only change their lives and afford them the opportunity of living in opulence they had all been dreaming about, it would also do them proud because it would be a big shame for an outsider to come and win the race and beat the son of the soil on his ground.

To achieve this, they had all been praying for Martina all days and nights. They had been fasting for weeks on end to ensure that Martins won

His success, they argued, is the success of the whole hamlet. "After today we will not know poverty again", said an old woman obviously over 70 years, adding, "I never dream I will own a car, but when Martins wins today, he will buy me one."

The young ones too had high hopes. Many prayed for him to win so that he could finance their education. Others were praying for his success so that he could help them start a trade. Others wanted him to buy them motor bike so that they could use it for transport.

Those that wanted to get married and do other sundry things were also looking up to Martins, whose victory they believed was not only certain, but would change their lives. Soon, we met the man who carried the hope of a whole community.

Martins could still afford to smile, and he welcomed us with one. Even to his rivals, Martins was not stingy with his good nature, he joked and assisted those that were warming up in readiness for the race.

"Do you still think you can win today", Martens asked. "I do think so, I know I will win, I have invested two years into this. In between I slowed down, but from the moment the governor (Donald Duke) came here to address us and told us the race would hold, I commenced training again. I have been training seriously now for five months. So I mean, if I don't believe, I could do it, I won't invest so much time, energy and resources, two years of my life and that of my community who have been praying and wishing me well", said Martins.

A 23-year old unemployed graduate of Federal College of Education, Obudu, Martins when not training, farm and run errands for Ranch visitors to make a living.

From a pedigree of runners, his father, a former national track champion is late, while his mother, a nurse on the Ranch is also a former athlete.

"I could rightly say that I am a product of track. "My parents met and got married on the tracks. My father Benedict Evans Ikpe was a national champion in 1000 metres. He won some medals and awards which I look and at daily and draw inspiration from.

"My mum too was an athlete. They met and got married on the track. Then, I have cousins who are footballers, so I could rightly say that I am from a family where sports run in our blood."

In spite of his hardwork and family pedigree in sports, Martins is still relying on a higher power to give him victory.

"By His grace, it is not by my power, but by the grace of God, I have been training for the past two years.

"I know the route and the road, they are mine. I was born and bred here, I know all the tactics that one needs to move on this mountain. This is my mountain, Obudu Mountain is mine, if anybody thinks he can defeat me, good luck. But I know that by the grace of God, I will be the winner", he had said confidently.

But it is not only Martens that was sure that Martins would win the race. The local community too saw him as the winner who within the next few hours would change their story. Officials of the state government also saw him as a potential winner, so when the trials were being done for the local athletes, the Cross River State Commissioner for Health and other officials did not allow Martins to compete.

"They said my standard was above that of the locals, that I should wait for the international runners", enthused Martins.

Now the D-day. The international runners were here. Martins thought little of them or their pedigrees.

"I don't know them, neither do I know anything about them, and I'm not bothered, in fact, I am not ready to know, I am concerned about my own race.

"My best time is 45 minutes or 46 minutes. I have tried to see if I could conquer the mountain in 43 minutes, but no way. At 43 minutes, I run too fast and I get tired. But if I do my normal jogging. It is 45 minutes and if I could do the same time today, I will win the race."

To run, Martins does not have access to what many of his co-competitors, especially the international elite athletes use. Sports medicine sounds like Greek or Latin to him, while he had never heard of vitamins or supplements. He neither had a coach, nor does he know anything about modern running techniques.

"I just depend on my natural strength. I don't have coach, but Mr. Hans Burger of Protea Hotels has been of immense assistance. He gave some tips and the kind of food one should avoid. He warned the against high intake of pepperish food.

"As for local marathon competitions in Nigeria, I have not been taking part because Obudu is cut off from the rest of the country. We don't normally get information. We normally hear of such races weeks after they have been done.

"But my story will change today, because once I win today, I will be sought after, no mountain race will take place without the organiser contacting me. I will be specially invited to all local and international meets."

But beyond being sought after by local and international meet organisers, at stake is the prize money of $50,000 (seven million naira) and Martins' ultimate ambition is to win the prize money because, "with the money, I will have a future".

"At present, the future is very bleak. I want to go back to school. I could not because I don't have the money. But after today, I will be able to go back to school and still run.

"With sound education I will be empowered and achieve my ultimate ambition of becoming either the minister or commissioner of sports. Without education, I can't become a minister, but with education my story will change.

"Then, I have my younger ones, they are fatherless. I will take very good care of them, I will give them good education. It will be a big relief to my mother on whose frail shoulders everything now rests.

"Then my community. I am their hope, they have all been praying and fasting for success. I will assist the young ones to get good education while the elders will get financial assistance to start a trade.

"Life down the mountain is harsh, it is in sharp contrast with life on the Ranch. Winning today will give me the financial power to acquire all those things that I dream of. Things I see on the Ranch but I could not acquire.

"Beautiful cars, nice clothes, holiday on the Ranch, then I have a girl friend who has been faithful to me for the past two years, winning today will enable me reward her faithfulness. I will send her to school and change her life.

"In short, the life of the whole community will change, we will be happier. People on the Ranch that we envy are human beings like us, what separates us is money and after today we will be able to do what they do."

"Training for a life-changing race for two years is not a tea party", said Martins. "I normally start with light training, but when it became a daily affair, it becomes routine and it becomes part of you.

"But in the last one week, I have been doing light training. I go to the gym and work on my thighs to make sure my thighs are okay for today's race. This is the race of my life, winning today will change the story of my life. I will move from the bottom of the mountain to the top of the mountain", he stated.

Those were Martins' last words before the interview was cut short by the arrival of Governor Duke who came to flag off the race.

With the assistance of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN's) Sunday Bada, Martens and her cameraman were able to get vehicle that enabled them record and monitor the runners.

But this reporter did not enjoy such priviledge, his only means of getting to the top of the mountain was through the cable car. Earlier experiences were unpleasant and he vowed never to travel in the car again. But consumed with the passion of writing a great story, he hopped into the cable car.

And for the next 15 minutes, his heart was in his mouth consumed with all manners of thoughts of what would befall him should the cable that moves the car cut and they landed on the mountain or the thick forest, the home of all kinds of reptiles and carnivorous animals.

The cable car arrived the mountain top safely. At the dot of 40 minutes, Martens and this reporter had expected that Martins would be at the last lap coasting home to victory. We saw a couple of white, and black faces far off and thought Martins would be one of them.

But as they coasted home, it became obvious that Martins was not one of them. Martens starred into space in disbelief. The first came, Martins was not there, then the first 50 first 100, he was not there.

Our great story dream fizzled out as the runners came in without Martins in sight. When he finally did, he was 141. Just like the reporters, Martins was thoroughly disappointed.

His dream of opulence, eldorado at the top of mountain was gone with the wind. It is back to poverty, back to his mud house at the bottom of the mountain, back to life of hunger and lack, back to his hamlet without the basic amenities of life.

It was back to everything he hates, and bye-bye to the dream he had had. It is back to hard training and work-out, back to life of day dreaming and hope of winning next year.

But what happened to Martins? Where and how did lose the plot?

"I did what I normally do", said Martins panting. But if you had done what you normally do, you would return 46 minutes, which is two minutes faster than the wining time of 48 minutes returned by Australian Ben du Bois.

"I did everything. I don't know how or where I missed the plot, and forget my race plan. But that my dreams ended like this, I still glorify God. Yes, I covered this distance in 46 minutes on several occasions. It is an open secret here everybody knows it.

"The winner did it in 48 minutes. So what happened to me? Honestly I don't, know, I really don't know, I don't know, I can't explain it. Stage fright? Probably, it could be. This is my first race ever and competing with such big names and international stars who are veterans of many it could be.

"I took 141, I still glorify God. I think it is probably the white men, I was scared of them. I think so, I really think so. But I have learnt a very big lesson here today.

"I know what to do next time. And by his grace, I will not be caught napping again. I am not discouraged by what happened today, it is a lesson and next time I will be more than ready. I will conquer this mountain next year", said Martins.

Martens and this reporter moved on to interview the winners, a story must be written, even if not the type they crave for. Like Martins whose dream fizzled out under international glare, their dream of a great story has just fizzled out too.

Posted by Publisher at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

We won't beg players, says Siasia

ASSISTANT coach of the Super Eagles, Samson Siasia has warned those begging players to play for the national team to henceforth desist from such.

By Gowon Akpodonor

Siasia, who led the national U-20 team to win the FIFA Youth Championship silver in Holland earlier this year, said in a radio programme in Lagos at the weekend that there were many dangers involved when players are begged to play for the national team.

Said Siasia:"By the time you beg a player to play for your team, you have indirectly destroyed your programme. You will not only lose the control of such player, but total control of the team."

According to Siasia, there are many talented players who can play well in the national team, adding that once a player shows sign of lack of commitment to a team, the best option is to drop the player outright.

Siasia further hinted that he was able to control the U-20 youth team that took part in the WYC 2005 in Holland because, according to him, no player was begged to play for the team.

"I don't have time to beg players to play for me. All the players that featured for Nigeria in Holland 2005 World Youth Championship worked hard to pick their shirts."

It will be recalled that Middlesborough of England striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni has vowed not to play for Nigeria in the 25th African Nations Cup holding in Egypt, a decision many Nigerians including the outgoing boss of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) had pleaded with him to rescind.

Posted by Publisher at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)

Cola-Cola tours Nigeria with World Cup trophy January

COCA-COLA, one of the sponsors of the Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup, is set to thrill its Nigerian football fans with an exciting line-up of activities as it brings the FIFA World Cup, football's most prized possession to fans in Nigeria next month.

This rare but real opportunity comes on the heels of the recent elite partnership signed between the world football governing body (FIFA) and the soft drinks giant, Coca-Cola. Under the agreement, Coca-Cola would bring to football fans in Nigeria, the chance to see the solid-gold emblem of world football supremacy.

The Marketing Director of Coca-Cola Nigeria, Ms. Anne Harte said, a programme of activities has been lined up to ensure that Nigerians and football fans from all works of life were selected to experience the excitement of seeing the trophy.

The activities will include an executive private viewing, an unforgettable fans' experience activation and an eight minute animation of the newly renovated FIFA World Cup trophy in a spectacular three- Dimensional form. The public viewing will hold at the Ocean View Plaza, Victoria Island on January 11, 2006.

The viewing event in Nigeria will provide the public with a close-up look at the newly renovated FIFA World Cup trophy, which was physically upgraded in the second half of 2005.

Anne Harte explained that the three-dimensional experience was one of the many ways Coca-Cola had planned to ignite Nigeria's desire to win the coveted trophy by boosting the morale of the Nigerian football fans

Harte said: "Coca-Cola identifies with the constant efforts of Nigeria to win the World Cup, so we are hosting the FIFA World Cup trophy as a way to keep alive the passion to win the trophy come 2010 and beyond."

The three-month trophy tour, which is kicking off in Africa would bring the

one-of-a-kind solid-gold emblem of world football supremacy to fans in Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Japan Korea, England, Greece among others.

Posted by Publisher at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

Beijing eyes $16m returns from 2008 Olympics

ORGANISERS of the 2008 Olympic Games holding in Beijing, China have said they could generate a profit to the tune of

$16 million (£9.2 million), according to reports by the state media.

Since the Los Angeles Games, most hosts have struggled to break even as running costs kept soaring.

But efficient Beijing marketing chiefs have signed deals with 10 domestic sponsors and 11 global companies, Xinhua said.

"We would like to see $1billion (£580 million) in sponsorships, but there is much to do to reach that figure," said Beijing organiser, Jiang Xiaoyu.

Los Angeles set a record profit of $220 million when it hosted the 1984 Olympics.

Beijing's forecast operating budget is about $2 billion, owing to heightened security priorities.

But Chinese organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are confident that the sum will be more than clawed back, and have set a profit target of $16 million, according to Xinhua.

"The Beijing Organising Committee's (BOCOG) budget will be met by the IOC's contribution from the sales of broadcast rights and international sponsorships and also by BOCOG's efforts in finding commercial partners and sales of tickets," said IOC coordinating commission chairman, Hein Verbruggen.

Sales of tickets to the 2008 Games are expected to start in early 2007.

"The prices of tickets for the opening ceremony and some popular events will be relatively high," Xinhua previously quoted BOCOG vice executive president, Liu Jingmin as saying.

Profits from sales of products bearing the recently released five mascots of the Beijing Games, the "Friendlies", could reach as high as $300 million, Xinhua said.

To stage the last Olympics, Athens set a budget of $2.4 billion (1.9 billion euros), but ended up spending more than nine billion euros, making the 2004 Games the most expensive in history.

Beijing has vowed to come in below Athens' operating budget, but is likely to have to spend far more - about $40 billion - to get the Chinese capital's infrastructure ready to host the Games.

Posted by Publisher at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

Committee makes clarification on guidelines

THE electoral committee that would conduct elections into the board of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) yesterday made further clarification on the election guidelines.

The release signed by the committee's chairman, Hon. Nduka Irabor said, the

electoral committee, in exercise of the powers conferred on it, has decided to make the following clarifications:

Said the committee:"Number of representatives per association: No State Football Association or any other member of the NFA shall have more than one representative on the Executive Committee. This is in compliance with Article 39(7) of the NFA Statutes 2004.

"Election of 2nd Vice Chairman. In compliance with Articles 39(2) & 39(8) of the NFA Statutes 2004, the electoral committee shall not conduct an election for the position of the 2nd vice chairman. The Nigerian Football League (NFL) shall conduct an election for the position, and submit the name of the duly elected official to the NFA. The provisions of the Articles referenced in this section are as follows:


a. Article 39(8): "All members of the executive must be elected at the General Assembly duly convened for that purpose."

b. Article 39(2) provides for two deputy chairmen, one of who shall be the duly elected chairman of the NFL.

Secondly, On the Conduct of the Elections: In accordance with Articles 33(2), 34(2)(q), 40(b) and 42(b) of the NFA Statutes 2004, the electoral committee shall conduct the elections at a venue provided by the Executive Committee.


b. Article 34(2)(q) gives the General Assembly of the NFA the power to elect the chairman, vice-chairman and members of the Executive Committee.


c. Articles 40(b) & 42(b) give the Executive Committee the power to prepare and convene the General Assembly of the NFA.


d. Article 33(2) gives the Executive Committee the authority to fix the place and date of the Ordinary General Assembly.

The election earlier slated for Katsina will now take place in Kano on December 29.

Posted by Publisher at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

Nnacheta promises to make NFA financially independent

THE perennial problem of funding which makes the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) to always go cap in hand to the government for the funding of its programmes and projects may be a thing of the past if Tony Nnacheta, one of the contestants in the election into NFA board slated for December 29, is elected the FA chairman.

By Olukayode Thomas

Funding for decades has been the major problem of Nigerian football. Many believe that a country such as Nigeria, overflowing with football talents and millions passionate football fans, ought to be able to sell the game as a commodity to the public and make money.

Nnacheta, a thoroughbred professional, who has achieved success in the private sector, promised to do just that if elected the chairman of the NFA.

A copy of his programme made available to The Guardian indicated that Nnacheta would make the NFA independent of government funding in four years if elected chairman of the football board.

In the first year, he hoped to get 100 per cent support from the government for both capital and recurrent expenditures. By the second year, it will reduce to 50 per cent.

By the third year, the demand for capital expenditure will be 25 per cent while that of recurrent will be zero per cent. By the fourth year, the demand from government for both capital and recurrent expenditure will be zero per cent.

Nnacheta promised to effect the establishment of NFA Enterprises Plc to undertake a joint venture for the commercial production of kits and services for three million people in Nigeria and other West African countries.

He also promised to insist on professional and modern management practices for administration and technical teams, including referees.

Nnacheta also promised meaningful deployment of Nigeria's currently under-utilised and without maintenance.

Posted by Publisher at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

Odegbami refutes appointment

CHAIRMANSHIP aspirant for the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) election, Segun Odegbami has denied a report on national television that he has been appointed Secretary-General of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA), insisting the report is aimed at derailing his bid to be the next chairman of the association.

"I don't know anything about this," said Odegbami in reaction to the report first carried by the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) yesterday.

"Who appointed me? This has nothing to do with me. This is to create distraction because my interest is the chairmanship of the NFA. I don't know what they are afraid of. This is an election, not a life and death thing," Odegbami queried.

Posted by Publisher at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

Okoronkwo eyes gold, joins FC Moscow

SUPER Eagles' central defender, Isaac Okoronkwo, recently recalled to the national team in preparation for the 2006 Nations Cup after a long absence, has predicted that Nigeria would win the competition despite the presence of such heavyweights as Cameroun, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia and the emerging powerhouse, Togo.

By Christian Okpara

Okoronkwo, who recently moved to Russia's big team, FC Moscow, from Alania Valydikykaz on a two-year deal, said he had regained his form after his misadventure in England, adding that Nigerians will see the old Isaac when the Nations Cup begins next month.

"For such a big club like FC Moscow to place their faith in me means that a new chapter has been opened in my career. It will certainly rub off on my performance for Nigeria, and the Nations Cup being the first competition I will be involved in after the move. I will work hard to prove the officials of the club right.

"I believe we have the best blend of players in Africa, and baring any distraction, Nigeria will win the Nations Cup in Egypt," Okoronkwo said.

Okoronkwo, The Guardian gathered from Russian newspapers, has become such a big hit in the country such that FC Moscow's officials have been drooling over his performance.

In one of the newspapers, FC Moscow's coach, Leonid Slutskyi, said: "Okoronkwo has been in my programme for six months, during which I studied and acquainted myself with his exceptional strength and ruggedness. In fact, our fourth placing on the table would have been better if we had had him from the onset."

In his own assessment, the club's chief executive officer, Belous Uryi, said Okoronkwo had the all- round qualities of a central defender, and called on the club's technical crew to use the occasion of his presentation to the club fans and officials to quickly integrate him in their programme for their pursuit of European glory.

Posted by Publisher at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

Congo DR eyes trophy as Angola looks to the future

CONGO Democratic Republic's captain, Mwadi Mabika has said that her team has a chance of lifting the trophy after it booked a place in the semi-final stage of the competition.

By Adeyinka Adedipe

Mabika who inspired her team to a famous victory over Angola, said that her team's chances of winning the

championship have been boosted.

"I believe my team has the chance like every other team that gets to the semi- final to lift the trophy.

"We are going to take each game as it comes and we are not afraid to take on our opponents."

Speaking on the three-point shot that gave them victory over the Angolans, Mabika revealed that her10 years participation in the WNBA in the United States of America had prepared her for such moment." This is not the first time I will be doing what I did. I have been playing in the WNBA for 10 years and the experience had helped me greatly,"Mabika stated.

Coach of the team, Mozingo Monga, said that his side has continued to improve with every game, adding that it was hardwork rather than luck that gave them the victory over Angola.

Monga stated that his team has never played under tension, but was working hard to ensure it gets to the final and possibly lift the trophy.

Meanwhile the Angolans have attributed their loss to the absence of big players in their team.

"The problem is that we do not have big players in the team. Since most of the players moved abroad, it has not been easy raising a team that has big players.

"The female team in Angola is not also enjoying the support of the federation back home as the concentration is on the male team, so there is little we can do other than to hope for the best for in the future," Angolan coach Morreira said.

Against Niger Republic, the Angolans showed that they were still a side to be reckoned with. They took the Nigeriens to the cleaner, dictating the pace of the game at will. They also shot from everywhere and defended well to win the game.

The Angolans, though small in size, were shoulder above Niger drawing applause from the few fans at the

stadium due to the Christmas celebration.

If they had not lost to Mozambique in their opening game, they would have qualified for the last

four.

The performance of the South Africans in the championship will leave a lasting impression on the fans and basketball buffs alike.

Posted by Publisher at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

Sponsor promises to jet in Eto'o, Drogba, Essien

THE lost glamour of the continent premier soccer award now Christen Globacom/CAF Awards may be regained next month, if the sponsor's plan to ensure that all finalists in all the categories of the award attend the ceremony materialises.

By Olukayode Thomas

In last few years, the award had lost its glamour due to the absence of recipients of awards from the ceremony, especially the main prize, the African Footballer of the Year due to commitment to club assignments and engagements in Europe and other parts of the world.

But Globacom, the Nigerian telecommunication, which had, since sealed an agreement with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to sponsor the awards for the next four years, has promised to restore the lost glamour.

As a first step in that direction, the company says it will ensure that all the finalists attend the ceremony slated for Abuja in 14 days time. A private jet they revealed will be sent to bring in the trio of Camerounian and Barcelona star, Samuel Eto'o, winner of the last two editions of the award, Ghana's Michael Essien and Cote d' Ivoire's Didier Drogba

Only last month, Eto'o placed third in the FIFA World Footballer of the Year behind Brazilian football Whiz kid, Ronaldinho and Chelsea and England's midfielder, Frank Lampard.

Also, the sponsor is planning to honour all e past winners of the Awards. Plans are also on to bring in the manager of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho as a special guest.

Posted by Publisher at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

Kaita, Etafia are Faro early birds; Galadima promises consolidation

Feyenoord midfielder, Sani Kaita and Marola Swallows goalie, Greg Etafia have been the early birds at the Super Eagles camp in Faro, Portugal. There are also indications that more players will arrive camp on Tuesday after some premiership game in England.

Ben Alaiya

Group Sports Editor


Some especially, those based in Ukraine, like Julius Aghahowa were also expected in camp during the week, but NFA spokesman, Robinson Okosun, declared that there was no problems about players arrival n camp, assuring that this week will be the defining week for players to arrive camp for the Egypt 2006 MTN Africa Cup of Nations. “We are ready and nothing will stop us from reaching our heights in terms of players invitation, but we are just playing along to ensure that hey come as and when due, because we wan to avoid unnecessary controversy.

Meanwhile incumbent NFA boss Ibrahim Galadima has said he plans to consolidate on the reforms his administration has started when he is re-elected for another term on Thursday.

“First and foremost, it is on record, my board has worked so hard, against all odds, over the last three years to establish a platform and lay a solid foundation for the sustainable development and growth of Nigerian Football whilst protecting the integrity and credibility of the game of Football, both at home and abroad,” Galadima said.

“The results are evident, with the entrenchment of the NFA Statutes as the supreme Law to govern the administration and management of football in Nigeria in line with international best practices, Generation of Interest and Credible Participation at all levels, Democratization and Empowerment of Football Structures culminating in the current process of a truly democratic elections into the NFA Executive Committee (Board) with the NFA Congress (States FA, Players Association, Referees Association, Coaches Association, League and Premier Clubs, etc.,) having the opportunity to freely exercise their statutory rights as outlined in the Statutes (the first time in history).

“The next step is to consolidate the reforms and the gains achieved so far, by steadfastly continuing to work, in partnership and collaboration, with all stakeholders (Government, NFA Members, Organized Private Sector, etc.,) to set, cement and strengthen the structures/policies.”

Galadima is one of six aspirants for the NFA top job. The others are Segun Odegbami, Taiwo Ogunjobi, Lumumba Adeh, Tony Nnachetta and Sani Lulu.

Posted by Publisher at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

Enugu boil as Akpokona, Owumi dump Rangers

The city of Enugu is boiling following the anticipated move of Rangers Chairman, Davidson Owumi and coach Lawrence Akpokona, out of the team.

By Emeka Nwani

Assistant Sports Editor

Daily Independent learnt from Enugu that there are frantic moves by supporters and government officials to nip in the bud the threat by the duo to leave Rangers.

Almost everybody in the state is aware that Akpokona and Owumi might dump the team for Port-Harcourt based sides and there is war amongst all stakeholders in the team to prevail on the government to stop them from moving out of the team.

Christopher Okafor, a staunch supporter of the team told Daily Independent in Enugu that they would do everything possible to make them stay at least for next season.

“Can’t you read the mood in the state? It is going to cost us a lot of problem if we lose the two of them. I am very sure that there will be riot in the state because they have done so well for the team in spite of what are saying.

“When Akpokona was recruited two season’s ago, so many people complained that Owumi has appointed his brother from Delta State. But we have seen how he has been able to transform the team to one of the best in the country.

“Rangers may not have won any trophy since he joined the team, but looking at the Government has supported the team, it is a big achievement that Rangers is still playing in the Premier League.

“It goes to show that he is the right coach for the team. They cannot sign on any good player, but Akpokona made sure that some players from the feeder team are integrated into the main team and then he would make do with any player from another team.

“Now we are on the verge of losing him because the Government cannot take adequate care of him.

“For Owumi, he has done so well for the team and losing him will greatly damage the integrity of the team. And I don’t think anybody will do anything better than he has done for the team.

“But we are going to do everything to make sure that they remain with the team for next season,”Okafor said.

There are high-level moves by the Government to meet with Akpokona and Owumi to prevail on them to handle the team next season, but Akpokona has said that only good welfare policy will make him tinker the team again for 2006 season.

Posted by Publisher at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

Odegbami denies interest in NFA Sec Gen

Ex-international Chief Segun Odegbami has refuted claims that he has given up on his Nigeria Football Association (NFA) chairmanship and would be going for the Secretary General. He insisted that he would go all the way for the chairmanship election coming up on Wednesday.

By Taiwo Alimi

Snr. Correspondent, Lagos

Speaking on the Lagos sports radio, BrilaFm, Odegbami said he was surprised to hear this piece of information while denying knowledge of such appointment.

‘‘Somebody must be orchestrating something and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. Who appoints the secretary-general? Is it an NFA board hat has expired or is it the ministry? I don’t know anything about it the post is not on offer’’.

The former Green Eagles skipper who spoke with brila fm.net early Monday morning said the speculation was coming from his opponents.

‘‘Some people are just spreading stories about just to create distractions. I don’t know who is paying whom to do this kind of story. I don’t know what they are afraid of’’

The man fondly described as mathematical reaffirmed his resolve to pursue the chairmanship of the NFA but said it was not a do or die affair. ‘‘This is not a matter of life and death it is just a simple election. I don’t want to be there by all means’’

Continuing he said he is concern with the dwindling fortune of Nigerian football and ready to go all out for the top seat of the NFA.

“I am a stakeholder in Nigerian football and the present state of the game calls for action. As I sit here and I look at the structure of Nigerian football that has been built over the years by different administrations, I see a structure that has almost collapsed, the NFA secretariat couldn’t have been in a worse state. Football development in the country as far as the NFA is concern is at zero level and for those of us in the business of football it has never been worse.

All the gains of the past ten years have totally been eroded by various events that have happened in the past couple of years. To such an extent that Nigerian football at the moment no longer draws the same kind of respect it has drawn before. It does not attract the same kind of attention and in fact it is at its lowest ebb. We need to rescue the game from those who have sent the game to this abyss”.

Posted by Publisher at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

Ejiogu opts for Enyimba

Dolphin Football Club of Port Harcourt Chijioke Ejiogu is set to leave for Enyimba Football Club of Aba for the 2006 Globacom Premier League season.

A source from Enyimba FC confirmed yesterday in Port Harcourt that Ejiogu arrived Aba last weekend to negotiate with the management of Enyimba on the terms of his contract for next season.

According to the source, both parties are yet to conclude on what the player is asking for. Though the management of Eyinba is considering it, but the general feeling is that what the player is asking for is on the high side.

"Ejiogu was in Aba over the weekend to finalise his contract with Enyimba FC, though they could not reach any compromise because the player in question was asking for too much.

"Although I know Enyimba is capable of paying him whatever he wants, but I think they just want to be on the safe side because players are full of tricks these days.

“But as far as I know, Chijioke has indicated his interest in playing for Enyimba next season," he re-affirmed.

In his reaction, Ejiogu confirmed that he was ready to join any team that is interested in hiring his services, adding that he was ready to play for Enyimba, if they needed him.

"I will render my goal-keeping services to any club that needs me. I did not sign for life with Dolphin, so I can join any club I want. Enyimba is my next hope and I will play there by the grace of God," Ejiogu stressed.

Posted by Publisher at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

Galadima foresees brighter days for NFA

Outgoing Chairman of the Nigeria Football Association, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, has said that the partial autonomy being enjoyed by the association is a foundation for the beginning of good things to come to the football house.

By Peter Edema and

Orkula Shaagee, Abuja

He says the decision of the football governing body to be autonomous is not to confront anybody but to ensure that the game of football flourish in the country.

Galadima, who stated this in a chat with Daily Independent in Abuja, said he was grateful to those Nigerians that have laid the foundation and fought to ensure that the nation’s football ruling body gained autonomy.

“We appreciate what is happening in the Nigeria Football Association now, it has never been like this before, but we are also mindful of the efforts of those who were here before us to ensure that the association gains autonomy”, Galadima stated.

He said with him still heading the association, courtesy of his sole ticket from the North-West zone, he would carry on with the effort to ensure full autonomy for the Nigeria Football Association, even if not returned as the association’s chairman.

Posted by Publisher at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

Teenage escorts for Coca-Cola World Cup trophy tour

Four Nigerian teenagers have been picked for the unique opportunity to escort the FIFA World Cup Trophy when the revered symbol of the world’s most popular game touches down in Lagos.

The four teenagers, who were picked from a number of schools in and around Lagos based on strict criteria, will act as the official escorts and of the FIFA World Cup Trophy. They will also act as official Bearers of the trophy when it arrives.

According to information available from Coca-Cola sponsors of the trophy tour, the four ambassadors will jet out to Accra in Ghana on January 8th and to escort the trophy into Nigeria on the 9th as official escorts for the real solid gold FIFA World Cup Trophy. Te

The four teenage trophy escorts were selected in a pre-event programme of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour organised by Coca-Cola to celebrate leadership qualities and achievement among teenagers in the country.

Part of the criteria for the selection of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Escorts according to Coca-Cola; include evidence of having used football to breakdown barriers. The students selected are those who demonstrate special leadership qualities and act as unifying forces in the school environment. They are also students who have achieved above average academic distinction.

Coca-Cola has also pencilled down a list of over 4000 students to be part of a number of exciting activities of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour activation. These include a hi-tech Fan Experience Activation expected to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience planned by Coca-Cola to thrill lovers of the round leather game between January 9th and 11th 2006.

Nigeria is one of the 29 countries the real solid gold FIFA World Cup Trophy regarded as the world most recognized icon is visiting in partnership with Coca-Cola the world’s number one real refreshment drink.

Posted by Publisher at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

Plateau clears Gumel volleyball trophies

The Plateau State volleyball team to the 7th Gumel National Open Volleyball Championship held in Gumel, Jigawa State, has won the men and women categories of the event.

By Orkula Shaagee

Correspondent, Abuja

With the victory, the Plateau State team has pocketed N90, 000, being prize money for the two victories.

A winner in the men’s category takes home N50, 000 and the winner in the women’s category takes home N40, 000.

Players of the state team have also won three prizes to top the awards’ winners list. They are Courage Sule who won the Most Valuable Player award for men, Nathan O. who won the Most Disciplined Player, and Ladi Jamelt who emerged the Best Server (women).

Ogbonna Okoh, whose Nigeria Police Force team pocketed N30, 000, for placing second in the men’s category, won the Best Server award, while the Nigeria Immigration Service came second and third in the women’s and men’s categories respectively.

Other award winners at the 10-day fiesta attended by 12 teams were Mariam Garba of the Immigration Service as the MVP (women), Tseveni Yohana of Immigration as the Best Server (men), Amawu Comfort and Most Disciplined Player (women).

Host, Jigawa State, also won the Best Behaved Team award in women, while the Federal College of Education, Kano, won the Best Behaved Team award (men).

Posted by Publisher at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

NFA insists on release of players for Nations Cup

The Nigeria Football Association is insisting that European clubs holding on to Nigerian players should honour FIFA regulations on the release of players for national engagements, especially the African Nations Cup holding in Egypt next January.

By Peter Edema

Snr. Correspondent, Lagos

The continental championship will take place between January 20 and February 10, 2006. FIFA regulations require clubs to release players two weeks before the commencement of the championship. But many of the clubs are unwilling to honour this and are asking the NFA to allow them hold on to some of the players for four or five days into the two weeks’ release deadline by FIFA before releasing them.

The NFA chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, in an interview on Friday in Abuja, insisted that these European clubs must abide by FIFA’s two weeks regulations.

According to him, most of the clubs are seeking NFA’s understanding on this issue, but he said agreeing to such a request would be detrimental to Super Eagles’ aspiration of an excellent outing in the Nations Cup.

He said it was because the coaches envisaged such a problem that 40 players were invited to Faro Camp in Holland, adding that with the situation, it would be difficult if not impossible for the coaches to announce the team list now.

Galadima noted that he was in constant touch with the clubs concerned on the issue, but refused to disclose what the NFA would do in case the clubs refused to heed NFA’s demend to release the players.

Posted by Publisher at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

Egypt 2006: ‘Players won’t have problem with bonuses’

The Nigeria Football Association (NFA) has assured of a crisis-free African Nations cup in Egypt starting January 20, 2006.

Peter Edema

Snr. Correspondent, Abuja

The NFA boss, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, in interview on Friday, said players’ winning bonuses and allowances are being taken care off, promising that there won’t be any problem between the players and the NFA during the nations’ cup.

According to Galadima, the NFA will be paying the players the same winning bonus players got during the 2006 world cup qualifiers.

“They know what we paid them during the qualifiers, we are paying the same and since the players are not complaining about this, we will still use the same yardstick,” he said.

He said until the players complain about the present winning bonuses and allowances, there won’t be need to review them.

According to him, “if the players complain, then there would be the need to sit down with the players.”

He said the NFA had sent to the sports ministry the estimate of what it would cost the nation to prosecute the Nations’ Cup in Egypt, adding that the ministry would take care of that.

He said he had been elected into the board of the NFA since only two people contested from the North-West zone.

Posted by Publisher at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

Ladoja petitions PDP • Sheathe your swords, Obasanjo tells parties to Oyo crisis • Truce panel due in Ibadan •I was not abducted – Chief Judge

The Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, has petitioned the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party over the political crisis in the state.

Yusuf Alli, Toyin Obadina, Akin Oyedele and Niyi Odebode

Our correspondents learnt of the petition on Monday, just as President Olusegun Obasanjo appealed to a stalwart of the PDP, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, and other politicians in the state to sheathe their swords.

A source said that Ladoja, in his petition dated December 24, 2005, and addressed to the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, requested that a decisive step be taken on the crisis.

He also demanded that Adedibu and those who caused last week’s mayhem in Ibadan should be penalised.

He said, “In spite of provocative statements and violent attacks on me, my parents and my administration, I have behaved like a mature politician and a statesman. I have not joined issues with Baba Adedibu.

“The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the attack on my office while the police were watching helplessly.

“The PDP should look into the crisis and apply appropriate sanction on whoever is involved.”

The governor listed 21 items he wanted the party to investigate and attached other relevant documents, including copies of some interviews Adedibu granted some newspapers.

He accused Adedibu of creating fear and terror by instigating the public against his administration.

Ladoja, however, urged the PDP leadership to ensure an open inquiry into the crisis.

He added, “All stakeholders in the crisis should be called to lay their cards open and once and for all, so that people will not run away with the impression that the party has no discipline.”

Although the petition was submitted to Ali on Monday in Abuja, it was learnt that a panel from the PDP might visit the state on Tuesday(today).

In Ibogun, Ogun State, Obasanjo advised the parties to the Oyo crisis to embrace peace.

“I will just plead with you and others, who are in the mainstream of Oyo State politics, to bear in mind, these four important items: peace, security, solidarity and loyalty,” the President said.

Obasanjo, who spoke when he received Adedibu during the celebration of the 2005 Ibogun Olaogun Day, described the strongman of Ibadan politics as a force to reckon with.

The President said, “We appreciate your coming. We appreciate not only your coming, we appreciate your coming in a very special style.

“Chief Adedibu, you have for a long time been a force to reckon with in the politics of Ibadan in particular and Oyo State in general.”

The President had earlier apologised to Adedibu for the insistence of security agents that he should disembark from his horse before entering the venue of the ceremony.

Obasanjo explained that when Adedibu came, he instructed that he should be allowed to enter the venue on a horse.

He said, “There are times that the security people overrule us. This is one of such occasions. I was overruled. In fact, rudely overruled by my security experts and I have no choice but to keep my mouth shut, when I had been rudely overruled.”

Obasanjo urged Nigerians to focus on the development of their communities, irrespective of their political affiliations.

He also congratulated the new Olowu of Owu, Oba Olusanya Dosunmu, saying that his appointment was not a mistake.

Meanwhile, the Oyo State Acting Chief Judge, Justice Afolabi Adeniran, has dispelled the rumour of his abduction.

In a telephone interview with our correspondents, Adeniran also confirmed receiving a letter from the group of 14 lawmakers loyal to Ladoja asking him to discountenance a directive by the 18 pro-Adedibu legislators to raise a panel to investigate the alleged gross misconduct of the governor.

The acting CJ, however, said he would on Wednesday look critically into the two letters to determine his next line of action.

A delegation of top PDP functionaries is billed to arrive the state on Tuesday as part of efforts by the stakeholders to resolve the crisis.

The Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ayodele Adigun, said the state was well prepared to receive the PDP team.

Obasanjo had reportedly said the findings of the delegation would determine his final position on the matter.

He also said that he would appraise the situation from reports expected to be submitted by the police and the State Security Service.

Also on Monday, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Adeolu Adeleke, insisted that the state police command was acting a script handed over to it by an unnamed group in withdrawing his security aides.

Adeleke, who leads the 14 pro-Ladoja legislators, said that the police had by their action exposed his life to danger.

The PUNCH, Tuesday, December 27, 2005

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FAAN introduces new security measures at airports

Aviation authorites and airline operators have introduced new security measures to check movement of passengers and luggage at some of the nation’s airports.

Oluseto Olatuyi

The measures include the installation of baggage screening machines and presentation of identity cards by passengers before boarding an aircraft.

Most of the screening facilities were installed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria shortly after the Sosoliso Airlines plane crashed in Port Harcourt on December 10.

At the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja Lagos, for instance, almost all the airlines pasted notices requiring their passengers to submit their luggage for checks, and to present an item to identify themselves.

One of the airlines, Chanchangi, in a small attachment to its tickets wrote, “Dear customers, kindly present one of the following at the boarding point – National Identity Card, international passport, driver’s licence and organisation’s identity card.”

All luggage to be checked in by the airline officials must also pass through the giant screening machine at the departure hall of the airport.

These measures, according to the Public Relations Manager of the airline, Alhaji Tukur, are mandatory.

Shortly after the Bellview plane crash at Lisa, Ogun State on October 22, the Federal Government banned the transfer of tickets by passengers.

Unlike before, FAAN security operatives are now stationed at the entrance of the departure lounge.

The FAAN had last week closed the second entrance to the departure lounge to enable it instal a screening machine.

Our correspondent also learnt that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, in its bid to ensure safe operations, particularly at cargo processing areas, had closed the cargo shed at the domestic wing.

A source said that the measure was taken because the shed had no screening machines.

Security at the airport has also been beefed up in order to check touting .

The recent air accidents in the country gave rise to the suspicion that they might have been caused by security lapses at the airports.

The PUNCH, Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

NITEL: Orascom, Newtel emerge final bidders

Only two investors, out of the six pre-qualified for the acquisition of 51 per cent Federal Government shares in the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited and its mobile arm, Mtel, have made it to the final stages of technical and financial bids.

Oluyinka Akintunde and Everest Amaefule, Abuja

A source, who confirmed this development to our correspondents on Monday in Abuja, named Orascom of Egypt and Newtel International as the two investors.

He said the two firms were the only bidders that met the December 16, 2005 deadline of the Bureau of Public Enterprises for the submission of bids.

“Four firms dropped out in the bid for the companies,” the source added.

The four investors that failed to submit technical and financial bids are: MTN Group of South Africa, Telkom/Vodacom Consortium from South Africa, Celtel International B.V, and Huawei/Jacuz Consortium.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that at least three of the investors had withdrawn their bids.

According to our source, the withdrawal of the four firms from the bid for NITEL/Mtel may not be unconnected with the controversy that surrounded the International Submarine Cable, otherwise known to as SAT-3.

In an interview with our correspondents on December 16, the Director-General of the BPE, Mrs. Irene Chigbue, disclosed that the telecommunication firm would be sold on Thursday, December 29.

She also revealed that the government had finally approved the sale of the company along with SAT-3, which is regarded as the cash cow of NITEL.

She stated, “Most of the bidders had threatened to withdraw and some actually withdrew. They were not patient to wait for government to take a stand to resolve the matter.

“But as you know, it has been resolved and the sale will hold on December 29, 2005. We are going to sell SAT-3 along with NITEL/Mtel.”

Our correspondents gathered that the bid documents submitted by the remaining two bidders contained detailed post-acquisition plans for the first national carrier.

BPE had required the investors to specify in the bid documents the number of shares they were willing to acquire in the telecommunication company, as well as the value of the shares.

The technical evaluation of the bidders is aimed at determining their competence. Only the successful ones will proceed to the final stage of the financial bid on December 29.

Vodacom had on October 21, 2005 pulled out of the Telkom Consortium’s bid for NITEL, because the Federal Government was not considering a separation of the fixed and mobile businesses of Nitel.

The MTN Group on December 1, 2005, indicated that it would withdraw from the bid.

Its reason was not unconnected with the initial plan to withdraw SAT-3 from the sale of Nitel/Mtel.

SAT-3, which happens to be the main attraction for many of the bidders, is a 15,000-kilometre high performance fibre optic cable that links Europe with South Africa and some West African countries.

The Nitel/Mtel transaction has been troubled by controversy and an uncertainty over whether or not to sell it with SAT-3.

While the Minister of Communications, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, is inclined towards selling the telecommunication firm without SAT-3; the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, and the BPE are in support of its sale with SAT-3.

Another twist was added to the controversy when the NCC on December 1, 2005, said that Nitel/Mtel would not be sold to any existing Nigerian mobile licence holder.

According to the NCC, Nitel/Mtel would be sold only to an existing Nigerian Mobile licence holder on the condition that such holder forfeits the existing licence.

By implication, the MTN Group was at a disadvantage because it has a subsidiary in the country, the MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.

The PUNCH, Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

Third term: Presidency tackles bishop

In spite of its denial of a third term agenda for President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Presidency on Monday said there was no need to change the nation’s leadership in 2007 for the sake of it.

Yusuf Alli and Chiawo Nwankwo

It also said only few Nigerians could fit into the shoes of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The position of the Presidency was made known by the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.

Fani-Kayode spoke in Lagos in a response to a comment by the Catholic Bishop of Abuja Diocese, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, who asked the President to shelve his bid for a third term tenure.

Onaiyekan said there were over 5,000 Nigerians that could provide better leadership for the nation than Obasanjo.

But Fani-Kayode said Onaiyekan was not addressing the fundamental issue at stake.

He said, “We believe the distinguished archbishop completely missed the point. And the point is this. How many of those people are really capable of running the country in an efficient, just and equitable manner as is being done today?

“How many are capable of running the economy and fighting corruption the way it is being done today? How many are capable of restoring the fortunes of our great nation in the international arena as is being done today?

“As you know, we have tremendous admiration for church leaders, and of course we revere the church of God. But with all due respect, the suggestion that in a country of 150million people, only 5,000 Nigerians are capable of ruling is simply not true.When you really look at it, I am sure that up to one million or even two million are capable of ruling.

“But how many could have won us debt relief and debt cancellation as is being done today?

“How many could have boosted our foreign reserves, increase agricultural production, consolidate our banks and revive our manufacturing sector as is being done today?

“We agree that in every institution, whether government, a private company, a media house, a political party or even the church itself, there must be room for a change of leadership and at the appropriate time, such changes must come. But the quality, not quantity, of individuals that are capable of taking over then becomes the issue.

“And when you have a choice in any of these institutions, you don’t change leadership simply for the sake of change.”

Fani-Kayode said the Presidency’s interest in the 2007 poll was to avert the re-emergence of bad leaders.

He added, “It is not whether there are one million or 5,000 that can maintain a high standard or keep the flag flying. The fact of the matter is that judging from the type of bad quality of leadership that we have had in this country between 1979 and 1999, people will need to be extremely careful in making decision as to who should rule them in the future.

“This is a very critical point. We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to be taken back to the root and the degeneration of the past by anybody. We must cultivate courage to insist on the very best quality of leaders and we must insist on maintaining the very high standard that this administration has set, no matter what that takes.”

Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emmanuel Arigbe-Osula, advised Obasanjo to be satisfied with the 11 years he would have ruled the country when his tenure expires in 2007.

Besides being in power since 1999 under civil rule, Obasanjo ruled the country between 1976 and 1979 as a military head of state..

The legislator alleged that those advising the President to perpetuate himself in office were public officers, most of whom he said, “did not win elections and may have no relevance outside party politics.”

Arigbe-Osula, representing Oredo federal constituency in Edo State, expressed his view in an open letter to Obasanjo, made available to our correspondent on Monday in Abuja.

The PUNCH, Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

Neglect of sea and rail transportation

President Olusegun Obasanjo, last week, directed the immediate production of a blueprint to revive waterways and railway transportation, the age-long neglect of which his administration continued in the past six years. President Obasanjo gave the Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, one year to breathe life into the moribund inland waterways mode of transportation.

The abandoned N8 billion contracts to dredge River Niger and make it navigable to seagoing vessels is to be resuscitated.

For the rails, President Obasanjo directed the Transport Minister to follow up talks with the Chinese government and access proposals from the government of South Korea on how to resuscitate the aged and abandoned rail tracks. To achieve the task, the President has set up another committee of four ministries: finance, water resources, transport and works.

It is sad that the government is just realising, six years after taking office, that the rail and water modes of transport it neglected are far cheaper. The claim that government cannot afford $2 billion to revamp the rails is even more heart-rending, considering the over $11 billion idle excess oil revenue for 2005 alone and over $28 billion in external reserves. Setting up committees now, after local and foreign investors that initially showed interest in developing the rails have been shooed away, does not portray a spirit of urgency and determination which the sector requires. For more than six years, the Transport Ministry has failed to respond to the glaring and urgent need of using water and rail means of transport to reduce pressure on the road system and boost productive activities and employment countrywide.

The neglect of rail and waterways by government for decades has contributed to the nation’s dependence on food importation, as agricultural produce from one part of the country cannot be transported cheaply to other parts. Lack of cheap means of transportation has discouraged many farmers whose harvests perished because they could not access the market.

Also, the nation has continued to record the same socio-economic loss from the failure of government to expand railway network to all the states, so that agricultural produce could be evacuated cheaply to urban markets with effective demand. More distressing is the inability of government, over the years, to maintain the existing linear north-south colonial rail track. Consequently, the decline in rural economic activities is largely responsible for high rates of joblessness, crime and declining quality of life.

Indeed, it is a paradox that there exists a federal National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), established since 1956, to regulate activities in the over 3,000 kilometers of waterways in Nigeria, among the longest in the world. NIWA has been largely dormant, while it receives subventions yearly. Even at the state level, governments have done little to boost water transportation. The riverine Niger Delta states have not seen the need to provide floating-barge fuel stations for their communities. The five ferries inherited from the Lateef Jakande administration in Lagos have gone into disuse, despite the big relief they brought to commuters on the CMS-Mile 2 axis. Similarly, the government has been throwing away good money at the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), as if mere capital injection would move the carcass. In four years, the NRC gulped N100 billion without adding value to the system.

Government’s lack of interest, and failure to provide incentives, might have dissuaded the private sector from investing in rail and water transportation. The NRC monopoly law should be abrogated and a regulatory framework set up to guide private investments. Besides, Nigeria now has the money to network all the states if the Obasanjo administration is genuinely committed.

The PUNCH, Monday, December 26, 2005

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Ladoja/Adedibu: The fire this time

When the former Commissioner for Commerce in Oyo State, Mrs. Kemi Jayeola-Olounsogo, resigned her appointment from the cabinet of the Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, last week, not many saw any political undertone in the step.

Semiu Okanlawon

But unknown to many, Jayeola-Olounsogo was just a victim of the high wire political intrigues playing out between the Oyo State Government and top government functionaries in Abuja.

What happened? Ladoja, in a search for solutions to the unending crises in the state, was willing to shift grounds so as to let peace reign and allow him concentrate on the serious business of governance. Ladoja’s calculation was that his running battle with his estranged godfather and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, was being fueled by forces outside the state. Ladoja believed the outside forces were giving Adedibu the needed muscle to square it up to him. In Ladoja’s calculations, if he pleased the Abuja forces, it would weaken the backing Adedibu allegedly enjoys from Abuja. The governor felt that one of those things considered his ‘sin’ was his alleged romance with the Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and possible support for the latter’s presidential ambition in 2007. Our correspondent gathered from sources close to the governor’s office that Jayeola-Olounsogo was reportedly the link bridge between Abubakar and Ladoja. To prove that he was not in any ‘unholy’ alliance with the Abubakar, Ladoja decided to ‘sacrifice’ Jayeola-Olounsogo. She was asked to resign.

But then, events after the forced resignation of Jayeola-Olounsogo showed that the move had not brought the expected relief. So on Thursday when fracas broke out at the Oyo State Secretariat housing the Governor’s Office and the State House of Assembly, it was seen as an indication that the forces (within and outside the state) angling to remove Ladoja, had not been pacified. The belief in Ibadan, the state capital, last week was that ‘Abuja’ had ordered that the governor be removed immediately. Many believe that informed Thursday’s move by the 18 members of the Oyo State House of Assembly loyal to Adedibu to forcibly seat at the Assembly to enable them order the state Chief Judge to constitute a panel of investigation to look into Ladoja’s alleged wrongdoings.

Since the renewed offensive against the governor, which had polarised the 32-member House, the G-18 had abandoned the floor of the House, taking refuge at one of the highbrow hotels in Ibadan. At Thursday’s sitting by the G-18, the legislators ordered the state Chief Judge, Justice Afolabi Adeniran, to set up a seven-man panel that would investigate Ladoja for alleged wrongdoings. The Speaker, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke, had also been suspended. Adeleke’s security aides were also withdrawn by the Nigeria Police, Oyo State Command. According to the police, the command acted based on a letter informing the command that Adeleke had been suspended and therefore was no longer entitled to the privilege of police protection.

For those who witnessed the movie-like invasion of the seat of the Oyo State Government on Thursday, it was, perhaps, the worst scenario ever witnessed by the state’s seat of power, especially under democratic rule. For about four hours, there was sporadic shooting that sent the expansive complex and the adjoining neighbourhood into panic. By the time the dust settled and the government took stock, it said over N450million would be needed to fix the damages. Apart from the fracas that broke out between the 18-member legislature and supporters of the governor on the one hand and the supporters of the governor and men of the Nigeria Police on the other hand, the invaders did all possible to ensure that they demystified the seat of government by entering into the office of the governor.

After Thursday’s mayhem, Ladoja, sources said, made efforts to reach the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, to demand for the reasons policemen, who allegedly backed the invasion of his office, were still being kept at the secretariat complex with a police armoured tank. The source said on the complaint by the governor that the policemen were still around, the I-G was said to have asked the governor whether the policemen he complained about were entering his office or were just doing their duty where they had been posted. Shortly before the fireballs on Thursday, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Audu Abubakar, reportedly travelled out of Ibadan. When our correspondent called Abubakar on his telephone, he demanded to be left out of the drama playing out in Oyo State as he directed all inquiries to his Deputy, Mr. Jonathan Johnson. However, on Friday evening, the policemen and the armoured tank were withdrawn.

For the better part of Saturday, Ladoja was engaged in marathon meetings. The governor had to cancel all other engagements for the day, some of which included a function at the Ogbomoso hometown of his deputy, Chief Christopher Alao-Akala. The day before that, Ladoja was with President Olusegun Obasanjo in his Ota Farm, Ogun State, to formally give Obasanjo details of what happened on Thursday. Despite arriving early enough to meet Obasanjo, the meeting with the President was said to have started very late. This, our correspondent gathered, was because Adedibu was being expected at the meeting. But he did not show up.

During his stay in Ota, Ladoja was said to have attended a Christmas carol organised by a choir group at the farm with the President. It was not until late in the night when it was certain that Adedibu would not honour the invitation to the meeting that the President attended to Ladoja.

However, what has continued to give the governor and his supporters some confidence, despite the alleged backing of the move by ‘Abuja’ is what is considered to be the many loopholes in the process being employed to remove him. On Friday, Mr. Niyi Akintola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, secured an injunction seeking a status quo against the removal of the governor. In the nine reliefs sought, the lawyer pointed out the many flaws in the processes being employed. The matter, which was adjourned till December 28, is believed to be a respite for the governor. And because of the festive season, with public holidays, the dust seem to have settled down now with each camp watching the steps of the other.

One other thing believed to be giving the governor some confidence is the belief that at least four of the G-18 legislators had left the camp. Even though the four were said not to have crossed over to identify fully with Ladoja for fear of possible attacks from the supporters of Adedibu, they are believed to have depleted Adedibu’s arsenal to the extent that the impeachment moves would merely hit the rock. But spokesman of the pro-Adedibu lawmakers, Mr. Babatunde Eesuola, told our correspondent that none of the 18-member legislators had abandoned the camp.

However, there is palpable fear in Ibadan. Adeleke, who has vowed not to abandon Ladoja, has already alleged threats to his life and those of his family members. With the withdrawal of his security aides, Adeleke said this was aimed at opening his flanks to possible attacks from his opponents.

With the outbreak of violence in Ibadan on Thursday, many were quick to cast their minds back to the pre-2003 general elections campaigns in the state. During the period, Ladoja was the guest of the Oyo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. By that time, it was certain that Ladoja was already riding on the back of Adedibu to the Agodi Government House. Adedibu had spread out his tentacles, winning support for Ladoja and the two were always seen together at almost all political rallies of the PDP.

But watchers of events at that time were worried by the kind of relationship existing between the two, given what some believed was Adedibu’s antecedents concerning his relationship with a past government in which he played a prominent role in installing. This was what prompted one of the questions Ladoja was asked during the question and answer time at the NUJ fora. How would he handle the affairs of the state without taking orders from Molete (being the expansive residence of Adedibu) if eventually elected the governor of the state? Ladoja cleared his throat. And in a most confident manner, he told his audience that he was already 59 at that time, a grandfather and a successful businessman and that he was going to be his own man, running his government in the best manner possible, taking advice when they are good, rejecting them when not helping the course of good governance.

The governor was believed to have lived up to this when, on assumption of office in 2003, he came out with a cabinet and appointment formula believed to have irked his godfather. But it turned out to be the beginning of all the drama that had been witnessed in the state since May 29, 2003.

Many believe that if it was true that the forces against Ladoja had insisted he must leave before next year, then the next few days will witness more upheavals. How the governor navigates the current turbulence to safety is what people are waiting to see.

The PUNCH, Monday, December 26, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

27 perish in auto crash

Some 27 persons were killed last Saturday at Bakura junction, in Bakura local government area of Zamfara state, following a ghastly motor accident.

The 911 lorry involved in the accident was on its way to Sokoto from Magami town in Gusau local government area.
Confirming the deaths, the FRSC sector commander, Alhaji Umar Liman, said the accident occurred at about 4:00 a.m. as a result of a mechanical problem.
``The vehicle was loaded with bags of maize, and when the accident happened, it fell under a bridge,'' he said.
According to him, three other injured persons had been taken to the Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.

Posted by Publisher at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

Refined politicking in Kano coming ...Says Sani Hashim, extends olive branch to opposition

A BRAND new and refined politicking is to be introduced in Kano state, if the consensus leaders of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) are adopted come next year.

By SANI AHMAD BICHI

This statement was made by the consensus chairman, Alhaji Sani Hashim Hotoro at Bachirawa ward in Fagge local government council when the elders and the consensus executives wound up their 44-local government tour of the state.
He said under the new political arrangement in the state, there will be no thuggery, political irresponsibility or confrontation with the opposition, calling on the opposition to come and have a dialogue.
The consensus chairman also called on the teeming youth to rally round the present administration in the state which he said has done a lot in promoting the welfare of the youth.
Alhaji Hashim cited the example of vocational training being given to over 1,000 youths, employment of over 2,000 sanitary workers in the state and all the local government areas.
The acting chairman of the Elders Forum, and former Majority Leader in the Kano state House of Assembly, Alhaji Ammani Inuwa, called on party members to start campaigning for the year 2007 elections.
He stated that ANPP is still one (SAK) as there are no divisions or factions.
Alhaji Inuwa appealed to the delegates to rally round and vote the consensus leaders during the next congress.
The chairman of Fagge local government council, Alhaji Nasiru Rabo assured of their support to the consensus leadership in the state.
In his contribution, the chairman of Municipal council, Alhaji Salisu Maje Gwangwazo called on party supporters to join hands together in moving the party forward.
Alhaji Rabiu Bako, the consensus secretary of the party, stressed the need for special prayers to enable Malam Ibrahim Shekarau continue with his laudable development programmes.
The rally was attended by thousands of party members.

Posted by Publisher at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

Hajj: Kabo Air explains delay on airlift

Airlift of intending pilgrims by Kabo Air for this year’s Hajj will be completed on schedule in spite of the slow pace in flight operation since the exercise commenced on November, 17.

Kabo Air's Executive Director Operations, Alhaji Aliyu Aminu, explained that the delay was as a result of technical hitches caused by a new policy introduced by the Saudi authorities.
He said that adequate efforts had been made to ensure that the time lost so far would be taken care of by increasing the airline's fleet of four B747 with two air buses.
A statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the weekend in Abuja, quoted Aminu as saying that the Saudi's Presidency of Civil Aviation (PCA) had in September introduced the new policy.
According to him, the PCA introduced an extra requirement called Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) which must be possessed by any aircraft flying into that country.
He said that the device was an advanced version of Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) which all ``our aircraft possess".
Aminu said that the new policy would have applied to the airports in the mountainous terrain and ``not Nigeria or Saudi Arabia where the risk is 95 per cent non-existent.
``But because it is a general policy we placed an order in October hoping that we will get supply in November.
``But probably because of high demand especially toward Christmas and New Year period Kabo did not receive confirmation order from the manufacturers in the U.S. until late November.
``The company gave a delivery date of January 10, 2006 for the supply of the customs made equipment,'' Aminu stated.
He said that in view of the development each time any aircraft possessing GPWS wanted to fly into Jeddah, it would obtain clearance from the Saudi authorities, noting that that explained why Nigerian carriers could not fly into Jeddah.
Aminu said that the airline had asked for a temporary waiver from the Saudi authorities for the first phase of the operation through the foreign affairs ministry.
He apologised to all the states that had selected Kabo Air for the airlift, including the Technical Committee on Hajj (TCH) for the delay.
Aminu said that by God's grace airlift of pilgrims would be completed on or before January 4, 2005, the closing date of King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.

Posted by Publisher at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

PDP ward suspends minister in Gombe

The PDP in Kumbia-Kumbia ward of Gombe metropolis on Sunday suspended the minister of special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, retired Col. Musa Muhammad from the party.

The ward chairman of the party, Alhassan Audu who announced the suspension in Gombe at the weekend, said the minister was suspended for alleged ``anti-party activities and insubordination.''
Audu alleged that the minister had exhibited acts of disrespect to the state governor, Alhaji Danjuma Goje during the last PDP national delegates conference.
The chairman said that the disciplinary measure was aimed at ``instilling sanity into the party.’’
In his reaction, the minister said that those claiming to have suspended him did not register him during the last party membership registration exercise.
According to him, although he is a registered party member, the ward leaders are not the ones who registered him, as such, could not have suspended him.
Muhammad refuted the allegation that he had been disrespectful to the state governor, saying that he was once a state administrator and therefore, had respect for that office.

Posted by Publisher at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

...Mantu shops for aircraft

Leader of the federal government Hajj delegation, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, says international negotiations are on for more aircraft to convey all intending Muslim pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Mantu told newsmen yesterday at Minna airport that with only 10 days to the closure of Jeddah Airport, contingency arrangement must be made to ensure that no Nigerian pilgrim is left behind.
He explained that while his committee appreciated the problems at hand, as only about 10,000 of the 60,000 pilgrims were conveyed, the committee would not allow a repeat of last year's episode.
He said that last year, many intending pilgrims could not make it to Saudi Arabia.
``We are aware that the operation is running at very slow speed but we are not resting on our oars at ensuring that we get more aircraft from any part of the world,'' he stressed.
He, however, noted that in spite of the urgent need for more aircraft, the committee would not compromise the new aviation standard set by the federal government and Saudi authorities to ensure safety.
The leader of the federal government Hajj delegation pointed out that that the National Assembly would, by March 2006, pass a bill that would establish a National Hajj Commission in the country.
The commission was the only panacea to smooth Hajj operations, having tried many options without success, Mantu said.
Meanwhile, the first batch of the 350 intending muslim pilgrims from Niger State had been conveyed to Saudi Arabia.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent who witnessed their take-off at the Minna Airport, reports that most of them had spent nine days at the Tudun Fulani camp in Minna.
Although looking tensed by the long delay, they were, however, happy that at last their dream of performing this year's Hajj is achievable.
The leader of the federal government delegation, Ibrahim Mantu, advised the pilgrims to remain law abiding and steadfast in their worship.
Mantu urged the pilgrims to save their travelling allowance for necessary expenses and avoid excess luggage.
Governor Abdulkadir Kure of Niger state urged the pilgrims to pray for peace, economic prosperity and progress in the country.
The first batch consisted of intending pilgrims from Mashegu, Mariga, Shiroro, Kotonkoro and Rafin local government areas which took off at about 9.20 a.m. on board a Dubai airbus called Buraq.

Posted by Publisher at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

BON now joins Unity Bank Group

Bank of the North (BON) Ltd has joined the Unity Bank Group in its bid to beat CBN's December 31 deadline on the N25 billion capitalisation.

Announcing this in Kano at the weekend, the bank's Managing Director, Alhaji Ahmad Ibrahim, said the decision followed BON's separation with the North-Omega Group.
He explained that with the new merger agreement with the Unity Bank Group, BON, along with the New Africa Bank Plc had decided to contribute a total of about N10 billion in shareholders fund to the group.
This, he said, was in addition to a network of 88 branches of the bank, its huge assets, as well as the human capital of BON.
Ibrahim said the merger would place the Unity Bank Group among the leading consolidated banks in Nigeria.
Members of the Unity Bank Group, the managing director disclosed, included Tropical Commercial Bank, Pacific Bank, Intercity Bank and Center-point Bank.
He added that the combined shareholders fund of the group was now in excess of the minimum requirement of N25 billion prescribed by the CBN.
BON had already secured the approval in the principle of the CBN for the merger with Unity Bank Group and efforts were on to meet other conditions for the merger, he stressed.
Before the latest agreement, BON had earlier been part of the First North Group, which, like its merger with the North-Omega
Group, was short-lived.

Posted by Publisher at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

KNSG moves to reform Tsangaya education

DESPITE the daunting challenges facing the Islamiyyah and Ilmi schools in Kano state, the state government has taken steps to reform and change the situation of Tsangaya form of Qur’anic education with a view to consolidating the gains of Sharia implementation.

By MUHAMMAD BELLO, Assistant Editor, Sunday

Dr. Bashir Shehu Galadanchi, the Special Adviser to the state Government on Education and Information Technology disclosed this during a media launch to commemorate the Tsangaya Week which started Sunday.
Dr. Galadanchi said in spite of the total neglect of the sectors, the Islamic and Qur’anic forms of education have developed tremendously as Nigerian students, especially those from Kano have continued to excel in the annual Musabaqa held in Saudi Arabia.
Enumerating the problems militating against the sectors, as deplorable infrastructure, begging, lack of proper healthcare and lack of recognition of the graduands of such education, Dr. Bashir said all well-meaning individuals and communities must come to their rescue.
He questioned the rationale behind huge government investment in Western education, when the society still values the Islamic form of education 40 years after colonialism which set the agenda for its destruction.
Currently, the government has trained about 600 Qur’anic teachers on skills acquisition to make them self-reliant from its pilot feeding programme in three local government areas, namely – Ajingi, Makoda and Warawa.
There are about 14,000 Qur’anic schools and 4,500 Islamiyya schools in the state.

Posted by Publisher at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

Third batch of pilgrims airlifted

The third batch of Muslim pilgrims were on Sunday airlifted from Sokoto after being stranded for three days at the airport.

The pilgrims were airlifted by Kabo Air, Boeing 747.
Intending pilgrims from Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states were also being airlifted to Saudi Arabia from the Sultan Abubakar III International Airport, Sokoto.
The chairman of the state Pilgrims Welfare Agency, Alhaji A. A. Umarun-Kwabo, described the delay in airlifting as ''obnoxious''.
The inaugural flight for the 2006 Hajj was conducted in Sokoto on December 15.
The state had 449 pilgrims.

Posted by Publisher at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

Speaker Gani charges Hisbah Board to be tolerant

MEMBERS of Kano state Hisbah Board have been urged to be tolerant and discharge their duties according the provisions of the law that established the board for effective performance.

From ALIYU YUSUF, Kaduna

The call was made by the Speaker, Kano state House of Assembly, Hon. Balarabe Sa’idu Gani during the closing ceremony of the seven-day capacity building training organized for Hisbah Corps by the Kano state government, held at Hamdala Hotel Kaduna, over the weekend.
He stressed the need by all the Hisbah corps to be conversant with the provisions of the law and ask questions where necessary, saying that doing so will help them in the discharge of their responsibilities.
The Speaker therefore assured those who are yet to participate in the training to wait for their turn, disclosing that all the 9,000 corps must attend the training to enable them perform effectively.
“As the body that passed the Hisbah Law, Kano Assembly will continue to make necessary amendments in it so as to make the provisions meet the day-to-day needs of the people,” Hon. Gani asserted.
He commended the state government for organizing the training and congratulated the beneficiaries, calling on them to utilize what they have learnt.
Hon. Gani than presented certificates of attendance to the 60 participants at the occasion.
Earlier, the coordinator of the training programme, Dr. Shehu Mahdi had disclosed that the aim of the training was to upgrade the knowledge of the participants on how to carry out their duties effectively.
He revealed that about 580 Hisbah corps have so for benefited from such training which is to be carried out batch by batch.
Dr. Mahdi therefore expressed gratitude to the Kano state government and the state House of Assembly for their efforts in assisting Islamic activities for the betterment of the people in the state.

Posted by Publisher at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

Influx of aliens worries Katsina NIS

MASSIVE influx of illegal aliens is becoming a source of concern to security agents and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Funtua area of Katsina state.

From MUA’WUYA B. IDRIS, Kaduna

The Immigration Officer in charge of Funtua zone in Katsina, Alhaji Nasiru Ahmad Dikko told a meeting of traditional rulers and community leaders that most of these illegal immigrants came from Niger Republic and neighbouring countries
“If has come to the notice of the zonal office that immigrants from Niger Republic and other neighbouring countries are either residing in Funtua or staying a while without official permit,” he added.
Alhaji Dikko cited Jibiri quarters as one area harbouring illegal immigrants and called for a joint effort to address the problem.
Contributing at the meeting, the Divisional Police Officers in charge of Funtua Central and Makera Police stations, DSP Aminu Ibrahim and DSP Usman Adamu respectively, alleged that some of the illegal immigrants are aiding crimes and other unlawful acts in Funtua.
They called on traditional rulers especially the village and ward heads to always report to the office of the district head or the police station, the movement of any illegal immigrant.
Also speaking, the District Head of Funtua, Alhaji Sambo Idris urged the zonal immigration of Immigrants through the village and ward heads to ensure more security.

Posted by Publisher at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

Jigawa SUBEB promotes 5,000 teachers

THE Jigawa state Universal Basic Eduaction Board (SUBEB) has said that it has so far promoted a total of 5,000 primary school teachers across the state since its creation about two years ago.

From ISMA’ILA MUHAMMAD, Dutse

The director planning and moral who is also the state Teachers Welfare Committee chairman, Ustaz Muhammad Lawal Baldu made this known while exchanging views with our correspondent in Dutse, last Friday.
He said the gesture was part of the efforts of Governor Ibrahim Saminu Turaki’s administration to motivate teachers to perform their duties effectively.
Malam Baldu added that thousands of teaching and non-teaching staff have advanced to the next grade level within the period under review.
He explained further that seminars, workshops and symposia have been organized for teaching, non-teaching and management staff by the board as part of its capacity building programme.
The chairman who said that apart from motivation, discipline has also been instilled as they are twin brothers, pointing out that the board would not tolerate laziness, absconding, late coming or any act of indiscipline.
Malam Baldu said that while the motivational exercises will continue, warned the beneficiaries of the good gesture to reciprocate it by living above board so as to achieve the desired goals of improving the standard of elementary education in the state.

Posted by Publisher at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

Customs impound N2.3bn contraband goods

The Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’, Ikeja, of the Nigeria Customs Service seized prohibited goods worth N2.3 billion between January and September 2005.

The Controller of the Unit, Alhaji Umar Daura, who disclosed this to newsmen at his Ikeja, Lagos office at the weekend, added that his men recorded 1,084 seizures and arrested 42 suspected smugglers within the same period.
According to Daura, some of the arrested smugglers have since been charged to courts while cases against others are still pending.
He said that though, the seized items were varied and included different brands of vehicles, rice, electronics, assorted wine and vegetable oil, textiles materials formed the majority.
Daura appreciated the efforts of some members of the public who informed his office on the activities of smugglers during the period and appealed for more of such assistance from patriotic Nigerians.
“The issue of seizures and the arrest of smugglers is a daily phenomenon in this command,’’ he said, adding that his officials would not relent until smugglers have a change of mind.
Daura disclosed that the command had been further fortified with the provision of patrol vehicles, arms and ammunition by the federal government and warned smugglers to desist from sabotaging the economy or face the wrath of the law.

Posted by Publisher at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

Bauchi trains 30,000 youth on various skills, says gov

Governor Ahmadu Mu’azu of Bauchi State says more than 30,000 youth have been trained for various skills as part of government’s poverty alleviation scheme.

Mu’azu made this known in Bauchi when the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) delegation to the just concluded Guild of Editors Conference visited him.
He said beneficiaries were drawn from more than 500 communities and were trained in 22 different skills.
He explained that the programme was introduced to curb poverty which according to him was a major factor militating against the state.
He noted that before the introduction of the scheme, which was designed to cover various facets of the society, Bauchi state was one of the poorest states in the country.
The governor added that the state government had to intensify the training of its youth through skill acquisition and resettlement.
He pointed out that the state government had registered 5,959 cooperative societies with membership of 300,000, while 5,647 self-help projects were executed by different community-based organisations.
Mu’azu said about 2,000 women have benefited from the state’s interest-free micro-credit loans.

Posted by Publisher at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

Festivals: NSCDC to intensify security

Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has been advised to be vigilant as vandals usually intensify their activities during festivals.

The advise was made by the Commandant-General, Dr Ade Abolurin, while addressing the corps at a ``festival of nine lessons and service'' in Abuja.
He said there was no holiday for corps because vandals would seize the opportunity to have a
field day.
``You must continue to monitor and carry ou surveillance and general guard duties to protect life and property,'' he said.
`You are also aware of the heavy traffic on the roads during this season so you must be on hand to control the traffic,'' he advised.

Posted by Publisher at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

Anambra budgets N35.87bn for 2006

Anambra state government has proposed a budget of N35.87 billion for 2006, representing an increase of 16.73 per cent over the 2005 budget of N30.73 billion.

Addressing the House of Assembly in Awka last Friday, Gov. Chris Ngige said that the sum of N17.98 billion or 50.12 per cent of the budget was for recurrent expenditure while the sum of N17.89 billion or 49.88 per cent of the budget was for capital expenditure.
A breakdown of the budget showed that road construction got the highest allocation of N7.14 billion.
Education followed with an allocation of N1.83 billion, housing got N1.08 billion, health received N653 million, while water supply got N550 million.
He announced that a total of 16 new road projects would be executed next year in addition to the ongoing ones in different parts of the state.
“There is no doubt that the massive road development programme will erase the ugly stigma of the most undeveloped road network which the state had borne since its creation in 1991,’’ he said.
Ngige also said that government would partner with the private sector to carry out some housing projects next year and that some of them were estates already mapped out for development.
They are Hillview Estate, Nkwelle, Liberation Estate Nawfia/Enugwu-Agidi, Ikwodiaku Estate, Mgbakwu Estate and Amansea Estate.
He said that a new state secretariat for public servants would be started next year to ease office accomodation scarcity.
“The 2006 budget is based on the policies, principles and framework that guided the 2005 and 2004 budgets.
“The focus will continue to be on the revitalization of the state economy and creating the necessary socio-economic environment for increased productivity and sustained development and growth,’’ he added.
Acording to Ngige, the budget, tagged Budget of Consolidation, would be used to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people, pointing out that his administration had only one more year to go.
Receiving the budget, the Speaker of the state Hosue of Assembly, Mr. Mike Balonwu, assured that the Assembly would assist government ensure that the budget was fully implemented to satisafy the needs of the people.
The Assembly later read the Appropration Bill twice and directed its committee on Finance and Appropriation to study it.
The legislature later adjourned till Jan. 17, 2006 to resume work on the budget.

Posted by Publisher at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

INEC canvasses KMC’s co-operation

MUNICIPAL local government council, Kano state, has been advised to co-operate with the office of the Independent National Electoral Comission in the area for the success of future election.

The state INEC commissioner, Alhaji Umar Usman,, made the plea while inaugurating the local government, stakeholders forum in the area.
He appealed to members of the forum to offer useful suggestion to the commission that would guide it to avoid mistakes in the conduct of elections.
The INEC officer, Malam Abba Badamasi, had explained that one of the responsibilities of the forum was to find ways of avoiding conflicts during elections.
The representative of the chairman who is the supervisory councillor for agriculture, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim Khalil, said the setting up of the forum would go along way in solving problems encountered during the elections.
The forum has the LG INEC officer, Malam Abba Badamasi, as its chairman while his assistant Alhaji Tijjani Ibrahim would serve as secretary.

Posted by Publisher at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

‘put fear of God in your dealings’

MUSLIMS have again been urged to always have the fear of God while carrying out their activities.

By BALA ABUBAKAR

The emir of Kano, Dr. Ado Bayero, gave the advice while commissioning Launawar ‘Yargaya Friday mosque in Dawakin Kudu local government area.
The emir emphasised the need for Muslims to abide by the teachings of Islam, also stressed the importance of building mosques.
He advised the people of the village to make the best use of the mosque by observing five daily prayers in it.
Alhaji Ado Bayero commended the state government, the council and the mosque committee for their effort toward successful completion of the project.
Earlier, the chairman of the council, Alhaji Sani Adamu Gano, reiterated the council’s determination to assist towards promoting Islam and commended the emir for his contribution towards the development of the religion.
Alhaji Gano enjoined well to do in the society to always build mosques and assist the religion of Allah.

Posted by Publisher at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

D/Kudu assures clean environment

DAWAKIN Kudu local government council, Kano state says it would continue to do everything possible towards ensuring a clean and healthy environment.

The chairman of the council, Alhaji Sani Adamu Gano, made the remark at the opening ceremony of a one day orientation course for temporary health labourers organised by the state chapter of professional association of environmental health workers.
Alhaji Sani Adamu Gano said the council had employed one 100 temporary labourers aimed at ensuring a clean environment.
The chairman who was represented by an official of the local government, Alhaji Bashir Muhammad, explained that the council had also provided uniforms to them while four thousand naira had been earmarked as monthly allowance.
Alhaji Sani Adamu Gano called on the workers to work hard towards achieving the set goals.
The state president of professional association of environmental health workers, Dr. Bala Muhammad Tukur, said plans are underway to organise seminar for temporary health labourers in the 44 local governments in the state.
He praised the state government for approving the appointment of temporary labourers as well as Dawakin Kudu council for its support to members of professional association of environmental health officers.

Posted by Publisher at 05:26 PM | Comments (0)

Bagwai people urged to participate in census

PEOPLE in Bagwai local government area, Kano state, have been urged to participate actively in the forth coming National Census.

By BALA ABUBAKAR

The district head of Bagwai, Danmadamin Kano, Alhaji Nura Shehu Ahmad, gave the advice while addressing the people of Gardo, Jarimawa villages in the area.
Alhaji Nura Shehu said the exercise was aimed at knowing the exact number of people in the country so that their council could plan well.
He appealed to the people to support other government programmes aimed at improving their wellbeing.
Speaking at the occasion, the national census comptroller in the area, Hajiya Amina Mani, appealed to the people to ensure that they are counted during the exercise.
The National orientation officer, Malam Bala Mato Dan Zabuwa called on community leaders non-governmental organisations to join hands with the National Population Commission for the success of the exercise.
The NOA officer, however advised the people in the area to always reciprocate the council efforts towards improving on the lives of the rural community.

Posted by Publisher at 05:25 PM | Comments (0)

GWALSSA commends Gwarzo Council

PRESIDENT of Gwarzo Local Government Association (GWALSSA),Alhaji Aminu Ahmad Roya has commended Gwarzo local government council chairman, engineer Abdullahi T. Muhammad, over the council’s efforts in promoting education in the area.

Ahmad Roya who spoke to Daily Triumph said the council has between July and August spent about N5 million on scholarship to its indigenes who were sponsored for various vocational skills at Sani Abacha Vocational Training Centre.
He added that the council has also provided a standard and well equipped internet cafe for the council’s students in order to facilitate learning and other related research activities.
Roya further explained that to ease accommodation problem the council had rented a flat house 11 bedrooms at Na’ibawa quarters for those studying at kumbostso campus of the college of education, he added that similar facility has provided at Kabuga quarters and Rimin Gata for students of the Federal College of Education, (FCE), Bayero University, Kano (BUK) Kano state Polytechnic and Aminu Kano College of Islamic and Legal Studies.
Even secondary schools the presidents said were not left behind, as the council has constructed five new secondary schools, in various locations of the local government area.
He, therefore, called on the students to concentrate on their studies and shun bad behaviours and also appealed to the council to consider the remaining 200 students who have not been paid during the last payment exercise.

Posted by Publisher at 05:25 PM | Comments (0)

ANPP‘ll resist rigging in 2007 -Buhari

ANPP presidential flag bearer in the 2003 general elections, Alhaji Muhammad Buhari, has restated that the era of election rigging and manipulations in Nigeria is over.

From ISMA’ILA MUHAMMAD, Dutse
He maintained that the 2007 elections are going to be dicey , where by justice will take its course.
General Buhari, while addressing a mammoth crowd of ANPP supporters in Birnin Kudu, during commissioning ceremony of a computer centre, declared that Nigerian masses were ready to sacrifice their blood in the defence of justice, fair play and protection of their voting rights.
He pointed out that no attempt, by any body to hijack election results in the country would be successful any more, stressing that only true winners of elections would be allowed to emerge.
The computer centre , which was named after him was established by the member, representing Birnin Kudu/Buji Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Farouk Adamu Aliyu,last weekend.
He described politics as neither an inherited property nor slavery, adding that due processe must be adhered to, stressing further that, people were poised to effect changes, for the betterment of Nigerians.
“It is only the Holy scriptures that cannot be changed, he said adding that everything possible shall be done to fight injustices, and ensure a true democratic governance in the country”.
General Buhari then charged Nigerians to always ensure conduct of fair voting exercise so as to elect credible leaders of their choice, who would tackle the problems of insecurity corruption, poverty, and power supply, among others.
General Buhari disclosed that in July, 2006, the ANPP will conduct congress from ward to the National levels, where by party supporters will elect delegates who in turn would elect candidates that are to contest elections.
He said this would be part of efforts to ensure, justice, fair play, equity and true democratic governance in the country.
He stated that he has already embarked on voter education campaign with a view to enlightening Nigerians on how to defend their civil right, especially during election times.

Posted by Publisher at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

Kano ANPP elections campaign train kicks-off

ANPP campaign organising committee in Municipal Local Government Area of Kano state has kicked-off its campaign activities with a view to ensuring success of the party in the 2007 general elections.

By IBRAHIM ZUBAIRU
In a meeting held with representatives of all the 12 wards of the local government last Friday at Aminu Salisu Zango campaign head office, K/Mata, the committee chairman, Alhaji Auwalu Kundi, stated that the meeting was part of the committee’s strategies to ensure unity and cooperation among the ANPP members in order to move it forward.
Alhaji Auwalu Kundi also stressed the committee’s resolve to back up Alhaji Aminu Salisu’s candidature to contest the chairmanship position of the Municipal local government area.
He said their support has become necessary in view of Salisu’s enormous contributions to the general welfare of ANPP members, as well as progress of the local government.
In his remarks, the chairmanship aspirant, Alhaji Aminu Salisu Zango, has expressed delight over the unity of the party members in the area and thanked them for supporting his candidature, praying to God to grant them success in achieving the set objective.
Alhaji Zango also used the forum to call on all ANPP supporters and the general public in Kano to continue to rally round the government of the state, under the leadership of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau for its untiring efforts to the general development
He then congratulated the governor on his 50th anniversary and prayed to Allah (SWT) to grant him more years of wisdom and purposeful leadership.

Posted by Publisher at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

27 perish in Gusau road accident

Twenty seven people were killed in a ghastly road accident over the weekend on Gusau-Sokoto road. Eight of the victims are women.

by Salisu Zakari Maradun / 2005-12-27

Witnesses said the tragedy occurred when a truck conveying about 200 sacks of assorted grains and 87 passengers skidded and ran into a ditch on the outskirts of Bakura.
The accident reportedly happened at about 4.30 am when the town was fast asleep and the road deserted for any rescue operation to reach the victims in time.
The witnesses said many of the victims died of suffocation, having been buried under the weight of the sacks of grains
It was not until when dawn broke that passers-by discovered the accident and alerted the town and people rushed to the scene to render assistance.
The corpses of the victims are deposited at the General Hospital, Bakura where 16 survivors are currently receiving medical attention. Others have been treated and discharged.
Speaking to Daily Trust, the state sector commander of the FRSC, Malam Umar Liman, said the truck was on its way to Illela in Sokoto State from Magami on that fateful day.
According to the sector commander, the driver of the truck was said to be exhausted and occasionally dozed-off and at a stage lost control of the vehicle which skidded and ran into a deep ditch.
One of the co-travellers, according to the Zamfara State Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, insisted that they should keep moving for fear of armed robbers who regularly attack people at night.
It was as a result of the pressure from the passengers that the driver continued going until he eventually stopped at a village called Mayanohi to mend a punctured tyre and about 2.30 am.
“When the accident happened, there was nobody in the whole nearby village at which the accident happened,” added the sector commander.
According to Umar Liman, when he received the information about the accident, he directed the unit commander incharge of Talata Mafara, in whose territory the accident happened, to ensure he reached the scene of the accident and report back to him for further action.
“I quickly ran to that place along with some of my men after it was confirmed to me that it happened. “We made sure that we took all the remaining survivors to the hospital where they are currently receiving medical treatment,” Malam Umar said.
Daily Trust also learnt that the driver of the vehicle who narrowly survived the accident took to his heels after he fully regained his composure.
The conductor of the vehicle is now detained by the police of Bakura for interrogation.
It further gathered that the driver of the truck had earlier told the passengers that he was tired and that he needed a rest. But some insisted that he should continue going until they reach their destination in time to attend the market day in Illela.
Malam Umar Liman appealed to the general public, particularly motorists to always be careful while driving, and desist from embarking on night journeys which he said is dangerous.
In a related development, a 911 truck from Sokoto enroute Onitsha weekend was said to have been involved in accident which claimed three lives.

Posted by Publisher at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

Funding delays N45bn FCT water project

Insufficient funding is threatening to delay the completion of the N45 billion Gurara water transfer project which on completion is expected to meet Abuja’s water demand for the next 50 years.

by Nasir Imam / 2005-12-27

N30 billion out of the N45 billion is to be funded from the federal budget, while the treatment plant expansion which is the responsibility of the FCT Water Board, is to gulp N14 billion from the FCT statutory allocation.
Investigations by Daily Trust revealed that an outstanding payment of N1,628,008,479 owed one of the two contractors to the project, SALINI (Nig.) Ltd, has considerably slowed down the project. The last payment made to the contractor was in April last year.
The other contractor is SCC (Nig.) Ltd, while the two consultants to the project are DE-CROWN 9W.A.) Ltd, and WADSCO (Nig.) Ltd.
Abuja’s spiraling population growth is a major constraint on water supply with a current daily requirement of 96,000 cubic metres, outstripping existing demand.
The lower Usuma Dam which at present supplies the city is built to serve a population of 250,000.
The current project is intended to transfer raw water from Gurara to Usuma Dam, over the distance of 75 kilometers, through 3 meter diameter water pipe, to Usuma Dam reservoir.
The water transfer project consists of a dam, a water transfer tunnel, a power house, a power transmission line, an irrigation scheme, a spillway, a bottom outlet, access roads and associated works.
The 7.8 million cubic meter earthfill/rockfill dam will create a lake of 880 million cubic meter capacity, an increase from the current level of 100 million cubic meters, and 61 km2 surface on the Gurara River, granting a regulated water flow all year round.
Similarly, a 1.3 km tunnel will transfer water to the pipeline for the water supply to the city of Abuja, while a 30MW hydro-electric powerhouse is expected to generate electricity to neighbouring Kaduna state.
In addition, the regulated waterflow released by the reservoir will permit the implementation of an irrigation scheme downstream of the dam for the development of intensive agriculture.
Presently, water supply, especially in the city centre, is epileptic; residents complained that their taps run dry for up to a week at times.
Residents outside the city centre and area council depend on boreholes or private commercial water operators.
Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Mukhtar Shagari, however, disagrees with the debt owed contractors to the project, saying only recently N18.6 million was paid to one of the contractors.
The minister, who was speaking at the signing of the N437 million contract awards for the rehabilitation of the Alau Dam in Borno State, assured FCT residents of the federal government’s determination to provide potable water in the territory.
Special Adviser to the FCT Minister, Information and Strategy, Hajiya Amina Salihu, on her part, said the FCT administration has put in place measures to ensure that the entire FCT has access to water not only for domestic, but agricultural and industrial as well.
This, she said would be achieved through the provision of 120 hand pump boreholes in rural areas of FCT, embarking on public enlightenment campaign on the need to conserve water, and the completion of treatment plants and their associated trunkline with storage tanks.

Posted by Publisher at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

Zoning: Why we contested in 2003 - Gemade, Rimi

The controversy over the existence or otherwise of a zoning agreement continued yesterday when former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Barnabas Andyar Gemade and one-time Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi provided a rare insight into how they came to contest against President Olusegun Obasanjo for the party’s presidential ticket in 2003.

by Sufuyan Ojeifo & Emmanuel Bello / 2005-12-27

Their decision to contest against President Obasanjo is at the root of the fresh move by the Presidency and some leaders of the PDP from the South to claim that there was no agreement for the presidency to move to the North in 2007.
At an Arewa Media Forum lecture in Kaduna penultimate Saturday, two former PDP chairmen, Chief Solomon Lar and Chief Audu Ogbeh emphatically maintained that such agreement existed and gave details.
However, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih countered that he (Ogbeh) killed zoning arrangement by allowing Gemade and Rimi (from the North) to contest in 2003.
Both Gemade and Rimi said yesterday that they contested against Obasanjo for the party’s presidential ticket because the party did not zone the presidency in 2003 as it did in 1999, and to that extent, it was an attempt to deny them of their fundamental constitutional rights to aspire to any position in the country.
Speaking in an interview with Daily Trust, Chief Gemade said that he had been a strong advocate of power rotation along zonal lines between the North and the South even before the enthronement of democracy in 1999.
According to Gemade, “it is only rotation that can spell out the time-table of succession in the country” and stressed that he and former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme insisted on power rotation at the 1995 constitutional conference, which was not enshrined in the constitution but left to the parties to administer.
“We insisted on rotation. I and Ekwueme moved a motion at the Constitutional conference for rotation but many preferred to leave it to the party”, he recalled.
He stated that “but while the PDP was active in pronouncing zoning in 1999, it remained lukewarm in 2003, which made everybody eligible to contest”.
Gemade insisted that while in 1999, there was zoning of the presidency and other offices, “we did not mean to do zoning in 2003”, adding that “the party did not embark on any zoning, leaving all candidates eligible to contest”.
He, however, admonished: “If the party wishes to limit the presidency to any area, they should sit and do it now; otherwise, they should allow everybody throughout the country to contest”.
On the controversy over what transpired at the party meeting in 2002 over the zoning of the presidency, he said that Chief Tony Anenih’s declaration that former National Chairman of the party, Chief Audu Ogbeh killed zoning in 2003 by allowing him (Gemade) and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi to contest the presidential primaries was “a statement of fact”.
“If a party did not do a definite zoning programme, it means the party did not zone. Since the party did not embark on zoning, both the party and the law court allowed us to contest the presidency as northern candidates without hindrance”, he stated.
Gemade pointed out that it would amount to injustice if in 2007 the south was not allowed to contest for the presidency, saying “if I, as a northerner, was allowed in 2003 to contest for the presidential ticket of my party, why should a southerner be disallowed to do so in 2007? I am not a man who condones injustice. The southerners should be allowed to contest for the party’s presidential ticket in 2007".
Rimi, however, had a different perspective on the issue. “In the first place, the zoning principle was wrong and it was an attempt to deny me my fundamental constitutional rights to aspire to any position in this country.
“What happened really was that in 1999, the PDP wrote me a letter, telling me of decisions to zone the Presidency to the South. I acceded to it because it said that Obasanjo will only hold on to power for one term; and, for me, as for almost everyone, that tenure ended in 2003. After that, I was qualified to the best of my knowledge.
“Besides, I believe that zoning is wrong as an electoral principle. Rather, people should be in power because of merit, their programmes and past records, not where they come from. So, if you want to believe anyone between Audu Ogbeh and Tony Anenih, you had better believed Ogbeh.
“This is because the first zoning was on the principle of appeasing the south after they lost Abiola’s mandate when General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election in 1993. Abiola had won the election not on the grounds of zoning but on the basis of Option A4.
“He got ward and went on to defeat Atiku and kingibe. But Obasanjo’s victory in 1999 was basically on zoning, which was an arrangement to please the south.
“So, Tony Anenih lied. In 2002, there was a meeting of the PDP NEC in Abuja where the Governor of Delta, James Ibori and his Edo State counterpart, Lucky Igbinedion canvassed for the second coming of Obasanjo without any primaries. According to them, the President had done well and should be allowed to just go ahead in office without any primaries.
“I was the one who first stood up against the suggestion and rejected the idea outright. I told them that I was stopped in 1999 and cannot be denied in 2003 even if the only vote I get was mine.
“I challenged the President on what he called his success in government and I told him he has failed. The President did not reply and he kept quiet, saying nothing. Dr. Alex Ekwueme also kicked against the idea; so also Ghali Na’Abba who said the President had no right to continue in office.
“So, Audu Ogbeh then said the matter should be stood down and that we could go and contest. I would have gone to court if they had stopped me”.

Posted by Publisher at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

Maintain peace, Obasanjo tells Ladoja, Adedibu

President Olusegun Obasanjo, for the second time in three days, advised Governor Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo state and his estranged godfather, Chief Lamidi Adedibu to sheath sword and ensure peace in the state.

by Suleiman Muhammed / 2005-12-27

The president reportedly gave the advice in a close door meeting yesterday with the governor and Chief Adedibu at his Ota farm, Ogun state. The first meeting took place place last Friday when the governor briefed him on the crisis which began two weeks ago.
Yesterday’s meeting, according to sources was alleged by both parties and some prominent PDP stalwarts from Oyo state, but the president repeated his earlier declaration that action would be taken after the outcome of an inquiry by a fact-finding team raised by the ruling PDP. Also, a report is expected from the State Security Services (SSS) and the police.
Daily Trust learnt that the president expressed disappointment at the turn of events in Oyo state, governed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), stressing that Governor Rashidi Ladoja must put his house in order.
Though the president cold not blames any of the parties in the crisis, he reportedly told both Adedibu and the governor to respect each other.
“The president was careful in pointing accusing figure in order not to be accused of having side with either of the party,” said presidency source who confirmed the meeting to Daily Trust in Lagos.
Crisis erupted in Oyo state fortnight ago when 18 of the 32 member of House of Assembly, reportedly loyal to Chief Adedibu threatened to impeach the governor over allegation of gross misconduct in office, a situation which led to clashes between supporters of the governor and Adedibu in Ibadan.
The situation also led to a court action instituted by the pro-Ladoja legislators, led by the Speaker, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke against the planned impeachment. The case is expected hold on Wednesday in Ibadan High Court before Justice John Ige.
Meanwhile, in a twist yesterday, the pro-Adedibu legislators alleged threat to their lives, a similar allegation raised over the weeked by the pro-Ladoja legislators. Already, most of the legislators have re-located to Lagos for fear of attack.
Addressing a news conference, a member of the pro-Adedibu group, Hon. Bamidele said several telephone calls were received threatening their lives.
But the secretary to the state government, Mr. Ayodele Adigun, refuted the allegation in a statement, describing it as a figment of inauguration of the legislators.

Posted by Publisher at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

FG urged to repair Mayanchi-Gummi road

The federal government has been urged to hasten the repairs of the Mayanchi-Gummi road in Zamfara State in order to avoid loss of lives and property of the citizenry.

by Salisu Zakari Maradun / 2005-12-27

It should also look into the possibility of the total rehabilitation of some other federal roads in the state in particular, and the nation at large.
The call was made by the chairman of the local government, Alhaji Muhammad Suleiman Gya-lange, while answering questions from newsmen in his office in Gummi.
Alhaji Gyalange disclosed that the road which is constantly being deteriorating, has also affected the entire economic activities of the people of the area.
According to him, as a result of the bad condition of the road, the people of the area which comprises Gummi itself, Bukkuyu and other nearby villages have almost stopped plying it for fear of accident due to dangerous potholes which cannot be avoided.
He also explained that efforts are being made by his council towards reducing the tension of the people by embarking on minor patches through the use of literite, aimed at easing the transportation activities.
The chairman further narrated that his council had within the year constructed two roads and another contract has been awarded for the construction of another three across the local government.
In the water sector, the chairman maintained that over 22 boreholes were repaired in various villages as well as drainages within the local government.
Also provided was a large number of hospital beds which were purchased by the council and distributed to all the health institutions under the local government.
On electrification, Alhaji Gyalange stated that about five transformers were purchased and installed with a view to alleviating the sufferings of the people, while a huge amount of money was also expended for the construction of 2 blocks of classrooms.

Posted by Publisher at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

Ogun budgets N48bn for 2006

The Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has presented budget proposal of N48.58 billion for the year 2006 before the state House of Assembly.

by Kayode Ajibola / 2005-12-27

The 2006 proposal budget tagged Budget of Consolidation takes education the lion share with N10.718,5000.00 billion.
Otunba Daniel while presenting the budget to the 26-members of the Ogun State House of Assembly, said that the 2006 budget is meant to reinforce the 2005 appropriation bill, adding that the next year budget is also meant to eradicate poverty and hunger in the state.
He said that through the proposed budget, his administration next year planned to create job opportunities, enhance the provision of abundant affordable accommodation for the people.
The proposed budget expenditure for 2006 which is N48.58 billion is greater than the 2005 budget by 19.8%, and out of the total sum of N48.58 billion, a sum of N25.22 billion is for capital expenditure, this represents N51.91% of the total budget.
Otunba Daniel, who said that the proposed budget as a balanced one, based on the fact that the projected overall revenue in 2006 is N48.58 billion, while the total planned expenditure for the year is at the same level.
Given the breakdown of the budget, the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is N15.521 billion; Statutory Allocation, N21.2 billion, Value Added Tax (VAT), N2.80 billion, while the total Recurrent Revenue is N39.32 billion and the Capital Receipts is N9.27 billion.
While reviewing the 2005 budget performance, Otunba Daniel said the implementation of the budget has been very effective and successful, both in terms of actual performance and the realisation of policy objectives.
He appealed to the people of the state on the need to maintain peace and steadfastness, declaring that it is only on this premises that the purpose of the budget could be realised.

Posted by Publisher at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

AIDS c’ttee to become agency -Gov Attah

Akwa Ibom state government has proposed to transform State Action Committee on AIDS (SACA) into an agency.

by Edet Ekanem / 2005-12-27

The governor of the state Arc. (Obong) Victor Attah, who made this known in his address during the 2005 world AIDS day in Uyo said the transformation will strengthen its operations and ensure the sustainability of the programme in the after-math of the expiration of the development credit agree-ment with the World Bank next year.
Obong Attah, who was represented by the state chairman of SACA, Dr. Martin Akpan further disclosed that a resource centre earmarked for commissioning early next year is in the pipeline, expl-aining further that the resou-rce centre will be equipped with modern gadgets inclu-ding computers and internet services that will link it to the information super highness for easy access to information on HIV/AIDS and allied matters.
The governor said the state government has been resolute in the war against HIV/AIDS by establishing SACA that has in turn invo-lved 100 civil society organi-zations in the 31 local govern-ment areas and with the support of the World Bank, ministries and extra ministerial departments in the state have been enlisted in the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
The results, the governor said has led to a significant decline in the state prevalence rate from 12.5 per cent in 1999 to 7.2 per cent this year.
Obong Attah, who called on the people of the state to join the government on the campaign against HIV/AIDS in the coming years, noted that the state government has set up voluntary confidence counseling and testing (VCCT) centres in general hospitals at Ikot Ekpene, Ikono, Eket, Ovon, Ituk, Mbang, Ama and Urua Akpan to supplement the modern central laboratory located in Uyo.
The state commissioner for Health, Dr. (Uffong) Edet Attah in his address descr-ibed this year’s theme “Stop AIDS, keep the promise” as timely stating that the scou-rge can be prevented if abst-inence, faithfulness to partner and the use of condom are strictly followed.
He advised families of those living with HIV/AIDS to show love, care, support to them.
In his welcome address, the chairman State Action Committee on AIDS (SACA) Dr. Martin Akpan advised Akwa Ibom people to keep the promise to our signature in agreement to the UNGASS declaration of 2001 and the 3 by 5 initiative of 2003 by being committed in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
He said since no development will never take place in a city where high rate of HIV/AIDS is recorded, it calls for war from within and we need to talk to ourselves before we talk to others.”
Justice Edemekong Edem-ekong and Asuko Etuk, state chairman and secretary of Nigerian Red Cross Society in their goodwill messages noted that the society focuses on what they called “Youth Reen Education, Home based care for PLWHA, commissioning and anti-stigma campaigns against HIV/AIDS in the state.

Posted by Publisher at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Christmas is time for critical assessment - Senate President

Senate President, Ken Nnamani has called on Nigerians to use the yuletide season for critical assessment of the recent monumental tragedies that befell the nation.

by Jibrin Abubakar / 2005-12-27

“The passing year has recorded some monumental tragedies through air mishaps which brought pain and grief to many families in Nigeria”, he said.
In a statement made available to Daily Trust and signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President, Mr. Tunde Asaju, Nnamani expressed gratitude to all Nigerians, ‘who by show of love helped to lighten the burden of those families affected in the crash’.
“However, it is my belief that Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate will give the bereaved families the fortitude to go through this difficult period. For the Holy Books teach us that in all situations, positive or adverse, we must always give glory to the faithful Lord” he said.
The senate president urged Christians to offer prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed during their special Christmas Church Services around the nation.
Turning to the Senate, he said: ‘On our part, the Nigerian Senate restates its unwavering commitment to the articulation of people-oriented legislations that will enhance good governance and promote the general ideals of democracy for the rapid socio-economic transformation of Nigeria”.
He described the festive period as a time for Nigerians to have a critical assessment of Nigeria’s respective communities and see how they all can complement government efforts in development.
“While we savour the special essence of this yuletide season, I, Senator Ken Nnamani, President of the Senate, heartily wish both our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters a Merry Christmas and a very prosperous 2006”, he concluded.

Posted by Publisher at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria’s envoy berates Ivorian parties over stalemate

The Nigeria’s Ambassador to Cote d’ivoire, Mr. Ebenezer Olu Olusan-mokun, has lampooned Ivorian political parties for the stalemate which has made it difficult for the UN backed African Union appointed interim prime minister, Mr. Charles Konan Banny, to compose a government nearly a month after his installation.

by Charles Onunaiju / 2005-12-27

Speaking to Daily Trust exclusively in his office, Ambassador Olu Olusanmokun decried the “extreme polarizations or cleavages among the political parties and little moderation in their conduct”, adding that, “here parties appear too obsessed with gaining power for themselves and hardly think about the interest of the nation as a whole”.
He also took a swipe at the local press, which he described “as not helpful”, as according to him, the press is largely owned by politicians and they therefore “passionately advance and canvass the interests and positions of their owners, with the result that there is little or no objectivity in what you see in the media here”.
Denying that the African Union may have acted in good will, but without adequate consultation with the local political forces, in nominating a prime minister, the Nigerian ambassador said that the AU drew a correct conclusion that the “political forces here could not reach consensus”, for instance when there were asked to name a prime minister that is acceptable to all of them, they could not and the AU as a responsible mediator waded in and named one that is acceptable to all of them.
He, however, pointed out that a UN Security Council resolution 1572, provides for sanctions against any political party, forces or individuals that might hinder the Ivorian peace process and resolution 1633inpowerd international working group who monitors the process to identify any such recalcitrant force or party.
Ambassador Olu Olusan-mokun told Daily Trust that the AU in conjuction with the UN have adequate mechanism to push forward conclusively the ivoiren peace process and explained that the UN resolution 1633 “stipulates that the prime minister be equipped with the necessary powers that will enable him execute the agenda, which is mainly to reunify the country and re-establish central authorities in all parts of the country special in the north that is been held by the armed dissident group, New Forces Movement. According to the Nigeria’s ambassador, the executive president, Mr. Laurent Gbagbo tenure ended on the 10th of October and was extended by the international community to ensure continuity, and therefore has no power to interfere in the work and mandate of the prime minister, who is empowered to undertake electoral reforms, leading to free and fair elections, reunify the country, demobilise and disarm militias.
He however, pointed out that the president’s office is still quite influential, and expressed confidence that the prime minister would cooperate with the president in the discharge of his duties, adding that “it would be in his interest to do that”.

Posted by Publisher at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

Ladoja on the verge of impeachment?

Since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took over the mantle of leadership in Oyo State in 2003, hardly a month passed without reports of political hiccups between governor Rashidi Ladoja and the godfather of Ibadan politics, Chief Lamidi Adedibu.

by Suleiman Mohammed, / 2005-12-27

The in-house crises began early 2004 when the governor raised an eyebrow, accusing Chief Adedibu of attempting to pocket him by way of surrendering the state treasury to the dictate of some cabal to the detriment of the citizens of Oyo state. And the trend continue with series of squabbles amongst supporters of the two parties leading to several deaths and loss of properties within the last two years. Notwithstanding the mediator roles played by several prominent citizens of the state and president Olusegun Obasanjo, the crises continued unabated, particularly that the governor is believed to be one of the loyal confidants of vice-president Atiku Abubakar in the South-West, while Chief Adebidu is known as a core supporter of president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Therefore, recent events which nearly led to the impeachment of Governor Ladoja by a faction of the State House of Assembly loyal to Chief Adebidu was very much anticipated by many keen observers of Ibadan politics. It was on December 13, 2005 that 18 members of the State House of Assembly, which had been dormant since September 1, 2005 apparently to douse tension, suddenly came alive, but in a violent manner, leaving at least two members seriously injured.
The 18 legislators took the state by surprise when they convened at D’Rovans Hotel,
Ibadan and dispatched an impeachment notice to the governor, accusing him of “gross misconduct”.
Signs of crises became prominent when, as early as 7.30am, a detachment of regular and anti-riot policemen led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Prank David stormed the legislative complex and chased out workers unannounced. Some minutes after, about 30 legislators converged with the exception of the Speaker, Adeolu Adeleke. As the deputy speaker, Taiwo Oluyemi took charge and commenced proceedings, the Speaker emerged and demanded to take over control of the proceedings, but his deputy resisted, a development which led to a heated argument, and in the process two legislators, Josiah Idowu and Titilola Olaniyan were allegedly stabbed by some furious members loyal to the deputy speaker who is known as a loyalist of Chief Adebidu. It was after the fracas that the 8 members walked out of the legislative complex, located at Agodi, Ibadan under heavy police escort and reconvened at D’Rovans Hotel where they decided to serve the governor with an impeachment notice.
They further suspended six other members including the Speaker who are loyalists of the governor. Others suspended are, Josiah Idowu, and Tunde Olaniyan who were accused of leading thugs to sack the Assembly last September. Busari Olayemi and Speaker Adeleke for their alleged roles in the disruption of previous sittings.
The former speaker of the House, Mikail Alarape and Doke Hassan were also suspended for instituting lawsuits against the House, an action perceived as contrary to the House Rules.
Meanwhile the mace was brought in by the sergeant at arms from the legislative complex to legitimize the sitting which was coordinated by Alhaji Azeem Gbolalarum, a right hand man of the Chief Adebibu.
It was gathered that the plot to impeach the governmor was hatched at the recent National Convcntion of the PDP in Abuja, where it was allegedly decided that Ladoja must be impeached for his alleged loyalty to vice-president Atiku and his disapproval of the third term agenda of president Obasanjo.
However, barely hours after the pro- Adedibu legislators completed their sitting at D’Rovans Hotel. The 12 members loyal to governor Ladoja sat at the Government House and announced the suspension of the deputy speaker, Oluyemi and replaced him With Titilola Olaniyan. This was followed by series of separate nocturnal meetings by both parties and their godfathers in the crises.
- While the Adedibu camp strategised to ensure victory, the pro-Ladoja legislators re-converged the following day and passed a vote of confidence on the governor, and dismissed the notice of impeachment purportedly sent to him by the House. This time, the governor’s loyalists increased to 14, leaving the anti-Ladoja group with 15 followership.
Surprisingly, the pro-Ladoja members led by the Speaker produced another mace replica to the original which was earlier confiscated by the anti-governor legislators, a development which made it possible for the House to have two symbols of authority instead of one single symbol of legislative power. But in another twist, the Adedibu loyalists converged at the NUJ press centre, Ibadan and declared the action of the Adeleke led pro- governor faction, null and void, saying the speaker has been suspended and governor Ladoja must answer their query within 14 days effective from December 13, 2005 or be impeached.
They also described the mace used by the pro-Ladoja group as “fake”. saying that they are in possession of the “authentic mace. But speaker Adeolu and his 13 pro-Ladoja legislators countered the argument at a separate press conference, saying that the
purported impeachment letter was dated Friday December 9, 2005, a day the Assembly was still on vacation. He further contended that OJuyemi was never elected as his deputy.
“The one that claimed to be my deputy is not my deputy. My deputy is here seated referring to Titilola and he has said he did not write any letter to me. I want to use this opportunity to inform the people of Oyo state that this Assembly has no plan to impeach the governor. He has not done anything to warrant it.
I asked the clerk whether he has received such letter and he said no such letter is with him” he said
The drama was followed by series of good will messages and visits to the governor, apparently organized by his supporters and loyalists to counter the move by Chief Adedibu to remove him from office.
Governor Ladoja, who reacted to the situation in a state-wide broadcast last Wednesday, alleged that the 18 lawmakers against him were financially induced and coerced to take the action. He pledged that not withstanding the tussle; he will make the necessary scarifies to ensure that the state is freed from the Shackles of politics of thuggery, blackmail and lies.” He recalled that soon after assuming office, he made it clear that the state treasury will not be surrendered to a cabal of politicians in the state to the detriment of the citizens and development of Oyo State.
In his address entitled “The threat to sustainable development in Oyo state”, governor Ladoja declared; “some members of the State House of Assembly, Just some months ago were induced with money, harassed and intimidated in order to impeach me as the governor of the state and indeed paralyze the activities of government. The intention is to destabilize this administration and ensure that decisions that are against their parochial interest are not taken by this government”. He then pledged to ensure that the politics of godfatherism had come to an end in Oyo state. “I am conscious of the fact that we have to pay a price in order to bring about a new order in the art of politics and governance in Oyo state. Let me assure you that we will pay the price so that a situation whereby a small clique because of their power of thuggery, blackmail and threat hold any government to ransom will become a thing of the past. This is the only way we can ensure that we shall leave the state better than we met it”.
As Ladoja ended his address, the state was thrown into, yet another confusion as the pro-Adedibu group vowed to disrupt the planned budget presentation on Thursday December 15, 2005. This development forced the governor to go into dialogue and series of negotiations, with some key figures in the-Assembly. Also, the Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba Yinusa Ogundipe, Arapasowu !, added his voice, assuring the governor of his loyalty and support. High Chief Samuel Lana, the Otun Olubadan, who led four other high chiefs to the governor on Monday, December 19,2005 said the decision to support the governor was reached at a meeting held at the palace of Olubadan.
“We are here to deliver the message of the Olubadan of Ibadan and the 11 local government chairmen in Ibadan land as well as the Olubadan in council are solidly behind the governor especially in the zoning arrangement of traditional council of Obas and Chiefs. We feel it is unwise for anyone to be thinking of removing him from office when he actually should be encouraged to continue the work he is doing”, he declared.
This visit, among others, perhaps provided a sigh of relief to the governor who then announced Wednesday, December 21, 2003 as budget presentation day to the state House of Assembly.
However, the budget presentation was boycotted by the 18 legislators who were expected to have been accommodated into the mainstream. This development, further fuel speculations that the peace parley had floundered and that the crises will continue in the state. At the budget presentation, which was attended by only 14 lawmakers, the governor re-affirmed his commitment to serve the state despite “harassment, intimidation and thuggery”. But from all indication, the pro-Adedibu group still stand by their godfather, as they unleashed terror last Thursday chasing the governor out of the Government House, creating an avenue for the 18 pro-Ladoja legislators to sit at the state assembly complex. They passed a resolution urging the state chief judge to, within three days constitute a panel to investigate the “gross misconduct” of the governor. Perhaps, this development is a clear indication that Ladoja’s days in power are numbered and until that happens , Oyo state may not see peace in the near future.

Posted by Publisher at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

Customs begins auction

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) zone ‘A’ Harvey road, Yaba, Lagos has commenced a public auction of over time cargoes abandoned at the seaports by importers and seized goods from smugglers.

by Adelenwa Bamgboye / 2005-12-27

The public auction which started Wednesday at the zonal headquarters NSC was flagged off by the Assistant Comptroller General ACG of customs, Alhaji Adamu Rabiu, who warned the large crowd that turned out for the event not to be unruly.
He said that during the earlier arrangement in which members of the public were to write an application it was discovered that a single person wrote up to thirty different applications for allocation. He disclosed that most of the allocations are vehicles which were long abandoned at the port hence their prices are very low because they are scraps.
The ACG advised successful beneficiaries to go and inspect the vehicle before paying for them as most of the vehicles are in very bad shape.
It was better that some of the vehicles being auctioned are those that are overtime because they had over-stayed in the port and have incurred demurrage that are more than the cost price hence they were abandoned.
Other category of vehicles being auctioned includes those seized from smugglers. It would be recalled that the comptroller-general (CG) customs at the 2005 annual CG’s conference in Jos disclosed that between January to October 2005 the service recorded 1597 seizure of various types of vehicles.
Some of these vehicles were seized through the anti-smuggling efforts of the officers and men of the NCS zone ‘A’.
Meanwhile, the public auction later came to an abrupt end due to pandemonium that ensued as the crowd became uncontrollable.

Posted by Publisher at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

Include education in tertiary curricular – Makarfi

Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi of Kaduna state has called on the tertiary institutions in Nigeria to improve on the quality of education they offer the youths.

by Abdulraheem Aodu / 2005-12-27

Makarfi, who also called for the inclusion of education as part of the curriculum for all tertiary programmes, said these steps will further prepare the nation’s graduates for life after-school, as well as equip them better for the national youth services.
The governor made the call yesterday when he received the director general of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier Yusuf Bomai at Sir Kashim Ibrahim house government office Kaduna.
He said “our tertiary institutions must rise up and improve on the quality of degree they award. This would equip our graduates for the one year youth service scheme. I do not think there is any state with adequate skill labour, so the services are very much essential.
“I would also suggest that education is made part of the curricular that every undergraduate passes through. They should al take education as one of their courses thus they would be comfortable when taken to schools for their youth service scheme”.
Makarfi, who had earlier commended the director general for his initiatives in ensuring that the youth corpers are self reliant and self employed after their youth service assured that his government will continue to play its role in developing facilities within his domain.
He added that he would discuss the issue of inadequate youth lodges at the local government councils with their chairmen with a view of seeing an end to the accommodation problem facing them.
Earlier in his address, NYSC director general, brigadier Bomai enumerated the achievements and problems facing the scheme. He thanked governor Makarfi for providing two boreholes and three overhead tanks at the state orientation camp as well as supplementing the youth corpers food up to N800, 000.
Brigadier Bomai said the scheme which was established to foster unity and integrity among Nigerian youths, has facilitated the socio-economic development of the country.
“So many schools would have collapsed without the services of our corpers. The scheme has also helped the federal government to develop some of its cardinal programmes, talking of health and population census”.

Posted by Publisher at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

Include education in tertiary curricular – Makarfi

Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi of Kaduna state has called on the tertiary institutions in Nigeria to improve on the quality of education they offer the youths.

by Abdulraheem Aodu / 2005-12-27

Makarfi, who also called for the inclusion of education as part of the curriculum for all tertiary programmes, said these steps will further prepare the nation’s graduates for life after-school, as well as equip them better for the national youth services.
The governor made the call yesterday when he received the director general of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier Yusuf Bomai at Sir Kashim Ibrahim house government office Kaduna.
He said “our tertiary institutions must rise up and improve on the quality of degree they award. This would equip our graduates for the one year youth service scheme. I do not think there is any state with adequate skill labour, so the services are very much essential.
“I would also suggest that education is made part of the curricular that every undergraduate passes through. They should al take education as one of their courses thus they would be comfortable when taken to schools for their youth service scheme”.
Makarfi, who had earlier commended the director general for his initiatives in ensuring that the youth corpers are self reliant and self employed after their youth service assured that his government will continue to play its role in developing facilities within his domain.
He added that he would discuss the issue of inadequate youth lodges at the local government councils with their chairmen with a view of seeing an end to the accommodation problem facing them.
Earlier in his address, NYSC director general, brigadier Bomai enumerated the achievements and problems facing the scheme. He thanked governor Makarfi for providing two boreholes and three overhead tanks at the state orientation camp as well as supplementing the youth corpers food up to N800, 000.
Brigadier Bomai said the scheme which was established to foster unity and integrity among Nigerian youths, has facilitated the socio-economic development of the country.
“So many schools would have collapsed without the services of our corpers. The scheme has also helped the federal government to develop some of its cardinal programmes, talking of health and population census”.

Posted by Publisher at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

Woman regains hair after acid attack

A young woman who was horrifically burnt in an acid attack almost a year ago finally has a full head of hair again.

by Caroline Ryan / 2005-12-27

Sundeep Hunjan, from Kenya, was so badly injured that she only had four millimetres of eyelid left, meaning she could not blink. She had also suffered third degrees burns on her torso.
Sundeep was brought to the UK by her uncle for treatment at the McIndoe Surgical Centre in East Grinstead, West Sussex.
She has already undergone operations to restore her eyelids and other procedures on her neck.
In the latest operation, surgeons inserted a silicon balloon under the part of Sundeep’s scalp which still had hair.
The balloon was then injected with saline to slowly expand it every week for several months. I look much more like I did before
This meant there would be enough hair-bearing skin to cover the 25% where hair was burnt off.
Last week, surgeons removed the scarred skin on Sundeep’s head and pulled the hairline forward. She also had a lip release as her top lip was tightening around her nostrils.
Sundeep said it marked a significant stage in her treatment.
Sundeep was looking forward to her wedding before the attack
She told the BBC News website: “I’m very happy with my progress. And this operation has really given me a different look. “I look much more like I did before. I’m really, really happy.”
Sundeep said she is still conscious of her looks, but added: “When I’ve had more operations on my eyes and my nose to make them look more natural, that will be better.
But she said she felt she was over the worst of her treatment. “It feels like I’m going ‘down the hill’.
Sundeep said she was also pleased to have had the balloon removed, which she said was “really painful”. Her surgeon, Baljit Dheansa, said he felt the operation had been a success.
“It did everything we wanted to, and it also fulfilled what Sundeep wanted.”
Sundeep was driving home from her job as a logistics officer for Toyota East Africa in Nairobi with her father when the attack took place one day in February this year.
Sundeep, 23, said: “It was a Monday. It was a very hot day and we were driving home with the windows open.
Sundeep was delighted to see her fiancé Amritpal again in September
“We were in traffic, and just as we started moving, I felt something hot pour over me.
“I didn’t know what it was. I got out of the car, but I couldn’t see anything. Then my father told me it was acid.”
Sundeep is due to have further surgery on the burns on her face next year.
Once it is all completed, Sundeep and her fiancé Amritpal Singh Rupra can return to planning their wedding - which should have taken place in April this year.
He has seen the pictures of Sundeep after her latest operation, and said they were “amazing”.
Sundeep is hoping to go back to Kenya to see him as soon as she is well enough.
The family are still trying to raise another £25,000 to fund her treatment.
Caroline Ryan is BBC News health reporter.

Posted by Publisher at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

Hajj: Borno shops for alternative airline

The Borno state government is making efforts to contract the services of an alternative airline to convey pilgrims from the state to the holy land, following the revocation of the pilgrims airlift contract earlier given to International Trans.

by Abdullahi Bego / 2005-12-27

The airlift of Borno pilgrims was due to begin on Christmas day last Sunday but could not go ahead because the state government took a last minute decision, not to continue with the airline, International Trans Air.
Executive secretary of the state pilgrims welfare board, Alhaji Kalli Imam told Daily Trust in a telephone chat yesterday that while the state government makes effort to get an alternative airline to convey the pilgrims, it is also looking at another alternative of using a “back-up arrangement” put in place by the Department of Pilgrims Affairs (DPA) of the foreign affairs ministry, where some airlines were put on stand-by to convey pilgrims if and when airline contracted to do the job fail to do so.
Alhaji Kalli Imam added that with the efforts being made, it is hoped that the airlift of pilgrims from Borno state will now start on Thursday or Friday.
Although the Borno state government has not given any reasons for revoking the airlift contrace with International Trans Air, sources told our correspondent that the airline might have failed to meet certain conditions associated with the contract given it. Other sources also have expressed dissatisfaction with the ability of the airline to engage in the airlift of pilgrims.

Posted by Publisher at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

‘Is there a credible replacement for Obasanjo?’

Presidential spokesperson, Chief Femi Fani Kayode has replied Archbishop John Oniayekan of the Abuja Catholic Diocese, affirming that the “distinguished Archbishop has completely missed the point.”

by Emmanual Bello / 2005-12-27

Chief Kayode was responding to statements credited to the Archbishop who said that there are over five thousand Nigerians who could succeed President Obasanjo in 2007.
According to Chief Kayode “it is ridiculous that, in a country of 150 million people, someone could say only 5,000 are capable of ruling. It is not true. When you look at it, I’m sure there are over one or two million people who can rule Nigeria. But that is not the point.”
He said that the issue is who could repeat the president’s feat in the area of the economy. “The point is not the number of people who could rule. But how many of those people can rule in an efficient, just and equitable manner as it is done today? How many can run the economy, fight corruption as it is done today? How many can restore the fortunes of Nigeria in the international arena as it is today? How many of these people could have succeeded in achieving debt relief and cancellation as it has been done today?”
On the change of leadership at the national level, the special assistant to the president on public matters said that such an exercise is inevitable. “We agree that in every institution, whether in government, private company, the media outfit, political parties or even the Church itself, there must be room for change of leadership. And the appropriate time such changes must come, thus the quality, not quantity of individuals that are capable of changing over them become the issue.
“And, where you have a choice, in any of these institutions, you do not change leadership simply for the sake of changing it. It is not whether there are one million or 5,000 capable people that is relevant. It is whether there are any of 5,000 or one million that can maintain the high standard and keep the flag flying.”
He urged Nigerian to be careful in their selection of a leader who rules them in the future. “The fact is that judging from the quality of leadership from 1979-1999, Nigerian people need to be extremely careful in making the decision as whom to rule them in the future.
“This is a very critical point. We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to be taken back to the role and degeneration of the past by anybody. We must cultivate the courage to insist on the very best quality of leaders and insist on maintaining standards this administration has set. No matter what that takes.”

Posted by Publisher at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

Kaduna inaugurates c’ttee over $5m ADF grant

A committee has been inaugurated by Kaduna state government to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between then state government and Africa Development Foundation (ADF).

by Abdulraheem Aodu / 2005-12-27

The committee which is headed by the state commissioner for agriculture, Alhaji Samaila Yakanada is saddled with the responsibility of supervising and executing the agricultural development grant of $5milion granted the state by the foundation.
Speaking while inaugurating the committee, the deputy governor of Kaduna state, Mr Patrick Yakowa said the committee was set up to implement the agreement between the state and the foundation.
“A couple of months ago we received a delegation from ADF to discuss the assistance that was to come from the foundation. After series of deliberation and meetings, the governor went to Washington DC, USA to sign the memorandum of understanding with the officials of ADF last month.
“We are now in the phase of implementing the agreement thus the inauguration of this committee, the MOU states that Kaduna state will benefit $1million annually for five years from the foundation, while the state government will contribute N140million counterpart annually for five years also.
“The fund is meant for the development of agriculture and agro allied industry in the state including irrigation. With the inauguration of this committee, we would start to implement the agreement”.
He then implored the committee to ensure that development programme.
KADP manager, M Ashafa serves as acting secretary.

Posted by Publisher at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

NWC participants observe Nasarawa Assembly

Participants of the National War College Abuja, course 14, team II, were at the Nasarawa state house of assembly, Wednesday where they observed proceedings at a special sitting in Lafia.

2005-12-27

Before moving to the chamber of the assembly, speaker Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo, who received them in his office had told the visitors to see their role as complementary to the enthronement of democracy in the country.
“When the military is co-operating and working along side with politicians then, the country is working towards a better future,” the speaker stated.
He commended that their study visit to Nasarawa state was highly desirable as part of the fulfilment of their programmes and announced to the participants that Nasarawa state remained the only state in the whole of the federation where solid mineral resources of all types could be found in abundant high quality.
Mohammed Onawo remarked also that if resources of all sectors of our economy could be properly tapped, the nation would have no reason to depend solely on oil for its survival.
The speaker assured that the assembly has been challenged by the visit of the participants of the war college and that the legislature and the state executive will put their heads together to live up to their responsibilities.
Earlier, the leader of the team, Air Commodore James Duke, had told the speaker that they were in the state as part of the fulfilment and a very important aspect of their programme at the college
He said contrary to popular perception the national war college deals more on peace and security studies such as conflicts resolutions and prevention then the art of war.
According to Air Commodore Duke, the college participants, he said, look at national security in all its ramifications in their courses and analyse issues pertaining to food security, social security, employment security and even health security which, he stressed, explains the reason for the participation of some officials from strategically selected ministries like the ministries of internal and foreign affairs as well as the participation of some foreign countries.
Also in the delegation was the commandant of the college, Rear Admiral A. A. M. Isa who along with the participants also went round to inspect facilities at the state assembly complex.

Posted by Publisher at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

Agidi, Azara areas, get new chairmen

New chairmen have been sworn in for Agidi and Azara development areas of Nasarawa state, Wednesday, by the state governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu.
The new chairmen are Mr. Moses Usa and Alhaji Yahaya B. Usman for Agidi and Azara development areas respectively.

by Aboky Suleiman / 2005-12-27

Their swearing in followed the death of the late chairman of Agidi, Mr. Bala Gabi who died along with 117 others in the ill-fated Bellview plane crash in October this year and the former chairman of Azara development area, late Alhaji Ibrahim Gaya, who died in September, also this year.
In his statement at the occasion, the state governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu charged the chairmen of local government councils and development areas in the state on the need to uphold principles of accountability in all their transactions.
He enjoined them to ensure an even distribution of developmental projects in their various councils and areas as well as to maintain absolute loyalty to their party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the const-ituted authority.
The governor asked them to be prudent, honest and judicious in the management of resources under their care, adding that his government was determined to enshrine the principle of accounta-bility in all spheres of gover-nance for the benefit of the people of the state.
He reminded the chairmen to work towards impleme-nting programmes of the PDP, which according to him, were geared towards enhancing the quality of lives of all Nigerians.
Alhaji Yahaya B. Usman, chairman of Azara develop-ment area, who responded on behalf of the other chairman, thanked the governor for the confidence reposed on them and promised to remain obedient and be of continued loyalty to the state govern-ment and their party, the PDP.

Posted by Publisher at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

Disagreement among politicians, no signal for coup –Obasanjo

President Olusegun Obasanjo has advised military officers not to regard the occasional disagreement between politicians as an indication that democracy does not work or a signal for a coup.

by Sani Babadoko / 2005-12-27

In a speech to the passing out parade of officer cadets of the short service course 34 (Army) and Direct Short Service Course 16 (Navy) at the Nigerian Defence Acad-emy (NDA) Kaduna at the weekend, Obasanjo advised that those who took any treasonable action will face the full force of the law.
He said in the speech read by the Defence Minister, Dr. Musa Kwankwaso that disagreements and mistakes are inevitable because, “in the process, lessons will be learnt that will strengthen the system.”
“Arbitrary and undemo-cratic actions are no solutions to democratic problems. The military, more than any other institution of state, owes this country a duty to appreciate this fundamental logic.
“Your continued subordi-nation to civil authority, therefore, must remain the guiding principle under the present dispensation,” Obas-anjo declared.
Similarly, he warned ethnic militia especially in the Niger-Delta that government will not hesitate to take stern action against them.
He said inspite of all the alternative civil opportunities that exist within the democ-ratic dispensation, some people still believe they can force their point of view on others by undemocratic means often including the resort to violence.
“Government will leave no stone unturned in chec-king these fissiparous tende-ncies in our country, inclu-ding stern measures against treasonable actions of some misguided elements in our society,” Obasanjo declared.
He said discipline and loyalty should be the watch-word of the graduating offi-cers adding, “you must not lose sight of these basic requ-irements in your professional conduct and you should always be realistic in matching your expectations of what is desirable with what is afford-able to the nation and achie-vable by government.”
234 cadets, 134 army in the SSC 34 and 100 Naval cadets of the DSSC 16 passed out during the ceremony.

Posted by Publisher at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

Senate c’ttee insists on restoration of railways

Members of the senate committee on privatization have insisted that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) must be resuscitated saying that the lives of the (70) seventy students from Loyola Jesuit College Abuja would have been saved if the rail system was operational.

by Adelanwa Bamgboye / 2005-12-27

The lawmakers stated this over the weekend in Lagos at the conference room of the NRC headquarters, Ebute Metta before embarking on a train ride for a study tour to inspect rail corridors in Lagos.
Members of the committee led by its chairman Senator Saleh Danboyi and its deputy Senator Bode Olowoporoku accompanied by a team from the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) said that the group was at the NRC to save the corporation from their predicaments.
According to the lawmakers, there must be a complete over hauling of the railway system to meet the challenges of movement of goods and persons.
It would be recalled that about seventy (70) students of the Loyola Jesuit College Abuja who were returning home from school after vacation lost their lives in the Sosoliso plane crash at Port-Harcourt.
The lawmakers explained how children love traveling on trains where they (children) were usually given food and drinks as it was seen as a sort of excursion during the holidays.
According to them, the 70 children that were lost in the plane crash might have been saved if the railway system in the country was operational.
The senators while explaining that the railway system would be on the top agenda of the National Assembly committee on privatization assured that the work force of the NRC would not be tampered with, adding that the reforms of the federal government and the BPE was meant to put the enterprises into private hands.
According to the senators, the NRC structures are dilapidating and no government would look at its infrastructures decay.
The senators said that all the problems of the NRC would eventually be a thing of the past adding that the corporation has a very bright future.

Posted by Publisher at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

‘Vet institute ready to fight bird flu’

The Executive Director, National Veterinary Research Institute (NV-RI), Dr. (Mrs.) Lami Lombin, has said the institute has the capacity to carry out its primary role in the fight against the deadly Avian flu (bird flu) in the country, even as she disclosed that Nigeria is to be used for the West African preparedness plan.

by Rakiya A. Muhammad / 2005-12-27

Speaking at an interactive session with journalists in Jos on Tuesday, Dr. Lombin asserted that NVRI is positioned and has the expertise to ensure early detection, diagnosis and monitoring of the infection.
She added that the institute is in active surveillance of the disease and that collection and analysis of samples from migratory and domestic waterfowls have commenced in the Nguru, Hadejia waterlands.
The NVRI director said though there would be country by country preparedness plan, there was need to have a common agreement for the West Africa, and that Nigeria would be used for the sub-region.
To this effect, Dr. Lombin said efforts are on to get multi-national organisations to adequately fund the institute to ensure that it is best equipped for that purpose.
She stressed that there is no alternative to adequate funding and called on corporate organisations in the country to also consider the funding of research on Avian flu.
According to her, early detection is the main key to prevention and rapid response.
Dr. Lombin reiterated the need for a total ban on importation of poultry and all poultry products from Asia and other affected countries.
She also stressed the need to enforce strict monitoring and control of movement of all poultry and poultry products through land, air and sea ports.

Posted by Publisher at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

Hadejia LG gives free education, health care to rural children

As part of its community development efforts aimed at providing social amenities and quality life, Hadejia local government of Jigawa State, has launched free health for women and children, as well as free education up to junior secondary school level.

by Hassan A. Karofi / 2005-12-27


Disclosing this to newsmen shortly after taking them round the children and women hospital, the council chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed, said the decision was part of a strategy evolved to assist vulnerable groups in the council.
He said as two of the most important needs of humans, the council decided to give free health for its children and women as well as free education up to junior secondary school level.
Alhaji Ibrahim also disclosed that apart from free health, diagnosis, consultancy and free health, the council has also provided free drugs to all classes of patients.
He said even serious cases are being sponsored by the council in order to receive qualitative health to citizens.
“We spend N500,000 monthly on drugs and we charge small amount on all classification of medication,” he added.
The chairman also said apart from free education, he has also introduced free exercise books for students.
“We give free education to all students, provide them exercise books, pay entrance examination for those in primary schools and pay for all those in junior secondary schools, as well as SSCE/NECCO for the SSS3 students, while we introduced scholarship for tertiary students,” he also disclosed.
He therefore called on parents to support his administration which he said, is all geared towards social emancipation of the people.

Posted by Publisher at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

Northern Senators disown zoning controversy by Isa Sanusi / 2005-12-27

Some members of the Northern Senators Forum have disassociated themselves from the position credited to the forum calling for “dialogue and compromises with Southern politicians over power shift in 2007.”

The Senators particularly noted that they were not consulted before the statement was issue last week and pointed out that, there will be no comprise on power shift to the North.
Daily Trust could not reach the secretary of the forum, Senator Saidu Dansadau as he was said to have traveled to Germany.
Senator Kanti Bello said there was no proper consultation before the forum issued a statement last week. He said “I totally disassociate myself from that position, it is unacceptable.”
Senator Kanti added that there is no way a position the PDP can be imposed on all Northern Senators. “They have to explain to us how they came about the position of begging or calling for dialogue with the South. This is unacceptable.”
On his part, Senator Badamasi Maccido said, the leadership of Northern Senators Forum should have summoned a meeting before taking a position in view of the importance of the position of Southern leaders which was taken “in a desperate attempt by desperate people to set North and South on collusion course.
“I felt it is the duty of Northern Senators Forum to call a meeting, so that the North will not look like we are begging Southerners. Somebody is putting us on collusion course. They are a few people bent on staying in power by creating division across people of the nation.”
Senator Maccido then called on all Northerners to dismiss the position taken by Southern leaders in Enugu because, it was arranged to do some other people’s dirty job of dividing the nation.
Senators particularly of the PDP declined comment. This may not be unconnected to the order handed down to them by the party barring them from partaking in regional groupings.
The statement in question was issued on Friday saying “the task ahead of us now is to engage dialogue and compromises with a view to understanding one another, narrow down our differences and nurture an enduring democracy.

Posted by Publisher at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

U.S. threatens sanctions; Obasanjo won’t go for it, says Mbang

Washington proposes to take several punitive measures against Abuja if President Olusegun Obasanjo seeks a third term.

Tension is growing between the two countries over Nigeria's future leadership.

By Chinedu Offor

(Washington) and

Stella Odueme (Lagos)


To cap it, the United States Government is reportedly furious with what State Department officials called "an unwarranted attack on the country with the tacit support of the Nigerian leadership by Presidential Spokesman, Femi Fani Kayode".

He recently rebuked Washington over comments by serving and former administration officials who frown at suggestions of a third term bid by Obasanjo.

Sources confirmed that the government has taken the unusual step of informing members of Congress of a possible leadership problem in Nigeria.

The notice to senior lawmakers of both parties also contained an earlier assessment about the possible disintegration of Nigeria.

"If the present administration seeks to stay in office longer than its current term, the scenario in the assessment could come sooner than expected" senior government officials said.

Measures that could be applied against Nigeria include military, economic and diplomatic.

The U.S is a major supplier of military hardware to Nigerian forces and the administration assists the country in economic policies, such as the recent debt pardon by the Paris Club.

Congressional sources said the U.S supported the debt forgiveness after obtaining assurances from Obasanjo of a smooth hand over to another leader at the expiration of his term.

"The deal was to give a new leadership in Nigeria less economic burden to chart a new course for the country, but all bets will be off if Obasanjo amends the Constitution to prolong his term", said officials.

Reminded that the U.S could be seen to be dabbling in the internal affairs of another nation, one insisted that a leadership crisis in Nigeria could have a "devastating domino effect" on the whole region and would "severely hurt the administration’s goal of encouraging democracy, term limits and good government on the continent".

According to sources the U.S. administration decided to pay closer attention to the "persistent rumours" of a plot to extend the term of office in Nigeria after failing to get a clear denial from Abuja.

Recent reports that 30 governors and several of their state Senate and House of Representatives reportedly signed on for a constitutional amendment for fear of being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also causes anxiety.

"If this story is corroborated, the administration would have no option than to consult with its allies on the need to tell Abuja in clear terms that such an action would not be supported by the international community" American officials said.

But back in Lagos, Prelate of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Sunday Mbang, expressed confidence that the President would not go for a third term in 2007.

His words: “People don’t know Obasanjo, that is why they are talking like that. I have known him for long, he is not going for a third term. When he finishes his second term, he is returning to Ota and I am very confident about it”.

He charged Nigerians to embrace the wind of change in the spirit of Christmas to make things better for all, just as Jesus Christ, whose birthday is being celebrated this season, came to make the world a better place.

Nigerians should shun corrupt practices to move the nation forward, Mbang pleaded.

“In spite of so many churches packed full every Sunday and with the huge crusades, corruption, bad habit are everywhere. It looks like Nigerians inside and outside out are dirty.

“Jesus Christ has come once again this Christmas to change lives and I hope that this Christmas, the lives of Nigerians will change. I hope that policemen who have been collecting N20 on the roads would stop taking it, NEPA would give us light and bad roads would be repaired in the New Year so that the lives of Nigerians would change for the better. That is the Christmas message.

“Anybody who collects bribe during the elections in 2007 will die, that is what I asked God to do. That person will die completely, from beginning to end.

“Nobody will rig the elections, nobody will cause confusion in this country, no more strike, everybody will live peacefully in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

Posted by Publisher at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Adedibu, force to reckon with, says Obasanjo

President Olusegun Obasanjo has described Lamidi Adedibu “as a force to reckon with both in Ibadan and the whole of Oyo State” politics.

By Segun Adeleye

Reporter, Abeokuta

Adedibu is an adversary of the state Governor, Rashidi Ladoja, whom his faction of lawmakers served an impeachment notice last week after a mayhem that led to the death of two persons.

The President bared his mind on Monday at Ibogun-Olaogun, his home town in Ogun State during the town’s Day for 2005.

He expressed appreciation for the presence of Adedibu at the occasion.

The man came with his supporters amid drumming and dancing.

The President told him: “We appreciate your coming. We appreciate not only your coming, we appreciate your coming in a very special style. Nothing can be more spectacular than the display of the drummers”.

Obasanjo apologised to Adedibu’s supporters for the insistence of the security agents not to allow them in with Adedibu on a horse back.

However, the President cautioned the actors in the Oyo State crisis, saying: “I will just plead with you and others who are in the mainstream of Oyo State politics to bear in mind these four important items: peace, security, solidarity and loyalty”.

He appealed to the factions to allow peace and security to prevail.

Obasanjo added that his administration would remain focused on accountability, no matter who is affected, disclosing that the first thing he did on arriving at the town on Monday was to examine the accounts of its development association for any trace of fraud.

He congratulated the Olowu of Owu, Olusanya Adegboyega Dosunmu, whose choice he described as the best thing to happen to the people.

Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, advised other communities to emulate the people of Ibogun-Olaogun by investing in the area to enable the government achieve overall development.

Obasanjo assured donors to the development of the town that their resources would be wisely spent, Daniel restated commitment to the welfare of every one statewide.

Posted by Publisher at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Nobody can stampede NASS to amend Constitution – Masari; ‘Obasanjo never told me he wants third term’

No amount of intimidation would make the National Assembly to back down from its resolve to amend the Constitution, House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Bello Masari, pledged at the weekend.

By Bayo Oladeji and

Uchenna Awom (Abuja)


He said it is purely a legislative action that does not need any external influence.

He made the point in Abuja when he spoke with reporters as part of the activities marking the end of the year. Masari was accompanied by House Leader, Abdul Ningi.

Since the emergence of the sectional meetings and the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD) and the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) the issue of amending the Constitution has become synonymous with the rumored third term. The North says no to it, the South thinks otherwise.

But from all indications, the leadership of the National Assembly has resolved not to be deterred by the politicisation of the project.

Masari and Ningi are adamant that nothing could influence the lawmakers in the assignment.

Said Masari: “The amendment to the Constitution has been an on-going exercise since 2001, and from what I was told by some of the members of the National Assembly Committee on Review of the Constitution … they are proposing 101 amendments and the process is still on. There would be public hearing in all the zones. I do not wish to comment officially because nothing is really before me as the report of the committee which was established by both Chambers.

“In the absence of an official report, it would be difficult for me to really give a categorical answer but all I know is that there is a need to amend some parts of this Constitution.

“I was even a member of a sub-committee between 1999 and 2003. (Ningi) would be asked to throw more light on the work of the Committee.

Masari denied any lobby or pressure coming from Aso Rock over the third term agenda.

“Between God, who created me and to whom I would return, the President or any body in the employment of the President has never asked me to amend the Constitution to allow for a third term. Whatever happens, there would be elections in 2007, amendment or no amendment. People are free to make their choice in 2007”.

Ningi declared: “There is nowhere the Parliament has absolutism except in constitutional amendment. Absolutism in the sense that, amending the Constitution is a legislative affair and not that of any other body. Constitutional amendment is the area in which we cannot hide our faces, that we would not talk.

“I have been a member of this Constitutional Review Committee since 1999 when we came in. Two wrongs do not make a right. It is not as easy as people are looking at it. To amend a coma in the Constitution is a very cumbersome matter. It is not a question of yea or nay. It is a question of physically identifying with the need to amend a coma in the Constitution, or amending a sentence in a Constitution.

“For a Constitution to be amended, the House needs 240 members to alter a coma; to insert a sentence, we need the 240. The Senate too needs its own two- thirds majority to carry out the same exercise. So also are the two-thirds majority of the state Houses of Assembly”.

To Ningi, legislators do not care whose (third term) agenda is outside, the playground and the battleground is the National Assembly and the state Assemblies.

“Whoever is saying anything is saying it in his own interest as far as this House is concerned. Our target is Nigeria. I want to assure Nigerians that this House has never been manipulated and can never be manipulated”.

Both Masari and Ningi regretted how ministers and some heads of agencies flout resolutions of the National Assembly or ignore summons. They promised that the first quarter of next year would pit them against the ministers.

Masari noted that “politician-ministers” are guilty while technocrats are obedient.

Ningi disclosed the existence of a record where the offences committed by them are kept and that the National Assembly has reported the matter to the President and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Posted by Publisher at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

Defend democracy, Ngige urges Nigerians

Anambra State Governor, Chris Ngige, has again reviewed the political situation in the country ahead of 2007 and urged Nigerians to rise up and defend democracy.

By Paul Mumeh

Snr Correspondent, Abuja

He expressed concern that if the disturbing trend is not reversed, the hard earned democracy may be truncated.

“The situation today calls for genuine concern. No responsible Nigerian should fold his hands, we must all work to safe Nigeria and democracy”, he said in a statement on Monday.

The statement was signed by Ngige’s Special Assistant in Abuja, Simeon Obidiwe.

He enjoined all Nigerians across the political divide, North and South, to imbibe the attributes of honesty, fairness, justice and brotherhood.

Referring to the growing agitation for power shift between the North and the South in 2007, Ngige called for caution in order not to re-open old wounds.

“Nigeria has struggled to remain together since amalgamation, even in trying times, especially during the civil war. We should not as politicians do anything that will undermine the unity of Nigeria. It is a task we must not compromise”.

He reminded Nigerians, particularly Christians, to pray fervently for God to intervene in the affairs of the nation. “We must reflect on the past, think of the present and the future”.

He promised to continue to implement people-oriented programmes in his domain as well as double his efforts in 2006 to touch lives.

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Weak banks get new CBN conditions

The group of nine weak banks promoted under the name Alliance Bank has been given fresh conditions for them to be allowed to remain in business.

By Mojeed Jamiu,

Finance Editor

A source at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) told our correspondent in Lagos at the weekend that a breather came for the banks in the Alliance Group over the weekend when the Central Bank granted them Approval In Principle (AIP), but with a proviso that at least 50 per cent of the insider related credits in the banks be recovered by Thursday.

Our source said the apex bank again restated its warning that should the group fail, the nine banks would be liquidated.

The Alliance group is made up of Fortune Bank, City Express Bank, Allstates Trust Bank, Liberty Bank, Triumph Bank, Afex Bank, Universal Trust Bank, Gulf Bank and Metropolitan Bank.

The group had last week failed to secure the much-needed two months’ grace to raise enough funds to meet the new capital requirement.

If they succeed, it would leave only three of the 89 banks operating facing the last one week before the expiration of the deadline of December 31, 2005 without any realistic chance of making it.

An official announcement of the banks that have made the new capital base and those which have failed the critical test of their solvency is expected on January 3, 2006.

Only AIB International Bank Limited, Societe Generale Bank Limited and Assurance Bank Limited, have failed to raise, either alone or within a group, the N25 billion stipulated under the ongoing banking reform.

The board and management of Assurance actually invited the CBN authorities to take over the management of the bank about a month ago, this was due to its inability to secure the apex bank’s forbearance on its N3.5 billion exposure, which had been recurring since the past 40 years.

In the same vein, banks in the now disintegrated NorthOmega were able to quickly fuse into two different groups in a spirited effort to escape liquidation by December 31. While Omegabank led Fountain Trust and Trans international Bank to Citizens/Guardian, Bank of the North led New Africa Merchant Bank to the Unity Bank Group.

The Unity Bank Group now consists of the following member banks: Intercity Bank Plc, First Interstate Bank Plc, Tropical Commercial Bank Plc, Pacific Bank Limited, CentrePointBank Plc, and Societe Bancaire Nigeria Limited, NNB International Bank Plc, Bank of the North Limited and New Africa Bank Limited. This would provide a take off network of over 200 strategically located business outlets to be driven by a robust information technology infrastructure.

The CBN Governor, Charles Soludo, had during a special media chat with President Olusegun Obasanjo last week noted that the process of liquidation of failed banks would commence on January 9, even as he assured that all private depositors in the failed banks would have been duly paid in six months.

He also said that the secured creditors, shareholders and other depositors of the failed and liquidated banks would be paid under an arrangement with the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

With the current situation on ground in the ongoing consolidation agenda of the CBN, the governor said only about three per cent of depositors’ funds will be trapped in the liquidated banks.

According to him, “as from January, about 25 banks will be competing on training, restructuring of processes, capacity development and world-class banking services”.

He noted that the country had already started benefiting from the results of the consolidation and reform agenda of the financial sector, adding that an increasing number of banks had applied to open more off-shore branches, a number which exceeds what obtained in the past 44 years.

A total of N359.1 billion was raised through private placements, capital market and or allotment during the ongoing reform and consolidation of the banking sector, while foreign inflows of $86 million and £162,000 were raised, 41 banks also had their additional capital verified during the period.

In the same vein, 22 groups involving 70 banks have been granted pre-merger consent while 20 groups involving 40 banks have received Approval-In-Principle (AIP) as at Friday December 23, 2005, the latest being the Alliance Bank Group, which now has a consolidated shareholders fund of N25.4 billion


Posted by Publisher at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

Court jails two men over human trafficking

An Ijebu Igbo High Court, Ogun State, at the weekend sentenced two citizens of the Republic of Benin to a seven-year jail term each for human trafficking.

By Chuks Ehirim

Senior Correspondent, Abuja

Jean Adafayi (21) and Gilbert Ganysode (33), who were arraigned by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other Related Matters (NAPTIP), were found guilty of six charges, including procurement of persons, deceitful inducement of persons, disposing and employment of persons for immoral purposes.

All offences run contrary to the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Amendment and Administration Act, 2003.

Each man got the jail term without an option of fine for “fraudulent procurement of four young girls (two from Togo, one from Ghana and one from the Republic of Benin) to be unlawfully carnally known and indecently assaulted”.

Justice O. Mabekoje said the sentence was to deter other traffickers. He stressed that the era of non-Nigerians coming into the country to commit offences and going scot-free is over and warned them not to think that Nigeria is a lawless nation.

NAPTIP Legal Department Head and lead counsel, U.S. Haruna, confirmed this is the third conviction the agency has got in less than three years of its inception.

He reaffirmed its resolve to stamp out human trafficking and restore Nigeria’s dignity.

NAPTTP Head (Press and Public Relations), Arinze Orakwe, restated the commitment of the agency to bring more human traffickers to justice.

He implored parents and guardians to scrutinise job offers made to their wards, especially during this festive period when traffickers take unsuspecting children.

Posted by Publisher at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

PDP de-registered me, Haruna insists

Governor Boni Haruna of Adamawa State has insisted that he was deregistered by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

By Sule Lazarus

Senior Correspondent, Yola

He said this just as he condemned the entire idea of re-registration exercise conducted by the party.

Haruna also declared that his government was not corrupt as held by his critics following the arrest of some top government functionaries in his administration by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The governor spoke in Yola on Monday when the state executive of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) visited him for the Christmas festivity. He said he was made to write his name in an exercise book with his signature with a promise that it would be transferred into the original register.

Haruna wondered how his signature could be transferred at the later date into the register as claimed by the registration officers, adding that it was not even a standard practice for a party to re-register people after the initial membership registration.

“I studied political science, I have never seen when one is registered as member of an organisation and you tell him to come and re-register when you have never been expelled for one professional misconduct or voluntary withdrawal of membership. Once you have registered as a member, you are a member for life except if by any means you are dropped.”

Posted by Publisher at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

EFCC re-arrests, releases Marwa

Former Lagos Military Administrator, Buba Marwa, was again on Sunday invited by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). He was subsequently released.

By Wisdom Patrick

Senior Correspondent, Lagos

He was there last Wednesday. A competent source at the commission’s office in Lagos confirmed the development but would not say why he was invited.

“There was need to check out one or two things again and we had to ask him to come back again”.

However, in a telephone interview on Monday night, Marwa’s Special Assistant, Biodun Odunuga, said the former military administrator was released by the anti-graft body on Monday.

After he was released last week, the soldier-turned politician came out with possible reasons why he was invited by the EFCC. According to him, he merely honoured an invitation but was not detained.

Although Marwa’s close aides had cited political reasons for his arrest, an EFCC official said the entire imbroglio was much more than that. The source added that the arrest had some connections with the late General Sani Abacha’s financial transactions.

However, it was learnt that Marwa’s rising profile in the political arena might have become a source of worry to some people, including Aso Rock. It was also learnt that some forces have become jittery and have vowed to tarnish his image and subsequently truncate his presidential ambition in the 2007 general elections.

One of Marwa’s aides named a powerful figure in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet as the mastermind of his current travail in the hands of EFCC operatives. “They linked him up with a petition purportedly forwarded to the anti-graft agent against the Abacha family by a yet to be named ‘good Nigerian’ that is why they arrested him. But it is all a huge joke. They will not win this battle, because Marwa did not commit any crime to warrant his arrest by EFCC,” he said.

Posted by Publisher at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

Prayer can change traumatic times, says Kumuyi

The General Superintendent of Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor William Folurunso Kumuyi, said Nigeria “is going through a real traumatic time,” which requires a lot of prayer from people of God.

By Vincent Obia

Correspondent, Lagos


Kumuyi spoke at a press briefing on Saturday at the Deeper Life Conference Centre, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, to mark this year’s Deeper Life National Retreat tagged “Latter-Day Outpouring”. He explained that the theme of the conference, which is taken from the experience of the children of Israel in the Bible at the time of Joel, is to demonstrate that if Nigerians return to God in prayer He would send the “latter-rain,” as He did to the Israelites, to refresh and renew the land and restore everything the people have lost.

“As we look at the condition of our country at this time, it is common knowledge that with the disasters that we have had, the air crashes that happened successively, one after the other, and the loss of the beloveth, the wife of the President, and many other things that took place within a few weeks, within a short time, the country is going through a real traumatic time,” Kumuyi declared.

“We feel that as people of God, we can come together and pray and ask for the latter-rain, a type of restoration and refreshing for our country. We know that with a united prayer, the Lord can smile upon us and grant us favour.

“Now that we are coming to the end of the year, our prayer and hope and expectation is that all that happened in this passing year will be water that pass away under the bridge and a new dawn, a new era, will now come, so that He will wipe away our tears in all our families, the states, and the federation as a whole. We are expecting that the coming year will be a time of refreshing for us in the country, and all these traumatic things happening will not continue as we come to the new year.”

Posted by Publisher at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)

Senate will enact people-friendly laws, says Nnamani

Senate President Ken Nnamani has promised that the Senate would enact only people-friendly laws for the good governance of the country.

By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi

and Paul Mumeh, Abuja

Nnamani made the pledge in a special Christmas message to Nigerians.

He also used the occasion to commiserate with Nigerians who lost loved ones in the recent plane crashes in the country.

“It is my belief that Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate will give the bereaved families the fortitude to go through this difficult period. For the Holy Books teach us that in all situations, positive or adverse, we must always give glory to the faithful Lord.

“I also wish to express profound gratitude to all Nigerians, who by show of love, helped to lighten the burden of those affected. I urge all Nigerian Christians to offer prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed. Apart from its spiritual significance, Christmas is an occasion that presents an opportunity for us to take stock and rededicate ourselves to our collective aspiration for a loftier Nigeria. With hard work and perseverance we can truly make our country a political and economic giant in Africa.

“On our part, the Nigerian Senate restates its unwavering commitment to the articulation of people-oriented legislations that will enhance good governance and promote the general ideals of democracy for the rapid socio-economic transformation of Nigeria. It is also a time for Nigerians to have a critical assessment of our respective communities and see how we all can complement government efforts in development,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Senate is set to promulgate a law that would compel motorcycle riders, popularly known as Okada, to wear protective helmets, in line with a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative.

Speaking at the inauguration of a public hearing on the Protective Helmets (Mandatory use) Bill at the weekend, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Governmental Affairs, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, noted that the bill became necessary against the backdrop of fatal crashes involving motorcycles in the country.

“The WHO created a Helmet Initiative Programme in 1991 aimed at encouraging the use of helmets by motorcycle and bicycle users. The WHO noted correctly that motorcycle and bicycle use is widespread throughout the world. A needless large number of both cyclists and passengers are killed or permanently disabled during a crash. Regrettably, many of these head injuries could have been prevented or their severity reduced through the use of a simple and inexpensive helmet.

“I am thus elated at the distinguished gathering of stakeholders that we are assembled here. Response to the bill, through written memoranda and oral presentations is heartening and an immense encouragement that at least we are waking up to the realities of preventable waste of human lives that had persisted on our roads due to non-mandatory use of protective helmets by motorcycle riders and their passengers,” he said.

Posted by Publisher at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)

Customs seals Park ‘n’ Shop

Park ‘n’ Shop, the foremost retail supermarket operating on Victoria Island, Lagos State, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other major cities, has been closed indefinitely by the Nigerian Customs Service.

By Sebastine Ebhuomhan

Consumer Affairs Reporter, Lagos

Although it is not yet known whether all the branches of the large retail outlet nationwide are affected by the closure, the gates to the companies’ flagship store on Adeola Odeku Street, Victoria Island were closed when Daily Independent visited it on Boxing Day.

Security officials of Park ‘n’ Shop manning the two buildings in the complex said the company was closed by the Customs. They added that the management would inform the media at the appropriate time on issues that led to the closure.

Confirming the closure, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Customs, Mr Wale Adeniyi, said Park ‘n’ Shop was closed for smuggling goods into the country.

The smuggled goods, he added, were discovered to be on sale during a surveillance that was carried out at the shopping complex on Victoria Island.

“I can now confirm to you that the Nigerian Customs and Excise sealed Park ‘n’ Shop premises on Victoria Island. It was sealed after a surveillance that was carried out there and it was found that despite several warnings from the Federal Government against smuggling of goods across the border, goods were being smuggled into the country and sold to the public as legal goods.

“The issue there is that this problem has always been there amongst some operators of the retail shopping business and that is what the Customs officials are now determined to stop,” Adeniyi explained.

Posted by Publisher at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

Kubwa residents petition Obasanjo over absence of fire service station

Residents of Kubwa, a satellite town located 15 kilometres from Abuja city centre, said they would take their demand for the location of a fire service station in the town to President Olusegun Obasanjo next year.

By Don Bassey

Correspondent, Abuja

The residents were outraged on Christmas Day when a power outage by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) led to an inferno, which razed the upper section of a one-storey building in Phase II, Section II of the sprawling town.

Neighbours battled the fire, which started at 7.35 pm after a flurry of power outages by PHCN, for the better part of three hours before putting the inferno under control. Occupants of the duplex said they contacted the Nigeria Fire Service on telephone but were told there were not enough personnel on duty to “travel all the way to Kubwa just for a small incident like the one being reported”.

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Borishade not representing Ekiti well– Fayose

Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, has disowned the Minister of Aviation, Dr. Babalola Borishade, who is representing Ekiti State in the Federal Executive Council, saying: “Ekiti State is Ministerless.”

By Benga Sodeinde

Correspondent,

Ado Ekiti

Fayose made the declaration at the end-of-the year get-together held at the Civil Centre, Aramoko-Ekiti, organised by Senator Clement Ayowelu, for the people of Ekiti Central Senatorial District. He pointed out that Borishade was not representing the interest of the state well at the federal level.

Fayose made it clear that the state needed someone who could represent their interest in a less controversial way.

He also boasted that in the 2007 governorship election the Alliance for Democracy (AD), would not get up to 21% of the total vote cast, while the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would have over 80%, failing which he vowed to leave government as the governor.

He warned all PDP ward chairmen and delegates to be loyal to him or else, they would be shown the way out of the party.

He told the youth in the area that come 2006, there would be empowerment for them, promising to give at least 10 people each N10,000 every month per ward to ease unemployment in the area.

When asked to explain further why he said “Ekiti is ministerless,” Fayose dismissed reporters saying “go and write whatever you want to write.”

And in a separate chat with pressmen on Fayose’s comments on Borishade, a PDP chieftain, Chief Femi Killa, who attended the ceremony, said Fayose’s position was his personal opinion.

He said it is illegal constitutionally for the Federal Government to run an executive without a state being represented adding that Fayose’s views had political undertones.

On his political ambitions, Killa who said he is a card carrying member of the PDP, added that he left his job at Julius Berger to join partisan politics to answer the call of his people. He maintained that he liked the government of Fayose who is working hard to transform the state.

At the ceremony, Senator Clement Ayowelu, Deputy Chief Whip and Leader of the South-West Caucus in the National Assembly stated that the end of the year party for the constituents of Ekiti Central Senatorial District, was his modest way of empowering the poor among his people, especially the youths, who he described as the leaders of tomorrow.

Posted by Publisher at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Ondo: AD calls for nullification of bye-election

Alliance for Democracy (AD) has called for the nullification of the bye election recently conducted in Akoko West Constituency of Ondo State.

By Gbenga Sodeinde

Correspondent, Ado Ekiti


In an interview with newsmen in Ado Ekiti, AD National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, who was reacting to the statement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the bye-election was massively rigged, said it was not enough for INEC to dissociate itself from the result announced but to come out and nullify the entire exercise.

He said it was a well known fact that the wish of the electorate was subverted in the election adding that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which declared itself the winner had lost contact with the realities of the situation because it no longer enjoyed the confidence of Nigerians.

INEC had in a statement in Abuja dissociated itself from the result of the bye-election accusing top officials of the Ondo State government of using thugs to rig the election.

Besides, INEC alleged that thugs in police uniform were used to scare people away from participating in the bye-election accusing the Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly of assisting in ensuring that the will of the people was subverted.

Adeyeye said though the party was happy that INEC came out to condemn the result of the election, he said the normal thing was for the commission to cancel the result. He commended INEC saying that for the first time it came out to admit that the election it conducted was marred with irregularities and malpractices adding that this had never happened in the history of the nation.

He expressed the hope that INEC would have the same attitude during the next general election, pointing out that the statement by INEC showed that it was completely helpless in the thuggery unleashed on the innocent people of Ondo State by the PDP-controlled government.

He said:" AD agreed with INEC that the result of the bye-election was not defensible and cannot stand. We want INEC to go a step further by cancelling the result of the election. If they cannot do that we hope they would be able to testify in court that the election was rigged because we shall be challenging the result at the election tribunal".

He called on the Inspector-General of Police to immediately arrest the speaker of Ondo state house of assembly and prosecute for the criminal act perpetrated by him in the bye-election.

He added that the speaker deserved the highest penalty in the nation's law book for subverting the will of the people.

He also called for the resignation of Gov. Segun Agagu for allowing his officials to subvert the will of the people saying he cannot lay claim to the fact that he was not aware of what his officials did against the people of Ondo state.

He called on the people of Ondo state to remain calm and waited for 2007 elections when the opportunity to change the unpopular government in Ondo state would come.

Meanwhile, Former Commissioner for Finance in Ekiti state, Mr Bayo Aina has said the purported adoption of the state governor Mr Ayodele Fayose for 2007 governorship election by obas in the state was laughable moreso when it was done in a party organised for them by Fayose.

Aina noted that only an unpopular aspirant like Fayose would take the adoption serious because it was not done under a free atmosphere adding many of the Obas cannot come out in the open to declare their support for Fayose.

END.

Posted by Publisher at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Niger budgets N42b for 2006

Niger State has budgeted an estimated sum of N42.8 billion, for the 2006 fiscal year.

By Chinwendu Nnadozie,

Special Correspondent, Minna

Presenting the budget before the Niger State House of Assembly for consideration on Friday in Minna, Governor Abdulkadir Kure, in defence of the estimate described the budget as being a product of genuine consultations with relevant arms of government and was focused on completion of on-going projects across the state.

Out of the total sum, the state intends to internally source for the sum of N1.8 billion to complete on-going and abandoned projects. A breakdown shows that the budget is higher than that of the 2005 with almost N10 billion. It is also made up of N23.01 billion for capital expenditure and N19, 07 billion for recurrent expenditure.

Further break down of the budget indicates that the state intends to invest greater part of it on capital expenditure, (N9, 103, 891, 395) on the state economic sector while the lowest, N1, 490, 000,000, is to be utilized for administrative purposes.

Posted by Publisher at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

‘Moves to impeach Ladoja not fueled by Adedibu’

A member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Eesuola Babatunde, has declared that the impeachment notice served on Governor Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja last week by some lawmakers in the state has nothing to do with the misunderstanding between him and his estranged political god father, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu.

By Gbenga Faturoti,

Correspondent, Osogbo

Speaking on a personality interview programme on the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, (OSBC Tv), Osogbo at the weekend, Babatunde who came along with some of his colleagues, stressed that the crisis between Ladoja and Adedibu had nothing to do with the impeachment notice served on the governor.

He maintained that it bordered on Ladoja’s bad governance and negative attitude to many issues, decisions and resolutions of the Assembly.

He said the executive arm of in the state had not been following the tenets of democracy and that before the matter degenerated to impeachment level, Assembly men had contacted royal fathers, national secretariat of the ruling party, party executives, and elders and well meaning citizens of the state to prevail on Ladoja on the need to change the style of his administration.

Babatunde who is also the Chairman, House Committee on Information, noted that this was the beginning of the division of members of the Assembly as "our steps then angered the governor and decided to do things the way he likes".

The lawmaker further stated that majority of them were not particularly happy about the development adding that the matter would not have degenerated to this level but for the refusal of the governor to heed the advice given to him by Assemblymen on certain matters.

He declared further that Assemblymen were particularly irked by the performance of the governor and the rating of the state in terms of development and achievements.

Babatunde who cited Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State as an example said, “it is just unfortunate that Osun State which is younger and financially less buoyant than Oyo State could record many laudable achievements “and all our pressure to make Ladoja see reason and change the style we are using did not yield any good results".

Posted by Publisher at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

Clergy cautions against third term agenda

President Olusegun Obasanjo has been warned against heeding to the tunes of people who are after selfish gains asking him to continue in office after 2007. He has also been advised not to use the power of incumbency to actualise the bid.

By Chinwendu Nnadozie

Special Correspondent, Minna


District Secretary, Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), Minna, Rev. Zachariah Arewa, stated this while baring his minds on the political situation in the country and the need for leaders to be on their guard to avoid plunging the nation into turmoil.

“It is dangerous to try to distort the constitution to suit individual agenda in a heterogeneous nation like ours.

“Those who have been championing the cause of the third term agenda are not doing so because they believe that it is right or that it is for the general interest of all Nigerians. It is because they are aiming at something at the end of the road for their pockets and that of family members. They want to use the president to set their plans in motion to the detriment of all Nigerians”, Rev. Arewa explained.

He advised Obasanjo to honourably and peacefully bow out of office after his second tenure in 2007 as the constitution provides to save the country from further political and economic chaos, the clergy man reminded the president to emulate peaceful tendencies of Jesus Christ whose standards as a Christian he is expected to emulate before taking decisions especially as it affects the wellbeing of the entire Nigerian citizen.

Posted by Publisher at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

Obasanjo’s alleged third term agenda bound to fail – Etubom Bassey

Radical politician, Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey, has come out strongly against the alleged ambition of President Olusegun Obasanjo to remain in office beyond 2007.

By Bassey Inyang,

Correspondent, Calabar


In Bassey’s view, such ambition will not see the light of the day, as the National Assembly may not give consent to the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to provide for a third term in office for the President.

The politician, who spoke with journalists in Calabar, Cross River State capital, on the issue, said the National Assembly members from the North and a few of them from the South should be thanked for standing vehemently against the alleged move by Obasanjo to become life President.

He observed that the possible failure of the third term scheme may have informed Obasanjo’s friends, who are already desperate, to convene last week’s meeting in Enugu, where they kicked against the rotation of the office of the President to the North in 2007. According to Bassey, it is unreasonable for any person to expect President Olusegun Obasanjo to vacate office in 2007 or any other period without monumental crisis.

Stressing that Obasanjo is afraid of leaving office due to his prison experience after voluntarily vacating office in 1979, he alleged that the alleged ambition of Obasanjo to remain in office is dictated by his desire to protect those he has allegedly “sold” the country to.

In this connection, the politician carpeted the economic reform programmes of the President, saying that the regime has performed woefully, even in the telecommunications sector, where it has always boasted of enormous achievements.

Besides non-performance, he said, Obasanjo’s regime is extremely corrupt. He averred that Obasanjo’s anti-corruption war is targeted at those perceived to be against his alleged third term ambition, while his cronies, especially those reportedly pushing the controversial third term plot, are enjoying his protection despite the level of their involvement in corrupt practices.

He challenged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to replicate what they did in Bayelsa that led to the impeachment of former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, by going a step further to explain to Nigerians whether the President has the right to preside over an educational establishment in in the country.

He also called for the investigation of the allegation to the effect that the President’s son, upon graduation, bought a house in the United States.

There must be probity and competence in the management of the Nigerian economy by any government that is responsive and accountable to the people, he stressed.

Posted by Publisher at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

Nnamani urges prayer, moderate lifestyle

Enugu State governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, has urged Nigerians and groups to be more fervent in prayers for better days in the country, especially during the festive period.

In his Christmas goodwill message to Nigerians, Nnamani urged the nation to realise that Christmas was a season of sobriety, prayerfulness and caution in the conduct of individual and group affairs.

According him, the season of Christmas must be understood and undertaken in its original context of peaceful remembrance of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, who embodies humility, sobriety and peace for mankind.

He, therefore, urged the people to be mindful of the origin of the festival and to remember that it had always been used as the time to reflect, adjust and refocus, both at individual and group levels.

The governor hoped that such decent conducts of citizens would engender peace, security and good neighbourliness rather than the tension associated with excesses in consumption, utterances and actions.

Regretting that people had, in the past, easily got sunk in unnecessary hassles to meet up with irrelevant social activities, Nnamani said those who engaged in extravagant spending during the period themselves to blame at the end of the festivities, when the realities of self-induced lack would descend on them.

He further reminded Nigerians to bear in mind that more lofty projects, especially of taking the children back to school, early next year, would still be their lot and must be met, not abandoned for extravagant lifestyles.

Nnamani, however, urged visitors to Enugu during the festivities to make out time to visit the numerous giant projects his government had embarked upon.

Such new sights, he disclosed, included the permanent site of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), ESUT Teaching Hospital, the Artisan-Okpara Avenue tunnel crossing, Nza-Chime Avenue Link Road, Chime Avenue dualisation, Loma Linda Estate, Ozalla-ESUT-Agbani-Law School dualisation, International Conference Centre, various district hospitals, among others.

He maintained that a visit to the projects would further expose them to the visions of the current administration as well as the efforts to build an economy capable of revealing the potential of individuals and groups in the state.

Stressing that democracy had paid off in the state as a result of his performance, the governor further assured that his administration would leave no stone unturned in bringing about a state system capable of bettering the lots of the people.

Posted by Publisher at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

nndc moves to expand business scope

Management of the New Nigerian Development Company Limited (NNDC) has adopted a resolution to expand its business reach.

By John Adi

Reporter, Kaduna.

In a communiqué issued after its extra-ordinary general meeting held at Ahmed Talib House, NNDC chairman, General Garba Duba (rtd), said the management of the company had approved of an increase in its authorised share capital.

According to the communiqué, the management resolved “that the authorised share capital of the NNDC be increased from 750 million Naira ordinary shares of one Naira each to 2.5 billion Naira additional ordinary share of one Naira each”. It added, “Such shares will rank pari passu with all respect to the existing shares of the capital of the company”.

It also stated that “2 billion Naira ordinary shares of one Naira each be allotted by way of rights issue of 4 new ordinary share for every (one) ordinary share of one Naira each held as at 31st march, 2005 and to be paid in full at a value of N3.50 per N1.00 ordinary share”.

On amendment of Memorandum and Articles of Association, the communiqué stated that clauses four and five be amended thus: “The share capital of the company is 2.5 billion divided in 25 billion ordinary shares of one Naira each.

“That the authorized share capital of the company be increased from 750 million Naira ordinary shares of one naira each to 1.75 billion Naira additional shares of one Naira each.

Posted by Publisher at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Ngo explains annual music festival

Lively Hope Foundation (LHF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) , has said in Umuahia, Abia State that its yearly musical festival was introduced to refocus and remodel the youths and discourage them from joining secret cults or engaging in prostitution.

By Uche Nwosu

Reporter, Umuahia


Speaking with Daily Independent in Ubakala, Umuahia, Executive Director of the Lively Hope Foundation, Pastor Patricia Ezem, identified membership of secret cults by youths as well as prostitution as two major factors that could ruin them in future if not tackled with the seriousness they deserved.

She explained that the foundation, with membership from virtually all churches in Umuahia, foresaw a situation where the future of the nation would become bleak due to evil in high and low places. “Because of this and because God is interested in Nigeria, He directed us to start this foundation through our outreach, the Lively Hope Outreach.

“We’re engaging and remolding these youths with this music programme during this period, thereafter we shall find a way of putting them into areas that will be of immense benefit to them.

“We preach to them about the gospel of Jesus Christ and impact the word of God in them”, she said.

Posted by Publisher at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

‘Obasanjo’ll quit in 2007’

A chieftain of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and coordinator of Coalition 2003, Funmi Omosule, has assured the nation that President Olusegun Obasanjo would not make inroads into public funds to ensure the success of his alleged third term bid.

Yemi Akintomide

Special Correspondent, Akure


Omosule also noted that since the President himself had not publicly confirmed his plan to stay in office beyond 2007, the alleged agenda only existed on the pages of newspapers.

He, therefore, urged Nigerians to trust the President to hand over power in 2007 as he did in 1979, despite being a military head of state.

The politician made the assertions at the weekend in Akure, Ondo State capital, during the end-of-year dinner for members of Coalition 2003 in conjunction with Ondo State Progressive Elite.

Omosule also stated that Coalition 2003, which he formed in 2000 for the actualisation of the second term bid of Obasanjo in 2003, was transforming into Coalition 2007 to support whoever the rPDP put forward as its presidential candidate in 2007.

On his involvement in the management of Olokola Free Trade Zone, the PDP chief revealed that he was compelled to quit his duty post in Abuja to coordinate the multi-billion-naira free trade zone between Ondo and Ogun states, which he described as the best thing that had ever happened to any state in the history of nation.

The free trade zone,, he said, was to be established on a 10,000-hectare expanse of land at Araromi seaside of Ondo and Ogun states, adding that it would have a seaport, among other ammenites.

He also disclosed that a British gas company, O.K. LNG, had agreed to build a gas plant worth about N8 billion on a 3,000-hectare land at the free trade zone.

Posted by Publisher at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

Influx of aliens worries security agents in Katsina

The influx of aliens into Funtua local government of Katsina State has become a source of concern to authorities and security agents in the area.

Immigration officer in charge of Funtua zone, Nasiru Ahmed Dikko, disclosed this during a crucial meeting on the issue with community leaders, village, ward and district heads of Funtua.

Dikko disclosed that the zonal office had observed that immigrants from Niger Republic and other neighboring counties were either residing at Funtua or staying for a while without official permit.

He pointed out that Jabiri Quarters was the most visible attraction of the aliens, saying that measures must to be taken to control the situation before it got out of hand.

The two Divisional Police Officers of Funtua Central and Makera Police stations, Aminu Ibrahim and Usman Adamu, revealed that some of the immigrants were behind most criminal activities, especially armed robbery, in Funtua and neighboring local governments.

The police chiefs, therefore, called on traditional authorities, especially village and ward heads, to report those suspected of coming to the area to reside without permit.

Also speaking, the district head of Funtua, Alhaji Sambo Idris Sambo, urged the zonal immigration office to continue with the registration of immigrants through the village and ward heads to ensure more security in the area.

Vice chairman of Funtua local council, Shehu Yakubu Maska, assured of their readiness to provide logistic support to the ensure success of the bid to check uncontrolled influx of aliens into the area.

Posted by Publisher at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

kadpoly gets student leaders

The Students Union Government (SUG) of Kaduna Polytechnic has been inaugurated after three years of transition committee.

Rector of the institution, Danjuma Isa, who said the elections that ushered in the newly elected student leaders was conducted against all odds, stated: “I feel a sense of pride and vindication that my students today have been saddled with the responsibility of conducting their affairs in a way and manner that is expected from members of a civilised society.

He, therefore, advised the elected members to consider their elections into the student union offices as a privilege and an opportunity to serve the students and the institution.

He added, “The right and interest of the students should be protected and jealously guarded

“This is the only panacea for the development of the Students Union Government in Kaduna Polytechnic”.

He also urged them to strictly adhere to the constitution in all matters concerning the running of the union for the period spanning the 2005/2006 session.

He added: “That is the only way respect from your constituency and the community in general will be earned”.

He appealed to the president of the students union to treat all members of the new executive with fairness, equity, goodwill, besides carrying them along in all activities. Isa warned the student leaders against corruption.

“This institution will not tolerate any form of corruption, no matter how small. The idea that some group of the students who are entrusted with students funds and do whatever they like with it should be done away with”, he urged.

Posted by Publisher at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

Tinubu hosts children as Lagosians observe low-key Christmas

Governor Bola Tinubu and his wife, Oluremi, held a Christmas party for children in Lagos State at the weekend, just as Lagosians shunned the glitz and glamour usually associated with the season.

By Victor Ebimomi and Stella Odueme, Lagos

The party held at the State House Marina was organised by the state government to celebrate the Christmas season and end of the year with children.

“God will bless you, give you good health. He will bless your parents with money, good health and prosperity to take care of you. God will give you long live, good education and you will succeed in life. And as you grow up, what we are doing for you today, you will do the same for your children too. You will enjoy Christmas with your children, God bless you and bless Lagos State and me. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance,” the governor said to the excited children who jointly chorused amen.

Earlier Tinubu’s wife, who was obviously delighted, welcomed the children to the party and expressed gratitude to God, for preserving them.

“I am very happy to welcome you to Lagos State House, Marina, for this year’s children Christmas and end of the year party, which is organised annually the state government to provide the needed avenue for children in the state to come together, make new friends, rejoice and have fun in the true spirit of the Christmas season,” she said.

She enjoined the children to always remember the true reasons for the celebration, which dwelt on the spirit of love and care for people.

“The first lesson for Christmas is that God showed His love to mankind when He gave us the special gift of Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas day and the second is that, it is a time to share and show love and kindness to one another, particularly, to those who are less privileged than you are,” she said.

The First Lady, who commiserated with the parents of the children of Loyola Jesuit School, who lost their lives in the Sosoliso plane crash in Port Harcourt, urged the children to be good, disciplined and obedient to their parents at home and teachers at school.

“I pray that the Almighty God will comfort and strengthen them (the crash victims’ families) at a time like this, while we pray that the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace,” she prayed.

However, residents of Lagos celebrated Christmas in a very low-key manner, as most of them shunned fun and relaxation spots, particular beaches, where they normally have a swell time during Christmas.

Investigations over the weekend showed that popular beaches such as Takwa Bay, Lekki and Bar Beach among others recorded low patronage contrary to what happened last year.

For instance, last year Takwa Bay played host to fun seekers on Christmas and Boxing Day. Youths in their hundreds chartered speedboats to the beach with lots of refreshment while those going to other beaches like Lekki, Kuramo among others organised chartered vehicles fixed with musical instruments to complement the fun.

But this year, Takwa Bay was a ghost of its old self just like the Bar Beach as only a few people went there for fun. Lekki did not also fare better as the number of people that visited there between Christmas and Boxing was less than half of those who went there last year.

Some beach goers who spoke on the development attributed it to the worsening economic situation in the country.

“People are much more concerned these days with how to take care of their stomach. So don’t be surprised that if the economy does not improve, fewer people will come next year. Of course, you know the implications, these tourist centres would become useless,” Femi Adeola said.

“Petty traders who make reasonable amount of money during this period are very worried. I did all these things (souvenirs) myself with the little money I had hoping to sell them at the beach but so far I have not sold up to five,” a youth who gave his name as Okey lamented.

Posted by Publisher at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

Lagos clamps down on illegal drug outlets

The Lagos State Task Force on Counterfeit and Illegal Drugs has begun a massive clamp down on unregistered drugs outfits, which is in line with government’s desire to sanitise the health sector.

By Onche Odeh

Science Reporter, Lagos

The task force headed by Director of Pharmaceutical Services in the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Mrs Moji Bamgbose, has closed down a number of illegal pharmaceutical shops, which have been described as primary sources of fake and adulterated drugs.

Two pharmaceutical shops at Idimu-Ikotun, NewCom Pharmacy and Faben Pharmaceuticals, were closed down about a fortnight ago for being operated by unqualified personnel.

According to a statement by the Head of Public Relations and Communications of the Ministry, Mr Shina Thorpe, the outlets were also engaging in alteration of expiry dates and labels on drugs, which were stored under unhygienic conditions.

According to the ministry spokesman, each defaulting outlets is liable for prosecution, which might amount to six months imprisonment or a fine of N500, 000.

Bamgbose called on residents to be vigilant, warning them against patronising unregistered pharmaceutical outlets.

She also called on operators of pharmaceutical outlets in state that are yet to take advantage of the simplified mode of registration under the ministry to do so as soon as possible or risk closure.

The task force had earlier raided Ikorodu and Agege and seized drugs worth more than N1.5 million from illegal pharmaceutical outlets in the areas.

The task force comprises Zonal Head, Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN), Mrs Ademike Ajayi, Chief Pharmacist in the state, Mrs Joko Araromi and secretary of the committee, among others.

Posted by Publisher at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

Yuletide: Drivers jack up fares

Inter- and intra-city transporters in Lagos are cashing in on the festivities to increase transport fares astronomically.

By Stella Odueme

Reporter, Lagos


For instance, a journey from Lagos to Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, that was N200 a week to Christmas is now N300, while a trip from Lagos to Benin, Edo State, that was N700, now costs N1,100.

Similarly, a trip to Warri in Delta State now costs between N1,800 and N2,000 from N1,500 depending on the area the bus is taking off from. Buses taking off from Ojota are charging N1,800, while those taking off from Oshodi and Mile 2 are charging N2,000.

Also, a journey from Lagos to Onitsha, Awka and Enugu that hitherto attracted N1,350, now ranges between N1,750 and N2,000.

Other trips like Lagos to Asaba and Akure have been jacked up from N1,200 and N600 to N1,700 and N800, respectively.

It was, however, discovered that fares for trips from other parts of the country to Lagos are far below what are being charged from Lagos to other parts.

One of the operators, Mr. Richard Okeke, however, warned that the fares might go up before New Year.. “We are increasing the fares because of the rush and the season. We are likely to even increase the fares more before Sunday,” he said. Meanwhile, some travellers said they were ready to pay, provided they get to their destinations to celebrate the season with their loved ones.

At the intra-city level, trips from Oshodi to Ikeja and Egbeda that used to cost N30 and N50 have been increased to N50 and N70. While a trip from Oshodi to Ojota, Mile 12 now costs N60 from N30. It was also discovered that the fares are usually increased in most routes at night by 100 per cent.

Posted by Publisher at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

AD chieftain lauds Obasanjo over rapprochement with Lagos

A chieftain of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Otunba Michael Ogunnusi, at the weekend commended President Olusegun Obasanjo over his resolve to partner with the Lagos State Government to develop the state.

By Lekan Sanni

Assistant News Editor, Metro

Ogunnusi also praised him for ordering the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to concentrate on its primary responsibility, which is road maintenance, and leave traffic management to the agencies responsible for carrying out such a duty.

The AD chieftain, speaking against the backdrop of the new rapprochement between the Federal and the Lagos State Governments, noted that the development of the nation’s economic nerve centre ought to be a partnership between the two tiers of government as well as the private sector.

Lagos, he noted, would be better off with the new development, even as he regretted that the state had suffered long period of neglect in the hands of the Federal Government, which abandoned the state immediately the seat of government moved to Abuja.

Ogunnusi also noted that the presence of FERMA traffic officers on Lagos roads was causing confusion among road users in the state, accusing the agency of unnecessary contravention.

He said FERMA has no business controlling traffic, as there are such agencies as the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and the Motor Traffic Unit of the Nigeria police.

He laid the blame for the recent air mishaps in the country on the doorstep of the government, which he said failed in its duty to properly regulate the sector.

According to him, sacking the Minister of Aviation, Babalola Borisade, may not be the solution to the various mishaps. He then called for a virile regulatory agency to oversee the sector.

“Aviation industry is key to the development of any nation’s economy and it is a sector that attracts foreign investment into a developing country like ours, so there is need for the government to handle it with all the seriousness it deserves.

“The Federal Government needs to restructure the industry now so as to stop waste of innocent lives. The sector needs total reform like what happened to the banks. Most of our local airlines lack necessary equipment and requirement that could enable them compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world. It is high time the government stopped any airline that could not meet the desired requirement,” he said.

Ogunnusi advised Obasanjo to look for alternative means of transportation in the country, citing countries in Europe and Asia with little resources but who have been able to manage their resources very well for the comfort of their citizens.

According to him, the rail system, which has been abandoned for long in the country, remains the pillar of good transport system.

“It is high time the government looked at this direction for possible development to ease pressure on our roads and reduce to the minimum the level of waste of innocent lives in our country,” he advised.

Posted by Publisher at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

Lagos needs police to enforce environmental laws — Bello

Lagos State Government has recorded little progress in its efforts to maintain clean environment because it cannot control the police, which have the power of enforcement and arrest.

By Lekan Sanni

Assistant News Editor, Metro

Environment Commissioner, Tunji Bello, said this at the weekend while hosting the African Citizens Development Foundation (ACDF).

He said the state has no power to enforce the laws that would rapidly transform the environment such as street trading, market sanitation, and drainage maintenance, among others.

He noted that with the power to control the police in the hands of the Federal Government, the state has limited power to order members of the force to enforce the laws of the state.

The commissioner said the issue of environmental development is a priority to the state government and would welcome any organisation that shows interest in the implementation of some of its programmes.

According to Bello, the state government is ready to partner with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the organised private sector in the area of the environment.

The commissioner described the visit as timely in view of the recently held meeting between the state and the Federal Government on how to jointly develop the state, in view of its mega status and its economic importance to Nigeria and Africa.

Speaking on some of the markets recently shut by his ministry for poor sanitary condition, the commissioner stated that the markets would not be opened until the traders clean their environment and abide by the environmental laws of the state.

According to Bello, government would not fold its hands and allow buying and selling in a dirty environment.

He spoke of plans by the state government to embark on school sanitation and beautification exercise across the state next year. He called on ACDF to evolve a programme that would assist the state in the implementation of the programme. He said the state has banned street trading and hawking on presidential routes, adding that there would be no going back on it.

In his address, President of ACDF, Otunba Dele Ajayi Smith said the organisation paid the visit in recognition of the outstanding performance of the commissioner in the management of the environment.

Smith commended the commissioner for his efforts at clearing drainages, channels, refuse and canals, noting that Lagos is now wearing a clean outlook.

He, however, called on the commissioner to intensify efforts in curbing street trading, alms begging and illegal billboards and posters that can devastate the aesthetics of the environment.

Posted by Publisher at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

Contractor mobilises to rehabilitate Bar Beach

Julius Berger, the contractor handling temporary rehabilitation of the Lagos Bar Beach on Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos has fully mobilised to site in readiness for commencement of work after the yuletide break.

By Emmanuel Ukudolo

Correspondent, Lagos

As at Friday when Daily Independent visited the beach, workers were not around but most of the materials required for the temporarily rehabilitation were already on site.

The materials include heavy iron rods and machines that would be required for the construction work. The beach witnessed ocean surge many times this year, which engendered fear among Lagos residents living or doing business in the area. The development also forced the state government to award the contract to Julius Berger for over N1 billion.

But the delay in executing the job forced residents living in the area to call for urgent work on the beach to forestall an onslaught expected before the year runs out.

Meanwhile, things are no longer as lively at the Lagos Bar Beach, which is hitherto the most popular and often the best attraction to visitors during festive periods.

It would be noted that the beach, which gulped several billions of naira from the Federal Government on sand filling alone was widely disputed when the Lagos State Government attempted to award contract for a permanent rehabilitation of the beach to a South African company that proposed to transform the area with wonderful structures, including a five star hotel.

But the Federal Government refused the offer, arguing that it was detrimental to the security of the nation to allow another country to operate on the bank of the Lagos Lagoon. The matter is still in court and it is not clear when it would be resolved just as residents have continued to lose colossal sums of money in property as a result of the continual ocean surge.

Posted by Publisher at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

Tankers take over Oshodi-Apapa Expressway

Commuters and motorists are now groaning over man-hour lost daily on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway as a result of heavy traffic jam caused by petroleum tankers, which are indiscriminately parked on both sides of the expressway.

The traffic jam, which became more pronounced ast week, has led to occasional scuffle between commercial bus drivers and the truck drivers, while car owners have called on government to provide alternative parking space for the tankers.

The worst hit is the Oshodi to Apapa side of the expressway where many motorists spend several hours daily while the tanker drivers behave like the lords of the manor.

A car owner, Mr Tunde Oladele, who said the traffic jam almost cost him his job on Tuesday, charged the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees (NUPENG) to inculcate discipline in the tanker drivers because they are members of the union.

It would be recalled that obstruction of traffic by the truck drivers in parts of the state, particularly at Ijora under bridge, had in the past led to friction between Lagos State Government and NUPENG. Last year, government impounded several trucks parked on top of the Ijora Bridge in order force the drivers to develop and relocate to a parcel of land it donated to the tanker drivers. In response, the drivers union called out its members on strike.

According to Western Zone Secretary of NUPENG, Tokunbo Korodo, the parcel of land at Orile Sand Fieldhas not been developed because of inability of the union to procure necessary documents from the state government.

Posted by Publisher at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerians rate govt performance low

NIGERIANS have scored the Federal Government low in its policy decisions in 2005, saying their expectations were not met in several sectors of the economy.

The citizens expressed their positions in a recent Guardian Opinion Poll (GOP) which asked the question: Looking at 2005 in retrospect, how has the government touched your life in the following sectors?

As a guide, the poll stated options including food, shelter, electricity, security of life and property, roads, education and rural development, while respondents were requested to indicate positive, negative impact or sheer indifference.

On the provision of food, 1,439 respondents or about 54 per cent of the poll agreed that government has touched their lives "negatively". Another 432 or 16 per cent would rather see government's effort in a positive light, just as 522 or 26 per cent were indifferent.

On the provision of electricity in 2005, a majority 54 per cent of the poll or 1,434 respondents affirmed that government's effort was not beneficial to them at all. Whereas another 441 or 17 per cent gave the government a positive mark, 19 per cent or 495 respondents indicated indifference.

How has the government touched your life in the roads sector? "Negatively", say 1,055 respondents or 40 per cent of the poll. "Positively", say another 812 respondents or 30 per cent. Here, 19 per cent or 498 respondents picked " indifferent".

On rural development, same majority "Negatively" responses of 45 per cent by 1,205 Nigerians is observed, leaving 'positive' response of 485 or 18 per cent and " indifferent" posture of 25 per cent by 676 respondents.

What about shelter? The government has touched our lives " negatively", chorused 1,449 respondents or 54 per cent of the poll. The government has tried, according to "positive" responses of 14 per cent by 370 people.

Similarly, government was not seen to have done well in the areas of security of life and property. Here, 1,411 or 53 per cent respondents were unimpressed or negative in reacting to government's effort. Not so for 370 or 14 per cent who insisted that the government has done well. About 19 per cent or 568 picked " indifferent".

On education, responses were not different as respondents scored the government "negatively" with 44 per cent or 1,172 people and " positively" by 23 per cent or 613 respondents.

Zone to zone, responses are marginally different in the food category. Here, the North Central, North East, South East, South South, North West and South West scored the government " negatively" with 59, 56, 54, 53, 49 and 49 per cent.

For " positively" responses, 15, 17, 17, 18, 13, and 19 were secured in the North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West. Lagos and Abuja posted 14 and 15 per cent.

On shelter, respondents who indicated " negatively" posted 57, 52, 53, 48, 52 and 55 per cent in the same order of zones. Abuja and Lagos scored 65 and 60 per cent.

However, respondents who indicated " positively" responses secured 15, 18, 15, 14, 11 and 15 in the North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West.

For electricity, those who reacted negatively scored 58, 58, 49, 55, 50, and 52 per cent in the North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West. Abuja and Lagos have 51 and 56 per cent. Conversely, positive reactions drew 19, 14, 18, 13, 17 and 18 in same order of zones.

Posted by Publisher at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

Public hearing on review of constitution begins Jan 8

A 12-day zonal public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution will begin in Bauchi on January 8, 2006.

From Martins Oloja (Abuja Bureau Chief)

The crucial political process is to be handled by the National Assembly Joint Committee for the review of the 1999 Constitution. It will focus on the proposals made by six sub-committees including possible third term for President and governors.

The public hearing is being planned despite criticism and alliances against constitutional amendment in some parts of the country.

Two political associations, the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD) and Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), which comprise mainly of northern political leaders have consistently expressed opposition to the move to amend the constitution before the end of President Olusegun Obasanjo's second term.

The two groups express fear that the planned review of the constitution could lead to extension of the tenure of President Obasanjo. The two groups, last week in Abuja, merged into Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) and applied to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for registration as a political party.

But confusion reared its head last week too when southern political leaders also rose from a meeting in Enugu where they declared support for constitutional amendment. The southern leaders, in a statement after the meeting, denounced opposition to constitutional amendment. They said the process must begin immediately, else they would boycott the 2007 elections.

While the political class was still digesting the import of the political missiles between the North and the South last week, the United States officials who have responsibility for Africa raised the political stakes when they reportedly opposed any extension of tenure for the President.

Last month, the British envoy in Nigeria, Ambassador Richard Gozney, spoke in a similar vein when he opposed another term without democratic process and participation that is transparent.

But it has not been clear what the reaction of the diplomatic missions will be to a democratically engineered process of constitutional amendment.

The Guardian confirmed at press time that the public hearing will last for two days in each of the six geo-political zones. The other zonal centres are Lafia (North Central), Kaduna (North West), Port Harcourt (South South), Enugu (South East) and Ibadan (South West).

After the public hearing, the 80-member panel are expected to go on a 10-day retreat where details of the hearing will be collated and finalised in form of a report to the National Assembly

The Ibrahim Mantu-led committee comprises among others one Senator and a House Member from each of the 36 states of the federation, and six women representatives.

One of the proposed amendments that will raise dust at the public sittings will be the Sub-committee's Report on Pages 14 and 15 under Section 135 (1) where they proposed three options thus:

Three options emerged during the sub-committee's deliberations: After exhaustive discussion on the pros and cons of each option, no consensus was reached on any of the options. The sub-committee, therefore, recommends three options to the main committee for further consideration.


Retain status quo i.e. retain two terms of four years each;

Two terms of five years each; and

Three terms of four years each; and
Another possible area of conflict with the politicians will be proposed section 130 (d) in the sub-committee's report where it is proposed that a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of the President if-


He has not been educated up to at least HND level or its equivalent;
One of the critical features of the sub-committee's report, The Guardian noted, is that not many of the just concluded Political Reform Conference reports were considered in the sub-committee's recommendations, which a cabinet member and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain recently put at more than one hundred items.

Recently, when the opposition to the proposed third term agenda became heated, the PDP General Secretary and a member of the Federal Executive Council questioned why people seem to be more interested in only one item out of over 100 recommendations of national importance.

Sources said last night that the public hearing and the retreat may cost about N450 million.

Posted by Publisher at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

Third term moves are wasteful, says Buhari

FORMER presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Maj. Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) has described purported moves to extend the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo beyond May, 2007 as wasteful and unconstitutional.

From Adamu Abuh, Kano

Buhari, who distanced himself from activities of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), also expressed interest in the Presidency in 2007.

Speaking to reporters in Birnin Kudu, Jigawa State at the weekend, he wondered why billions of naira which should have been spent on the comatose state of infrastructure in the country were being wasted by promoters of the alleged third term agenda.

He cited the last national political reform conference which gulped billions of naira, saying it was mainly organised to pursue the third term agenda.

He noted: "Why waste over N1.5 billion which if put into NEPA, at least hundreds of Nigerians would be gainfully employed. If all this money being wasted on third term is well utilised, it would be beneficial to Nigerians. The idea is wasteful, fraudulent and it is deceitful and I was against it and I am still against it."

Justifying why he distanced himself from the activities of the MRD, he said: "Why should I join an association which has not been registered? I am not going to leave the ANPP. If some people want to join us in ANPP, they are welcome. But I am not going to join anybody."

Buhari, who opened a computer centre put in place by a member of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Farouk Adamu Aliyu, also denied knowledge of alleged efforts by pro-third term campaigners to halt his bid to emerge as the presidential candidate of the ANPP.

He enjoined the crowd that converged at the computer centre to be on guard in making sure that the forthcoming ANPP convention in April and the 2007 polls were conducted under a free and fair atmosphere.

Posted by Publisher at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

Lamidi Adedibu asks Yoruba to back third term; Says Ladoja must go

FROM Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the "stongman of Ibadan Politics" came an advice yesterday that all Yoruba should back President Olusegun Obasanjo's (alleged) third term bid.

From Seun Adeoye, Osogbo

Adedibu, who made the call while featuring in an interview programme on Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, Television Services, also declared that there was no going back on the impeachment of the Oyo State Governor, Chief Rashidi Ladoja.

According to Adedibu, if for about 40 years, the North could hold on to power "I think we should also be in office for 20 years." He, therefore, urged all Yoruba to support President Obasanjo's (rumoured) third term bid.

On Ladoja, Adedibu said nothing would stop the state lawmakers from impeaching the governor.

Already, he said over 1,000 names were before him on who would take over Ladoja's office as the state governor.

Suspected hoodlums believed to be supporters of Adedibu, along with 18 lawmakers who wanted to impeach Ladoja, invaded the state secretariat on Thursday, last week during which two persons were believed to have been killed after a bloody clash with the governor's supporters.

Although, he exonerated President Olusegun Obasanjo from the crisis, Adedibu noted that the president was aware of Ladoja's "sins" and why he must be removed as the governor.

Adedibu who was featuring in an interview programme on Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC), Television Services, cited the pending murder case against one Alhaji Akinola Lateef, (a.k.a. Tokyo) and a former boss of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), who for 29 months has being behind bars, on the orders of Ladoja.

He explained that Tokyo's case had been transferred to about five courts with nothing incriminating found against him, yet Ladoja, according to him, would not let him go.

"The man was one of the people who worked for Ladoja to become governor. All the investigation conducted by the Police showed that the man did not kill anyone. But on his order, Tokyo is still in detention for over 29 months.

"We are going to impeach him. There is no going back. We are certainly going to remove him. God put him there and God will remove him. I am in full control. He has nobody with him even by the time I was appointing his deputy, he did not know.

"He has nobody with him. All the lawmakers at the National Assembly are with me. Majority of the state lawmakers are with me. He is alone. He is fighting with everybody. He is fighting with the traditional rulers, the market women, the drivers, the workers, the market women. By the will of God, I put him there and I will remove him," Adedibu declared.

According to him, President Obasanjo had called two of them for amicable settlement but Adedibu claimed that Ladoja would always renege on terms of agreement.

He stated further, "even in the presence of the President, he (Ladoja) prostrated for me, more than six times. And the president ordered him to replace my vehicle that his "boys" destroyed, but he failed to do that."

On President Obasanjo's attitude to his use of thuggery to settle political scores, Adedibu insisted that nothing can stop him from using thugs, saying all were part of politics.

"There was a time former Governor Lam Adesina reported me to the president that I was causing problem in Oyo State. And the president needed to come to Ibadan where he invited me and about seven others for a meeting on this issue.

"And the president asked me that at 76 what legacy would I leave behind with hooliganism. I told the president that I already have a legacy and that is why he came to Ibadan. I told him that I will continue to cause problem and you will continue to see me as relevant," he stated.

Adedibu also accused Ladoja of keeping three of his concubines as commissioners in his cabinet.


Posted by Publisher at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

Britain refuses Alamieyeseigha visa

ALL efforts by the impeached Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha to return to London on December 22, 2005, to face his trial over money laundering, failed as Britain refused to issue him a visa.

By Ibe Uwaleke, Judicial Correspondent

Alamieyeseigha, now facing a 40-count charge of money laundering at the Federal High Court, Lagos, had approached the British High Commission in Nigeria for a visa to travel to London to face his trial but the officials refused to issue him a permit.

No reason was given for the refusal of the application, which was made by the Federal Government on his behalf, to enable him travel to London.

The impeached governor has already been arraigned before a Federal High Court, Lagos over money laundering and failure to declare his assets while in office. He is currently being remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), by the court after pleading not guilty to the 40-count charge involving N124 billion.

In a protest letter by one of his lawyers, Chief Mike Ozekhome, to the High Commissioner of Britain in Nigeria, he "appealed to the ambassador to use his good offices to ensure that Alamieyeseigha is granted a visa to enable him continue his trial in London."

Part of the letters reads: "Our client has informed us that a British visa was applied for on his behalf by the Federal Government of Nigeria to enable him travel to London to attend court on Thursday, December 22, 2005."

The letter dated December 19, 2005 with the caption: "Refusal of visa for His Excellency, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, to attend court in London" further reads: "For reasons not known to him, the said application was turned down and the visa was not granted.

"We are consequently appealing to you to use your good offices to ensure that he is granted a visa to enable him continue his trial in London. We believe sir, that you will accede to our humble request, by granting our client a visa as soon as possible."

A copy of the protest letter was also sent to the ex-governor's sureties in London, according to his lawyer, to enable them inform the trial court of his difficulty in obtaining a British visa to enable him attend trial.

Alamieyesiegha jumped bail in London and returned to Nigeria on reasons best known to him.

Soon after his return, he was impeached by his state House of Assembly over fraud and arrested by the EFCC officials who are trying him now in Nigeria over money laundering and failure to declare his assets while in office.

Posted by Publisher at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

Tearful world marks one year of tsunami deaths

MOURNFUL prayers were directed skywards yesterday as bereaved persons from Indonesia to Sweden commemorated the tsunami that hit the world exactly a year ago.

The Christmas mood was still thick in the air on December 24, 2004 when one of the deadliest natural disasters snuffed life out of over 220,000 people as waves slammed into a dozen countries.

The day's solemn commemorations began in Indonesia, where President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono led an emotional ceremony with a minute's silence to remember the 168,000 people killed in Aceh, which bore the brunt of the disaster.

"Let us now bow our heads in silence to pray for the souls of hundreds of thousands, who lost their lives," he said yesterday.

"May they rest in peace by God's side," he said, sounding a wailing siren that forms part of an early warning system being set up to prevent a repeat of the tragedy. No such mechanism was in place when the waves struck last year.

The catastrophe brought grief into the lives of people across the globe, killing locals and foreigners, the young and the old, with many of the victims simply washed away, leaving their desperate relatives hoping against all hope.

"I've announced their names and had their photographs printed in newspapers and shown on television but there is no news about them," Tuti Suyanti, 32, said of the two children and 10 other family members she lost.

"Somehow I still hold out hope that I will find them but I leave everything in the hands of God," she said.

In the Indonesian town of Padang, officials tested the warning system for the first time yesterday, with emergency personnel evacuating residents amid efforts to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again.

"It was so brutal, so quick, so extensive that we are still struggling to fully comprehend it," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a video message broadcast at the Aceh ceremony.

"A year on, there has been tremendous progress in many areas ... And yet in some ways, the most challenging days lie ahead," he said.

Some two million people across the region were left homeless by the disaster, and hundreds of thousands of them are still living in tents or temporary shelters.

A massive undersea earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered the giant waves, which hit as far west as Africa, and pounded shorelines in Asia with ferocious speed and power.

In southern Thailand, where some 5,400 Thais and foreign holidaymakers were killed, mourners signed books of remembrance or tossed flowers into the sea as they gathered along the battered beaches where their loved ones died.

Swedish couple, Mari Olsson and Michael Sanden, came back with their two surviving daughters to honour the memory of a third who was killed when the entire family was caught up in the giant waves.

"We didn't want to be home at Christmas. We didn't want to celebrate," Olsson said.

Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, led his nation in mourning during a beachside ceremony, laying a foundation stone for a tsunami memorial.

"It is not often that we have the opportunity to be part of a historic moment that will be remembered for generations to come," he said.

Sri Lanka's president attended a ceremony that paid tribute to an estimated 31,000 people who perished along the country's coastline.

President Mahinda Rajapakse stood with his head bowed after an inter-faith service and observed two minutes of silence in the village of Peraliya, where over 1,000 people perished when their train was hit by giant waves.

In India, where more than 10,700 people were killed and 5,600 others are listed as missing, survivors offered tearful tributes.

The worst hit district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where almost 6,000 people died, observed a minute's silence at the moment the waves slammed into the shore.

On the palm-fringed island of Car Nicobar, India's military unveiled a memorial while women thronged Nicobar's ravaged beaches to pray to their gods for the sea to remain calm. Priests called on villagers to gather at the still-standing churches in remembrance of those who died.

In Malaysia, hundreds travelled to beaches of the resort island of Penang to pray for the victims. Relatives and friends of the 68 people killed by the tsunami here lit candles and scattered flowers into the sea.

Sweden, which suffered more deaths in the Indian Ocean tsunami than any nation outside Asia, was preparing to remember its 543 nationals killed with memorials scheduled in Stockholm and two other Swedish cities.

Hundreds of Swedes also took part in an emotional beachside ceremony in the Thai resort of Khao Lak, which included flowers, incense and music.

United States President George W. Bush sent a message of support broadcast in Banda Aceh: "May Almighty God comfort all those affected by the tsunami and give them strength in the years ahead."

In London, Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said the world was now better prepared to understand and respond to large-scale disasters.

Meanwhile, the European Union humanitarian aid commissioner, Louis Michel, spoke of "silent tsunamis" in Africa: drought, floods, and conflict. He said many of these catastrophes did not make headlines in the western media, but still led to suffering.

Sudan, which hosts the world's largest population of internally displaced people, is to be the biggest beneficiary with almost $57 million.

The next biggest recipient will be the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will receive $45 million to improve health care for women and children, and to help with settling refugees.

"Today we remember the victims of the tsunami in south east Asia," Mr. Michel said in a statement.

"But millions of vulnerable people in Africa are exposed to natural disasters like droughts, floods and insect infestations as well as armed conflicts," he added.

"These are silent tsunamis. Many of these catastrophes do not hit the headlines in the Western media but they still lead to great suffering," he said.

Specific projects cited in the report include:


Relief for Ugandan children who abandon their homes for fear of abduction by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels

Clean water for the Comoros after another volcanic eruption.

water and sanitation for Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Chad

healthcare in Burundi

agricultural aid for Madagascar

refugee aid in Tanzania


Posted by Publisher at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerian, Eze, wins prize in fiction

A NIGERIAN writer, Chielozona Eze, has won the 1st Oladuah Eguiano prize for fiction. He won the $1,000 prize with his short story: "Lessons in German."

Eze is an assistant professor of Post-colonial and Anglophone African Literature at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, United States (U.S.)

The judges described Eze's winning story, "Lessons in German," as "a swan song to, and of, all that was, and is, beautiful and enduring but utterly corrupted by humanity. It is an awakening of consciousness to the binding contract of sublimation, the pristine glory of nature that is bound for decay, an ennobling song in our hearts that is the beginning of manic depression."

In the words of Obiwu, chairman of the judges, "'Lessons in German' is a narration about music and language, sex and sexuality, love and hate, art and artifice, knowledge and ignorance, light and darkness, genocide and communality, affirmation and denegation.

Eze pours his body and soul, not unlike the enmeshed wine and flesh of his interracial protagonists, into a narrative that is one of the most consuming commentaries on contemporary dialectics of migration, globalisation and the return of beauty."

Eze grew up in Enugu, Nigeria. He completed his graduate studies from Purdue University in December 2003. From 2004 to 2005, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, at Los Angeles.

The second prize went to Anietie Isong for his story, "How Great Thou Art." The $300 second prize is endowed by Dr. Chuma Osakwe in the memory of his late father, Chief S. B. C Osakwe.

The third prize of $100 goes to Chika Unigwe for her story, "Confetti, Glitter, and Ash."

All stories submitted for this year's competition will be considered for publication in an anthology of short fiction devoted to new voices of Africans abroad.

The judges for this year's competition were Okey Ndibe, Wale Adebanwi, and Obiwu.

According to Rudolf Okonkwo, the CEO of Iroko Productions, "entries for next year's edition will open on July 1, 2006, and the winner will be announced on Christmas Eve.'

Posted by Publisher at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

Navy wants better security for oil facilities

THE Federal Government was at the weekend urged to beef up security at oil installations to check terrorist attacks.

By Alex Olise

The appeal was made by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye in an interview with journalists during a naval exercise code-named "Operation Igbochi" at the Gulf of Guinea.

Other senior naval officers revealed the urgent need for constant patrol of the coast with Nigerian war ships to keep terrorists at bay.

It took about 120 nautical miles for the 25 years old war ship, NHS Aradu to sail from Lagos to the high sea, where most of the oil platforms including the newest Bonga project are sited.

To showcase their combat-readiness, the Navy went to the sea with its seven fleet which included the flagship NNS Aradu, NNS Obula, NNS Ayiam, NNS Ologbo, NNS Wamba, NNS Kyanwa and Thug Rudolf.

The Gulf of Guinea, which currently has the richest crude oil in this part of the world is within Nigerian territorial water.

As a mark of respect for the resources in the region, many countries war ships have been paying visits to the area.

Recently, an American warship visited the zone twice.

But to reposition itself as the original owner, the Nigerian government has stationed two vessels at the Bonga project.

Posted by Publisher at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

CBN okays Fidelity Bank

WITH a few days to the deadline for banks in the country to recapitalise, Fidelity Bank Plc has joined the league of banks, which have met all the requirements for existence in the post-consolidation banking industry.

The bank at the weekend received the final approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as well as that of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for its merger with FSB International Bank Plc and MannyBank Plc, under the Fidelity brand name.

In addition, it has also obtained the sanction of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, thereby perfecting the merger. With that, the other two parties to the merger; FSB and MannyBank, last Friday handed their licences to the CBN for cancellation as statutorily required.

At the moment, everything is set for the banks to run as one bank under the name Fidelity Bank Plc.

Two weeks ago, the different shareholders of the three merging banks at different court-ordered meetings approved the merger of the three banks under Fidelity umbrella.

With the perfection of the merger, the new Fidelity Bank Plc has shareholders' funds of about N29 billion, total assets of about N120 billion and a network of 82 branches. These statistics place Fidelity Bank in the top 10 banks in the country by shareholders' funds and by assets.

Posted by Publisher at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

Kwara, Kogi to aid Trade Bank, Afribank merger

KWARA and Kogi state governments have stepped up efforts to inject the balance of the required funds for the merger of Trade Bank Plc and Afribank Nig. Plc before the December 31 CBN deadline for recapitalisation.

The two state governments are the principal shareholders of the 18-year-old Trade Bank.

High-level talks were said to be going on between the owner states and Afribank to ensure a seamless merger.

Trade Bank's membership of the Afribank Group received a major boost and confirmation last April with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the granting of pre-merger consent to the group by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The group is now at the approval-in-principle stage. Besides, a valuation exercise on Trade Bank, Afribank International (Merchant Bankers) Ltd, another member of the group was recently conducted to determine their share exchange ratio.

Posted by Publisher at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

Doctors pledge to reduce maternal deaths nationwide

WITHIN the next 10 years, the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) is sure to reduce maternal mortality in the country, its National President, Dr. John Okaro, has asserted.

From Isa Abdulsalami, Jos

Speaking at the association's 39th yearly general conference yesterday in Jos, Plateau State, Okaro urged Nigerians to join hands with the association to achieve the objective.

Okaro said SOGON believed that it was time to raise the clarion call for the whole nation to wake up and crush maternal mortality for good in the country.

He said the greatest challenge facing the society was to ensure that maternal mortality in the country was reduced to the barest minimum, if it could not be completely wiped out, in the next 10 years.

Okaro noted with dismay that in spite of enlightenment programmes, maternal mortality persisted.

His words: "The safe motherhood activities have been going on now for some considerable time. Conferences, workshops, research projects and other activities done across the country since 1990 have failed to cause a reduction in maternal mortality figures in Nigeria.

"As obstetricians, we must first convince ourselves that we are the arrow-head of any attack on maternal mortality. We are the engine house full of skills and tools to keep the engine running while we correct any abnormalities in the process of any woman's pregnancy and delivery."

The SOGON President said the maternal mortality battle must be jointly fought with government and private sector participation.

He said that there would be success if all remained focussed, determined and committed.

Linked with this campaign is also the need to persuade government to provide free antenatal care, if not nationwide, then in select economically disadvantaged areas, he added

Okaro also stressed the importance of a working relationship with Nigerians abroad, especially in the United Kingdom (UK).

He said Nigerian doctors working in the UK could be encouraged to establish a Nigerian Liaison Group with a view to fostering links between Nigeria and the UK.

His words: "This group will easily serve the purpose of being the instrument for the transfer of skill and technology to Nigeria. Prof. Allan Templeton of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, is also willing to give us software support for maternal and child health audit work.

"This will enable us to draw from the considerable expertise in the UK through confidential enquiries into maternal death and related work."

The group's president asserted that his immediate predecessor in office, Dr. James Akuse, had moved the association much farther on the road to get government to recognise that SOGON was the best qualified body to advise and comment on matters concerning women's health.

He said the new SOGON council would continue with the main policy guidelines and roadmap put in place by the 1999 and 2002 SOGON councils.

Posted by Publisher at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

Govt lifts ban on Bellview Airlines

REPRIEVE came for Bellview Airlines at the weekend as the Task Force on Verification of Airworthiness Status of Aircraft and Operational Competencies of Commercial Aircraft Operation in Nigeria, which grounded its fleet, gave it a clean bill of health and directed the airline to resume operations.

By Tunji Oketunbi, Assistant Aviation Editor

Bellview, which also disclosed that it had paid N155.5 million as refunds and hotel bills to passengers, had its domestic, regional and international operations disrupted following the hammer by the Ministry of Aviation, which first revoked the airline's Airline Operating Certificate (AOC) before converting it to suspension.

The Minister of Aviation Prof. Babalola Borisade had earlier revoked the airline's licence following what he called "a spate of accidents/incidents involving the airline's aircraft."

A statement from the airline yesterday confirmed that "Bellview Airlines has been cleared to resume normal flight services, following her successful re-certification by the task force, which had grounded the airline's operations since Tuesday."

The task force, led by Mrs. Folashade Odutola and assisted by the International Civil Aviation organisation (ICAO), is said to have conducted a thorough review of the airline's operations with a detailed inspection of its fleet, after which it found Bellview's aircraft airworthy and its level of compliance with safety regulations satisfactory.

A source close to the airline's management disclosed that three different audits were conducted last week on the airline's fleet and facilities, with safety auditors from two other countries attracted by the airline's international operations. Bellview's safety practice was successful in all three audits.

Sources close to the task force confirmed that the airline took the decision of service disruption in good faith and provided unhindered access to all company's operations and facilities.

The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority inspectors also visited the airline to investigate an incident involving the airline's aircraft in Accra, Ghana and were said to have been impressed with Bellview's standards and safety practices, which they told the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority at a meeting on Friday, December 23, 2005.

Among the three airlines recently grounded by the government, only Bellview was subjected to multiple country re-certification based on the airline's extensive international route network.

Chanchangi and Sosoliso airlines were also grounded for aircraft re-certification with Chanchangi scaling through.

Within the last one week, Bellview is said to have paid N155.6 million as refunds and hotel accommodations for passengers whose travel plans were disrupted by this extra-ordinary action.

"It was difficult to transfer passengers to other carriers as all flights were full during the peak season." said Habib Mohammed, the airline's spokesperson.

Posted by Publisher at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

Be prepared, Kwankwaso charges Navy

DEFENCE Minister, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, has told the Nigerian Navy to be prepared to defend the nation in the event of any military aggression by enemy nations.

By Bayo Ohu, Asst. News Editor

To ensure its combat-readiness, he charged the Navy to embark on intensive patrol of the country's territorial waters and conduct regular military training exercises.

Speaking at the Navy's Ceremonial Sunset and end-of-the-year party in Lagos at the weekend, Kwankwaso said the Navy must continue to secure the economic live-wire of Nigeria by maintaining law and order in the Niger Delta.

Emphasising the need for officers and ratings of the Navy to remain loyal to the present civilian administration, the minister stated that the Federal Government had not and would not relent in providing the needed assistance in ship maintenance and acquisition of inshore patrol boats.

While commending the Navy for a job well done over the years, he urged the officers and ratings not to rest on their oars, assuring that government would not spare any effort in reducing the Navy's constraints to the barest minimum.

Kwankwaso noted that holding the Ceremonial Sunset and end-of-the-year party with the usual pomp and pageantry underpinned the Nigerian Navy's resolve to keep naval traditions alive.

Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ganiyu Tunde Adekeye, traced the origin of the Ceremonial Sunset to the beating of retreat and tattoo to recall troops to the camp as night approaches so as to provide a haven and reorganise the troops for future engagements in battles.

He explained that in the 49 years of the Nigerian Navy, the Ceremonial Sunset had been used to reflect, refresh and reposition it for greater heights.

Former Chief of General (CGS) and one-time Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, was at the ceremony.

Other former Chiefs of Naval Staff present included Vice Admirals Patrick Koshoni, Akintunde Aduwo, Jubril Ayinla and the immediate past Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Samuel Afolayan.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Alexander Ogomudia, was represented by Admiral Samuel Akintude while Maj.-Gen. Joseph Adesunloye was in attendance to represent the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Martin Agwai.

Posted by Publisher at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

Anti-Mantu posters flood Plateau; Religious leaders wade in

ACCUSATIONS and counter-accusations have continued to be traded among those who want Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu recalled by his constituency and those against the move.

From Isa Abdulsalami, Jos

Besides, religious leaders in Plateau State have waded into the matter just as Mantu's supporters accused Governor Joshua Dariye of being the mastermind of the recall bid.

Mantu is from Plateau Central Senatorial zone. The constituents were said to have collated and submitted over 200,000 signatures to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja asking for his recall for alleged poor performance and bad representation.

As they await the response to that petition, major streets in Jos are now flooded with anti-Mantu posters.

Some roundabouts and public buildings carry inscriptions like, "Mantu's recall: no retreat, no surrender. Mantu must go" with other unprintable words denouncing his personality.

But a prominent politician in the state who is close to the Deputy Senate President accused the state government of being behind the posters, which he alleged were meant to deceive the people into accepting the genuineness of the recall.

According to the man who spoke on condition of anonymity, if the proponents of the recall are confident that the petition submitted to INEC contains genuine names and signatures, there is no need for posters to drum up support for the recall.

His words: "Those behind the exercise will be put to shame by the time INEC finishes its investigation over the petition. The Deputy Senate President still remains a force to reckon with as far as Plateau politics is concerned. So, there is no shaking."

The religious leaders have come in to mediate in the matter and nip the recall bid in the bud.

It was gathered that the religious leaders last week met the governor and urged him to prevail on his supporters allegedly championing the recall to sheathe their swords.

The governor reportedly had a closed-door meeting with his aides who are allegedly behind the recall on the need to forgive Mantu and stop the exercise.

It was, however, further gathered that governor's meeting with his aides last week ended in a deadlock.

The aides reportedly told Dariye that he should steer clear of the matter, as they are the ones feeling the pinch of Mantu's non-performance and not the governor.

Posted by Publisher at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

Immigration resumes air border patrol

EFFORTS at repositioning the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) may have started to yield remarkable success, as the nation at the weekend witnessed the return of air border patrol.

From Emeka Anuforo Abuja

Already, two NIS planes that had been neglected for close to six years have been refurbished and re-certified for operations.

The planes were refurbished under a special agreement with Dornier Aviation Nigeria Ltd with which the Immigration service has a technical logistics support agreement.

According to officials of the company, each aircraft of the model-Dornier DO-228 has outstanding performance characteristics, providing infinite travel flexibility between major airports and all parts of the country.

Controller-General of the NIS, Mr. Joseph Udeh, who received the aircraft from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Ambassador Magaji Mohammed, in Kaduna at the weekend, thanked the Federal Government for making funds available for the project.

Udeh noted that it was a rugged 18-seater aircraft designed to perform special activities, which had short take-off and landing capabilities.

He said: "It is also designed to accept certain hard conditions testified by its ability to land even on ordinary football field. This enables the aircraft to be operated into and out of even the remotest rural airstrip, which many other aircraft cannot do. Ideally, it is suitable for our air border patrol operations."

Udeh added: "It is equipped with a higher sensor camera which takes pictures from the air and sends them to special facilities that facilitate the deployment of officers to quash any illegal operations picked up by the camera. It helps to complement the operations of the officers on ground."

Udeh expressed confidence in his officials, saying: "We have about 500 men specially trained and posted to the critical border points that regularly witness incidents of illegal operations. The radio communication bases are also there. We will work to the best of our abilities to secure the nation's borders."

The Immigration boss continued: "We are experiencing a lot of trans-border criminality, we are experiencing a lot of human trafficking, a lot of illegal entries particularly along the northern flanks of the country's borders.

"If you recall, so many of our people cross the border into the desert to go to Libya, Algeria and other North African countries. With this equipment, we can very easily identify them, intervene and check this illegal crossing."

Posted by Publisher at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

American institute appoints Nigerian adviser

A NIGERIAN university teacher, Prof. Innocent Ujah, has been appointed to the Research Board of Advisers of the American Biographical Institute.

The appointment, a honourary one, was conferred on Ujah by the board of editors and publication of the institute.

Ujah is of the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH).

The life appointment takes effect from this year. It is given in recognition of scholarship in one's chosen field of endeavour coupled with leadership qualities.

The letter conveying the certificate to Ujah by the director, Research Board of Advisers, stated that he had been chosen among a few Nigerians that were nominated.

Ujah's main task as a professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics is to advise the institute founded in 1967.

Posted by Publisher at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

Enugu to monitor patent medicine dealers

HENCEFORTH, the sale of drugs and other medicaments by patent medicine dealers in Ebonyi State is to be monitored by government's Health Management Committee.

From Leo Sobechi, Abakaliki

This was disclosed by Health Commissioner, Dr. Henry Alo, while inaugurating the committee at the General Hospital, Iboko, headquarters of Izzi local council area, Alo said the measure was to check the rising incidence of the sale of fake and substandard drugs in the rural areas.

He pointed out that several deaths in rural communities of the state have been traced to the use of fake drugs, stressing that his ministry has decided to check the tide before it cripples the healthcare programme of the state government.

He stated that the members of the committee are made up of qualified health officers and political leaders, adding that they are also to protect health facilities in various communities in the state.

Emphasising the need for adequate surveillance and enlightenment, the commissioner enjoined the committee members to sensitise members of the council area on issues of healthcare.

He tasked the committee to encourage community participation in the management of health facilities located in their area as well as to see to it that any doctor or nurse expected to be on duty is actually on duty.

He enjoined the members of the Health Management Committee to feel free to report any absentee doctor or nurse to the Ministry, to either the Commissioner for Health or the permanent secretary or the HOD of any

health department.

Alo noted that the inauguration of the committee was

part of the many programmes of the Ebonyi State government geared towards ensuring quality healthcare.

"Other facets of this package include free mobile clinic, free ante-natal care services, provision of free anti-retroviral drugs in addition to the free training of health workers locally and internationally, as well as the establishment of school of health technology", he

explained.

He charged the committee to endeavour to increase the internally generated revenue of the state by improving the estimation of public health facilities by members of the communities.

Posted by Publisher at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

Omegabank, five others form Springbank

A FEW days to the deadline given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for banks to increase their shareholders' funds to at least N25 billion, which has led to mergers and acquisitions in the banking industry, a new bank has emerged.

From Niyi Bello, Akure

The new bank, to be known as Springbank Plc, is a result of the successful merger of six banks. Three are from the Bank One Group comprising Omegabank Plc, Fountain Trust Bank and Trans International Bank (TIB) Plc while the other three are The Guardian Citizen Group, which is made up of Guardian Express Bank, African Continental Bank (ACB) and Citizens Bank.

Already, the merger has received the approval of the apex bank in principle, while a court-ordered shareholders meeting will be held on Thursday in Lagos to inform investors in the banks of the development and seek their approval.

With the merger, the new bank has, in accordance with the CBN directive, increased its shareholders funds to about N32 billion, making it one of the best capitalised banks in the industry.

The chairman of Omegabank Plc, Chief Anthony Adeniyi, who announced the birth of the new bank yesterday in Akure, the Ondo State capital, at a press conference, said the branch network of the new bank stood at 223 nationwide.

Omegabank, according to him, was on the verge of merging with the Bank of the North. But the merger was dropped after the verification conducted by the CBN revealed that the plan would not work as the two groups could not have been able to muster the N25 billion requirement.

Adeniyi stated that unlike other mergers that may lead to retrenchment of staff and closure of branches, the new bank had taken many factors into consideration such that "instead of retrenchment, we will recruit more hands and our branch network will increase in the next few months".

He disclosed that all the pre-merger agreements had been signed and that the new bank would surely get the final nod of the apex bank within the limited time for the consolidation to be firmly entrenched.

His words: " Come January 2006, Springbank Plc will be one of the leaders in the Nigerian banking industry because it is a fusion of people with energy and market aggressiveness. We have all it takes to reach the very height of the banking sector."

Adeniyi disclosed further that the new bank would be effectively planted in the country's banking sector as all the members of the group were already firmly entrenched before the merger.

"ACB has a good and effective branch network in the Eastern part of the country as well as Citizens Bank, TIB is already effectively felt in the West, particularly in Oyo and Osun States while Omegabank's vast presence in Lagos, Ondo and Ekiti and the South-South is an added advantage."

Speaking on the investments of Ondo, Ekiti and Akwa Ibom states in the former Omegabank and Oyo in TIB, Adeniyi said what should be paramount in the minds of investors should be how to increase the yield of investment rather than the number of representatives they had on the board.

"With the new development, it may not be possible for all the key investors to have nominees on the board as the CBN has even given us a limit to the number of directors that we can have," he said.

Posted by Publisher at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

Perm sec., stakeholders disagree on air safety

STAKEHOLDERS in the aviation industry disagreed at the weekend on air safety in Nigeria.

By Wole Shadare, Aviation Reporter

The Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Aviation, Dr. Imoru Kubor, rated the industry as the safest in Africa despite the recent mishaps that have thrown the country into deep mourning.

But his claim was faulted by the Secretary General of the Aviation Round Table (ART), Capt. Dele Ore and the Executive Director of the Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI), Mr. Effanga Offiong.

In less than six months, the country has witnessed many near air mishaps, and three aircraft crashes, which claimed 228 lives.

Kubor's verdict is coming amid mounting disenchantment with the aviation sector over epileptic radar system and accusations of airline operators cutting corners in the maintenance of their aircraft. There are also allegations of corruption among top officials of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) among other alleged unprofessional practices.

Kubor, at a meeting with airline operators, top officials of the ministry and some parastatal chiefs at the weekend, expressed regrets that recent happenings in the sector had eroded passengers' confidence in air travel.

He lamented that the tide was turning against the industry "as people now prefer to travel by road."

He noted that over 1,000 people die daily in road accidents across the country, a figure he described as alarming.

His words: "President Olusegun Obasanjo is trying to ease-drive an economy that is going to boom, an economy that is going to grow at a pace of about nine to 10 per cent. For that economy to be driven, the aviation industry is the key."

But Capt. Ore faulted Kubor's argument, describing it as "a political statement."

Ore, while speaking to The Guardian, yesterday said for the country to have a safer sky, all hands must be on deck to correct all the deficiencies.

The ART scribe disclosed that pilots were becoming scared because of the obsolete navigation equipment, which he noted had dampened their morale.

His words: "I don't know what parameter, data or statistics he used to arrive at that. He may want to please the public."

Also, Offiong said if the country's airspace was truly safe, there would not be any need for the setting up of the presidential task force for the industry.

He noted that there was no way the permanent secretary would talk of safe sky without putting the radar and other navigation facilities in good condition.

"He is talking of a radar that is not working, or some other equipment that are outdated. We must face the truth. This is deceit, he should not deceive the people," Offiong added.

The executive director of Bellview Airlines, Mr. Gbenga Olowo urged the government to support the operators to acquire newer airplanes, as it is done in other parts of the world.

Olowo faulted the loan system in Nigeria, which he noted attracts high interest rate, while banks only give a year repayment term.

The Senior Special Assistant (Aviation) to the President, Capt. Usman Shehu Iyal refuted claims that the actions taken so far by President Obasanjo to reform the sector were out of panic.

"The President took those actions to restore the confidence of people back. He has nothing against any operator, but he did that to sanitise the industry," he added.

Posted by Publisher at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

Intense harmattan in Katsina State

KATSINA State residents have started experiencing the yearly intensity of the harmattan cold and haze.

From Johnson Okanlawon, Katsina

The haze, which gradually began mid-November, has affected the social life and mode of dressing of the people. It has forced aged people to go inside early and came out in the afternoon when there is sunlight while the youths use hot water to bath in the morning.

It has also changed the outer skin colour of Arabic students, popularly called almagiris from dark to almost white.

To combat the haze, most people, especially motorcycle riders, wear thick clothes and stockings with all manners of foot-wears to work while some even wear them to sleep at night.

Early in the morning, some people are seen squatting around roadside tea-sellers popularly known as Maitea.

The weather has also forced both genders to generously apply mentholated balms and allow ointment on their lips to stave off dryness which often leads to painful cracks.

However, the cold wind is so severe that most shop owners open their shops mid-day when there is sunlight. Prices of commodities like beverages and blankets, cardigans and socks have also shot up.

School children currently at home, courtesy the Christmas holidays, will soon have to faze the cold and haze when they resume to school in January 2006.

Posted by Publisher at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

Govt may enforce use of ID cards

PLANS may have been concluded by the Federal Government to initiate a law that would enforce the compulsory possession of the national identity (ID) cards.

From Emeka Anuforo, Abuja

Also, as part of efforts to ensure that all Nigerian adults get the cards, the Federal Government said it will in 2006, produce over 24 million cards for distribution.

Director of the Department of National Civic Registration, Alhaji Shuaibu Sabon-Birni, told reporters in Abuja at the weekend that as soon as the department concludes the nationwide distribution of the cards, the use of the national ID cards would be made compulsory.

"We should be compelled to use our ID cards because that is our means of identification. Many countries in the world do that. We are borrowing from

them and will enforce the use of the cards. The national ID cards are our national heritage. They are our own national forms of identification. They should, therefore, be possessed by all Nigerians", he said.

Sabon-Birni, however, agreed that first, the cards must be produced and widely distributed before such a law comes in motion.

He informed that the cards had been so far distributed to 11 states namely: the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Bayelsa, Ogun, Yobe, Adamawa, Benue, Lagos, Sokoto, Delta, Edo and Ebonyi.

He stressed that the department had also completed production of cards for Kebbi and Kwara states, which would be distributed during the Christmas break.

He also spoke on his targets for the New Year and the authentication machines, which have started arriving.

He added that the department would embark on more vigorous public enlightenment for those who have just attained the age of 18 and urged those who could not register to come out and do so".

The Department of National Civic Registration also said it had taken possession of the prototype authentication machines.

"Those machines are going to be used by commercial houses and other agencies where you will need to use your cards. All the agency needs to do is to make you put your fingers on one of the machines and you are quietly identified. If the bankers want to use it, they will acquire it. If the Police want to use it, then they will

acquire it too", it said.

Sabon-Birnin said members of his staff who have been accused of conniving with people to extort money from the public in exchange for the cards are still being investigated by security agents, vowing to dismiss any of them found culpable.

Posted by Publisher at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

Customs impounds bags of rice in Air Force vehicle

A MILD drama occurred at Seme, a border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic at the weekend when a patrol team of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) confiscated 75 bags of rice from some Nigerian Air Force officers.

By Ozioruva Aliu

The Air Force men were said to have crossed the border town into Cotonou where the bags of rice, normally sold at cheaper prices, were bought.

According to an eye-witness account, the Air Force men were intercepted at a checkpoint mounted by a patrol team of the Customs Service in a TATA bus with the bags of rice.

They were said to have initially resisted attempts by the Customs officers to confiscate the goods until the interception of a senior Customs officer.

"We were on a patrol when this bus, belonging to the Nigerian Air Force was flagged down for routine check and we saw 75 bags of rice, which the occupants said belonged to them.

"We had to immediately seize them because they were contraband. Their act is against the Federal Government's policy", a Customs officer told The Guardian on condition of animosity at the border post yesterday.

While confirming the incident, the Public Relations Officer of the Seme Command of the service, Mr. Oghale Ogege, said a joint patrol team comprising officers from the Seme Command and Federal Operation Unit (FOU), Ikeja, had seized over 1,000 bags of rice in the past two weeks.

He said the joint patrol team was set up to reduce the upsurge in the smuggling of contrabands, particularly rice and frozen foods, which he said always occurs at this period of the year.

"In an effort to reduce rice smuggling into the country through the border axis during the Yuletide season, the Seme Command and the F.O.U. Ikeja, have jointly engaged their officers and men to clampdown on rice smuggling into the country", Ogege said.

Other contraband items that have also been intercepted by the joint operation team, according to him, included bales of fairly-used clothing, assorted textile materials and garments which duty paid-value are yet to be determined.

Posted by Publisher at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

Kumuyi, at church retreat, raises hope on better Nigeria

THE General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor Williams F. Kumuyi, has assured Nigerians of divine intervention to tackle the myriad of problems facing the nation.

By Tunde Alao

"Though Nigeria is passing through a seemingly difficult period which causes the hearts of men to fail, there is hope that light will appear at the end of the tunnel", he said.

Kumuyi spoke with reporters yesterday during the church's yearly retreat held at Kilometre 42, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The cleric, who likened the situation in Nigeria to what the Israelites passed through owing to socio-economic and political dislocations, said God is willing to heal the nation and restore peace.

According to him, there is an abundance of power and grace, which can facilitate the desired results, both in the life of an individual, a family, a community and the nation in general.

The choice of the theme for the retreat, which was "Getting the Power for This Hour at Latter Day Outpouring", Kumuyi explained, was not co-incidental but rather, made to allow individuals, both in places of authority and at the lower level to avail themselves of the reality that God has decided to visit Nigeria and heal her.

"When the heart is changed and an individual is equipped with the power through the Spirit of God, all these problems will roll away", he assured.

Pastor Kumuyi said 2006 could only be different from the past years if Nigerians want it to be so.

On what Nigerians should be expecting in the New Year, he said "there is no difference between October 2005 and January 2006".

"Since the same people who are in the country in 2005 will still be there in 2006, it doesn't follow that things will change automatically except people change their ways. Positive changes can occur when people change their orientation", he added.

Kumuyi admonished those in position of authority to learn how to take responsibility for their actions.

He dismissed the notion that Satan may have been responsible for the frequent air crashes in the country in recent times, saying Nigerians should learn how to take responsibility.

"Failure to take responsibility for our action or inaction will portray us as an irresponsible nation. We need not to attribute every incident to evil power. There are evil powers all over the world. Why is that it is only in Nigeria that things will be happening and nobody will want to take responsibility, but instead, attribute such development to evil powers?", he asked.

On the role of the religious leaders in the face of problems afflicting Nigeria, particularly political problems, Kumuyi was of the view that it is not necessary to criticise the public office holders, but instead, they need to be prayed for.

According to him, what church leaders can do is to advise, counsel and make suggestions.

He urged all Nigerians to draw nearer to God and change their ways, believing that peace and prosperity, which the nation is clamouring for, are not elusive. It takes the collective responsibility of an individual, a family and all the people in the country to make the difference.

The programme, which started on Friday, December 23, came to an end yesterday with hundreds people testifying to the goodness of God.

The programme was also broadcast live through the satellite across the globe.

Posted by Publisher at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

Rivers monarch urges end to violence

WORRIED by the spate of violence in the country, the traditional ruler of Ikwerre land in Rivers State, Frank Eze, has urged an end to the ugly trend.

From Mohammed Abubakar, Abuja

Eze said frequent violence were not only a dent on the country's image but that the crises were capable of undermining the attempts at putting the economy on a sound footing.

The monarch, while receiving this year's 2005 International Award for Peace and Philanthropy by the Network for Peace and Humanitarian Services, said about 46 million lives have been lost to civil wars and ethnic conflicts in Africa, leaving about 16 million homeless.

He called on the leaders not to trivialise the grievances of the people but to call for a round-table discussion or dialogue with those causing the crises so as to understand their pains and involve them in addressing the issues once and for all.

He warned that ignoring them might be catastrophic.

The monarch also disclosed that over 110 million deadly landmines remained not detonated in 68 crisis-ridden countries in the region, a situation, he said, has made them more vulnerable.

He said addressing the people's demand would nip in the bud incidences of ethnic strife.

Eze, who made reference to a recent report released by United Nations Development on Internally-Based Armed Conflicts, lamented the senseless killings.

He noted that many societies, which are painfully recovering from the ravages of internal wars, would have been settled through dialogue.

Eze, a professor of Medicine and a former university administrator, lamented that in the post-cold war era, peace dividend was supposed to be reaped from the reduction in super-power tensions and arms race.

He, however, remarked that what was being witnessed was tragic symptoms of culture of war, yielding untold hardships, pains, suffering and death, citing a recent reports from the UNDP.

"The latest UN Human Development Report noted that such predominantly internally-based armed conflicts such as civil wars, guerrilla wars, separatist movement, ethnic violence over government or territory have caused the deaths of one million people in the past seven years.

He added that it has also caused the death of over two million children in the past decade and hundreds of millions of displaced people, 46 million specifically in 1995 including 16 million refugees.

Posted by Publisher at 04:15 PM

Poly teachers urge IG to probe colleague's murder

THE Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) of the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, has called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero and Ogun State Police Command to expedite the probe of the murder of a teacher in the institution, Mr. S.O. Oni.

From Ifedayo Sayo, Ado-Ekiti

Oni was allegedly killed near Lagos on December 2, 2005, while returning to Ado-Ekiti from Lagos after buying goods worth about N5 million for members of the co-operative society in the school. He was the president of the society.

A resolution of the congress of the association signed by the chairman, Mr. Temitope Alake and the secretary, Mr. O.P. Ajibola, said the murder of Oni, who was teacher in the Secretarial Administration Department, must not go unpunished.

It was learnt that Oni, in company of two officers of the co-operative society, went on the trip to Lagos to buy the items meant for sale to the members during the Yuletide period.

Also, the late teacher, who reportedly sold his Mercedes Benz car with the aim of buying another one from Lagos, went with the money meant for that purpose.

According to one of the two drivers hired for the trip, the team also took another bus making three, to convey their goods.

But on getting to the bridge after Berger Bus-Stop in Lagos, the vehicle in which Oni was riding was stopped by the driver at about 7.30 p.m. The driver complained that it had run out of fuel.

One of the two men who went with Oni, said to be in the bursary department of the school, reportedly said it was while thinking of what to do that some people came and attacked the deceased.

He is still being held at the police headquarters in Eleweran, Abeokuta.

His account did not tally with that of one of the drivers who alleged that Oni was beaten and forced to sign a cheque in the name of the society, permitting the withdrawal of a huge sum before he was thrown into the swamp.

His body did not drown as it hung on a tree and some fishermen nearby called the police.

The school authorities were alerted about the incident when the other two men came to Ado-Ekiti and asked after Oni in the afternoon of the second day.

His wife raised an alarm that he had not been seen while the duo said he left them in Lagos in annoyance.

Police from Ogun State arrived in the scene when they identified Oni through some documents found in his pocket.

Posted by Publisher at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Ademowo okays govt's clampdown on aviation sector

THE Archbishop of Lagos Province of the Anglican Communion, The Most Revd. Dr. Adebola Ademowo, has welcomed the Federal Government's clampdown on airlines which, he said, had continued to waste the lives of Nigerians through shylock entrepreneurs who are only interested in making profit instead of putting their aircraft in good condition".

By Hope Eghagha

Ademowo, during a special Christmas service at the Cathedral in Marina, also lauded the government's decision to accord Lagos State a special status as it is done in other major cities in the world.

He urged Nigerians to put God first in everything, saying: "There is so much stress today in the country that we have to hold on unto God".

The cleric also urged the citizens to do away with "superficial Christianity, secularisation, worldliness and syncretism".

"If we must live a good life" he said, "our lives must be Christo-centric".

The cleric urged Nigerians to use the celebration to remember Jesus Christ, whom he said, came down from heaven because "man needed salvation as he had been alienated from God due to spiritual bankruptcy".

Ademowo used the occasion to fault a claim that Christmas is associated with fear and disasters, saying: "the antidote to conquer fear is to become prayerful".

He said the essence of being a Christian is to use "that power God has given us to become His sons and daughters".

But Ademowo warned that the power is available to only those "who believe in Christ and follow his ways".

The service was attended by dignitaries among whom were former Head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan; Justice Adesola Oguntade of the Supreme Court and Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, former vice-chancellor of the University of Benin.

Posted by Publisher at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerians okay 2006 budget proposals

IN line with the expectations of Nigerians, the 2006 budget has given highest priority to the education sector.

In a recent Guardian Opinion Poll preceding the announcement of the budget by the federal government, Nigerians had wished for topmost attention for education, a dream which finally came true with the budget priority.

In the survey accommodating 2674 usable responses across the nation's six geo-political zones, respondents were asked: "In your view, which sector should receive the highest allocation in the 2006 budget?"

Responding, 946 Nigerians or about 35 percent of the poll favour Education as the sector to receive highest allocation, while Agriculture follows with position score of 21 percent or 573 respondents.

Next is Health, which 203 respondents or eight percent of the study prefer for highest allocation.

Also separately favoured for the biggest chunk of the budget are Security, Power and Energy, Employment/Labour and Rural Development with preference scores of four percent (92), three percent (81), 2.9 percent (77) and 2.6 percent (70).

Besides, if each of 2.2 percent (59), 2.1 percent (57), 1.2 percent (33), 1.2 percent (32) have their ways, Roads, Industry/Commerce, Housing Science and Technology would receive a lion share of the 2006 budget. While Any other - an aggregation of other stated and unstated preferred sectors- scored five percent by 140 respondents, another six respondents (0.2 percent) picked the transport sector.

Zone by zone, preference for education priority has the highest support of 41 percent from the North Central while the least support comes from North West with 23 percent score. In between, the South West, South East, North East, South South and North West secured 40, 38, 32 and 23 percent. Here, Abuja and Lagos posted 47 and 37 percent.

The zonal analysis of the priority preference for Agriculture shows the North East with a leading score of 26 percent, leaving the South South , South East, North Central with 25, 23 and 22 percent. While the North West and the South West secured 17 percent each. Abuja and Lagos recorded 21 and 18 percent.

The zonal breakdown of respondents favouring the Health sector indicates highest preference of 11 percent from the North East, leaving the South West with the lowest score of four percent. Also, the South East, South South, North West and North Central witnessed 10, eight, seven and six percent.

On Security, almost all the zones recorded same preference score of four percent each except the North East with six percent. Here, Lagos posted two percent leaving Abuja will nil score.

For respondents who want power and steel to enjoy biggest allocation the North West scored five percent, while the North Central ,North East and South East secured three percent each. For the South South and the South West, it is two percent each just as Lagos and Abuja won six and one percent.

On December 6, 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo presented an Appropriation Bill of N1.88 trillion Naira to a joint session of the National Assembly.

With a projected total revenue of N1.52 trillion, the federal government is hinging the execution of its capital and recurrent expeditures on fiscal deficit of N357 Billion or 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) during the year.

Essentially, President Obasanjo gave the parameters of the budget as a prudent oil price of 33 dollars per barrel and a daily crude oil production of 2.5 million barrels.

According to him, the government hoped to realise N336 billion from the upstream sector and signature bonus during the period.

Significantly however, the budget gives top priority to education leaving it with N165 billion or 11 percent of the total budget. Besides, Health, Power, Steel, Water Resources, Works and Agriculture, Police and Defence enjoys leading priorities of seven, five, 4.4, 5.6, two, 5.6 and 6.5 percent in the budget.

Meanwhile, the break down of the budget shows N841 billion for recurrent expenditure and N540 billion for Capital Expenditure.

The 2006 budget proposal is already drawing controversy and heated argument across the country.

Posted by Publisher at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

Citizens oppose ban on food imports

THE proposed ban on the importation of some essential commodities by the Federal Government may have drawn the ire of a cross section of Nigerians. This was indicated in the recent Guardian Opinion Poll conducted across the six geo-political zones of the country.

The poll question was: " Recently, the Federal Government placed a ban on the importation of some essential commodities especially rice, in order to boost local production of such food items in the country. Do you support the ban on the importation of staple foods by the federal government?"

About 1509 respondents equating 56 percent expressed their opposition to the ban, while 1088 respondents or 41 percent supported it.

The South South led opposition to the ban with 63 percent, South East secured 61 North Central garnered 58 South West and North East polled 55 per cent each while North West scored 41 percent. Abuja recorded 45 per cent and Lagos 30 per cent.

Responding to the follow -up question:" How do you see this ban in terms of its effects on Nigerians? 1644 respondents or (62 percent) opined that it is unfavourable, while 779 respondents or 29 percent see the ban as favourable. Another 192 respondents or seven percent were however undecided.

The zonal breakdown of opposition shows the South South topping the list with 66 percent. South East recorded 65 North Central 63. North East and South West garnered 58 percent each, while North West polled 54 percent. Abuja accounted for 60 and Lagos posted 71 percent.

North Central and South West lead the zones in favour of the ban with 33 percent apiece. North East and North West recorded 30 percent each, while South East and South South scored 25 percent apiece. Abuja accounted for 33 percent while Lagos secured 25 percent .

Recently, the president of the Rice Dealers Association, Mr Taoheed Shoaga, said that many people would be denied their sources of livelihood if the government enforced the ban earlier than the proposed 10 years. He said there were many people engaged in one rice business or the other, adding that importers, dealers, retailers and truck drivers would all be negatively affected by the plan.

He added that statistics had revealed that Nigerian domestic demand is about five million metric tonnes of milled rice while the domestic production is only about 3.2 million tonnes, leaving a supply deficit of 1.8 million.

Analysts argue that rather than rush to ban rice importation, government should first concentrate on boosting its local production for self sufficiency and adopt some strategies that include production incentives to rice farmers, developing suitable agricultural technologies and policy consistency.

Executive Director of Church Gate Nigeria Ltd, Mr. Jerome Ushoghon recently disclosed plans to set up rice farms in five states of the Federation, ahead of the ban on importation of foreign brands of rice into the country. He revealed that local rice brands available include Abakaliki rice, Bida rice and Ofada rice. This, he said, is in support of government policy thrust to boost local Industry. He stated that the affected states are Ondo, Kwara, Niger, Ebonyi and Lagos, explaining that while the rice farms would be established in other states, the rice mill would be sited in Ikorodu industrial estate Lagos.

Posted by Publisher at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

Poll faults preparation for Nations cup

EXPECTATIONS that the super Eagles may steal the show at the African Cup of Nations in January, 2006 to compensate for Nigeria's shock exit from Germany, 2006 World Cup may be misplaced, going by the recent Guardian Opinion Poll.

This was the position of 1402 respondents or 52 percent while responding to a research question: "How do you assess the country's state of preparation for next year's Nations Cup Competition in Egypt?'.

However, 485 respondents (18 percent) believe the preparation so far is " Adequate", 27 percent or 713 respondents declined comments while invalid cases accounted for two percent only.

The breakdown from the zones revealed that all the respondents were aware of the inadequacy in the preparedness of our national team for the competition scheduled for January, 2006 in Egypt.

"Inadequate" responses were preponderant across the zones to reveal South West and South East with 57 percent each; North West; 52, North Central, 51; South South, 49 and North East, 43 percent. Lagos and Abuja recorded 58 and 56 percent.

Comparatively, " Adequate" responses were very low as North East led this view with 23 percent, closely followed by North Central and North West with 22 percent each. Others are: South South; South West and South East; with 18; 14 and 13 percent. Abuja respondents polled 17 percent as against 15 percent from Lagos.

Recently, the draw for the 25th Edition of Africa's premier football event, the Nations Cup, was held at the picturesque Giza Pyramids in Egypt, placing Nigeria's Super Eagles with their old rivals Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe in Group D.

The Eagles which kicks - off their Egypt 2006 Campaign with a potentially explosive tie against Germany 2006 World- Cup bound Ghana on January 23, are not only top seed in Group D which has been christened "Group of Death" but are in fact, one of the four teams tipped to lift the ultimate diadem in African football. The other seeded countries are Egypt, Cameroun and World Cup debutants Cote d' Ivoire.

However, the stakes are likely to be higher at Egypt 2006. Indeed, indications are that the event could be one of the most fiercely contested in recent times. Just like Nigeria, Cameroun, host Egypt, Senegal, South Africa and Morocco would be hoping to make-up for their World Cup failure.

And to actualise their dream, most participating countries aside from Nigeria, have their preparations in top gear, playing qualitative friendly matches while some have since commenced their camping exercise in Europe.

But back home, Nigeria's preparation is being marred with such issues as; disagreement on the tenure of the current NFA board, paucity of funds to prosecute the programme for the Nations Cup, the haphazard call-up to uncoordinated tune-up matches, and calling 48 players to camp barely a month to the prestigious event.

Against these backdrop, many observers advised all soccer loving Nigerians not to expect magic from the Super Eagles in Egypt come next year.

Posted by Publisher at 04:05 PM | Comments (0)

Alamieyeseigha's impeachment in order, says poll

MAJORITY of Nigerians who participated in a recent Guardian Opinion Poll (GOP) gave unqualified support for the impeachment of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha as the Executive Governor of Bayelsa state.

Alamieyeseigha who had been living under bail from a court in London since September 2005 over charges of money laundering, suddenly returned to Nigeria on Monday, November 21, 2005 after escaping from Britain.

The poll attracted 2,674 usable responses from 24 selected states across the country, with the question " Do you support the impeachment of Governor Alamieyeseigha?"

About 65 per cent or 1735 respondents answered in the affirmative, 21 per cent or 550 respondents did not support the impeachment. Another 12 per cent or 332 respondents were ambivalent to the issue, while two per cent invalid votes were recorded.

The decision of Bayelsa State House of Assembly received a loud ovation in all the existing geo-political zones of the country, and also in Bayelsa state where Alamieyeseigha governed for over six years.

According to the zonal breakdown, the South East tops those who welcome the impeachment with 68 per cent while the North East followed with 67 per cent. The trio of North Central, North West and South South respectively polled 63 per cent each, while South West returned 58 per cent. Abuja and Lagos recorded 68 and 78 per cent.

The x-ray of the 100 respondents sampled in Yenagoa reveals a 60 per cent support votes for the impeachment. Twenty two per cent were opposed to it, while 16 per cent reserved their comments.

Opposition to the removal of Alamieyeseigha from office was low in all the six geo-political zones. The highest opposition of 28 per cent was recorded in the South West zone. North Central, South South, North West, North East and South East polled 24, 23, 20, 19 and 16 per cent respectively.

In a related development, respondents are of the opinion that the Federal Government should not hesitate to release Chief Alamieyeseigha for trial in London if British government makes such a request.

Responding to the question, "If Britain were to seek the extradition of Chief Alamieyeseigha for his trial in the London court to be concluded, should the Federal Government of Nigeria grant such a request?" 48 per cent of the total respondents chorused " Yes" , 29 per cent answered " No" , while 20 per cent were non committal.

On a zonal analysis, South East led those in support of his extradition to London for trial with 53 per cent. North West, South South, North Central, North East and South West polled 52, 47, 45, 43 and 40 per cent. Abuja and Lagos recorded 52 and 60 per cent.

For Alamieyeseigha , who for over six years was the Executive Governor of Bayelsa state, the struggle to hold on to power ended on Friday, December 9, 2005, with his impeachment by the State House of Assembly on charges of gross misconduct.

The former governor's travail started on September 15, 2005 with his arrest in London by the British Metropolitan police over money laundering charges. He was charged to court and subsequently granted bail by a British court. Among other conditions, he was asked to report daily to the British Police and barred from travelling outside London.

On November 18 however, Chief Alamieyeseigha breached one of his bail terms when he failed to report at the designated Police Station. Four days later, he jumped bail and returned to Bayelsa state in a circumstance he described as mysterious.

His home coming and mode of removal from office has thrown up dusts, with different reactions and interpretations trailing the Bayelsa State lawmakers' action.

The controversy is not so much about the impeachment but the process that was adopted in removing the governor. While some people believe that the impeachment did not follow the due process of impeaching a Governor from office, others do not see anything wrong with the manner he was removed.

Constitutional Lawyer and pro-democracy activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) hailed the impeachment, saying that those faulting the process were not knowledgeable about legal steps involved in impeaching a governor.

According to Chief Fawehinmi, the law provides for 30 days for an impeachment panel to do its findings. He explained that the panel could use an hour out of the 30 days to conclude its investigations.

For members of the State Assembly, Fawehinmi also argued that the law makers are given 30 days to examine the findings of the panel and decide whether the offences alleged are impeachable offences or not. Just like the impeachment panel, he stated that the law makers could take a day to carry out their duties.

Based on this, he maintained that the Bayelsa Assembly and the panel acted within the law.

But Alhaji Balarabe Musa, former Governor of Kaduna State, the first governor to be impeached in the political history of Nigeria and the Chairman of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) insists that steps taken in removing the ex-governor have set a bad precedence in the nation's political life.

Posted by Publisher at 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerians reject bullet-proof car for Senate president

The plan by the National Assembly for a N40 million bullet-proof car for the Senate President, Ken Nnamani has been condemned by Nigerians. This fact was revealed in the survey involving 2,800 respondents across the six geo-political zones of the country.

The poll had asked: " The Senate was recently reported to have ordered a N40 million bullet-proof car for the Senate President. Do you support this action of the Senate?"

An overwhelming majority of 2,142 respondents or 80 percent said " No", while 339 or 13 percent said "Yes". Invalid responses stood at seven percent.

The zonal analysis of the opposition to the plan shows the South East ahead with 83 percent. This is closely followed by the South South zone with 82 percent; North Central recorded 81 while North East and South West scored 79 percent each. Lagos and Abuja posted 90 and 86 per cent respectively.

For the respondents in support of the Senate's action,, the North West has a leading score of 22 percent, while North Central is next with 14 percent. South West, South East, North East and South South garnered 13, 12, 11 and 10 per cent respectively. Lagos and Abuja votes totalled 15 per cent each.

While rationalising their action the Senate stated that it was already provided for in the budget of the upper house and that the price tag of N39.8 million was for a suitable all-terrain utility vehicle that has the capability of accessing any part of the country.

Analysts are however of the opinion that for a nation that reels under severe economic hardship to purchase such an expensive car, is a clear case of misplacement of priorities. It is also regarded as the height of insensitivity for a man elected to represent and reflect the reality of his people.

A school of thought however argue that if life has become insecure in Nigeria, it is the job of the Senate President and other public office holders to take action to redress the situation rather than use public funds to purchase private security for themselves while the Nigerians they represent are left unprotected.

Posted by Publisher at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

Xmas tragedy: Man stabs lover to death

TRAGEDY struck at No. 7 Azeez Olaosebikan Street, Agege, Lagos on Christmas day as a jealous lover stabbed his girl friend to death over alleged infidelity.

LUKKEY ABAWURU

Daily Champion gathered that the lover, Monday Nwabuno, allegedly beat and later stabbed his lover, identified as Edna with a broken bottle, after accusing her of passing the night outside their home the previous day.

According to the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr Olubode Ojajuni, Edna was confirmed dead at the General Hospital Orile, Agege where she was rushed to by neighbours.

The police spokesman said the couple were not married but were living together in a one room apartment.

According to Ojajuni; "On Xmas day, at 9 O’ clock, Monday, a tenant at No. 7 Azeez Olaosebikan Street, Agege did beat and stab to death one Edna with a broken bottle."

He stated that the suspect, Monday has been arrested and is being detained at the homicide section of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba Lagos.

According to him, the reason for the act has not been established as detectives have begun investigation into the matter.

"I won’t pre-empt the cause of the incident as our men have begun thorough investigation but you know, there are several things that could make a man to act in that way. Infidility may be one reason," he stated.

Ojajuni, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), warned youths in Lagos to desist from what he described as illegal co-habitation. "co-habitation without marriage is bad and condemnable, it is wrong for a man to decide or live with a woman without the consent of his parents."

In another development, Ojajuni said a driver, alleged to be coming from a party on Victoria Island knocked down three persons on. Third Mainland Bridge.

He said the driver hit a commercial motor cycle rider (Okada) carrying three passengers out of which one identified as Sherif Olajuwon died instantly while the two others sustained serious injuries.

They are being treated at an undisclosed hospital in Gbagada.

Posted by Publisher at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

2007: Kalu woos APGA

Emboldened by the recent historic declaration by Southern political leaders on the issue of the leadership of the country in 2007, Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu has intensified his drive to convince southern-led political parties especially the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as well as other prominent Igbo politicians to throw their weight behind his presidential ambition.

Chukwudi Achife, Enugu

Southern political leaders had at a conference in Enugu last week among other demands threatened to opt for a confederal arrangement in the country if the presidency was not allowed to go to the South South or South East political zones in 2007.

Competent sources told Daily Champion in Enugu that Governor Kalu who is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been holding high-level consultations with Igbo leaders in all the parties with a view to setting up a strong coalition that would back his bid.

The governor, who appears to be out of favour with the leadership of his party following his highly publicized disputes with President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih recently brokered the reconciliation between APGA Presidential flagbearer in the 2003 general elections, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and former Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Dr Alex Ekwueme as part of his efforts to build a strong non-party Igbo political bloc.

In attendance at the meeting held at Umuahia, were leaders of the Igbo-headed political parties such as the APGA and the Justice Party (JP), other prominent Igbo political leaders, traditional rulers, and intellectuals. The meeting, which coincided with the southern political leaders conference in Enugu, was said to have resolved to seek viable ways of uniting the Igbo politically in readiness for the 2007 elections.

Ojukwu and Ekwueme were said to have hailed the governor’s courageous stance on issues affecting the Igbo as well as the leadership of the country and pledged their support for his efforts at bringing about good governance and accountable leadership in the country.

The Abia governor is also said to be a patron of the newly formed Igbo Improvement Union (IIU), which is seeking to position itself as the political voice of the Igbo. The group, which was formed by Igbo politicians from across the parties though dominated by APGA elements, recently organized a thanksgiving service and reception for Ojukwu that was chaired by Governor Kalu.

The governor, sources said, hopes to build a broad-based political alliance originating from the South East which he can rely on whether or not he secures the nomination of his party for the presidential race in 2007. This drive, the sources said, became more imperative after the governor’s camp lost out in the recent state congress of the PDP.

The governor is also rumoured to have struck a deal with the leadership of APGA to run on the party’s platform if he is turned down by the PDP but acting National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh denied this in an interview with the Daily Champion, saying that no such deal exists.

Umeh admitted however that the governor has been maintaining good relations with his party and would be welcome if he decides to cross over but said he (Kalu) has made no such move and has struck no deal with the party.

"We can’t deny that we have a good relationship with Governor Kalu, he has identified with some of our projects like the reception for Ojukwu where he said he has come to give honour to whom it is due. He is a worthy Igbo man and a true Nigerian and we will gladly welcome him to APGA but he has not told us he wants to join and we have made no deals with him for now", Umeh said.

The APGA boss however praised the govenor’s efforts at uniting Igbo political leaders, stressing that it would help the Igbo realize their ambition of producing the next president of the country.

Posted by Publisher at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

CBN approves Fidelity, Mannybank merger

FIDELITY Bank Plc has secured all legal and regulatory approvals for its merger with Mannybank and FSB International Bank.

OKEY NWANKWO

The bank at the weekend received the final approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as that of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In addition, it has also obtained the nod of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, thereby perfecting the merger. The other two parties to the merger; FSB and MannyBank, last Friday handed their licenses to the CBN for cancellation as statutorily required. At the moment, everything is set for the bank to operate under the name Fidelity Bank Plc.

Penultimate weeks, the different shareholders of the three merging banks at different court-ordered meetings approved the merger of the banks under Fidelity umbrella.

With the perfection of the merger now, the new Fidelity Bank Plc has shareholders’ funds of about N29billion, total assets of about N120billion and a network of 82 branches. These statistics place it in the top 10 banks in the country going by shareholders funds and by assets.

With an enlarged presence in all the geopolitical zones of the country, the bank is expected to raise its branch network to about 100 by the third quarter of 2006.

Fidelity Bank Plc began operations in 1988 as a merchant bank and converted to commercial bank in 1999 and a universal bank in 2001.

FSB, the former Federal Savings Bank, which was privatized in 1989, comes with a background in retail banking and has been able develop a major presence in the retail area.

MannyBank on the other hand is the former Manufacturers’ Merchant. It has immense experience in commercial banking.

Observers believe that with the sound business focus of the Fidelity management team, the new bank will be a formidable force to reckon with in the new banking arena.

Posted by Publisher at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

FCT invites bid for govt houses

In keeping with its pledge to ensure transparency and due process in the sale of federal houses in Abuja, authorities of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), have invited bids from interested public regarding the sale of government houses in the FCT.

Under the general rules governing the sale of the houses, all Nigerians are qualified to bid including political office holders and career public servants who are not entitled to first right of refusal.

According to the FCT authorities, the bidding process would be conducted strictly in conformity will the procedures approved by the Federal Government.

Details of this are contained in paid advertisements in major newspapers including the Daily Champion.

Posted by Publisher at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

Oyo crisis: Obasanjo, Gani warn combatants; YCE steps in

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday warned gladiators in the lingering Oyo State political crisis to sheathe the swords, saying peace and security of the state should not be compromised for personal interest.

LERE OJEDOKUN, Ibogun, Abeokuta

Expressing concern over last Thursday’s bloody clash between supporters of Governor Rashidi Lodoja and his estranged political godfather, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu President Obasanjo urged the combatants to embrace the four inseparable "elements" in politics peace, security, loyalty and solidarity.

Obasanjo spoke at this year’s Ibogun-Olaogun Day, at his ancestral home in Ifo local government area of Ogun State.

His words of caution on the crisis coincided with condemnation of the recent violence in the state which claimed some lives and left many others injured by legal luminary Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).

He called on the security agencies to deal decisively with trouble makers in Oyo State.

However, his first reaction to the violence at Agodi Government House, Ibadan, President Obasanjo declared, "We are all concerned about peace and security. We are also concerned about loyalty and solidarity. I will just plead with you and others who are in the mainstream of Oyo State politics to bear in mind these four items- peace, security, loyalty and solidarity".

President Obasanjo while acknowledging Alhaji Adedibu, who came to the event with a retinue of supporters as a force to reckon with in the politics of Ibadan and the state, also noted that any politics that was not development- focused was "a wrong politics".

Lamenting that many mistakes had been made in the past, he urged that we should not allow a repeat as God has given us another opportunity, even as he warned that the elasticity of God could also be drawn to a limitation if we failed to do the right things whatever He expected us to do.

On community development, he said partnership with local people was necessary while revealing that such initiative had resulted in the implementation of many projects in Ibogun- Olaogun and its environs.

In his speech, Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel said the use of community development associations as recommended by the president, has resulted in the building and equipping of an Information Communication Technology academy in the community.

He assured that many more rural projects would be executed by his administration in the coming years.

About N15 million was raised at the event which was graced by governors of Edo, Delta, Bauchi and Kwara States, deputy governors, members of the National Assembly, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains as well as traditional rulers.

But in an interview with Daily Champion on the crisis in which a group of 18 lawmakers (G-18) in the Oyo State House of Assembly had initiated impeachment move against Governor Ladoja, Gani condemned the violence that trailed the action.

"We should condemn any form of violence whatsoever and I don’t think that it does good to anybody to invade any government property and destroy it.

"That is not good and is not healthy for the democratic process of this country ... I think the law enforcement agencies must be alive to their responsibility to prevent an upsurge of any violence particularly knowing the history of Ibadan and Oyo State."

Also speaking on the crisis, a prominent member of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) Dr. Dejo Raimi hinted of move by the organisation and Ibadan indigenes to intervene.

He said "prominent Ibadan indigenes like former Deputy Governor, Abinu Sawa, Dr. Lekan Are and even non politicians who did not understand the cause of the problem, all they want is that peace should reign. We are all working hard to resolve the problem," Dr. Raimi told Radio Nigeria in an interview monitored in Lagos yesterday.

The political crisis in the state which had so far defied solutions boiled over last week when thugs invaded the Government House and vandalized property estimated at N450 million.

Prior to that the G-18 who are Chief Adedibu’s loyalists had commenced impeachment proceedings against the governor.

But this was countered by another Group of 13 (G-13) legislators also of the State Assembly who had gone to court to stop the impeachment.

Last Friday, an Ibadan High Court restrained the G-18 from going ahead with the process.

Posted by Publisher at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

Sharon for heart surgery

ISRAELI Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon will undergo surgery soon to repair a small hole in his heart which was discovered after he suffered a minor stroke. The operation is known as catheterization procedure.

Head of cardiology at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Dr. Haim Lotem who disclosed this yesterday said the hole, less than an eighth of an inch wide, is a minor birth defect.

He said doctors plan to use a catheter to insert an "umbrella-like" device to seal the hole, located in the wall between the upper chambers of Sharon’s heart. The procedure, guided by a small camera inserted through the esophagus, is routine, doctors said.

The hole was detected in testing following the December 18 stroke. Doctors concluded the blood clot that caused the stroke had lodged in the hole, restricting the flow of blood to Sharon’s brain. Sharon is now being injected with a blood-thinning medication twice a day until the heart surgery, Lotem said.

"From our experience this is something that is only a minor birth defect. It doesn’t need to be treated unless it causes problems," Lotem told reporters.

Doctors said last week that Sharon suffered no lasting damage. He was released from the hospital two days after the stroke and already has resumed his full workload.

But the health scare raised concerns about the 77-year-old leader’s ability to work as he runs for a third term. Doctors met with reporters Monday following public pressure that Sharon’s health records be made public.

Although Sharon had difficulty speaking during the stroke, neurological testing found that he recalled everything from the night of his admission, said Dr. Tamir Ben-Hur, neurology chief at Hadassah.

Doctors have ordered the overweight prime minister to go on a diet. Seeking to head off widespread speculation about his weight, Sharon’s doctors said he weighed 260 pounds at the time of the stroke, and has already lost 5 pounds since then.

The catheterization procedure is known as "tzintur" in Hebrew, the same word used for angioplasty and angiogram.

Posted by Publisher at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

EFCC petitioned over land acquisition

A tailor, Mr Ade Idowu, has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over a forceful acquisition of his three-acre land by a Lagos socialite and chief executive officer of CPL Ltd., Mr Albert Awofisayo.

The Mushin, Lagos-based tailor said he inherited the land, titled Plot 381, Town Planning Way, Ilupeju, Lagos, from his deceased father, Chief M. O. Idowu.

In his five-page petition to the EFCC, Idowu asked the Commission to investigate the acquisition of the three-acre land worth N500 million.

The petitioner also asked the Commission to prosecute Awofisayo for wrongful acquisition of the said property, claiming that Awofisayo forged documents over the land.

Idowu’s petition, signed by his Attorney, Chief I.B.K. Anochie, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), also alleged that armed mobile policemen were being used to harass his family members over the property.

Idowu wants the EFCC to verify the claims by Awofisayo that the property was leased to him by the petitioner’s father for 99 years at N400 per annum.

In a swift reaction, Awofisayo’s attorney, Mr Tunde Kalaro, said in a statement, that the property was duly leased to his client.

According to him, the agreed rent payable on the property is N400 per annum.

"The only payment outstanding is from 2005 to 2015, which has been increased to N1,000 per annum in line with the agreement," the statement said.

Contacted, a senior official of the EFCC, who requested anonymity, said the petition was receiving attention.

Posted by Publisher at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

Ajoku seeks support from opponents

NEWLY elected Senator for Owerri Zone, Chief Eze Ajoku, has extended his hands of fellowship to his opponents in the Senatorial bye-election, asking them to join him in the arduous task of protecting and projecting the wishes and desires of the people of his zone.

EMMA OGU, Owerri

Senator Ajoku at a press briefing on Saturday to thank the people for electing him, called on his opponents to put the contest behind them and be forward- looking, thanking them for their gallantry.

The senator who stated that his election was providential and not the work of any man, noted that the task ahead of him are enormous as the people of his constituency have had no effective representation in the senate for over a year, following the exit of the late Senator Amah Iwuagwu.

"Grave disunity exists in Owerri. The cohesion and synergy needed to speak and act together is lacking. Trusted and transparent leadership had been an issue. Democracy dividends in real terms have eluded our people for some time now. These are things our people yearn for. The challenge is for all Owerri zone’s sons and daughters to now come together irrespective of party, sectional and individual differences to move Owerri forward," he said.

He assured that he would fight for the unity of his people, provide transparent leadership and also endeavour to cultivate friends and political associates.

Senator Ajoku also pledged to work well with the Federal Governments state and local governments to ensure that the people of his zone do not lose out.

Besides, the senator stated that he would engage in qualitative legislative activities such that will bring pride and honour to the people even as he will defend the constitution and stand firm on the side of justice and truth.

Posted by Publisher at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

Ajose cautions over money politics

Head of Service, Lagos State Mr. Akinsanya Sunny Ajose, has urged leaders in Badagry Division to shun "money politics" and embrace political parties based on the quality of their programmes and ideological leaning.

Mr. Ajose made this call, weekend at Badagry during a meeting of all stakeholders in Badagry Division Constituency.

The Head of Service said presently, the division has been stigmatized as political prostitutes are always available for any ambitious and desperate politician to rape at the payment of a miserable amount in return for their conscience and self respect.

Speaking further, he said it was unfortunate that after the temporary romance, the people are used and dumped and they remain in their state of perpetual poverty as their dreams and yearnings for a better prospect remain unfulfilled.

The Head of Service expressed dissatisfaction with the present politics of acrimony and bitterness being played by indigenes and urged them to deviate from politics of opposition and be more active by identifying with a purposeful and winning team that will enable them to be more relevant and impact positively on the lives of the people.

While appealing to traditional rulers and high chiefs in the division to close ranks, he said it is only in an atmosphere of peace and unity that investors would be encouraged to invest in the community especially in the area of tourism which Badagry is noted for its high potentials.

He advocated the empowerment of the less-privileged to enhance the capacity utilization of the productive segment and enable them contribute their quota to the development of the Badagry Division.

Similarly, he advised indigenes not to sit back and expect government to do everything for them but equally make self sacrifice and collaborate to initiate projects that will enhance the development of the community and the well-being of the people.

Posted by Publisher at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

We are behind Fayose, says royal father

Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Adejugbe Aladesanmi III has declared that the indigenes of Ado-Ekiti have nothing against the state governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose.

Rather, the monarch said his people are solidly behind the governor praying for him to continue in the good works that he has been doing since the inception of his administration.

The royal father who spoke at the end-of-year get-together organized for traditional rulers in all the 16 local government areas of the state in Ado-Ekiti expressed his happiness at the amicable resolution of the recent face-off between his subjects and the governor.

"I join others to commend you (the governor) for your efforts and to say that the people of Ado-Ekiti are solidly behind you and we will continue to pray for you.

We have nothing against the governor. But we are praying for him. We do not know how to cringe or how to stage-manage. We tell people how we feel instead of pretending. As soon as you correct it, everything is settled. That is the way Christians behave.

That is why anywhere, anytime, anyday, I continue to tell the whole world that the people of Ado-Ekiti are behind the governor. We have no choice because these good things are happening" he stated.

The first-class monarch particularly commended the governor for the all-round development of the state through massive construction of roads, building of lock-up shops and housing estates.

Oba Adejugbe was particularly impressed by the dualization of Ado township road, Ado-Ikere road, the construction of the gigantic Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye Banquet Hall inside the Trade Fair where the event was held, saying "nobody will enter this hall and not pray for the person whom God has used to do this job"

Governor Fayose also used the occasion to emphasise that the relationship between him and the Ewi is cordial and that he would continue to accord the royal father the respect due to him.

Posted by Publisher at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)

2007: When North/South crossfire unsettles the polity

The way things are going, the nation’s political turf is becoming filled with landmines such that it is becoming too dangerous to tread. By the time major stakeholders now reinventing the North - South dichotomy finish their sustained quest for the one and only seat that determines every other position or seat, the Nigeria project may not be anymore, as some observers now fear.

Ifeanyi Alia

The 2007 presidency has no doubt polarized the country apart from heating up the polity. In fact, whether it is being called "third term agenda", return of power to the North, Southern presidency by which could mean a president of Igbo extraction, South - South presidency or even South - West’s slot, the issue remains that emerging signals over 2007 elections appear quite discomfiting for now.

Political watchers have since discovered a pattern - realignment of forces along ethnic lines. This is currently shaking the unfolding scenario being played out. The unambiguous determination by the geopolitical North to recapture power come 2007 reached a point where even political strange fellows in the South are now congregating, holding series of meetings in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu and other Southern cities. The agenda of Southern leaders is mainly to act as counter- poise to the Northern challenge.

2007 seen as a symbolic date is thus bringing about the often elusive unity of purpose among tribes and zones. The geopolitical zones have since been collapsed by politicians and tribal bigots in pursuit of the sectional agenda.

However, as a leading Nigerian musician, Evangelist Sonny Okosuns asks, "We want to know, we want to know, who owns Papa’s land, everyone wants to know, who owns father’s land .." Actually, there are those who earnestly believe that the alleged third term agenda of Mr. President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is responsible for the current confusion in the polity as well as their hard stance being adopted by Northern leaders and their Southern counterparts. Speaking with Saturday Champion during the week, Chairman of Alliance for Democratic Change, ADC, Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu dismissed some of the Southern politicians presently canvassing for a southern presidency come 2007 as "agents of the presidency." The allegation is that the presidency has since infiltrated all these groups with their core - loyalists who are now canvassing for a Southern president or nothing in order to stampede the rest of the country and have a safe berthing for the purported self-succession, life presidency project of President Obasanjo.

Actually, a cursory look at the list of those who attended Monday’s Conference by leaders of Southern Nigeria will show a preponderance of the President’s men in the gathering. Characters like Chiefs Femi Fani-Kayode, the loquacious President Obasanjo’s special assistant on Public Communications, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, national Secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Information minister, PDP Board of Trustees chairman, Chief Tony Anenih.

Frank Nweke Jnr, Chief Olabode George, Chief Chris Uba, Governors Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Olusegun Agagu (Ondo), Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun), Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Goodluck Jonathan (Bayelsa), Donald Duke (Cross River), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Hope Uzodinma, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, among others, are known to be very much in the president’s camp. These are the ones pushing the third term agenda and arranging all these suspicious meetings and gatherings which have however excluded the real leaders in the geopolitical zones.

However, the presence of committed, respected unrelenting and somehow, principled men like Colonel Joe Achuzia, Secretary General of Ohanaeze as well as retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, political observers contend, makes the real motive of last Monday’s meeting to be still a subject of controversy.

Perhaps, former Joint presidential candidate of the All Peoples Party/Alliance for Democracy APP/AD, Chief Olu Falae who attended the Enugu meeting tried to let the cat out of the bag. According to Falae, ex-secretary to the Federal Military Government, who is currently a Chieftain of Yoruba sociocultural and political organization, Afenifere, the Enugu Conference supported the 25 per cent "but does not support third term. Third term will cause trouble. We have to kill the third term dream today", Falae declared.

Through the instrumentality of the regional organizations, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for South - East and South - South Peoples Assembly, the South - East and South - South were given two months now to produce one consensus candidate for each zone for 2007.

The Secretary - General of Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said the next president must come either from the South - East or South - South. The YCE which is a pro-Obasanjo outfit, we understand, would always go for whoever the president settles for at the end of the day. Impeccable sources revealed that while the South - East may forward the name of former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku who may also qualify as an Ohanaeze candidate, the South - South has a little problem at hand concerning the choice to make. Will it be Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State or retired Admiral Mike Akhigbe, former Chief of General Staff?

Last week, Akhigbe and others met in Lagos under the same Southern leaders forum which was however attended mainly by forces opposed to the third term agenda like Afenifere, ANPP elements and AD chieftains. The political shows, gerrymandering, alliance, alignment and realignment of forces, old foes and building of bridges of understanding going on across the country indicate one thing: the need for restructuring of the polity.

According to Professor Oyeleye Oyediran, a renowned political scientist, too much power is concentrated on the centre alone, making the nation’s president almost an imperial one as well as a life and death battle.

The North & 2007 Presidency

The North is opposed to the decentralization of power as demonstrated at the last National Political Reforms Conference in Abuja. Northern leaders have since convinced their followers and people that a loose federation will be at the disfavour of the North. The only way Northerners want to ensure that the unity and indivisible entity of the country is maintained will be to grab power once again.

On the issue of power returning to the North in 2007, there is a watertight agreement and unity among Northern stakeholders across the geopolitical zones as well as the political parties. But who does the North present as its consensus candidate - Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammed Buba Marwa, Mamman Kontagora, Aliyu Mohammed, (National Security Adviser), Rilwanu Lukman, Adamu Mu’azu, Muhammadu Buhari or Atiku Abubakar? According to Borno State governor, Senator Modu Sheriff, the only way he and Borno people could support power shift to the North is that the next president would be picked from the Borno/North - East axis.

Sheriff, ANPP top shot, is one of those recently alleged to be interested in the prolongation of tenure for President Obasanjo even though the man appears to be denying it. However, the standoffish attitude towards 2007 presidency so far demonstrated by the Borno governor and others, is a clear indication that the North may also end up confused despite its desperation towards 2007. For now, what the entire geographical North is battling with is the so called attempt to amend the constitution in order to give vent to the third term plot. The North is opposed to third term agenda even Northerners who are currently in Obasanjo government are scared of being not used to achieve the plot.

The recently formed Movement for the Defence of Democracy, MDD, and Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, MRD, seen largely as political outfits meant to propagate and prosecute the alleged presidential ambition of Vice President Atiku Abubakar have consistently made it clear that they are out to abort the third term agenda of Mr. President. Sources claim that the political persecution of Atiku has in recent times become more exacerbated than ever before due to the coming into being of these pro-Atiku outfits. In fact, the "Turaki Vanguard", another pro - Atiku group, is said to be under investigation by security operatives who are set to crack the alibi on whether or not Atiku is the actual financier of the group.

The Vee pee it will be recalled holds the traditional title of "Turaki Adamawa." The Atiku factor despite attempts to rubbish it by the Obasanjo camp is said to be so formidable. This, according to political watchers, is yet an albatross concerning Mr. President’s alleged plot to transform himself to an imperial/life president.

Due to sustained pressure and bombardment which the North is applying to quash the third term move, the president is said to be tinkering with other options. For instance, asking the Southerners to sink their differences and brace up with the Northern challenge appears to provide the "premium motor spirit, a.k.a. Petrol, which now burns the nation’s politics. As PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George argued, the North should forget about power returning to the zone "The time has come that nobody can deceive us about North and South." As for Anenih, the South "can no longer be mere spectators" in the country’s political field.

Northern leaders like Chief S. B. Awoniyi who heads the Arewa Consultative forum, ACF, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Maccido, Gen. Babangida, Gen. Buhari, and lately Senator Ibrahim Mantu now see third term plot as a malignant fly that must be killed in order to have a brighter vision or get the political horizon back on track.

Indeed, at a recent meeting in Duala Hotel, Kano, 24 national conveners of ADC, in a communique challenged President Obasanjo to make his position clear on the rumoured third term or extension of tenure.

"Not doing so creates an atmosphere of instability which is not conducive for the polity, business, investment climate, and general development of our country. This too, is capable of derailing our democracy and further tarnishing the image of Nigerian political leadership.

The ADC communique made available to Saturday Champion was signed by the organization’s leading lights like Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, Alhaji Said Baba Abdullahi, Aqibu Ibrahim Bello, Alhaji Lawan Adamu, Hajiya Ruqaya Adam, Magaji Abdullahi, among others. It commended some elected members of the National Assembly and Speakers of the states Houses of Assembly for their resolve not to alter the constitution "to accommodate the third term, life presidency or extension of tenure ambitions of any individual. We expect and appeal to all their colleagues to follow suit." Suddenly, ADC has emerged at the forefront of pro-democracy, anti-third term forces due to how it has taken off from the grassroots and carrying along the leaders of thought of communities quite unlike MDD and other groups that parade big names whose electoral value or credibility remain in doubt.

The seers and 2007 polls

Many prophets and self-styled seers have been predicting doom for the country concerning the next elections. One of them is Primate Babatunde Ayodele, founder of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Lagos. In his latest book of revelations entitled "Election 2007: Warning to the nation," Primate Ayodele alerted that some old politicians will be banned even as he said many political parties would be involved in the presidential race come 2007.

He states: "The PDP will win the coming presidential election in 2007. The president so elected will not be the darling of the people and also the people will not agree with the election results that produced the president. The next president will not be a seasoned politician. The same is true of the Vice President. The South - South will produce the president, the South - West, the Vice president while the North will produce the Senate president."

Actually, Saturday Champion learnt that third term campaigners have been working on a prepared script: there are two options, if the alleged third term bid of Mr. President fails, the next possible option would be for Obasanjo to have the sole authority over the issue of his successor. Who will succeed Obasanjo come 2007? A combination of factors will help to find the clue.

From the look of things, sharp disagreements and intrigues within the ruling PDP may end up marring the 2007 polls. If that happens, the apostles of cataclysm and armageddon would be holding their heads high. Will Obasanjo allow the so-called imminent holocaust to occur? Political observers say clearing the air over the third term plot will go a long way in dousing the fire already ignited across the country.

Who owns the fatherland - North or South. Those who say it is the North are not relenting, concerning 2007 while the South remains undaunted. They say when two elephants fight, the grass suffers.The Nigeria project appears so befuddled and ramshackled at the moment.

Posted by Publisher at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

Presidency blows hot on 2007 race

'How many are capable of running the economy and fighting corruption the way it’s being done today?'

*Crisis looms over 3rd term plot, says Kalu

By Habib Yacoob & Tony Nwankwo

Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

ABUJA — THE presidency has declared that while President Olusegun Obasanjo acknowledges the virtue of vacating office in 2007, Nigerians must exercise caution in the desire to have a change of guards “for the sake of change.”
But Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State believes Nigeria ABUJA — THE presi-
dency has declared that while President Olusegun Obasanjo acknowledges the virtue of vacating office in 2007, Nigerians must exercise caution in the desire to have a change of guards “for the sake of change.”
But Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State believes Nigeria would be courting a political crisis should the president decide to stay in office beyond 2007.

Presidential Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, in a telephone interview yesterday said though there may be as many as one million Nigerians that could take over the mantle of leadership from President Obasanjo, it is the quality of their performance that Nigerians should be interested in.

He said: “The point today is not how many of these people can take over from the government, but how many of them are really capable of running this country in an efficient, just and equitable manner as is being done today?
“How many are capable of running the economy and fighting corruption the way it’s being done today? How many are capable of restoring the future of Nigeria, in the international arena as it’s being done today? How many could have boosted foreign reserve, increased agricultural production, consolidated the banks, and revived the manufacturing sector as its being today?” he asked in an apparent reaction to a statement by the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Dr John Onayekan. Dr Onayekan had said at least 5,000 Nigerians could run Nigeria.

Continuing, Mr Fani-Kayode said: “We agree that in every institution, whether government, a private company, media outfit, political party, even the church itself, there is room for change pf leadership at the appropriate time. Thus, the quality, not quantity, of individuals that are capable of taking over then becomes the issue. And, where you have a choice in any of these institutions (including the government), you do not change leadership simply for the sake of changing it.”
He said it was necessary for Nigerians to approach the issue of having a successor to President Obasanjo so that the country would not return to the mistakes of the past.

“We can’t and must not allow ourselves to be taken back to the rot and degeneration of the past by anybody. We must cultivate the courage to insist on the very best quality of leadership and on matching the very high standard that this administration has set, no matter what that takes,” he said
President Obasanjo himself had, last Thursday, avoided answering a caller’s question in his television interview on whether he would go for a third term in 2007.

Crisis looms on 3rd term plot, says Kalu

Meanwhile, Gov. Orji Kalu of Abia State believes Nigeria cannot avoid a political crisis should President Obasanjo choose to stay in office beyond 2007.
Governor Kalu has also stressed the importance of Igbo unity within a federal Nigeria in the collective interest of the Igbo nation.

In an interview in Umuahia, the governor expressed fears that should there be any breach of the 1999 Constitution, especially as it relates to the tenure of office of the president, the country would witness crisis.
“The only danger I foresee is if (President) Obasanjo refuses to go in 2007. For as long as Obasanjo wants to go, there is no danger. If Obasanjo refuses to go, it will be a breach of the constitution, it will be a breach of contract and anything can happen. And people can break away to be another country.”

He also warned against possible rigging of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primaries.
He said: “The election must be free, the election must be fair, the election must stand the test of time, and the result must be internationally accepted. Anybody who wants to violate the law, I will help him the more. Nobody will violate the law.
“This is the truth, and I want you to quote me correctly. Nobody can declare himself president illegally. If you do an illegal statement, we will support you with an illegal statement. I want to respect the rule of law, I want to respect the constitution. I have to respect the order of the courts.

“I want to be a man that respects whatever that is good. So, if anybody thinks that he can disrespect the law, he can disrespect the orders of the Supreme Court, I will help him to do it. I will mobilise the people against him. Rigging election is like looting my property. If you loot, I will also loot.”

On the need for unity among leaders of Igbo land, the governor said one of the age-long impediments to Igbo political success within a united Nigeria was the level of acrimony in the ranks of Igbo leaders.
He cited the recent reconciliation between Chief Alex Ekwueme, Second Republic Vice President and Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, as proof that the Igbo nation was ready to do battle.
His words: “My immediate interest now is to build unity among Igbo leaders. I thank God that I am succeeding in what I have in my brain, and what God is working out for me. I want you to think in history that Ekwueme and Ojukwu are sitting down together tonight and they are sitting in Umuahia. This is almost 35 years. Ojukwu used to sit here where I am sitting today,” he said.



Posted by Publisher at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

Pro-Adedibu's legislators vow to sack Ladoja

IBADAN — THE 18 mem-bers of the Oyo State House of Assembly rooting for the impeachment of Governor Rashidi Ladoja vowed, yesterday, to press ahead with their plan irrespective of the court order obtained on Friday by the Assembly speaker, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke and others in his group.

By Ola Ajayi & Kolade Larewaju

Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, told Chief Lamidi Adedibu to allow for peace in Oyo State.
A state high court sitting in Ibadan had granted an ex-parte motion filed by Speaker Adeleke and the state Assembly, restraining the pro-IBADAN — THE 18 members of the Oyo State House of Assembly rooting for the impeachment of Governor Rashidi Ladoja vowed, yesterday, to press ahead with their plan irrespective of the court order obtained on Friday by the Assembly speaker, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke and others in his group.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, told Chief Lamidi Adedibu to allow for peace in Oyo State.
A state high court sitting in Ibadan had granted an ex-parte motion filed by Speaker Adeleke and the state Assembly, restraining the pro-Adedibu group, “their servants, agents and/or privies from impeaching or removing the governor of Oyo State from office or otherwise interfere in any way or manner with the discharge, execution or performance of his constitutional, official or statutory duties or responsibilities pending the hearing and determination of the “court motion on notice filed in the court by the plaintiffs.”

However, reacting to the court order yesterday, a member of the pro-Adedibu group, Mr. Babatunde Eesuola said the court lacked constitutional power to stop their impeachment process against the governor.
Section 188(10) says: “No proceedings or determination of the panel or of the House of Assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any court.”

Mr Eesuola, Chairman, House Committee on Publicity, said: “One million court injunctions cannot stop the impeachment process. The impeachment or removal of the governor or the deputy governor is one of the constitutional duties of the state House of Assembly and not of any court.”No court can stop the impeachment initiated by any House of Assembly. If you follow the impeachment move closely, you will notice that we are following the laid down constitutional process. So that it will be a proper and constitutional exercise. I can tell you that since we are following the normal process, the impeachment is on the right course.”It is not beyond the powers of a state House of Assembly to initiate impeachment moves as well as to impeach either the governor of a state or the deputy governor as it is clearly stated in section 188 (10)of the 1999 constitution”As far as we are concerned, there is no going back on the impeachment move. We are committed to what we are doing; nobody can stop us.”

On suggestions that his group of 18 did not constitute two-third majority as required by the constitution to implement the impeachment process, Mr Eesuola said: “Since the seven members of Hon. Adeleke’s group have been suspended, the remaining Oyo lawmakers are just 25 in number. If you calculate it, deduct 18 from 25, you will find that we have constituted the two-third majority to carry out the impeachment process.”

Obasanjo begs for peace in Oyo

However, President Obasanjo yesterday described Chief Lamidi Adedibu as “a force to reckon” with in the politics of Ibadan and Oyo State. He spoke in his Ibogun Olaogun village in Ogun State during the 2005 Ibogun Olaogun Day celebration.Chief Adedibu had arrived in the village with his supporters in about 20-18-seater buses amidst drumming and singing. Chief Adedibu himself rode on a white horse butthe security men insisted that he should disembark before he could be allowed into the venue of the celebration.

Adressing the crowd on the occasion, President Obasanjo said: “We appreciate your coming. We appreciate not only your coming, we appreciate your coming in a very special style. Nothing can be more spectacular than the display of the drummers.
“Chief Adedibu, you have for a long time been a force to reckon with in the politics of Ibadan in particular and Oyo State in general.”

President Obasanjo who allowed Adedibu’s drummers to entertain for about five minutes, however, told him and other politicians in Oyo State to ensure peace and security in the state. He said: “I will just plead with you and others, who are in the mainstream of Oyo State politics, to bear in mind, these four important items: peace, security, solidarity and loyalty.”The President apologised to Adedibu for the insistence of the security agents that he should disembark from his horse before entering the venue of the ceremony, explaining that when Adedibu came, he instructed that he be allowed to enter the venue on the horse.The President earlier in his address urged Nigerians to focus on the development of their communities, irrespective of their political affiliations. He also congratulated the new Olowu of Owu, Oba Olusanya Dosunmu, whose appointment, he said, was not a mistake.In his speech, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State urged other communities in the state to emulate Ibogun, adding that the state government would continue to focus on the welfare of the people.



Posted by Publisher at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

UK turns down FG on visa for Alamieyeseigha

LAGOS — THE Britain High Commission in Abuja has turned down a visa application filed by the Federal Government on behalf of the impeached governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

By Innocent Anaba

Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Government had planned to whisk him back to London once the visa was procured to face trial for jumping bail and money laundering.

The visa application rejection notwithstanding, Chief Alamieyeseigha himself wants the visa to enable him return to London for the trial. He has accordingly written to the high commission to issue him visa.

His counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome in the letter said: “We are solicitors to Alamieyeseigha, on whose behalf we make this humble LAGOS — THE Britain High Commission in Abuja has turned down a visa application filed by the Federal Government on behalf of the impeached governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Government had planned to whisk him back to London once the visa was procured to face trial for jumping bail and money laundering.

The visa application rejection notwithstanding, Chief Alamieyeseigha himself wants the visa to enable him return to London for the trial. He has accordingly written to the high commission to issue him visa.
His counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome in the letter said: “We are solicitors to Alamieyeseigha, on whose behalf we make this humble appeal. Our client has informed us that a British visa was applied for on his behalf by the Federal Government of Nigeria to enable him (Alamieyeseigha) travel to London to attend court on December 22, 2005. He further informed us that for reasons not known to him, the said application was turned down and the visa was not granted.
“We are consequently appealing to you to use your good offices to ensure that he is granted a visa to enable him continue his trial in London. We are also sending a copy of this appeal to Alamieyeseigha sureties in London to enable them inform the trial court of his difficulties in obtaining a British visa to enable him attend trial. We believe sir, that you will accede to our humble request by granting our client a visa as soon as possible.”

Chief Alamieyeseigha was arrested in London in October and was charged before a London court on allegation of money laundering. He was admitted to bail, but jumped bail and returned to Nigeria before he was impeached by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly on December 9.
Alamieyeseigha was on the same date arrested and detained and was only last week charged at a Federal High Court, Lagos for money laundering offences.



Posted by Publisher at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

27 perish in Xmas eve auto crash

GUSAU—SOME 27 persons were killed on Christmas eve at Bakura junction, in Bakura local government area of Zamfara in a ghastly motor accident. The accident involved a Mercedes Benz 911on its way to Sokoto from Magami town in Gusau local government area.

Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The FRSC Sector Commander, Alhaji Umar Liman, said the accident occurred at about 4:00 a.m. as a result of a mechanical problem. “The vehicle was loaded with bags of maize, and when the accident happened, it fell under a bridge,” he said.
According to him, three other injured persons had been taken to the Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.

Crime rate low, saypolice

Meanwhile, the police say criminal activities in the country were very low throughout the Christmas celebrations. Force spokesman, Haz Iwendi, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said in Abuja that the crime situation during the period was insignificant.


He said reports reaching him from various police commands showed that there was no serious crime recorded throughout the fiesta. Iwendi said: “There is no cause for alarm, everywhere was calm as people were enjoying themselves without fear of harassment or attack.”

He attributed the security situation to adequate measures put in place by various police commands to ensure the safety of lives and properties of all citizens. Iwendi further called on Nigerians to continue to cooperate with the police, saying policing must be seen as a collective responsibility of government and the citizenry. He also solicited the support of the citizens in providing useful information to the force.



Posted by Publisher at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

'Marwa still reports to EFCC'

LAGOS– THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is still investigating former military administrator of Lagos State, General Buba Marwa, five days after his first round of questioning.

Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The presidential aspirant was at the EFCC office in Lagos yesterday for another round of interrogation, because, according to an EFCC source, “we still have some questions to ask him.” The source would not say what those questions were.
But it was made clear that the investigation will continue until Gen. Marwa answers all the questions from his interrogators satisfactorily.

He is being investigated over a $120 million contract he allegedly signed on behalf of the Abacha regime when he served as military attache in the country’s embassy in US. The contract was in respect of some military vehicles sold to Nigeria by India.

Marwa told his interrogators that although he signed the contract papers, negotiation was handled by an associate of the late Gen. Abacha, and payment made by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank.
Investigation of the matter was first conducted in 2001 but was discontinued apparently because the investigation had reached a cul de sac. Marwa’s associates are insinuating political vendetta in the current investigation.



Posted by Publisher at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

The dangers ahead in 2007, by Gov. Orji Kalu

Sunday, December 18, this year will remain indelible in the memory of the select few at Government House, Umuahia, where Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu had assembled eminent Igbo people for a peace talk that was expected to change the political fortunes of Igbo everywhere.

By Tony Nwankwo

Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

That was the day, two great sons of Igbo land, former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and former Biafra leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had their rift of over 35 years settled. The governor used the opportunity to shed light on some thorny regional and national issues.

For instance, Kalu declares a fatwa on whoever decides to rig the PDP presidential primaries or the 2007 presidential election. Hear him: “The election must be free, the election must be fair, the election must stand the test of time, and the result must be internationally accepted. Anybody who wants to violate the law, I will help him the more. Nobody will violate the law. This is the truth, and I want you to quote me correctly. Nobody can declare himself president illegally, if you do illegal statement, we will support you with illegal statement. I want to respect the rule of law, I want to respect the constitution, I have to respect the order of the courts. I want to be a man that respects whatever that is good. So, if anybody thinks that he can disrespect the law, he can disrespect the orders of the Supreme Court, I will help him to do it. I will mobilise the people against him. Rigging election is like looting my property. If you loot, I loot you back”
But that is not all. The ever rambunctious Kalu also made it clear that it is not in the interest of people who live in glass houses to throw stones, especially regarding the Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha saga. Kalu, while declining to comment on the travails of Alamieyeseigha whom he describes as his very close friend, nonetheless said “I want to say that I have no comment in discussing my friend, because Alamieyeseigha is still my friend till tomorrow, and I will cherish him as a friend till the end of my life.

It was only unfortunate that the Governors Conference was not able to discuss Alamieyeseigha with the President. I am disappointed in the Conference of Governors. I may never attend any of their meetings again, because it is not worth it. When Bayelsa was in trouble, we were supposed to have discussed the issues as governors of Nigeria. Whether we were discussing for or against Alamieyeseigha, the issue must be discussed with Mr. President. He was the governor of his state. This is a federation, we are sovereign states. And if anybody gets out to London to say we are no longer sovereign states, then that is something else. I don’t support stealing, I am not a thief and I can never be a thief. I don’t encourage people I work with to steal government money. People who live in glass house should not throw stones. And I can see a lot of people who live in Abuja, they live in glass house and try to throw stones. It is not good for them.”
Excerpts:

The South-East Governors Forum is expected to play a major role leading to the elections of 2007. How is the group working towards actualising this?

We are cooperating a lot at our own level, and this is why, it is at the upper level that we have some problems. It is the upper level that we are trying to build upon from the level we are. Even my grand father in the village, and my mother, if you tell them that Ojukwu and Ekwueme will sit together, they will tell you it is not possible. But today, it is not only that they were sitting together, three of us were drinking orange juice from the same glass. It is God’s work. Therefore, 2007 is going to be very bright, and we are going to come tops.

We are not going to allow any other region to take over power in this country in 2007. It will not happen. And that is why I am doing everything in my power to settle the differences between our people and others, and to settle the differences among our people. In the next couple of weeks, and months, we will be settling whatever differences between our people in the National Assembly. This settlement now is going to ginger us to do more. With this, we will be able to work for the ambition of these people. In the next few weeks, we will form the biggest political movement for the Igbo, that will be led by Ojukwu and Ekwueme. That I can assure you. So, I believe, we deserve better than we are presently getting in this country.

What is the role of Ohanaeze in this movement you just talked about?

Honestly, I want to tell you that I am not a cultural man, I am a politician. Since I left my businesses to be in the forefront of politics, I have been a politician. Ohanaeze is a cultural institution. You don’t need to involve them in politics. So, Ekwueme and Ojukwu are politicians, I want to involve them in politics, that is what I am doing today.

What’s your opinion of the Southern Leaders Forum, a forum expected to chart a path for a southern president come 2007?

Well, I am not for anything that will not give us the presidential slot. So, if this meeting will give us the slot in the presidential election of 2007, I will find it useful. If the meeting is not talking about the Igbo man being the president in 2007, I am not for it.

Let me tell you one thing, people are disregarding what I am doing. What I am doing has a lot of impact. If people tell you I am a jinx breaker, they may not be far from the truth. Look at what has happened tonight. I know most of the Catholic bishops, most of the Anglican bishops, most of the Methodist bishops, Assemblies of God, who had tried to get these two guys together, but they refused. And this is just another way that God wants to pay us back. So, to me, we are in the right direction.

Your ambition is for the South-East to present the president in 2007, but the South-South is also a major force in the area. I hear that at the last PDP Convention, President Obasanjo devoted, maybe, a paragraph of his speech to challenge the South-South, to the effect that they should take it seriously. How do you think the South can resolve this problem?
Well, I have all my sentiments of the South-South, but I am going to address the issue of the Niger Delta when I become President. You, see, Igbo is Igbo, and South-South is South-South.

The cooperation of the Igbo in the South-East and the South-South is necessary. I believe they know that we need to work together, they know we need to be our brothers’ keepers. God is God, while man is man. You can talk as a man, but you can’t pre-empt God. Remember what happened when they brought down David, he was the least in the house, but he was very close to God. I cannot stand here and ask God where His mind is. If you want to know where God’s mind is, He says His mind will come from where the sun rises, and Abia State is one of the places that the sun rises. And God’s hand is here.

You were not at the Abuja PDP national convention. As a prominent member of the party, can we know why you were not there?

I mustn’t be there. It is our party. What do you see here? (pointing to the PDP flag adorning the sitting room). PDP is my party.

Were there no specific reasons for your absence?

No, I didn’t want to go and nobody can force me to be where I don’t want to go. I don’t pretend about things. I have a right to go to where I want to go and refuse not to go where I don’t want to go. Party is not my problem. If I want to leave PDP tomorrow, I leave, but I am not going to leave. That is not the problem. If there is no PDP ticket, there will be British Airways ticket, KLM ticket, they are all tickets you have to purchase. There is also Lufthansa ticket. So, that is not my headache. I decided not to go to the convention because I didn’t want to go. My immediate interest now is to build unity among Igbo leaders. I thank God that I am succeeding in what I have in my brain, and what God is working out for me. I want you to think in history that Ekwueme and Ojukwu are sitting down together tonight and they are sitting in Umuahia. This is almost 35 years. Ojukwu used to sit here where I am sitting today.

Your Excellency, we commonly hear of a handshake across the Niger, are we thinking about a handshake across the Benue. How is the South-East reaching out to the North because there has to be dialogue to be able to carry the people along also?

I am sure you people in the press know that a few days ago, I and Buhari met in Abuja for over two hours despite the fact that he considered me a Babangida person. He met with me. I am more popular in the North than in the South-East or in the South-West. Go to the far North, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Keffi, Zamfara, Kano. Kano is the greatest of them all and Kaduna. Go to Nasarawa. If you go there, I am more popular on the ground than people that live there. This is coupled with the achievements of my team, Enyimba. When they go to Kano to play Kano Pillars, they remember the governor of Abia. When they go to Zamfara, to play Zamfara United, they remember the governor of Abia. I don’t even talk about Igbo in Lagos. There are 43.3 percent Igbo in Lagos State population. This deal we are working on, is a deal that God is propelling. It will surprise people that those who think I am working for Atiku or working for Babangida, they will be shocked in their lives that I am working for myself and in the interest of the Nigerian people to liberate these poor people from where they are today.

Again, it is time we emulate other societies by putting young people in charge of our affairs. When, for instance, the United States had problems, they chose President J.F. Kennedy, then in his forties and the man actually changed the shape of the United States for the better. The same thing happened, when Russia needed stability after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, it chose President Putin. Again Britain chose Prime Minister Tony Blair, also in his forties and his achievements in office are there for all to see. Now the Americans are relying more on young Presidents, like President George W. Bush (Jnr.) and former President Bill Clinton before him. It is high time, countries like Nigeria learnt that younger people deliver unencumbered service for the people.

One is still amazed when you say you will contest on PDP’s platform. Apart from the 3rd term agenda that the President is alleged to be interested in, it appears your party has made up its mind towards the presidency going to the North. And the argument is now that the rotation is North/South and not on geo-political zone. One wonders how you can actualise your ambition on the platform of the PDP?

Let me tell you, the Orji Uzor Kalu political organisation for my presidency remains formidable. When you go to any state, even your own state, you feel our presence. We are down to the wards all over. No other person has such showing. I want you to quote me correctly. The election must be free, the election must be fair, the election must stand the test of time, and the result must be internationally accepted. Anybody who wants to violate the law, I will help him the more. Nobody will violate the law. This is the truth, and I want you to quote me correctly. Nobody can declare himself president illegally, if you do illegal statement, we will support you with illegal statement. I want to respect the rule of law, I want to respect the constitution, I have to respect the order of the courts. I want to be a man that respects whatever that is good. So, if anybody thinks that he can disrespect the law, he can disrespect the orders of the Supreme Court, I will help him to do it. I will mobilise the people against him. Rigging election is like looting my property. If you loot, I loot you back.

When you set out to bring these people (Ekwueme and Ojukwu) together, did you consider them as part of a grand strategy to solve the Igbo problem?

It is not solving our problem that is the question. They are two of our leaders who have divided us, and by bringing them together, we have gone half way to solve the Igbo problem.

You said if there is any hanky-panky in 2007 elections, you will match those disrespecting the constitution. The way things are going, do you therefore foresee any grave danger lurking concerning the elections of 2007?
The only danger I foresee is if (President) Obasanjo refuses to go. For as long as Obasanjo wants to go there is no danger. If Obasanjo refuses to go, it will be a breach of the constitution, it will be a breach of contract and anything can happen. And people can break away to be another country.

How do you react to the travails of former Bayelsa Governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha? The man had said he was set-up by the Federal Government?

Let me just say that the Bayelsa State governor was and is still my very close friend, although whatever he had done was in his private capacity. I want to say that I have no comment in discussing my friend, because Alamieyeseigha is still my friend till tomorrow, and I will cherish him as a friend till the end of my life. It was only unfortunate that the Governors Conference was not able to discuss Alamieyeseigha with the President. I am disappointed in the Conference of Governors. I may never attend any of their meetings again, because it is not worth it. When Bayelsa was in trouble, we were supposed to have discussed the issues as governors of Nigeria.

What do you think the governors would have done at the time?

Whether we were discussing for or against Alamieyeseigha, the issue must be discussed with Mr. President. He was the governor of his state. This is a federation, we are sovereign states. And if anybody gets out to London to say we are no longer sovereign states, then that is something else. I don’t support stealing, I am not a thief and I can never be a thief. I don’t encourage people I work with to steal government money. People who live in glass house should not throw stones. And I can see a lot of people who live in Abuja, they live in glass house and try to throw stones. It is not good for them.



Posted by Publisher at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

Ideology of the Nigerian centrists

Since the publication of my article, “On Socioeconomic Model for Nigeria”, (Vanguard, 30 Nov. 2005). I have been inundated with calls to also summarise and publish the recommended centrist elixir for the upliftment and stabilization of our economic and political system, for the attention of the general public.

By Uchenna Nwankwo

Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I was initially appalled at the daunting task of reducing a detailed work of hundreds of pages into a newspaper article. Nevertheless, given the level of interest generated by that apparent preamble, I realize that it is incumbent on me to publish a follow-up, to do a recap. In this regard, I shall hereunder try to deal with both the socioeconomic and sociopolitical dimensions of the problem.

It is now widely acknowledged that the movement of individualism which economic laissez-faire embodies inevitably leads to concentration and lopsided distribution of wealth and incomes. This was poignantly demonstrated by developments in the Western economies, especially in the first quarter of the 20th century. In the United States, for instance, technological increases in productivity throughout the 1920s (up 43% per factory man-hour) were not matched by increases in wages and thus in the public”s capacity to consume (factory pay rose less than 20%). This meant that the fruits of industry were being increasingly appropriated by the owners of the means of production, at the expense of the working class. This disparity, the steadily declining cumulative percentage returns to wage-earners meant that the aggregate disposable income of the masses and therefore their capacity to purchase goods and services fell drastically, leading to a stockpile of unsold inventory in factory warehouses across America. The attempt to cutback on production in order to forestall further accumulation of unsold goods brought about massive retrenchments, pushing unemployment to an all-time high of 25%. In turn, the development further lowered the purchasing power of the masses and the public”s capacity to consume or buy goods. It was this persistent and cumulative fall in consumption demand that produced a recession that eventually led to the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the severe Great Depression of 1929-1939. That, by the way, signalled the collapse of classical capitalism. It undermined faith in the orthodox philosophy of laissez-faire, according to which the disequilibrium of the market would eventually be restored to a new equilibrium without interference from outside.

Taming America”s Great Depression

It is now history that it took the application of President F. D. Roosevelt”s New Deal to evolve a new pluralistic economy, now dubbed modern capitalism, and to rescue the US from the Great Depression. The New Deal, starting with the first term of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 was principally aimed at putting a little more cash into the hands of the masses in order to increase their aggregate disposable income, increase consumption and hence increase production and employment, to revitalize the economy. It involved the Agricultural Amendment Act (May, 1933) that introduced subsidy in agricultural production and generally raised the incomes of farmers; the National Labour Relations Act or the Wagner Act (July, 1935) that empowered labour unions and encouraged the principle of collective bargaining between labour and management, to achieve better salaries and wages in work and industry; and the Social Security Act (August, 1935) which provided handouts or financial benefits for the unemployed, aimed at assuring its citizens of some protection against want and insecurity. Apart from its humanitarian motivation, Social Security also has important economic effects since such payments provide people a minimum purchasing power, which contributes to the stability of the economy.

The Social Security Act was to be expanded into all manner of subsidy and insurance in the Health, Education and other sectors, all aimed at providing relief to the downtrodden, increasing the aggregate purchasing power of the masses, promoting consumption, high productivity and therefore employment. The principle of progressive taxation, by which high income earners surrender greater percentages of their incomes as income taxes, was employed and used as a mechanism for the mobilization of funds for Social Security and of course for bringing about greater equality and the redistribution of incomes. Furthermore, the Hire-purchase system, that provided the privilege of buy-today-and-pay-later, was equally used to increase consumption and therefore to sustain a commensurate degree of productivity and employment. These efforts in the final analysis helped put the American economy on the path of recovery and boom. The assiduous application of these principles extricated America from the Great Depression and put that sad experience permanently behind her.

Oh yes, business cycles, that is, fluctuations in the level of economic activity, still persist in America, but since the 1940s the swings, the phases of the business cycle, have become more gentle and short-lived. The scenario today is that whenever labour-share of national income dips significantly and a recession sets in, the strong organized labour unions move in to negotiate new (higher) collective wages which in turn restores the aggregate purchasing power of the masses to new highs thereby complementing government”s investment stimulation strategies and welfare to bring about immediate recovery. So, as can be discerned from the above, it is in the interest of all classes that the aggregate disposable income of the masses does not slip below certain levels; for it is a recipe for sustaining the health and vibrancy of the economy. America”s approach to tackling the Great Depression and restoring vibrancy to its economy should be contrasted with steps so far taken to rescue Nigeria from its own “Great Depression” which set in about 1983 and has ravaged the country for over 20 years.

The Buhari / Idiagbon Years

The desperate economic situation resulting from the Great Depression in the West produced two solutions: Roosevelt”s New Deal and Hitler”s Fascism. Notwithstanding its totalitarian nature, Hitler”s fascism did revamp the German economy, and indeed elevated German industry, albeit at the expense of individual liberty. The Buhari-Idiagbon regime tried to some extent to employ fascist methods in the management of Nigeria”s depressed economy and the society. Although its attempt to foist a command-economy was too short-lived for results, it nevertheless made great strides in the area of instilling discipline, strong work ethics and fervent nationalism among Nigerians, and in the war against corruption.

The Babangida Era

The Babangida Era brought the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, which commenced the process of economic deregulation, privatization and liberalization in Nigeria, though in reality Babangida did not manage to private up to 5% of what was slated for privatization. Through the instruments of naira devaluation, the abolition of the Commodity Boards, import prohibition and price incentive strategies, etc, Babangida”s SAP produced some relief and marginal growth in output especially of agricultural cash crops like cocoa, rubber, etc. However, the relief was short-lived. Two main factors accounted for this somewhat immediate decline. One, there was no improvement in the aggregate disposable income of the masses. Two, Babangida”s personal style reversed the modest gains made by the Buhari / Idiagbon regime in the areas of social cohesion and discipline, nationalistic favour and group consciousness, which in my opinion, are dear ingredients for the building of viable and respectable human community. Babangida inadvertently promoted undue individualism and avarice, and hence, apathy and cynicism among Nigerians. This state of affairs lowered morale and led to the emigration of many of the nation”s best skilled and unskilled manpower. In the end, these developments largely swamped the modest flowering in the economy and returned it to recession and depression.

Sometimes we trifle with and pay lip service to the serious damage done to national well being by corruption in high and low places. But when we stop to think of our subsisting poor air safety & control standards, our pothole-riddled airport runways, our deteriorating road networks that have all contributed to disastrous accidents in the country; that these occurrences have their roots in corruption, in the propensity with which those in authority divert huge chunks of funds voted for public works and administration into private and other uses, or receive gratification to sabotage and overlook established rules and standards, then perhaps we begin to understand and shudder. Ditto for our collapsing public utilities, health, educational, judicial and other institutions and standards that have turned Nigeria into a mess. It is certain that should Nigeria continue to travel on the trajectory emanating from the grave standards of corruption established under Babangida, then the nation will plummet into oblivion in no distant future.

To be continued


Nwankwo is National Coordinator, Association of Nigerian Centrists, ANC.



Posted by Publisher at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

Govs Want N/Assembly to Act First; Bafarawa: ‘Count me out’

The political intrigues surrounding 30 of the natiion’s 36 governors’ decision to support the plan to elongate President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure began to unravel at the weekend as the governors push the ball to the court of the National Assembly.

By Oke Epia, 12.26.2005

Third Term

This comes as Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, yesterday told THISDAY that he was not part of the third term deal, stating emphatically that power must return to the North in 2007 as any constitutional amendment could not be implemented by the incumbent.
Although most of the governors believe that supporting a third term “is a win-win situation” in which they will also benefit from a constitutional amendment like the President, some of them have seen the public backlash that can arise from the decision, and have decided on a wait-and-see attitude.
In separate conversations yesterday, five governors confirmed to THISDAY that while it was true they had an unwritten agreement with the President on his third term bid, their part of the bargain would only come after the National Assembly might have passed the constitutional amendment that would permit the President and governors to have three terms of four years each.
The governors, however, saw the media attention on them as "unfair" because, as they argued, the process would not begin from the states.
One of the governors from the South told THISDAY: "The whole thing is simple. The President and his men have to deliver the National Assembly first. Once they succeed with that, then we can get the House of Assembly in our respective states to act accordingly."
According to the governor, "the focus should be on the federal lawmakers and not on us (governors) because this whole matter can die at the level of the National Assembly where two-thirds of membership is required to pass the amendment".
The calculation of the governors is that while they may have signed on for the amendment, it will be difficult to get two-thirds of the National Assembly membership where the process will be open and each member expected to vote openly and give reasons for supporting the amendment.
Meanwhile, fielding questions from newsmen at the weekend, Bafarawa said the position of Southern politicians that either the South-south or the South-east must produce the next president was their opinion and that "it is not out of bad faith for us (Northern governors) to ask for power to shift to the North."
Expressing reservations about the on-going constitutional amendment, Bafarawa queried: "What is wrong with the constitution for it to be amended? If we say there is something wrong with the constitution, then let's amend it and allow others to implement it."
Stating that he was not quarelling with the position of the southern leaders, he however, stressed that it was in the interest of democracy for power to rotate back to the north since it would have been in the south for eight years by 2007. He said: "If we are talking about democracy, since the south would have had it (the presidency) for eight years by 2007, let the north have a taste and then we shift to the south and that would move this nation forward.
"When we are talking about democracy, we should not blame past military leadership on this matter. It was not my making that General (Ibrahim) Babangida ruled because I didn't have any role in his emergence as president under the military. So also, with Buhari, Abacha, Gowon and Abdulsalami. It was a collective decision of the military and it was not our business to appoint their leaders and that is why their government was illegal.
"So how can we start talking of illegality and bringing it to the legal realm? That is my argument and the question of the north and the south should not arise, we should understand our problem. If you have the president from the north, it does not mean that he has everything, there is a sharing formula. It does not make sense for us to start talking north and south."
In a similar vein, many of the Northern Governors have expressed reservations about the dangers inherent in the ongoing political restructuring that is tending towards ethnicism.
A prominent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor from the North said yesterday that the North would not react to the recent statement made in Enugu by governors from the South "but that is in itself the danger."
Rising from a meeting in Enugu last week Monday, political leaders of the three geo-political zones in the south, namely, South-east, South-west, and South-south, said the presidency must either be conceded to the South-east or the South-south in 2007.
A communique issued at the end of the meeting stated that the constitution must be amended before the 2007 polls as a precondition for participating otherwise, the south would opt for a confederacy.
But according to the Northern governor, "when after the pogrom of 1966, General Aguiyi Ironsi started moving around the country behaving like a conqueror, our people said nothing until the killings and the reprisal attack that eventually culminated in a civil war. I hope we are not travelling along that road again."
The governor, a loyalist of Obasanjo, said the Enugu statement has "put those of us that are moderates from the North in a sort of quandary given that we are now perceived as sell-out by our people because of the reckless statements of some people close to the President."
The governor said they were all aware PDP Board of Trustees Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, PDP Deputy Chairman, Chief Olabode George, and National Secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, were flown to Enugu on a presidential jet. "So for Bode George to be calling northern politicians parasite, and Anenih and others saying what they said in Enugu was rather unfortunate. How can those of us that defend the President not be seen like traitors now?", he asked.
THISDAY had at the weekend exclusively reported that 30 governors had agreed to back the proposed amendment of Sections 137(b) and 182(b) of the 1999 constitution which limits the maximum tenure of office of a President and governors to only two terms of four year each.
Only Governors Orji Kalu (Abia), Bola Tinubu (Lagos), Chris Ngige (Anambra), Boni Haruna (Adamawa), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto) and Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano) have not endorsed the third term project.
While some of the governors signed on the agenda for fear of being under the searchlight of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFFC), the calculation was that by the end of a third term, the tenure of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of EFCC must have expired.
This plan is to be achieved through a constitutional amen-dment passed simultaneously by State Houses of Assembly early next year.
While a few governors are supporting the agenda because of the promise that they will replace Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the post-2007 Obasanjo government, some others believe that they could use the agenda to negotiate a respite from the EFFC which has compiled incriminating evidence against them.
Informed sources also explained that some Northern governors are merely playing along in the third term game so as to be immune from the wrath of Aso Rock in the meantime. governors in this category believe that the third term agenda would fail eventually in the face of the rising opposition to the idea, in which event they would not be blame and they would have impressed the President that they did their best.
A fourth group of governors who were elected for the first time in 2003 are said to have enlisted in support of the third term because they were assured of automatic re-election ticket by the PDP while they were further reasured that the party would still sweep the polls at the 2007 elections.
THISDAY gathered that a fifth group of governors are those who have problems within their party and states and are facing threats to their hold in power.
Sources, however, confirmed that the constitutional amendment which may give President Obasanjo a third term in office is expected to retain Section 308 of the present constitution which guarantees the president, governors and their deputies immunity from arrest and trial for any criminal and civil proceedings in any Nigerian court.
"Retaining the immunity clause is a trade-off for the governors' support for the 3rd term project. So, there is something in the agenda for all the key players," a source said.

Posted by Publisher at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

...Presidency ‘Earnestly’ Searches for Obasanjo’s Successor

Perhaps feeling the heat of the agitation against speculated third term agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Presidency said yesterday that it had started searching earnestly for a credible successor, adding that the President was interested and willing to relinquish power at the end of his tenure in 2007.

From Collins Edomaruse in Abuja, 12.26.2005

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said this in an interview with THISDAY while reacting to the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Dr. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan’s, claim that the country was blessed with thousands of people that could succeed Obasanjo at the end of his tenure.
The cleric was quoted, by some national newspapers at the weekend, to have said in an interview that there were over 5,000 Nigerians that could take over from the President, dismissing claims in some quarters that the alleged third term plan for the executive was a direct fall-out of lack of competent successors.
However, Fani-Kayode told THISDAY in a telephone interview that the cleric did not only miss the point, but equally misunderstood the position of the Obasanjo administration on what qualities it expects from its successor.
He said, “As you know, we have a tremendous respect for the Church leader, and of course, we revere the Church of God. But with all due respect, the suggestion that in a country of 150 million people, only 5,000 people are capable of ruling, is simply not true.”
The presidential aide decried the cleric’s position and described it as a far cry from what was expected of people of leadership position in their appreciation of the nation’s current political development.
He explained that the country was blessed with several million of knowledgeable people that could take the country to the next level of its political and economic development.
“When you really look at it, I am sure that there are up to two million people that are capable of ruling this country. But that is not the point. We believe that the distinguished Archbishop completely missed the point,” he said.
Fani-Kayode further asked: “The point is how many of these people are really capable of ruling the country in an efficient, just and equitable manner as being done today? How many are capable of running the economy and fighting corruption the way it is being done today? How many are capable of restoring the fortune of Nigeria in the international arena as it is being done today? How many could have won us debt relief and debt cancellation as has been done today?
Fani-Kayode challenged Nigerians to further ponder on the realities of the time, rise above ethnic, political or religious cleavages, and rise to be counted regarding the choice and search for credible leaders in the country.
“How many of the several millions of Nigerians that could have boosted our foreign reserves, increased agricultural production, consolidated our banks and revived the manufacturing sector as has been done today?
Raising more arguments to buttress his point, Fani-Kayode said: “We agree that in every institution, whether it is government, a private company, a media outfit, a political party or even the Church itself, there must be room for a change of leadership and at the appropriate time, such changes must come, and the quality and quantity of individuals that are capable of taking over becomes the issue.
“And, where you have a choice, in any of these institutions, you do not change leadership simply for the sake of changing it. It is not whether there are one million or 5,000 people that can rule that is relevant, it is whether there is anyone from the one million or the 5000 people that can maintain a high standard and keep the flag flying.”
He assured Nigerians that the Obasanjo administration was a law-abiding one and respects the country’s constitution, but advised that given the nation’s history, there was need for all to be reticent in choosing the next crop of political leaders to avoid the mistakes of the past.
“Judging from the type of bad quality leadership that we have had in this country, the Nigerian people need to be extremely careful in making the decision as to who should rule them in the future.”
Describing the nation’s present political landscape as one that needs to be handled with care, Fani-Kayode said: “This is a very critical point. We cannot, and must not allow ourselves to be taken aback and allow the rot and degeneration of the past befall anybody.
“We must have the courage to insist on the best quality of leaders and we must insist on maintaining the very high standard that this administration has set no matter what that takes.”

Posted by Publisher at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

IFC Launches Nigerian Banking Reform Strategy

Demonstrating support for the ongoing financial sector reforms in Nigeria, the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has launched a new project called the Nigerian Banking Reform Strategy which is aimed at addressing the scarcity of term finance in Nigeria.

By Samuel Famakinwa, 12.26.2005

According to the corporation, the strategy is to provide lines of credit to Nigerian banks and supplement the country’s low foreign direct investment.
The first beneficiary of the project is Diamond Bank which has been provided with a seven-year loan of up to $20 million meant to increase the bank’s medium to long-term funding for local small and medium enterprises. The corporation is also currently assessing some other banks, mostly well managed and efficient banks, to join the project.
IFC said that “the investment in Diamond Bank marks the launch of IFC’s financial sector strategy in Nigeria, which is to build strategic partnerships with select financial institutions and to help these partners make improvements in corporate governance, operations, and other key areas”.
THISDAY gathered that the launching of the new project was a concern by the IFC over a situation where Nigerian commercial banks had to rely on their capital or take maturity risk in order to finance long-term projects in the country.
“The project's main objective is to address the scarcity of term finance in Nigeria, which has forced Nigerian commercial banks to rely on their capital, or take the maturity risk in order to finance longer-term projects.
“The credit line will also be used to support small to medium enterprises, a critical sector in the Nigerian economy. The proposed investment allows IFC to address part of these constraints by making available foreign exchange term resources through an efficient financial institution”, an IFC statement reads.
According to IFC, this project is expected to contribute to private sector development by providing much needed foreign currency term finance to supplement the country’s low foreign direct investment.
It says the lack of term lending in Nigeria has resulted in lost opportunities for financial sector development and hindered the growth of the economy.
IFC’s loans to Diamond Bank Plc and other financial institutions, it says will significantly expand access to long term funding for private companies in Nigeria and act as a catalyst in increasing much needed flow of capital into the country.
In addition, by focusing on lending to small and medium enterprises, manufacturing, private infrastructure and energy industries, IFC said the project will help in the diversification of the country’s economy outside the natural resources sector.
IFC coordinates its activities with the other institutions of the World Bank Group but is legally and financially independent with its 178 member countries providing its share capital and collectively determining its policies.
The mission of IFC is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing and transition countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.
The corporation finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilises capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.
From its founding in 1956, IFC has committed more than $49 billion of its own funds and arranged $24 billion in syndications for 3,319 companies in 140 developing countries while its worldwide committed portfolio as in the financial year 2005 was $19.3 billion for its own account and $5.3 billion held for participants in loan syndications.

Posted by Publisher at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

CBN Queries 6 Banks on N25bn Claim; Citizens Guardian now Spring Bank

Barely five days to the December 31 deadline given to banks operating in Nigeria to recapitalise to N25 billion, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has rejected some capitals raised by six banking groups out of the 25 banks presumed to have met the requirement.

By Samuel Famakinwa in Lagos and Funso Muraina in Akure, 12.26.2005

The six banking groups which have been told weekend by the apex bank that they do not have N25 billion are Unity Bank, First Inland Bank, Afribank, Platinum Habib Bank, Citizens Guardian Bank and Diamond Bank.
A CBN official who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity disclosed that even Access Bank was part of those who had not made it until Tuesday when the apex bank finally approved the $15 million injected into the bank by Dutch FMO.
At the end of a meeting held with all the affected banks Tuesday, the CBN asked them to either look for more funds or acquire smaller banks.
THISDAY gathered that the apex bank had granted final approval to the merger arrangement of the Unity Bank Group comprising First Interstate Bank, Pacific Bank, Centrepoint Bank and Tropical Commercial Bank but its capital base stood at N19 billion.
According to information, after the last meeting with the group, CBN, while recognising the admission into the group of Bank of the North Limited, NNB International Bank Plc and New Africa Bank Limited, urged it to conclude the required legal process as quickly as possible so it could meet the N25 billion minimum capital base required.
For First Inland Bank, a group which comprises First Atlantic Bank Plc, Inland Bank, IMB and NUB International Bank, after the capital verification by the CBN, its combined shareholders’ funds which had been put at about N30 billion was reviewed downward to N15 billion.
Although this development had sparked heated arguments between the group and the CBN, but whether it would eventually make it across the threshold would depend largely on how well it could answer the issues raised by the apex bank.
One of the group’s argument is that it expected to post some profits in January 2006 which would be converted back into its capital.
In the case of Afribank, THISDAY gathered that its capital base has been brought down to N23.84 billion after the CBN refused to accept the worth placed on one of its asssets which was said to have been revalued and was put at about N1.2 billion.
But Afribank’s boss, Mr. Patrick Akinkuotu while confirming the development told THISDAY last night that the bank is not worried as it has already augmented the shortfall with a N2 billion deposited for shares by its insurance shareholder which is to be transferred to the apex bank this week.
He disclosed that the bank is also posting a profit of about N3.5 billion for its operations between April and December 2005 and its accounts for the period would also be sent the CBN tomorrow.
Also in the Platinum Habib situation, during the new capital verification exercise, the apex bank was said to have found a hole of N1.5 billion in the books of Platinum Bank. It has, therefore, asked the group to raise the shortfall or look for another smaller bank to take on before the expiration of the deadline.
The Managing Director of Platinum Bank, Mr. Francis Atuche, however told THISDAY last night that it was not really a sudden disclosure but that the figures submitted to the CBN had included the audited account of Habib Bank which the apex bank is yet to approve.
“It is true that we were told that we do not have N25 billion yet but they told us to we need N970 million and not N1.5 billion”, adding that when approved, “Habib Bank would be posting a profit of N620 million and with Habib’s N470 million already deposited with the CBN, our combined shareholders fund would be above N25 billion”.
Diamond Bank was also asked to raise another N500 million before the end of this week as its capital base was put at N24.5 billion by the apex bank. But with the newly approved International Finance Corporation (IFC), $20 million injected into the bank, it may not have problems crossing the rubicon.
But the Chairman of Diamond, Mr. Pascal Dozie told THISDAY last night that it is not true that the CBN told the bank it is yet to make N25 billion. “The information you have is absolutely wrong. You can confirm from the CBN again. Our IPO has not even been taken into account. We have about N5.1 billion with CBN. They have not told us to raise more funds.
For the Citizens Guardian Group, THISDAY gathered that the group was expecting funds from abroad which eventually did not come and its meeting the N25 billion requirement would depend on how fast it could consummate its merger with the Bank One group comprsising Omega Bank, Trans International Bank and Fountain Trust Bank.
With Bank One’s N14 billion capital and Citizen Guardian’s N13 billion, the group which has now changed its name to Spring Bank Plc may eventually cross the threshold.
According to information, the Spring Bank which emerges weekend would be run by Mr. Mike Chukwu as Managing Director while the managing director of Omega Bank, Mr. Segun Agbetuyi would be the chairman.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Omega Bank, Chief Antony Adeniyi told newsmen yesterday in Akure that the apex bank has given approval in principle to the new corporate name of the Citizens Omega group.
Adeniyi who confessed that the bank initially had problem coping with its earlier suitors including the Bank of the North said that Omega Bank eventually consummated marriage with banks that have similar vision and aspiration for their shareholders.
With the merger, the new Spring Bank, according to Adeniyi, now has a capital base of N32 billion and it is with that amount the bank will enter the market in January 2006.
He also allayed the fears of the entire workforce of the banks emerging as the Spring Bank over job security especially staff of the Omega Bank, assuring them that instead of sacking workers, the new bank will recruit more hands to satisfy the manpower needs of the bank.
He said throughout the merger talks there was no time the issue of staff retrenchment was raised, rather the managements dwelt more on how to take the best of the situatyion to create jobs.

Posted by Publisher at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

FG Lifts Embargo on Bellview Airlines; Okogie wants FG to revamp aviation industry

Bellview Airlines may have been cleared to resume normal flight services, following a successful re-certification by the Task Force on Verification of Airworth-iness Status of Aircraft and Operational Competencies of Commercial Aircraft Opera-tions in Nigeria, which had grounded the airline since last Tuesday.

By Ndubuisi Francis, 12.26.2005

THISDAY gathered that to recertify Bellview, the task force, assisted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) conducted a review of the airline’s operations with a detailed inspection of its fleet, after which its aircraft were found airworthy and her level of compliance with safety regulations satisfactory.
A source disclosed that three different audits were conducted last week on the airline’s fleet and facilities, with safety auditors from two other countries attracted by the airline’s international operations. Its safety practice was successful in all three audits.
Sources close to the task force confirmed that the airline took the decision of service disruption in good faith and provided unhindered access to all its operations and facilities.
Apart from the October 22, 2005 crash in Lisa Village of Ogun State which claimed 117 lives, one of the airline's aircraft had last Monday suffered a hydraulic failure in Ghana.
Two days after the Ghanaian incident, the airline's Air Operator Certificate (AOC) was revoked by the ministerial Task Force on nthe Verification of Airworthiness Status of Aircraft and Operational Competencies of Commercial Aircraft Operations.
Sources disclosed that following the incident in Ghana, Ghanaian Civil Aviation Authority inspectors confirmed that they were "impressed with Bellview’s standards and safety practices" during their meeting with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) at the weekend.
Although the AOC of Bellview was revoked initially, the task force later commuted it to suspension which may have finnaly paved the way for the airline to be cleared to resume operations.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony cardinal Olununmi Okogie, has called on the Federal Government to revamp the aviation industry to ensure safety, growth and desired contribution to national development.

Posted by Publisher at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

OBJ Sues for Peace in Oyo

President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday pleaded with the strong man of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, and other politicians in the state to maintain peace and security.

From Toba Suleiman in Abeokuta, 12.26.2005

He said, “I will just plead with you and others, who are in the mainstream of Oyo State politics, to bear in mind these four important items, peace; security; solidarity and loyalty.”
Obasanjo made the plea while addressing the people of Ibogun Olaogun community, his ancestral home in Ogun State, during the 2005 Ibogun Olaogun Day, attended by Adedibu, and his supporters.
Obasanjo, who expressed the need to maintain high level of discipline and maturity, however, acknowledged the influence of Adedibu, a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, and described him as "a force to reckon with in the politics of Ibadan and Oyo State.”
He showered encomium on Adedibu who stormed the Baptist Primary School, Ibogun, venue of the ceremony with his supporters, who were conveyed by no fewer than 20 18-seater buses.
According to Obasanjo, “we appreciate your presence and your coming in a very special style.
He allowed Adedibu’s drummers to entertain the guests for five minutes, after which he said nothing could be more spectacular than the drummers’ display.
“Chief Adedibu, you have for a long time been a force to reckon with in the politics of Ibadan in particular and Oyo State in general,” the president said.
He urged Nigerians to focus on the development of their communities, irrespective of their political affiliations.
Obasanjo said peace and security was paramount in Oyo State where Governor Rashidi Ladoja is locked in a power tussle. The governor had been in a power tussle with in the state.
Obasanjo who spoke directly to Chiefs Lamidi Adedibu and Richard Akinjide, two prominent PDP leaders in Oyo, at the ceremony, called for caution.
''You know how concerned we all are about peace, security, also loyalty and solidarity,'' Obasanjo said.
He urged Adedibu to take cognisance of the four critical issues. ''I will just plead with you and others who are in the mainstream of Oyo State politics to bear in mind these four items: peace, security, solidarity and loyalty,'' he said.
The president also apologised to Adedibu who was denied the use of his horse by security personnel. He reiterated the importance of community development associations in grassroots development and called on those in power to collaborate with the associations.
He said political office holders at all levels who were engaged in politics, other than that of development ''shouldnot have been there''.
He said the country had made series of mistakes in the past and noted that such mistakes should not be allowed again.
He thanked the donors in aid of the development of Ibogun-Olaogun in the last few years and assured them that their
donations were prudently being utilised.

Posted by Publisher at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

Stakeholders Save Afribank/Trade Bank Merger

Major stakeholders of Trade Bank resident in Kwara State, have intervened to save the merger talks between Afribank and the Trade Bank Plc,from collapsing.

From Tunde Sanni in Ilorin, 12.26.2005

Sources close to the stakeholders assured that the bank would retain its partnership with the Afribank, with just four days to the close of capitalisation in the banking industry.
Rising from a meeting where they had reviewed the survival strategies of the bank in the face of Afribank rejection of further talks, owing to a low capital base at the weekend, the stakeholders said they had got in touch with a principal facilitator, who had promised to inject N1.5billion into the bank to retain the merger betweenboth banks.
THISDAY had reported exclusively in its Sunday edition, that owing to a low capital base, principal partner in the merger with Afribank had declared that it was no more interested in carrying Trade Bank along, due to the perceived negative effect of its low capital base.
“The story in THISDAY was true as of 2p.m. on Friday, but between then and now, so many things have changed, and I can assure you that before the close of work on Wednesday or latest by Thursday, the bank would go back to Afribank with N1.5billion, to retain the merger.
“There had been series of meetings since the event to see how we can save the Trade Bank from collapsing, and I can assure you that we have successively scaled that hurdle and the bank would live again,” a source close to the stakeholders confided in THISDAY last night.

Special Assistant on Media and Communications in Kwara State, Mallam Nurudeen Imam AbdulRaheem stated that the development was a shock to the government and assured that everything shall be done to ensure that the bank did not go under.”
“We are aware that the bank remains the only surviving state sponsored banks and for that the state governor has given his words that the Afri Bank capital demand must be met. We are one with the stakeholders and we will cooperate with everyone involved in this to see that the bank survives.”
Trade Bank spokesman, Tunde Olofintinla confided in THISDAY that the bank was ready to resume operations on Wednesday with the Afri Bank demand met.
“We have done all that was to be done including talking with all major stakeholders and there are positive developments to the effect that the merger with Afri Bank has come to stay.”

Posted by Publisher at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

Police Destroy Seized Explosives

Rivers State Police Command at the weekend announced the destruction of explosives it recovered from premises of Halliburton Energy Services in Port Harcourt.

12.26.2005

There had been speculations that the three-hectare premises, used by the company as a warehouse, harbour such items since last year.
A statement by the command’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs Ireju Barasua, confirmed that the explosives had been recovered.
Barasua said the explosives, which were recovered during a joint inspection exercise, were destroyed by the anti-bomb squad at its joint range with the army at Eneka, near Port Harcourt between Decemmber 21 and December 23.
“The anti-bomb squad of Rivers Command of the Nigerian Police Force, took this measure to ensure that the circulation of explosives is closely monitored and kept out of the reach of unauthorised persons,” he said.


Posted by Publisher at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

‘Withdraw Airlines AOC After Audit’

Task force on verification of air worthiness status and operational competence of commercial aircraft, has directed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to withdraw operators' certificate issued to airlines after each audit exercise.

12.26.2005

Head of the task force, Mrs Folashade Odutola, gave the directive in a statement, adding that the task force was set up to conduct a comprehensive audit on all aircraft operating in the country. Aviation Minister, Dr Babaloba Borishade, set up the body on November 16, following the spate of air crashes in the country.
Odutola, who is also Rector, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, said the Airline Operators Certificate (AOC) on withdrawal, would immediately be replaced with provisional ones with only three months validity.
â??By the expiration of the three months, the airlines shall be re-certified for the purposes of issuance of a full AOC upon successful completion of the re-certification exercise,â?? she said.
``Accordingly, the AOCs issued to Chachangi and Bellview airlines stand withdrawn. These airlines are to be re-certified by the NCAA as aforementioned,'' she said.
Odutola added that the task force had authorised the release of Bellview airline subject to certain conditions which had been duly conveyed to it.

Posted by Publisher at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

Censors Board Seizes Pornographic Films

National Film and Video Censors Board said it has arrested some dealers involved in the production, marketing and production of unclassified and uncensored films, especially the obnoxious pornographic movie “Mapouka,” produced in different series.

From Juliana Taiwo in Abuja, 12.26.2005

In a chat with newsmen in Abuja at the weekend, Director General of the Board, Mr Emeka Mba, said the main distributor of the film, Mr Abah Ignatius Umeka of B28 Shop 5, Wuse Market, was arrested in the early hours of November 30, for distributing unclassified films contrary to Section 2a(1) of the National Film and Video Censors Board Act 1993.
He said the shop has been sealed, while the proprietor has been charged to the Abuja Chief Magistrate’s Court.
Mba, while warning video market dealers to desist from the sale of unclassified films and pornographic movies, which the laws of the land does not allow open-ended marketing, advised parents to take particular interest in what their kids watch.
In a related development, National Film and Video Censors Board, Nigeria Film Corporation, National Broadcasting Commi-ssion and Nigeria Copyright Commission, has been commended for working togetherto uplift the film and video industry.
President, Federation of Intellectual Property Owners of Nigeria (FIPO), Chief Eddie Ugbomah, gave the commendation when he led members to visit tthe Board.
Ugbomah, while commending Mba for a job well done, said the synergy among government parastatals was a welcome development, urging government to create an avenue for producers to get funds.

Posted by Publisher at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

Court Orders Journalists’ Remand

A High Court in Port Harcourt, has ordered that two journalists, staff of Rhythm F.M, be remanded in prison custody till January 3, 2006, when their bail requests would be considered.

From Chuks Okocha in Port Harcourt, 12.26.2005

The two journalists, Mr Klem Ofuokwu and Miss Cleopatra Taiwo, were on Saturday December 17, arrested by men of the Rivers State Police Command, for allegedly airing a news item which was later found to be false.
In the two-count charge preferred against the journalists and others said to be at large, they were alleged to have “conspired among themselves, to publish and disseminate, through the medium of a radio broadcast, a false news item with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb public peace and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 516 (a) of the Criminal Code of Rivers State Cap 37, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.
The second charge read "that you Klem Ofuokwu and Cleopatra Taiwo, being News Editor and News Presenter respectively, with the Rhythm 93.7 F.M Radio Station, Port Harcourt, along with others of the said radio station who are now at large, on Saturday 17th day of December, 2005, at the studio of Rhythm 93.7 F.M. radio station, Port Harcourt, within the Port Harcourt Judicial Division; with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb public peace, falsely published and broadcast through the medium of your aforementioned radio station, a news report in your 18:00 Hours News Bulletin of Saturday 17th December, 2005, to the effect that Choba Bridge, along the East/West Road, within the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court, has collapsed and trapped seven motor vehicles; which was false, contrary to Section 59(1) of Criminal Code of Rivers State.
In his defence, Counsel to the two journalists, Ken Atsuwete, requested that they be granted bail, a prayer which was vehemently opposed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr R.N. Godwin, who argued that the two should remain in prison.
However, after listening to the arguments, the Judge, Justice Enebeli, ordered that the duo be remanded in prison custody till January, 3, when he would decide on whether or not the request for their bail would be granted.

It would be recalled that the Rhythm 93.7 F.M. had been shut down, but later reopened after two hours for airing a news item, which was not true. Rhythm, however, apologized to the state government and the people of the state.
In a reaction, however, the Rivers state Commissioner for Information, Hon. Magnus Abe had said, in a press statement "a s a result of these false radio announcements, pandemonium broke out in several social gatherings across the state on hearing the news. The Emergency medical teams and other rescue personnel mobilized and struggled to race to the site.
"It is sad to note that even after the State Government got across to Rhythm 93.7 FM radio station to inform them that the story was false and was capable of inciting breakdown of law and order in the state, they continued to broadcast the false report and insisted that they were getting their facts from a neighbouring radio station - Raypower FM in Port Harcourt, whose Mr Demola Adeoye claimed to be reporting live from the alleged accident scene.
"It would be recalled that earlier in the year, during the arrest of Alhaji Asari Dokubo, Rhythm 93.7 FM station was repeatedly broadcasting threats phoned in by unknown and unidentifiable persons to the effect that the Asari Group had issued an ultimatum that Port Harcourt would be wiped out by 2pm of that day if he was not released", it said.

Posted by Publisher at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

Imo Speaker Supports 3rd Term

Imo State House of Assembly Speaker, Chief Kelechi Nwagwu, has thrown his weight behind clamour for an extension of the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo, noting that the Assembly, under his leadership, would support any constitutional amendment to that effect.

From Christopher Isiguzo in Owerri, 12.26.2005

Briefing newsmen in Owerri yesterday, Nwagwu said Obasanjo had done well to deserve an extension of office, so as to firmly institutionalise the landmark reforms he had introduced.
He said Nigeria, prior to Obasanjo’s tenure, was regarded as a pariah nation, stating that the reverse had become the case.
"Obasanjo has stabilised the nation, brought wealth, as well as socio-economic and infrastructural transformation of the country.
“ Above all, he has restored the integrity and dignity of the nation before the international community, because of the uncompromising war against corruption and its perpetrators," Nwagwu said.
While restating that the Imo legislature would not hesitate to support any constitutional amendment to accomodate the extension of Obasanjo's tenure, he decried the attitude of Nigerians who tend to forget easily a leader's good virtues.
On the allegation of anti-party activities levelled against him by the Peoples Democratic Party in his Ikeduru Local Government Area, during the December 3 Owerri Senatorial bye-election, he denied the allegation, insisting that he could never be disloyal to the party that brought him into reckoning.
He expressed indignation over the allegation which he described as cheap blackmail by some politicians in his Ikeduru LGA to smear his image, adding that he ran several radio and television jingles for the party's candidate and eventual wiiner of the polls, Chief Eze Ajoku.
He urged those behind the allegation to look out for other issues, rather that merely "trying to give the dog a bad name as to hang it".
On the impeachment of the suspended Ikeduru Local Government Area Chairman, Chief Samuel Anyanwu, the Speaker said said that it was the internal affair of the council, stressing that the Councillors had legal backing to carry out their duties.
He denied being part or instrumental to the impeachment of the former Chairman, as he can not reduce himself to conspriring with councillors to remove an already indicted Chairman.

Posted by Publisher at 03:18 PM | Comments (0)

FG Shops for Aircraft for Pilgrims

Deputy Senate President and leader of the Federal Government Hajj delegation, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, has said international negotiations are on for more aircraft, to convey all intending Muslim pilgrims to the Holy Land.

12.26.2005

Mantu told newsmen yesterday at Minna Airport, that with only 10 days to the closure of Jeddah Airport, contingency arrangements must be made to ensure that no Nigerian pilgrim was left behind.
He said while his committee appreciate the problems at hand, as only about 10,000 of the 60,000 pilgrims were conveyed, it would not allow a repeat of last year's episode.
He said last year, many intending pilgrims could not make it to Saudi Arabia.
``We are aware that the operation is running at a very slow speed, but we are not resting on our oars at ensuring that we get more aircraft from any part of the world,'' he said,, adding that in spite of the urgent need for more aircraft, the committee would not compromise the new aviation standards set by the federal Government and Saudi authorities to ensure safety.
Mantu said the National Assembly would by March 2006, pass a bill that would establish a National Hajj Commission.
He said the commission is the only panacea to smooth Hajj operations, having tried many options without success.
Meanwhile, Kabo Air has explained the delay on airlift of intending pilgrims. The airline said this year’s Hajj will be completed on schedule, in spite of the slow pace in flight operation since the exercise commenced

Kabo Air's Executive Director operations, Alhaji Aliyu Aminu, explained that the delay was as a result of technical hitches caused by a new policy introduced by the Saudi authorities.
He said that adequate efforts had been made to ensure that the time lost so far would be taken care of by increasing the airline's fleet of four B747 with two air buses.

Posted by Publisher at 03:18 PM | Comments (0)

I am not With MRD –Buhari

Former Head of State and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) flag-bearer in 2003 presidential election, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), has dissociated himself from Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), saying being with ANPP, which is a registered party, made it impossible for him to be with another political group.

From Yakubu Musa in Kano, 12.26.2005

The Daura-born retired general also condemned the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying it is now akin to a communist party.
Fielding questions from newsmen shortly after commissioning a computer centre built by Faruk Adamu Aliyu, a House of Representatives Member representing Birnin Kudu Buji Constituency at the weekend in Birnin Kudu, Buhari said since the time he joined politics, he has been with ANPP.
“I didn’t join MRD. I am in a registered political party, so why should I go to a party that is not registered? I will not make such kind of decision,” he said.
According to him, PDP has become a communist party, as only those that the party likes get its registration as members.
He, however, said he was not aware of any concerted efforts to stop him from emerging as the flag-bearer of the party in 2007, adding that he is in politics to stay, no matter the odds.
Earlier, Buhari had urged the crowd of supporters that besieged the computer centre to be prepared for the 2007 elections, as no stone would be left unturned to ensure victory against undemocratic forces.
He said the party would soon have its nation-wide congresses at grassroots level before its national convention in Abuja, early next year.

Posted by Publisher at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

Northern Speakers Defy PDP’s Directive

Conference of Speakers of the Northern States Houses of Assembly, is set to defy the directives of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), barring its political office holders from attending regional meetings, as it holds the 9th meeting of the body in Minna next month.

From Jide Orintunsin in Minna, 12.26.2005

The meeting,, which was earlier slated for the early part of this month, was postponed, due to various PDP congresses and national convention, the Bellview air crash and the death of the former first lady, Mrs Stella Obasanjo.
Disclosing January 25 to 27, 2006 as the new dates for the Minna meeting,, Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Honourable Alhassan Jikantoro, told newsmen in Minnaat the weekend, that the PDP directives has no hold on the conference, as the body would go ahead to conduct its meeting in Minna.
“The party’s directives is not a law of the land, I cannot see how that can stop our meeting. Be informed that we are meeting here in Minna from January 25 to 27 2006, and no directive could stop that,” Jikantoro said.
According to the lawmaker, the conference of speakers cut across party line, with the sole aim of finding common problems that are peculiar to northern Nigeria, arguing that the conference has nothing to do with the third term bid as speculated.
He further punctured the PDP directive, saying “I think it is morally wrong for anyone to bar political leaders of the party from participating in regional meeting and it is more unfortunate when you look at it from the basis that the Southern leaders just had their own regional meeting and nobody stop them.”
Jikantoro further said that the conference has resolved to hold in Minna. “Nobody can stop the meeting because we are coming to discuss issues that would lead to the development of our areas and I believe that no political party will be against people meeting over the development of their area and their people.”
The leadership of the PDP on Monday barred all its political office holders from attending regional meetings due to the outcome of the Southern States political leaders meeting in Enugu, where decision against power shift to the north was taken.

Posted by Publisher at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

Oyo Crisis: Lawmakers Vow to Remove Ladoja

The group of 18 legislators rooting for the impeachment of Governor Ladoja of Oyo State yesterday vowed to press on with the removal of the governor saying that they have decided to ignore the court injuction stopping the move.

From Ademola Adeyemo in Ibadan, 12.26.2005

The chairman of the house committee on Information Hon Babatunde Esuola told journalists that section 188 sub - section 10 has forbidden any court of law from adjudicating on the impeachment matter saying that the legislators are only waiting for the outcome of the panel set up by the chief judge before taking the next step.
But during the weeekend there were moves by concerned citizens of the state and group to prevail on the legislators to retrace their steps, in the overall interest of the people of the state and for the survival of democracy in the country
Among those who joined the search for peace included the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Yinusa Ogundipe Arapasowun 11, the Archi-Bishop of Ibadan Diocese, Bishop Alaba Job, Afenifere,and the Yoruba Council Of Elders.
Oba Ogundipe who expressed concern about the escalating incidents of political violence in the state appealed for peace, saying that the state can only achieve progress in an atmosphere of peace. The monarch who has set up a panel of traditional chiefs to mediate in the crisis said he was confident that peace will reign in the state henchforth due to the fact that the principal characters in the crisis are high chiefs of Ibadanland
Bishop Alaba Job while calling for the peaceful settlement of the political differences said the violent turn of event can not be tolerated by the innocent people in the state.The catholic Bishop who spoke after the Christmas Mass said it is ungodly to be moving about with guns and other dangeropus weapon with the aim of killing or maiming the people

Afenifere's publicity secretary Hon Babatunde Oduyoye said the safety of the lives and the property of the innocent citizens in the state is of paramount concern to Afenifere and he appealed to all the parties in the crisis to eschew violence in the resolution of whatever may be the political differences among politicians so that the present democracy will survive
Esuola who spoke shortly after returning from Ota said "everybody even an illiterate know that no court has jurisdiction over the impeachment matter it is entirely a legislative affair. So there is no going back on the move to free the state from mystery and misrule"
The legislator also debunked the insuniation that the group didnot have the two third of the members required to carry out the impeachment." That is not true as at present we are 18 in number and we are still expecting some of our colleages to join us very soon . But out of the 32 members in the house 7 including the speaker Hon Adeolu Adeleke have been suspended, remaining 25 on the floor and 18 members is enough to make the required two-third in accordance with section 188 of the constitution"
Esuola who refused to disclosed the next date that his group will sit said " I can assure you that non of our members has defected we are still in tact"

Posted by Publisher at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

Consumer Agency Campaigns Against Road Accidents

In an attempt to ensure an accident free festive season, the National Consumer Protection Council in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce and Industry has started an awareness campaign aimed at sensitizing the public on the danger of boarding decrepit vehicles.

12.26.2005

The campaign that was led by the Director Surveillance of the CPC, Dr. Olatunde Oluwatola was to prevent avoidable carnages on the road and ensure that travellers reach their destinations in peace.
Members of the CPC, in company of officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce toured many motor parks within the Lagos metropolis, such as Oyingbo, Ojota, Yaba, and Jibowu among others where passengers and commercial vehicle operators were enlightened on the need for passengers to avoid boarding vehicles that are in bad shape.
According to Oluwatola, many lives are being lost daily on Nigerian roads as a result of negligence on the part of operators and passengers.
According to him, poorly maintained vehicles constitute danger to consumers and advised intending passengers to resist travelling with such vehicles.
He said: “It is unfortunate, the way transporters treat their customers. They keep them stranded endlessly without considering their convenience. Most of them (transporters) do not know the law under which they are operating and you know every transporter is bound to operate under appropriate legislation.
“You must ensure that your vehicle is road worthy, display contact phone number for consumer complaints, obtain manifest of all passengers for each trip. You must not exceed the 100km/h speed limit, don’t drive when drunk and don’t use mobile phone while driving.
“It is your duty to ensure that passengers arrive at their destination within a reasonable time, Consumers must be compensated for any break-down of vehicles while on the trip”, the director added.
The council was set up under Decree 66 of 1992 to perform among other functions which includes: organize and undertake campaigns and other forms of activities that will lead to increased public consumer awareness, ensure that consumers’ interest receive due consideration as appropriate for and to provide redress to obnoxious practices or the unscrupulous exploitation of consumers by companies, firm, trade associations or individuals.

Posted by Publisher at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

Sino-Nigeria Cooperation Records Great Success in Agriculture

A total of 496 Chinese experts deployed as participants under the National Special Programme for Food Security have recorded great achievements in various technical fields, according to a report.

12.26.2005

The progress report by the Sino-Nigeria South-South Cooperation which was given to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the weekend in Abuja, noted that achievements were made in the areas of water control, and fisheries.
On water control, the report stated that up to now 14 micro-earth dams, 92 water wells and three water cellars have been completed
It noted that the projects would help the benefiting communities overcome shortage of water supply for drinking and irrigation.
The report, which stated that all the 36 states were benefiting from the programme except Jigawa, added that 20 water-saving projects for demonstration had also been completed.
It said that low pressure pipes for water conveyance had also been laid out for 13,000 meters while 20 hectares of terrace had also been constructed.
In addition, the report stated that 1,500 meters of river course had been realigned and 21 sets of manual water lifting device fabricated.

The report added that site selection and design for more than 150 sets of water control works had been completed while construction could be started as soon as funds were made available.
According to the report, some of the water control projects include the Ajokpachi Mini Dam in Kogi, the manual pulley well at Katarko in Yobe, nicknamed Chinese well by the local people because of its unique design.
Others are the 21 sets of manual water-lifting device borehole in Kaduna of which the unit price is less than N3,000.
In Oyo State, the report stated that the technicians in collaboration with their Nigerian counterparts built a concrete U-type irrigation channel for 300 meters at Ogbomoso which had gone into operation.
Local farmers in Taraba were taught how to mulch farmland in order to conserve fertilizer and moisture, it noted, adding that on seeing the result the emir told farmers not to burn stalks any more after harvest.

Posted by Publisher at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

U.S. threatens sanctions; Obasanjo won’t go for it, says Mbang

Washington proposes to take several punitive measures against Abuja if President Olusegun Obasanjo seeks a third term.

Tension is growing between the two countries over Nigeria's future leadership.

By Chinedu Offor (Washington) and Stella Odueme (Lagos)

Tension is growing between the two countries over Nigeria's future leadership.

To cap it, the United States Government is reportedly furious with what State Department officials called "an unwarranted attack on the country with the tacit support of the Nigerian leadership by Presidential Spokesman, Femi Fani Kayode".

He recently rebuked Washington over comments by serving and former administration officials who frown at suggestions of a third term bid by Obasanjo.

Sources confirmed that the government has taken the unusual step of informing members of Congress of a possible leadership problem in Nigeria.

The notice to senior lawmakers of both parties also contained an earlier assessment about the possible disintegration of Nigeria.

"If the present administration seeks to stay in office longer than its current term, the scenario in the assessment could come sooner than expected" senior government officials said.

Measures that could be applied against Nigeria include military, economic and diplomatic.

The U.S is a major supplier of military hardware to Nigerian forces and the administration assists the country in economic policies, such as the recent debt pardon by the Paris Club.

Congressional sources said the U.S supported the debt forgiveness after obtaining assurances from Obasanjo of a smooth hand over to another leader at the expiration of his term.

"The deal was to give a new leadership in Nigeria less economic burden to chart a new course for the country, but all bets will be off if Obasanjo amends the Constitution to prolong his term", said officials.

Reminded that the U.S could be seen to be dabbling in the internal affairs of another nation, one insisted that a leadership crisis in Nigeria could have a "devastating domino effect" on the whole region and would "severely hurt the administration’s goal of encouraging democracy, term limits and good government on the continent".

According to sources the U.S. administration decided to pay closer attention to the "persistent rumours" of a plot to extend the term of office in Nigeria after failing to get a clear denial from Abuja.

Recent reports that 30 governors and several of their state Senate and House of Representatives reportedly signed on for a constitutional amendment for fear of being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also causes anxiety.

"If this story is corroborated, the administration would have no option than to consult with its allies on the need to tell Abuja in clear terms that such an action would not be supported by the international community" American officials said.

But back in Lagos, Prelate of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Sunday Mbang, expressed confidence that the President would not go for a third term in 2007.

His words: “People don’t know Obasanjo, that is why they are talking like that. I have known him for long, he is not going for a third term. When he finishes his second term, he is returning to Ota and I am very confident about it”.

He charged Nigerians to embrace the wind of change in the spirit of Christmas to make things better for all, just as Jesus Christ, whose birthday is being celebrated this season, came to make the world a better place.

Nigerians should shun corrupt practices to move the nation forward, Mbang pleaded.

“In spite of so many churches packed full every Sunday and with the huge crusades, corruption, bad habit are everywhere. It looks like Nigerians inside and outside out are dirty.

“Jesus Christ has come once again this Christmas to change lives and I hope that this Christmas, the lives of Nigerians will change. I hope that policemen who have been collecting N20 on the roads would stop taking it, NEPA would give us light and bad roads would be repaired in the New Year so that the lives of Nigerians would change for the better. That is the Christmas message.

“Anybody who collects bribe during the elections in 2007 will die, that is what I asked God to do. That person will die completely, from beginning to end.

“Nobody will rig the elections, nobody will cause confusion in this country, no more strike, everybody will live peacefully in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

Posted by Publisher at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

I am not With MRD –Buhari

Former Head of State and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) flag-bearer in 2003 presidential election, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), has dissociated himself from Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), saying being with ANPP, which is a registered party, made it impossible for him to be with another political group.

From Yakubu Musa in Kano, 12.26.2005

The Daura-born retired general also condemned the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying it is now akin to a communist party.

Fielding questions from newsmen shortly after commissioning a computer centre built by Faruk Adamu Aliyu, a House of Representatives Member representing Birnin Kudu Buji Constituency at the weekend in Birnin Kudu, Buhari said since the time he joined politics, he has been with ANPP.

“I didn’t join MRD. I am in a registered political party, so why should I go to a party that is not registered? I will not make such kind of decision,” he said.
According to him, PDP has become a communist party, as only those that the party likes get its registration as members.

He, however, said he was not aware of any concerted efforts to stop him from emerging as the flag-bearer of the party in 2007, adding that he is in politics to stay, no matter the odds.

Earlier, Buhari had urged the crowd of supporters that besieged the computer centre to be prepared for the 2007 elections, as no stone would be left unturned to ensure victory against undemocratic forces.

He said the party would soon have its nation-wide congresses at grassroots level before its national convention in Abuja, early next year.

Posted by Publisher at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

2007: Kalu woos APGA

Emboldened by the recent historic declaration by Southern political leaders on the issue of the leadership of the country in 2007, Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu has intensified his drive to convince southern-led political parties especially the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as well as other prominent Igbo politicians to throw their weight behind his presidential ambition.

Chukwudi Achife, Enugu

Southern political leaders had at a conference in Enugu last week among other demands threatened to opt for a confederal arrangement in the country if the presidency was not allowed to go to the South South or South East political zones in 2007.

Competent sources told Daily Champion in Enugu that Governor Kalu who is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been holding high-level consultations with Igbo leaders in all the parties with a view to setting up a strong coalition that would back his bid.

The governor, who appears to be out of favour with the leadership of his party following his highly publicized disputes with President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih recently brokered the reconciliation between APGA Presidential flagbearer in the 2003 general elections, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and former Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Dr Alex Ekwueme as part of his efforts to build a strong non-party Igbo political bloc.

In attendance at the meeting held at Umuahia, were leaders of the Igbo-headed political parties such as the APGA and the Justice Party (JP), other prominent Igbo political leaders, traditional rulers, and intellectuals. The meeting, which coincided with the southern political leaders conference in Enugu, was said to have resolved to seek viable ways of uniting the Igbo politically in readiness for the 2007 elections.

Ojukwu and Ekwueme were said to have hailed the governor’s courageous stance on issues affecting the Igbo as well as the leadership of the country and pledged their support for his efforts at bringing about good governance and accountable leadership in the country.

The Abia governor is also said to be a patron of the newly formed Igbo Improvement Union (IIU), which is seeking to position itself as the political voice of the Igbo. The group, which was formed by Igbo politicians from across the parties though dominated by APGA elements, recently organized a thanksgiving service and reception for Ojukwu that was chaired by Governor Kalu.

The governor, sources said, hopes to build a broad-based political alliance originating from the South East which he can rely on whether or not he secures the nomination of his party for the presidential race in 2007. This drive, the sources said, became more imperative after the governor’s camp lost out in the recent state congress of the PDP.

The governor is also rumoured to have struck a deal with the leadership of APGA to run on the party’s platform if he is turned down by the PDP but acting National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh denied this in an interview with the Daily Champion, saying that no such deal exists.

Umeh admitted however that the governor has been maintaining good relations with his party and would be welcome if he decides to cross over but said he (Kalu) has made no such move and has struck no deal with the party.

"We can’t deny that we have a good relationship with Governor Kalu, he has identified with some of our projects like the reception for Ojukwu where he said he has come to give honour to whom it is due. He is a worthy Igbo man and a true Nigerian and we will gladly welcome him to APGA but he has not told us he wants to join and we have made no deals with him for now", Umeh said.

The APGA boss however praised the govenor’s efforts at uniting Igbo political leaders, stressing that it would help the Igbo realize their ambition of producing the next president of the country.

Posted by Publisher at 02:33 PM | Comments (0)

Public hearing on review of constitution begins Jan 8

A 12-day zonal public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution will begin in Bauchi on January 8, 2006.

From Martins Oloja (Abuja Bureau Chief)

The crucial political process is to be handled by the National Assembly Joint Committee for the review of the 1999 Constitution. It will focus on the proposals made by six sub-committees including possible third term for President and governors.

The public hearing is being planned despite criticism and alliances against constitutional amendment in some parts of the country.

Two political associations, the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD) and Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), which comprise mainly of northern political leaders have consistently expressed opposition to the move to amend the constitution before the end of President Olusegun Obasanjo's second term.

The two groups express fear that the planned review of the constitution could lead to extension of the tenure of President Obasanjo. The two groups, last week in Abuja, merged into Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) and applied to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for registration as a political party.

But confusion reared its head last week too when southern political leaders also rose from a meeting in Enugu where they declared support for constitutional amendment. The southern leaders, in a statement after the meeting, denounced opposition to constitutional amendment. They said the process must begin immediately, else they would boycott the 2007 elections.

While the political class was still digesting the import of the political missiles between the North and the South last week, the United States officials who have responsibility for Africa raised the political stakes when they reportedly opposed any extension of tenure for the President.

Last month, the British envoy in Nigeria, Ambassador Richard Gozney, spoke in a similar vein when he opposed another term without democratic process and participation that is transparent.

But it has not been clear what the reaction of the diplomatic missions will be to a democratically engineered process of constitutional amendment.

The Guardian confirmed at press time that the public hearing will last for two days in each of the six geo-political zones. The other zonal centres are Lafia (North Central), Kaduna (North West), Port Harcourt (South South), Enugu (South East) and Ibadan (South West).

After the public hearing, the 80-member panel are expected to go on a 10-day retreat where details of the hearing will be collated and finalised in form of a report to the National Assembly

The Ibrahim Mantu-led committee comprises among others one Senator and a House Member from each of the 36 states of the federation, and six women representatives.

One of the proposed amendments that will raise dust at the public sittings will be the Sub-committee's Report on Pages 14 and 15 under Section 135 (1) where they proposed three options thus:

Three options emerged during the sub-committee's deliberations: After exhaustive discussion on the pros and cons of each option, no consensus was reached on any of the options. The sub-committee, therefore, recommends three options to the main committee for further consideration.


Retain status quo i.e. retain two terms of four years each;

Two terms of five years each; and

Three terms of four years each; and
Another possible area of conflict with the politicians will be proposed section 130 (d) in the sub-committee's report where it is proposed that a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of the President if-


He has not been educated up to at least HND level or its equivalent;
One of the critical features of the sub-committee's report, The Guardian noted, is that not many of the just concluded Political Reform Conference reports were considered in the sub-committee's recommendations, which a cabinet member and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain recently put at more than one hundred items.

Recently, when the opposition to the proposed third term agenda became heated, the PDP General Secretary and a member of the Federal Executive Council questioned why people seem to be more interested in only one item out of over 100 recommendations of national importance.

Sources said last night that the public hearing and the retreat may cost about N450 million.

Posted by Publisher at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

UK turns down FG on visa for Alamieyeseigha

LAGOS — THE Britain High Commission in Abuja has turned down a visa application filed by the Federal Government on behalf of the impeached governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

By Innocent Anaba
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Government had planned to whisk him back to London once the visa was procured to face trial for jumping bail and money laundering.

The visa application rejection notwithstanding, Chief Alamieyeseigha himself wants the visa to enable him return to London for the trial. He has accordingly written to the high commission to issue him visa.

His counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome in the letter said: “We are solicitors to Alamieyeseigha, on whose behalf we make this humble LAGOS — THE Britain High Commission in Abuja has turned down a visa application filed by the Federal Government on behalf of the impeached governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Government had planned to whisk him back to London once the visa was procured to face trial for jumping bail and money laundering.

The visa application rejection notwithstanding, Chief Alamieyeseigha himself wants the visa to enable him return to London for the trial. He has accordingly written to the high commission to issue him visa.
His counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome in the letter said: “We are solicitors to Alamieyeseigha, on whose behalf we make this humble appeal. Our client has informed us that a British visa was applied for on his behalf by the Federal Government of Nigeria to enable him (Alamieyeseigha) travel to London to attend court on December 22, 2005. He further informed us that for reasons not known to him, the said application was turned down and the visa was not granted.
“We are consequently appealing to you to use your good offices to ensure that he is granted a visa to enable him continue his trial in London. We are also sending a copy of this appeal to Alamieyeseigha sureties in London to enable them inform the trial court of his difficulties in obtaining a British visa to enable him attend trial. We believe sir, that you will accede to our humble request by granting our client a visa as soon as possible.”

Chief Alamieyeseigha was arrested in London in October and was charged before a London court on allegation of money laundering. He was admitted to bail, but jumped bail and returned to Nigeria before he was impeached by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly on December 9.
Alamieyeseigha was on the same date arrested and detained and was only last week charged at a Federal High Court, Lagos for money laundering offences.



Posted by Publisher at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

Presidency blows hot on 2007 race

'How many are capable of running the economy and fighting corruption the way it’s being done today?'

*Crisis looms over 3rd term plot, says Kalu

By Habib Yacoob & Tony Nwankwo
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

ABUJA — THE presidency has declared that while President Olusegun Obasanjo acknowledges the virtue of vacating office in 2007, Nigerians must exercise caution in the desire to have a change of guards “for the sake of change.”
But Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State believes Nigeria ABUJA — THE presi-
dency has declared that while President Olusegun Obasanjo acknowledges the virtue of vacating office in 2007, Nigerians must exercise caution in the desire to have a change of guards “for the sake of change.”
But Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State believes Nigeria would be courting a political crisis should the president decide to stay in office beyond 2007.

Presidential Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, in a telephone interview yesterday said though there may be as many as one million Nigerians that could take over the mantle of leadership from President Obasanjo, it is the quality of their performance that Nigerians should be interested in.

He said: “The point today is not how many of these people can take over from the government, but how many of them are really capable of running this country in an efficient, just and equitable manner as is being done today?
“How many are capable of running the economy and fighting corruption the way it’s being done today? How many are capable of restoring the future of Nigeria, in the international arena as it’s being done today? How many could have boosted foreign reserve, increased agricultural production, consolidated the banks, and revived the manufacturing sector as its being today?” he asked in an apparent reaction to a statement by the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Dr John Onayekan. Dr Onayekan had said at least 5,000 Nigerians could run Nigeria.

Continuing, Mr Fani-Kayode said: “We agree that in every institution, whether government, a private company, media outfit, political party, even the church itself, there is room for change pf leadership at the appropriate time. Thus, the quality, not quantity, of individuals that are capable of taking over then becomes the issue. And, where you have a choice in any of these institutions (including the government), you do not change leadership simply for the sake of changing it.”
He said it was necessary for Nigerians to approach the issue of having a successor to President Obasanjo so that the country would not return to the mistakes of the past.

“We can’t and must not allow ourselves to be taken back to the rot and degeneration of the past by anybody. We must cultivate the courage to insist on the very best quality of leadership and on matching the very high standard that this administration has set, no matter what that takes,” he said
President Obasanjo himself had, last Thursday, avoided answering a caller’s question in his television interview on whether he would go for a third term in 2007.

Crisis looms on 3rd term plot, says Kalu

Meanwhile, Gov. Orji Kalu of Abia State believes Nigeria cannot avoid a political crisis should President Obasanjo choose to stay in office beyond 2007.
Governor Kalu has also stressed the importance of Igbo unity within a federal Nigeria in the collective interest of the Igbo nation.

In an interview in Umuahia, the governor expressed fears that should there be any breach of the 1999 Constitution, especially as it relates to the tenure of office of the president, the country would witness crisis.
“The only danger I foresee is if (President) Obasanjo refuses to go in 2007. For as long as Obasanjo wants to go, there is no danger. If Obasanjo refuses to go, it will be a breach of the constitution, it will be a breach of contract and anything can happen. And people can break away to be another country.”

He also warned against possible rigging of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primaries.
He said: “The election must be free, the election must be fair, the election must stand the test of time, and the result must be internationally accepted. Anybody who wants to violate the law, I will help him the more. Nobody will violate the law.
“This is the truth, and I want you to quote me correctly. Nobody can declare himself president illegally. If you do an illegal statement, we will support you with an illegal statement. I want to respect the rule of law, I want to respect the constitution. I have to respect the order of the courts.

“I want to be a man that respects whatever that is good. So, if anybody thinks that he can disrespect the law, he can disrespect the orders of the Supreme Court, I will help him to do it. I will mobilise the people against him. Rigging election is like looting my property. If you loot, I will also loot.”

On the need for unity among leaders of Igbo land, the governor said one of the age-long impediments to Igbo political success within a united Nigeria was the level of acrimony in the ranks of Igbo leaders.
He cited the recent reconciliation between Chief Alex Ekwueme, Second Republic Vice President and Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, as proof that the Igbo nation was ready to do battle.
His words: “My immediate interest now is to build unity among Igbo leaders. I thank God that I am succeeding in what I have in my brain, and what God is working out for me. I want you to think in history that Ekwueme and Ojukwu are sitting down together tonight and they are sitting in Umuahia. This is almost 35 years. Ojukwu used to sit here where I am sitting today,” he said.



Posted by Publisher at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

Nobody can stampede NASS to amend Constitution – Masari; ‘Obasanjo never told me he wants third term’

No amount of intimidation would make the National Assembly to back down from its resolve to amend the Constitution, House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Bello Masari, pledged at the weekend.

By Bayo Oladeji and
Uchenna Awom (Abuja)

He said it is purely a legislative action that does not need any external influence.

He made the point in Abuja when he spoke with reporters as part of the activities marking the end of the year. Masari was accompanied by House Leader, Abdul Ningi.

Since the emergence of the sectional meetings and the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD) and the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) the issue of amending the Constitution has become synonymous with the rumored third term. The North says no to it, the South thinks otherwise.

But from all indications, the leadership of the National Assembly has resolved not to be deterred by the politicisation of the project.

Masari and Ningi are adamant that nothing could influence the lawmakers in the assignment.

Said Masari: “The amendment to the Constitution has been an on-going exercise since 2001, and from what I was told by some of the members of the National Assembly Committee on Review of the Constitution … they are proposing 101 amendments and the process is still on. There would be public hearing in all the zones. I do not wish to comment officially because nothing is really before me as the report of the committee which was established by both Chambers.

“In the absence of an official report, it would be difficult for me to really give a categorical answer but all I know is that there is a need to amend some parts of this Constitution.

“I was even a member of a sub-committee between 1999 and 2003. (Ningi) would be asked to throw more light on the work of the Committee.

Masari denied any lobby or pressure coming from Aso Rock over the third term agenda.

“Between God, who created me and to whom I would return, the President or any body in the employment of the President has never asked me to amend the Constitution to allow for a third term. Whatever happens, there would be elections in 2007, amendment or no amendment. People are free to make their choice in 2007”.

Ningi declared: “There is nowhere the Parliament has absolutism except in constitutional amendment. Absolutism in the sense that, amending the Constitution is a legislative affair and not that of any other body. Constitutional amendment is the area in which we cannot hide our faces, that we would not talk.

“I have been a member of this Constitutional Review Committee since 1999 when we came in. Two wrongs do not make a right. It is not as easy as people are looking at it. To amend a coma in the Constitution is a very cumbersome matter. It is not a question of yea or nay. It is a question of physically identifying with the need to amend a coma in the Constitution, or amending a sentence in a Constitution.

“For a Constitution to be amended, the House needs 240 members to alter a coma; to insert a sentence, we need the 240. The Senate too needs its own two- thirds majority to carry out the same exercise. So also are the two-thirds majority of the state Houses of Assembly”.

To Ningi, legislators do not care whose (third term) agenda is outside, the playground and the battleground is the National Assembly and the state Assemblies.

“Whoever is saying anything is saying it in his own interest as far as this House is concerned. Our target is Nigeria. I want to assure Nigerians that this House has never been manipulated and can never be manipulated”.

Both Masari and Ningi regretted how ministers and some heads of agencies flout resolutions of the National Assembly or ignore summons. They promised that the first quarter of next year would pit them against the ministers.

Masari noted that “politician-ministers” are guilty while technocrats are obedient.

Ningi disclosed the existence of a record where the offences committed by them are kept and that the National Assembly has reported the matter to the President and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Posted by Publisher at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerians rate govt performance low

NIGERIANS have scored the Federal Government low in its policy decisions in 2005, saying their expectations were not met in several sectors of the economy.

The citizens expressed their positions in a recent Guardian Opinion Poll (GOP) which asked the question: Looking at 2005 in retrospect, how has the government touched your life in the following sectors?

As a guide, the poll stated options including food, shelter, electricity, security of life and property, roads, education and rural development, while respondents were requested to indicate positive, negative impact or sheer indifference.

On the provision of food, 1,439 respondents or about 54 per cent of the poll agreed that government has touched their lives "negatively". Another 432 or 16 per cent would rather see government's effort in a positive light, just as 522 or 26 per cent were indifferent.

On the provision of electricity in 2005, a majority 54 per cent of the poll or 1,434 respondents affirmed that government's effort was not beneficial to them at all. Whereas another 441 or 17 per cent gave the government a positive mark, 19 per cent or 495 respondents indicated indifference.

How has the government touched your life in the roads sector? "Negatively", say 1,055 respondents or 40 per cent of the poll. "Positively", say another 812 respondents or 30 per cent. Here, 19 per cent or 498 respondents picked " indifferent".

On rural development, same majority "Negatively" responses of 45 per cent by 1,205 Nigerians is observed, leaving 'positive' response of 485 or 18 per cent and " indifferent" posture of 25 per cent by 676 respondents.

What about shelter? The government has touched our lives " negatively", chorused 1,449 respondents or 54 per cent of the poll. The government has tried, according to "positive" responses of 14 per cent by 370 people.

Similarly, government was not seen to have done well in the areas of security of life and property. Here, 1,411 or 53 per cent respondents were unimpressed or negative in reacting to government's effort. Not so for 370 or 14 per cent who insisted that the government has done well. About 19 per cent or 568 picked " indifferent".

On education, responses were not different as respondents scored the government "negatively" with 44 per cent or 1,172 people and " positively" by 23 per cent or 613 respondents.

Zone to zone, responses are marginally different in the food category. Here, the North Central, North East, South East, South South, North West and South West scored the government " negatively" with 59, 56, 54, 53, 49 and 49 per cent.

For " positively" responses, 15, 17, 17, 18, 13, and 19 were secured in the North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West. Lagos and Abuja posted 14 and 15 per cent.

On shelter, respondents who indicated " negatively" posted 57, 52, 53, 48, 52 and 55 per cent in the same order of zones. Abuja and Lagos scored 65 and 60 per cent.

However, respondents who indicated " positively" responses secured 15, 18, 15, 14, 11 and 15 in the North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West.

For electricity, those who reacted negatively scored 58, 58, 49, 55, 50, and 52 per cent in the North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West. Abuja and Lagos have 51 and 56 per cent. Conversely, positive reactions drew 19, 14, 18, 13, 17 and 18 in same order of zones.

Posted by Publisher at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

Pro-Adedibu's legislators vow to sack Ladoja

IBADAN — THE 18 mem-bers of the Oyo State House of Assembly rooting for the impeachment of Governor Rashidi Ladoja vowed, yesterday, to press ahead with their plan irrespective of the court order obtained on Friday by the Assembly speaker, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke and others in his group.

By Ola Ajayi & Kolade Larewaju
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, told Chief Lamidi Adedibu to allow for peace in Oyo State.
A state high court sitting in Ibadan had granted an ex-parte motion filed by Speaker Adeleke and the state Assembly, restraining the pro-IBADAN — THE 18 members of the Oyo State House of Assembly rooting for the impeachment of Governor Rashidi Ladoja vowed, yesterday, to press ahead with their plan irrespective of the court order obtained on Friday by the Assembly speaker, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke and others in his group.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, told Chief Lamidi Adedibu to allow for peace in Oyo State.
A state high court sitting in Ibadan had granted an ex-parte motion filed by Speaker Adeleke and the state Assembly, restraining the pro-Adedibu group, “their servants, agents and/or privies from impeaching or removing the governor of Oyo State from office or otherwise interfere in any way or manner with the discharge, execution or performance of his constitutional, official or statutory duties or responsibilities pending the hearing and determination of the “court motion on notice filed in the court by the plaintiffs.”

However, reacting to the court order yesterday, a member of the pro-Adedibu group, Mr. Babatunde Eesuola said the court lacked constitutional power to stop their impeachment process against the governor.
Section 188(10) says: “No proceedings or determination of the panel or of the House of Assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any court.”

Mr Eesuola, Chairman, House Committee on Publicity, said: “One million court injunctions cannot stop the impeachment process. The impeachment or removal of the governor or the deputy governor is one of the constitutional duties of the state House of Assembly and not of any court.”No court can stop the impeachment initiated by any House of Assembly. If you follow the impeachment move closely, you will notice that we are following the laid down constitutional process. So that it will be a proper and constitutional exercise. I can tell you that since we are following the normal process, the impeachment is on the right course.”It is not beyond the powers of a state House of Assembly to initiate impeachment moves as well as to impeach either the governor of a state or the deputy governor as it is clearly stated in section 188 (10)of the 1999 constitution”As far as we are concerned, there is no going back on the impeachment move. We are committed to what we are doing; nobody can stop us.”

On suggestions that his group of 18 did not constitute two-third majority as required by the constitution to implement the impeachment process, Mr Eesuola said: “Since the seven members of Hon. Adeleke’s group have been suspended, the remaining Oyo lawmakers are just 25 in number. If you calculate it, deduct 18 from 25, you will find that we have constituted the two-third majority to carry out the impeachment process.”

Obasanjo begs for peace in Oyo

However, President Obasanjo yesterday described Chief Lamidi Adedibu as “a force to reckon” with in the politics of Ibadan and Oyo State. He spoke in his Ibogun Olaogun village in Ogun State during the 2005 Ibogun Olaogun Day celebration.Chief Adedibu had arrived in the village with his supporters in about 20-18-seater buses amidst drumming and singing. Chief Adedibu himself rode on a white horse butthe security men insisted that he should disembark before he could be allowed into the venue of the celebration.

Adressing the crowd on the occasion, President Obasanjo said: “We appreciate your coming. We appreciate not only your coming, we appreciate your coming in a very special style. Nothing can be more spectacular than the display of the drummers.
“Chief Adedibu, you have for a long time been a force to reckon with in the politics of Ibadan in particular and Oyo State in general.”

President Obasanjo who allowed Adedibu’s drummers to entertain for about five minutes, however, told him and other politicians in Oyo State to ensure peace and security in the state. He said: “I will just plead with you and others, who are in the mainstream of Oyo State politics, to bear in mind, these four important items: peace, security, solidarity and loyalty.”The President apologised to Adedibu for the insistence of the security agents that he should disembark from his horse before entering the venue of the ceremony, explaining that when Adedibu came, he instructed that he be allowed to enter the venue on the horse.The President earlier in his address urged Nigerians to focus on the development of their communities, irrespective of their political affiliations. He also congratulated the new Olowu of Owu, Oba Olusanya Dosunmu, whose appointment, he said, was not a mistake.In his speech, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State urged other communities in the state to emulate Ibogun, adding that the state government would continue to focus on the welfare of the people.



Posted by Publisher at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

27 perish in Gusau road accident

Twenty seven people were killed in a ghastly road accident over the weekend on Gusau-Sokoto road. Eight of the victims are women.

by Salisu Zakari Maradun / 2005-12-27

Twenty seven people were killed in a ghastly road accident over the weekend on Gusau-Sokoto road. Eight of the victims are women.
Witnesses said the tragedy occurred when a truck conveying about 200 sacks of assorted grains and 87 passengers skidded and ran into a ditch on the outskirts of Bakura.
The accident reportedly happened at about 4.30 am when the town was fast asleep and the road deserted for any rescue operation to reach the victims in time.
The witnesses said many of the victims died of suffocation, having been buried under the weight of the sacks of grains
It was not until when dawn broke that passers-by discovered the accident and alerted the town and people rushed to the scene to render assistance.
The corpses of the victims are deposited at the General Hospital, Bakura where 16 survivors are currently receiving medical attention. Others have been treated and discharged.
Speaking to Daily Trust, the state sector commander of the FRSC, Malam Umar Liman, said the truck was on its way to Illela in Sokoto State from Magami on that fateful day.
According to the sector commander, the driver of the truck was said to be exhausted and occasionally dozed-off and at a stage lost control of the vehicle which skidded and ran into a deep ditch.
One of the co-travellers, according to the Zamfara State Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, insisted that they should keep moving for fear of armed robbers who regularly attack people at night.
It was as a result of the pressure from the passengers that the driver continued going until he eventually stopped at a village called Mayanohi to mend a punctured tyre and about 2.30 am.
“When the accident happened, there was nobody in the whole nearby village at which the accident happened,” added the sector commander.
According to Umar Liman, when he received the information about the accident, he directed the unit commander incharge of Talata Mafara, in whose territory the accident happened, to ensure he reached the scene of the accident and report back to him for further action.
“I quickly ran to that place along with some of my men after it was confirmed to me that it happened. “We made sure that we took all the remaining survivors to the hospital where they are currently receiving medical treatment,” Malam Umar said.
Daily Trust also learnt that the driver of the vehicle who narrowly survived the accident took to his heels after he fully regained his composure.
The conductor of the vehicle is now detained by the police of Bakura for interrogation.
It further gathered that the driver of the truck had earlier told the passengers that he was tired and that he needed a rest. But some insisted that he should continue going until they reach their destination in time to attend the market day in Illela.
Malam Umar Liman appealed to the general public, particularly motorists to always be careful while driving, and desist from embarking on night journeys which he said is dangerous.
In a related development, a 911 truck from Sokoto enroute Onitsha weekend was said to have been involved in accident which claimed three lives.

Posted by Publisher at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

CBN approves Fidelity, Mannybank merger

FIDELITY Bank Plc has secured all legal and regulatory approvals for its merger with Mannybank and FSB International Bank.

OKEY NWANKWO

The bank at the weekend received the final approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as that of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In addition, it has also obtained the nod of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, thereby perfecting the merger. The other two parties to the merger; FSB and MannyBank, last Friday handed their licenses to the CBN for cancellation as statutorily required. At the moment, everything is set for the bank to operate under the name Fidelity Bank Plc.

Penultimate weeks, the different shareholders of the three merging banks at different court-ordered meetings approved the merger of the banks under Fidelity umbrella.

With the perfection of the merger now, the new Fidelity Bank Plc has shareholders’ funds of about N29billion, total assets of about N120billion and a network of 82 branches. These statistics place it in the top 10 banks in the country going by shareholders funds and by assets.

With an enlarged presence in all the geopolitical zones of the country, the bank is expected to raise its branch network to about 100 by the third quarter of 2006.

Fidelity Bank Plc began operations in 1988 as a merchant bank and converted to commercial bank in 1999 and a universal bank in 2001.

FSB, the former Federal Savings Bank, which was privatized in 1989, comes with a background in retail banking and has been able develop a major presence in the retail area.

MannyBank on the other hand is the former Manufacturers’ Merchant. It has immense experience in commercial banking.

Observers believe that with the sound business focus of the Fidelity management team, the new bank will be a formidable force to reckon with in the new banking arena.

Posted by Publisher at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

EFCC re-arrests, releases Marwa

Former Lagos Military Administrator, Buba Marwa, was again on Sunday invited by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). He was subsequently released.

By Wisdom Patrick
Senior Correspondent, Lagos

He was there last Wednesday. A competent source at the commission’s office in Lagos confirmed the development but would not say why he was invited.

“There was need to check out one or two things again and we had to ask him to come back again”.

However, in a telephone interview on Monday night, Marwa’s Special Assistant, Biodun Odunuga, said the former military administrator was released by the anti-graft body on Monday.

After he was released last week, the soldier-turned politician came out with possible reasons why he was invited by the EFCC. According to him, he merely honoured an invitation but was not detained.

Although Marwa’s close aides had cited political reasons for his arrest, an EFCC official said the entire imbroglio was much more than that. The source added that the arrest had some connections with the late General Sani Abacha’s financial transactions.

However, it was learnt that Marwa’s rising profile in the political arena might have become a source of worry to some people, including Aso Rock. It was also learnt that some forces have become jittery and have vowed to tarnish his image and subsequently truncate his presidential ambition in the 2007 general elections.

One of Marwa’s aides named a powerful figure in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet as the mastermind of his current travail in the hands of EFCC operatives. “They linked him up with a petition purportedly forwarded to the anti-graft agent against the Abacha family by a yet to be named ‘good Nigerian’ that is why they arrested him. But it is all a huge joke. They will not win this battle, because Marwa did not commit any crime to warrant his arrest by EFCC,” he said.

Posted by Publisher at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

ERA Decries Environmental Impact of Pipeline Explosions

The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) has decried the massive environmental problems, socio-economic dislocations and loss of human lives that accompany every pipeline burst in the Niger Delta.

By Godwin Haruna, 12.26.2005

A statement issued by the group yesterday said the incidents are totally unacceptable and as such government should begin an unbiased campaign with emphasis on community collaboration and rigorous integrity checks on oil company’s facilities in order to end the trend.
The group lamented that whether willfully caused or by obsolete facilities, oil spills, oil fires and explosions, inflict colossal damage on the environment and local livelihoods.
The Niger Delta has recently become a scene of a series of pipeline explosions with the latest being a Shell pipeline which runs across Opobo Channel, 50 kilometers, South West of Port Harcourt, Rivers State and another belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation which exploded at Ehor, Uhunwode Local Government of Edo State.
In the Port Harcourt incident, at least eight persons reportedly lost their lives while about 21 communities were razed. No lives were however, lost in the Edo State incident.
“The current wave of pipeline explosions across the Niger Delta is unacceptable. The trend must be halted to protect innocent lives and conserve what is left of our assaulted and degraded environment. The environment is our life and must be protected by all.
“Those pipeline bursts have further worsened the already precarious condition of the Niger Delta as they spill crude which pollute the environment, cause fires which burn vegetations thereby causing irredeemable distortions to the ecosystem”, lamented ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
The group however, urged government to be cautious in its deployment of security forces to guard oil facilities, warning that the move could further heighten tension in the region.

“Militarisation of the Delta has never worked. The security forces are known for taking the laws into their hands and causing greater problems than the one they are supposed to douse. One is worried that with the latest troops deployments, the nation may soon witness another Odi or even an Odioma,” Nnimmo added.
ERA stressed that the issue of the status of the pipelines remains relevant in every effort to end incessant bursts. It also urged government to address the legitimate concerns of local communities and partner with them in the area of managing their resources, stressing that the Niger Delta people have been neglected for too long.
Going into alliances or treaties with foreign governments ostensibly for the “protection” of the Niger Delta may not solve the problems which are systemic and may even be another means of subjugating our already beleaguered peoples, the group counseled


Posted by Publisher at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

INEC Urges NASS to Pass Electoral Law

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has expressed worry over delay by the National Assembly to pass the Electoral Bill into law, saying amendments in the bill would be crucial to the success of the 2007 general elections.

From Emmanuel Ugwu in Enugu, 12.26.2005

INEC Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu, made the appeal at the weekend at an interactiuve session with newsmen in Enugu, where he appealled to the National Assembly to pass the amended Bill.
"In the interest of electoral process, in the interest of sustaining democracy, we appeal to the National Assembly to pass the Electoral Bill as amended," he said.
Iwu said it would be good enough for INEC and the nation if the federal lawmakers could expite action and give the nation the desired Electoral Act by Janaury 2006, adding that it would give INEC ample time to prpare for the 2007 elections if the bill was passed early enough.
He said the electoral law was reviewed, to correct the inadequacies and pitfalls of past elections, adding that future elections would be more credible and acceptable.
On the on-going reforms in INEC,Iwu said internal reforms must be matched by external commitment on the part of Nigerians, to assist INEC to conduct elections devoid of fraud.
He upbraided politicians opposing the reforms and the Electronic Voting System (EVS), saying critics comprised "professional riggers," who are afraid that the new system would put them out of business.
According to him, "the changes we have made are fundamental, the issues on party funding has not gone down well with money bags, and electronic voting system has not gone down well with professional riggers.
“When people complained that the EVS is too expensive and based much on technology, what they really mean is that it is too rig proof," he said, adding that the commssion was committed to opening up the political space and level the playing field for every Nigerian, irrespective of economic status, sex religion or any other status.

Posted by Publisher at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

‘Importation of Crude, Bane of Economy’

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources,, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, has described Nigeria’s continued importation of refined oil products as the bane of the nation's economy.

From Jaiyeola Andrews in Asaba , 12.26.2005

Ojougboh, representing Ika federal constituency, said yesterday in Agbor, that there is the need to urgently embark on local refining, as is being pursued vigorously by the committee on petroleum resources through the Petroleum Act.
He said out of the 12 bills being treated by the committee on petroleum resources, seven have been passed already, and now before the Committee of Whole for consideration, while the other five has passed the third reading.
The bills include the Deep Off-shore Act, Natural Transparency Bill and Oil Spillage Bill, among others.
He said the new Petroleum Act is to encourage local refining of petroleum crude where they are explored, and put a stop to the fraud being perpetrated by most oil companies through the reserved addition bonuses.
“ For the 40 years we have had crude in this country, we still depend on the importation of refined product, even at 75 percent cost, with its adverse effect on us. This is exactly what the Committee on Petroleum Resources is out to check,” he said.
On the bill in support of the Deep Offshore Act Decree, promulgated during the oil boom era and seeking investment packages to oil prospecting companies, he said the bill was killed on the floor of the House, because there was no use for incentives when oil is priced at between $50 and $60.
Ojougboh said the gains of local refining include generation of massive employment in areas where refineries are sited, huge capital inflow and improved value for crude.
“In 15 years’ time, Nigeria should be able to refine all crude produced here and maybe elsewhere,” the said.
Ojougboh said projects that has brought the Federal Government’s presence to his constituency included digitalisation of the Agbor Telephone Exchange and completion of Agbor- Sakpoba- Ogharefe road (Phase 1).

Other laudable federal government projects that are due for take-off soon, according to him are the dredging of the Orogodo river awarded at the sum of N500 million, the N1.4 billion Benin- Agbor power project which is in the 2006 budget and the Phase II of the Agbor- Sakpoba- Ogharefe road.

Hon. Dr. Cairo Ojougboh however called for the support of all Deltans at home and in the Diaspora to enable him achieve his governorship ambition come 2007, saying that he is determined to serve the people and to ensure that meaningful programmes are put in place to better the lives of the people.

He pledged to introduce a blueprint that would fully establish industrialization and sustain the economy of the state, adding that an improved health sector, qualitative education and the agriculture would also not be overlooked.

“ I have a covenant with God, to serve and to ensure meaningful programmes to better the state. I already have a blueprint that would turn the economy of delta state around”, Ojougboh posited.

Posted by Publisher at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

Commission Accuses Govs of Impeding UBE Programmes

Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), has accused state governors of retarding the Commission’s laudable programmes, with their failure to honour their 50 per cent counterpart funding.

From Juliana Taiwo in Abuja, 12.26.2005

This position was contained in the communiqué made available to THISDAY, at the end of the retreat for UBEC Governing Board/Management and Executive Chairmen of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs).
The retreat, which had 76 participants from 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with Abia, Delta and Oyo conspicuously absent, also observed that the stringent conditions set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for opening and operating SUBEB accounts hindered drawing down of funds meant for implementation of UBE programmes, resolving that SUBEB should be allowed to maintain accounts with reputable commercial banks within their states, particularly funds that are recurrent in nature such as training.
He said some of the constraints in 2005 included the fact that few states were yet to enact their UBE laws, to facilitate access to the intervention fund and full implementation of UBE programmes in their states, the slow pace of providing the necessary counterpart funds, to enable them access the matching grant fund, inability of the Commission to undertake key projects/activities due to the insufficiency of the two per cent intervention fund, and non settlement of outstanding liabilities of the defunct NPEC.
UBEC recommended that the two per cent UBE implementation fund be reviewed upwards to a minimum of six per cent, so that all key activities of the Commission could be accommodated with little or no financial stress.
This, it said, will also accelerate meeting targets set for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and that the two percentage matching grant formula should be reviewed downwards to encourage states.

Posted by Publisher at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

Corruption in Aviation Industry Condemned

Chairman, Triax Airlines, Chief Arthur Eze, has decried the practice of engaging in shortcuts by airline operators, which has cost the nation many lives, including that of over 60 students of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja.

From Emmanuel Ugwu in Enugu, 12.26.2005

Eze said this in a chat with newsmen at Ukpo, Anambra State, at the 14th Ofala festival of the town’s monarch, Igwe Dr R.C Eze, the Okofia VI, adding that aviation sector has room for those who cut corners to maximise profit.
“It is capital intensive to maintain a plane. Those who could not and choose to murder our people should give way,” Eze said.
He lauded President Olusegun Obasanjo for the initiative he has taken to sanitise the aviation industry and urged him to ground all “junk plane for the safety of our people.”
Eze, who is popularly known as Arthur 1000, said he would soon revive Triax airlines, which has been in the cooler, adding that he would buy new plane and would occasionally fly Nigerians without charges.
He commended Obasanjo’s reform programmes, saying it would clean the mess of the past and place the nation on good pedestal for development.
According to him,”Obasanjo is a straight forward man who means well for this nation. His reform agenda and anti-corruption crusade came at the right time to restore sanity, equity, credibility and fair play.
“I advise every Nigerian to be the watchdog of another in this regard. Everybody should aspire to be an anti-corruption crusader. It is not a one man’s job, it is not Obasanjo’s job alone, but a job for all and sundry.”
Eze described the anticorruption crusade as clarion call for a return to our cultural values, especially in the South-east where in the past people were only recognised and honoured because of their achievements through hard- work.
He blamed western civilisation for the erosion of Ndigbo values for hardwork, adding that the anti corruption crusade would restore the lost value system.
In his goodwill message, the Okofia VI also called for support for Obasanjo’s anti-corruption war.

Posted by Publisher at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

Corruption in Aviation Industry Condemned

Chairman, Triax Airlines, Chief Arthur Eze, has decried the practice of engaging in shortcuts by airline operators, which has cost the nation many lives, including that of over 60 students of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja.

From Emmanuel Ugwu in Enugu, 12.26.2005

Eze said this in a chat with newsmen at Ukpo, Anambra State, at the 14th Ofala festival of the town’s monarch, Igwe Dr R.C Eze, the Okofia VI, adding that aviation sector has room for those who cut corners to maximise profit.
“It is capital intensive to maintain a plane. Those who could not and choose to murder our people should give way,” Eze said.
He lauded President Olusegun Obasanjo for the initiative he has taken to sanitise the aviation industry and urged him to ground all “junk plane for the safety of our people.”
Eze, who is popularly known as Arthur 1000, said he would soon revive Triax airlines, which has been in the cooler, adding that he would buy new plane and would occasionally fly Nigerians without charges.
He commended Obasanjo’s reform programmes, saying it would clean the mess of the past and place the nation on good pedestal for development.
According to him,”Obasanjo is a straight forward man who means well for this nation. His reform agenda and anti-corruption crusade came at the right time to restore sanity, equity, credibility and fair play.
“I advise every Nigerian to be the watchdog of another in this regard. Everybody should aspire to be an anti-corruption crusader. It is not a one man’s job, it is not Obasanjo’s job alone, but a job for all and sundry.”
Eze described the anticorruption crusade as clarion call for a return to our cultural values, especially in the South-east where in the past people were only recognised and honoured because of their achievements through hard- work.
He blamed western civilisation for the erosion of Ndigbo values for hardwork, adding that the anti corruption crusade would restore the lost value system.
In his goodwill message, the Okofia VI also called for support for Obasanjo’s anti-corruption war.

Posted by Publisher at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

ASUP Chief Wants Post-PCE Tests

Chairman, Yaba College of Technology Chapter of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Mr Femi Omokungbe, has suggested that Polytechnics commence post-Polytechnic and Colleges of Education Examination (PCE) tests.

12.26.2005

Omokungbe, in an interview with newsmen in Lagos said the tests are necessary, to raise educational standards in polytechnics.
He said the union was in support of the post University Matriculation Examination (UME) test currently being conducted by individual universities.
He said the union was optimistic that the post UME tests would sanitise universities’ admission system, adding that if such tests were extended to Polytechnics, it would promote excellence, merit and hardwork.
He faulted tertiary institutions’ admission through the Joint Admission Matricu-lation Board (JAMB) organised examinations, saying the system had been marred by fraud.
“You find out that those who scored higher in the examinations failed the tests, showing that something is wrong with the system,'' he said. Omokungbe called for the scrapping of JAMB, saying the agency had become irrelevant.
According to him, “JAMB encourages multiple admission lists, which gives roomfor corruption,'' adding that universities, polytechnics and Colleges of Education should adopt single admission liststo enhance transparency.

Posted by Publisher at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

Traditional Ruler Supports 3rd Term

Campaign for President Olusegun Obasanjo is gradually taking roots in the South-south states, as a traditional ruler has spoken of the need for the President to stay beyond 2007.

From Chuks Okocha in Port Harcourt, 12.26.2005

A traditional ruler in Rivers State, the Emere Nsingwe 1of Onne, Chief Joseph Siaka, told newsmen in Onne, that if there is any such intention by the president, it could not have been for any ulterior motive.
He said Obasanjo’s anti-corruption crusade is laudable, and could not just be abandoned midway, if it is aimed at success.
According to him, "I believe he wants you to give him opportunity to fight corruption in our national life to a logical conclusion. This is a task that you cannot just abandon midway, that is if you are serious about fighting corruption and reaping results at all."
The traditional ruler also believes that those that have been openly critical of the alleged third term campaign for President Olusegun Obasanjo are the enemies of Nigeria’s future.
Meanwhile the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) said campaigners for a third term are nothing but evil, which must be resisted.

He also said it was short sighted of those castigating the president on the third term plan, adding that no man who thinks of the future of Nigeria would fight him for seeking to rid the country of its "unenviable opinion in the diplomatic community".
"In order to move forward without shedding blood, this man has focused to kill corruption in stead. And let me add this, if anyone is fighting Obasanjo on the third term thing, watch out, such people don't have any future for Nigeria.
"I said that because I realized that corruption is costing Nigeria a lot in the international community. It has tainted our image and it makes the international market see every Nigerian businessman as an unreliable person to deal with", he said.
But the major opposition party to the ruling PDP, the ANPP in Rivers state described the alleged move as unconstitutional and bending the rules midway and therefore must be resisted
The Rivers state Chairman of the party, Mr. Clement Menegbo, told newsmen in a chat that it was disreputable for the president and his campaigners to want to change constitutional provisions, which he described as excellent, when they should be thinking of leaving the office.
He said "I am not in support of any extension of tenure for anybody; allow others the opportunity to make their contributions.
"The constitutions allows for one term of four years, renewable for another four years. I believe that is a good provision of the constitution, within eight years, anybody would have made his useful contribution to society and where you have not been able to do that, then I think you cannot finish it all by yourself".

Posted by Publisher at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

PDP Factions Urged to Merge

Minister of State for Defence, Dr Roland Oritsejafor, has advised Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in Delta State, to join the party’s mainstream immediately, in their own interest.

From Segun James in Warri, 12.26.2005

Oritsejafor, who was former Deputy National Secretary of the party said the PDP would no longer tolerate groups that see themselves as more superior to elected leaders of the party both at the state, local government and ward levels.
He said this at the end of year dinner he hosted for PDP executives in the three Warri Local Government areas, which makes up the Warri Federal Constituency. According to him, the watch word within the party now is discipline, loyalty and dedication.
Oritsejafor said the decision of the party’s leadership is that the reforms, which are taking place in the country must begin within the ruling party, hence the restructuring within the party system.
He said that although the restricting is affecting people, the end result would be a better party that is more disciplined and focused to meet the aspiration of Nigerians.
On the fact that some aggrieved person in the state are still parading themselves as party executive, Oritisejafor said that the recognized Chairman of the party in Delta State is Dr. Mallam Obi who has been working with the National Executive of the party and that any other person is an imposture.

Posted by Publisher at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

Akinlabi Prays for Peaceful 2007

Vice-Chairman Senate Committee on Education, Senator Olasunkanmi Akinlabi at the weekend called on the people of the country to continue to pray fervently for the sustenance of the nation polity.

From Hammed shittu in Osogbo, 12.26.2005

Akinlabi in his good will message to mark the Christmas period in Osogbo, Osun State capital said that, the people of the country should not relent in their efforts at moving the nation forward.
According to him, they should be up and doing by embarking in prayers in to enhance the growth of the nation's democracy.
He said that," we should all come together in respective of our religious beliefs and cooporate wiith the government so as to bring the dividends of democracy to the doorsteps of the citizenry.
Akinlabi who represents Osun-West senatorial district area of the state stated that, the christians should see the period to show love and affection to one another so as to take the nation to a the promised land.
He added that, the coutry belongs to everyone of us and we should all stay away from anything that may lead to her downfall.
The lawmaker also used the period to call on the people of the state to continue to support Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola so that meaningful development can come to the people of the state.
He said that, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) will not relent in its efforts at making life bearable for the people of the state.
Akinlabi assured the people of his senatorial district that the area will witness more development in the coming year called on them to continue to support the PDP goverment in tne state.

Posted by Publisher at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

As part of activities marking the Christmas celebration in Ekiti State, the state Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose visited the federal prisons and the state hospital all in Ado-Ekiti purposely to share the joy of Christmas with the prison inmates and those on the hospital bed.

12.26.2005

Gov Fayose who personally distributed specially prepared food from the Ekiti State Government House to both the prisoners and patients on the sick bed said he was at the two places to share with them joy of the yuletide and to also call attention of the Federal
Government to the federal prisons in the state capital which he described as an eyesore. Governor Fayose said his government was willing to co-finance the construction of a modern prison in the Ekiti State capital to replace the ageing Federal prisons in Ado-Ekiti which was constructed in 1929.
He said his administration would work with the relevant prison authorities in Abuja to relocate the Ado-Ekiti prisons from the precincts of the Ekiti State Government House to a more suitable location within the metropolis.
According to him, the new Ado-Ekiti prisons which his government was ready to fund to a reasonable level would have classrooms, workshops and other modern facilities to enable it perform its statutory duties of rehabilitating and reforming its inmates.
Governor Fayose directed the State Commissioner for information, Culture, Sports and Social Development Barrister Gboyega Oguntuase to immediately release the sum of N2 million for urgent repairs of dilapidated facilities in the Ado-Ekiti prisons.
He promised to convene a meeting of stakeholders in the Justice system in Ekiti State to brainstorm on ways of reducing the congestion in the criminal justice system which according to him was responsible for the abysmally high number of awaiting trial inmates in the prison.
The governor charged the inmates not to see their Predicament as the end of life but as an opportunity to turn a new leaf.
He however

Posted by Publisher at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

Fidelity Bank Receives Final Approval

With a few days to the deadline for banks in the country to conclude with their consolidation arrangements, Fidelity Bank Plc has joined the league of the few banks who have met all the requirements for existence in the post-consolidation Nigerian banking industry.

12.26.2005

The bank at the weekend received every regulatory clearance by receiving the final approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as that of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its merger with FSB International Bank Plc and MannyBank Plc, under the Fidelity brand name. In addition, it has also obtained the sanction of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, thereby perfecting the merger. With that the other two parties to the merger; FSB and MannyBank, last Friday handed their licenses to the Central Bank of Nigeria for cancellation as statutorily required. At the moment, everything is set for the bank to run as one bank under the name Fidelity Bank Plc.
It will be recalled that two weeks ago the different shareholders of the three merging banks at different court-ordered meetings approved the merger of the three banks under Fidelity umbrella.
With the perfection of the merger now, the new Fidelity Bank Plc has shareholders, funds of about N29billion, total assets of about N120billion and a network of 82 branches. These statistics place Fidelity Bank in the top 10 banks in the country by shareholders funds and by assets.
The merger of the three banks has resulted in an enlarged Fidelity Bank Plc which has major presence in all the geopolitical zones of the country. It is expected to raise its branch network to about 100 by the third quarter of 2006.
Fidelity Bank Plc began operations in 1988 as a merchant bank and converted to commercial bank in 1999 and a universal bank in 2001. Fidelity comes with a background in corporate banking and capital market activities.
FSB, the former Federal Savings Bank, which was privatized in 1989, comes with a background in retail banking and has been able develop a major presence in the retail area.
MannyBank on the other hand is the former Manufacturersí Merchant. It has immense experience in the commercial banking area.
Observers believe that with the sound business focus of the Fidelity management team, the new bank will be a formidable force to record with in the new banking arena.

Posted by Publisher at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

Cleric Chides OBJ's Detractors

The Bishop of Remo Diocese of Anglican Church, Sagamu area of Ogun State, Rev Michael Olusina Fape yesterday rained curses on those he described as enemies and saboteurs of President Olusegun Obasanjo who are also working with him in his cabinet.

From Toba Suleiman in Abeokuta, 12.26.2005

This came as the president apologized profusely for coming late to the church, one hour behind schedule.
Fape, who delivered special Christmas sermon at the Cathedral Church of St Paul, Remo Diocese, Sagamu commended Obasanjo for his various achievements in virtually all the nation’s economic sector to transform the sector for the better.
He regretted however, that despite all these efforts, there were some detractors and moles in his cabinet who would not want him to succeed.
“All saboteurs, all hypocrites in your cabinet, God will expose them,” the clergy man further cursed.
The cleric who noted that Obasanjo was not an omni-present, who could be present at every place at all time, pointed out that he could only be present in one place at a particular time.”
He has appointed Minister of Education, Minister of Works and several other Ministers to work with him, but some of these ministers are not sincere.
“You cannot do more than your best, but your best has put Nigeria on the world map,” he said.
The Bishop further urged Nigerians to stop speaking ills of their leaders, saying that all these affect the performances and attitudes in office.
According to him, there were power of life and death in the tongues, "therefore, there is the need to watch our tongues while talking about our leaders."
Expressing regret over the problem of electricity in the country, Fape called on the president to please assist in solving the problem before he (Obasanjo) leaves office.

Posted by Publisher at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

Policemen Arrested for Assaulting ICPC Officials

Inspector General of Police, Mr Sunday Ehindero, has ordered the arrest of some men and officers of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command, for beating and harassing officers of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), investigating allegations of corruption and bribery against some police officers attached to the Piwoyi outstation.

From Funmi Peter-Omale in Abuja, 12.26.2005

ICPC officers were investigating the report that officers of the Piwoyi outstation had demanded for a bribe of N30,000, to grant bail to a suspect in their custody.
They, however, got the beating of their lives from some Mobile Policemen who felt angry about the investigations, which they knew was bound to implicate their colleagues.
THISDAY gathered that Ehindero was very displeased about the actions of his men and has, therefore, ordered their arrest.
Ehindero was reported to have said, “I had a meeting with the EFCC chairman and the ICPC chairman, and like I told them there is no hiding place in the Police for indiscipline. We are all government agencies and we are all fighting corruption and crime.
“So we should not be seen as working against each other. We all have the same objective.
“The time has gone when people will think it is only the Police that can arrest criminals. All government agencies are striving towards a crime-free society and nobody among us should be seen thwarting government’s efforts.”
Ehindero described the action of the Policemen as unaccepted, saying “we want real cleansing of the system, not only from the outside but also from the inside.
THISDAY also gathered that one Police Constable (names withheld) collected N30,000 marked notes in N500 denomination. Staff officer in charge of the outstation, Inspector Jika Ishaku, in a bid to justify the action of his men accused the ICPC staff of being armed robbers.
He proceeded to raise alarm and invited seven mobile policemen stationed nearby.
They invaded the station, shooting indiscriminately and beating the investigators with gun butts and trampling on them.
The Mobile Policemen, aside from confiscating staff identity cards of the two ICPC operatives, also removed the sum of N11,000 belonging to the investigators, as well as the N30,000 exhibit money.

Posted by Publisher at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

PDP Suspends Minister in Gombe

PDP in Kumbia ward, Gombe metropolis on Sunday, suspended Minister for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, retired Colonel Musa Mohammed from the party.

12.26.2005

The Ward Chairman of the party, Mr Alhassan Audu, who announced the suspension in Gombe at the weekend, said the minister was suspended for alleged ``anti-party activities and insubordination.''
Audu alleged that the minister exhibited acts of disrespect to the state Governor, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, during the last PDP national delegates conference.
He said the disciplinary measure was aimed at instilling sanity into the party.
In his reaction, Mohammed said those claiming to have suspended him were not te ones who registered him during the last party membership registration exercise.
According to him, although he is a registered party member, the ward leaders are not the ones who registered him, as such, could not have suspended him.
Mohammed refuted the allegation that he had been disrespectful to the state governor, saying that he was once a state administrator, and therefore, has respect for the office.


Posted by Publisher at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

IFEX Boss Advises on Security

Nsukka people in Enugu State, have been advised to cultivate security consciousness, especially now that the year is coming to an end.

12.26.2005

Chie Executive Officer, Ifex Courier Limited, Lagos,Prince Emeka Mamah, said this at the weekend, adding that for celebrations to be peaceful and rewarding, there must be a complimentary atmosphere of security of lives and property.
Mamah, who is also the Managing Director, Ifesinachi Transports Limited, expressed regrets that the peace and tranquillity for which the Nsukka people were known for, is threatened by the unacceptable violations of their serene abode by criminal imports and idlers.
“The upsurge of criminal exploits in Nuskka is not indicative of a culture or attitudinal somersault by our people, but a viral corruption by marauders escaping from other climes.
“We must not surrender our cherished peace and open neighborliness to such outrage, neither should we succumb to inertia by doing nothing" he said.
According to him, the peoples’ rejection of the state of affairs necessarily implies a collective resolve to do what is required willingly and sacrificially. These he said include, co-operating and assisting the Police, various town vigilante groups, proper counseling of our sons and daughters, volunteering vital information.

Posted by Publisher at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

In Warri, Robbers Turn Xmas to Hell

All through the Christmas week in Warri, robbers lay siege to the city, preventing the people from enjoying the celebration to the fullest.

From Segun James in Warri, 12.26.2005

The robbers forced mobile policemen stationed at the Effurun roundabout to flee, a situation which allowed for an uninterrupted operations by the robbers, most of whom sneaked into the town from the dreaded Mechanic Village, owned and operated by the Nigerian Army.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the robbers robbed drivers and passengers, most of whom were going home for Christmas.
A bus belonging to Greener Line Transport Service conveying 14 students of the Covenant University, Ota, was attacked and the students held hostage for almost four hours, for having “nothing worth while on them,except three handsets.”
The bus was attacked at about 7:30p.m. at the Effurun roundabout, but was released at 11:00p.m., several kilometres away from the point of seizure, but no one was killed.
At Oghara, the country home of Governor James Ibori, a gang of robbers in police uniform set up check-point at a place immediately after the town, they operated freely on several unsuspecting motorists; this reporter was one of the victims.
On Friday night, robbers attacked several persons at Okoloba Street, Alaka, Okunbor, Enerhen Junction, Deco road and Nelson Williams streets.

At Ginuwa Junction, three dare-devil robbers robbed a man on Motor bike ofN90,000 soon after leaving a bank. He was trailed to the scene where he wanted to buy some electronics.
Robbery incidents in Warri before now have always being high toward the Christmas period.
Contacted at the Warri City Stadium where he attended the Warri Peace Concert, the State Police boss, Mr. Udom Ekpoudom said that the Yuletide period in the state was relatively crime free.

Posted by Publisher at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

Boundary Commission Resolves Inter State Disputes

Director General of the National Boundary Commission (NBC), Alhaji Dahiru Bobbo, has said his commission has successfully resolved eight inter state boundary disputes since his assumption of office six years ago.

From George Orji in Abuja, 12.26.2005

He listed the achievement to include, the Plateau/Taraba, Adamawa/Taraba, Adam-awa/Borno and Yobe/Bauchi, and the Bauchi/Kano, Nasar-awa/Taraba, Ogun/Oyo and Lagos Ogun.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja, on the achievements of his commission, Bobbo said till date, the greatest success of his commission in the area of boundary dispute remains the settlement of the 40-year-old Ondo/Delta dispute, which had claimed many lives and properties.
He attributed the success of his commission to professional approaches involving untiring dialogues, principles of affectivities, ground to paper approach etc.
Bobbo listed other boundary disputes at the concluding stages of their demarcations to include, Kwara/Oyo, Nasarwa/Plateau, Akwa/Ibom/CrossRiver, Osun/Ekiti,Osun/Ondo, Borno/Gombe, Kaduna/Nasarawa and Kadu-na/Plateau.
He said in line with Presidential directive to his commission, to resolve immediately all boundary disputes in oil producing states,it has appreciably mediated in the affected areas.
For instance in Akwa Ibom/Cross River, the boundary dispute is presently resolved and only management efforts of the boundary is in place, and that the field tracing exercise has been completed and the boundary is ready for final demarcation.
Regarding the Abia/Cross River, Bobbo said grey areas in the disputes has been successfully removed, and it is now at the stage of final resolution.
“For Delta/Bayelsa, the boundary has been field-traced and final demarcation is set to start,” Bobbo said, adding that Delta/Rivers’s final demarcation is currently in progress but that in cases involving Abia/Rivers, Abia/Imo and Akwa Ibom/Abia fieldwork are set to start.

Posted by Publisher at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

Anambra Budgets N35.87bn for 2006

Anambra State Government has proposed a budget of N35.87 billion for 2006, representing an increase of 16.73 per cent over the 2005 budget of N30.73 billion.

12.26.2005

Addressing the House of Assembly in Awka, Governor Chris Ngige said the sum of N17.98 billion or 50.12 per cent of the budget was for recurrent expenditure, while the sum of N17.89 billion or 49.88 per cent of the budget was for capital expenditure.
A breakdown of the budget showed that road construction got the highest allocation of N7.14 billion.
Education followed with an allocation of N1.83 billion, housing got N1.08 billion, health received N653 million, while water supply got N550 million.
He announced that a total of 16 new road projects would be executed next year, in addition to the on-going ones in different parts of the state.
“There is no doubt that the massive road development programme will erase the ugly stigma of the most undeveloped road network, which the state had borne since its creation in 1991,'' he said.
Ngige also said government would partner with the private sector to carry out some housing projects next year, and that some of them were estates already mapped out for development.
They are Hillview Estate, Nkwelle, Liberation Estate Nawfia/Enugwu-Agidi, Ikwodiaku Estate, Mgbakwu Estate and Amansea Estate.
He said a new state secretariat for public servants would be started next year, to ease office accomodation scarcity.
“The 2006 budget is based on policies, principles and framework that guided the 2005 and 2004 budgets.
“The focus will continue to be on the revitalisation of the state economy and creating necessary socio-economic environment for increased productivity and sustained development and growth,'' he said.
Acording to Ngige, the budget, tagged “Budget of Consolidation,” would be used to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people, pointing out that his administration had only one more year to go.
Receiving the budget, Speaker of the state Assembly, Mr Mike Balonwu, assured that the Assembly would assist government to ensure full implementation of the budget.

Posted by Publisher at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

Enugu Spends N58m on LEEMP

Enugu State government has so far committed N58 million for the implementation of projects in various communities under the Local Empowerment and Environment Management Project (LEEMP).

From Emmanuel Ugwu in Enugu, 12.26.2005

Commissioner for Human Development and Poverty Reduction, Mr Osita Ugwuoti, said this while briefing newsmen at the weekend, adding that projects, being executed under the LEEMP programme include rural electrification, water, health, education and roads, all targeted at poverty reduction.
According to him, benefiting communities are spread among 30 communities across Ezeagu,Uzouwani, and Nkanu West local government areas of the state.
The commissioner, who is also chairman of the state project Advisory Committee, said the money so far disbursed for the projects represented first and second tranches of disbursements under the programme.
He attributed the success so far recorded to the total commitment of Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, to the programme through prompt release of the state counterpart funds.
Ugwuoti expressed optimism that by the end of the first quarter of 200, most of the on-going projects would have been ready for commissioning.
On the Neighbourhood Association programme, he said its three major components, which include development, environment and security, were all aimed at improving the state of urban neighbourhoods in the state.
He said the security component was aimed at complementing the efforts of community policing by the Nigerian Police Force, while the environment and development aspects focus on ensuring the safety of health and maintenance of public utilities within our neighbourhoods.”
Ugwuoti said the Neighbourhood Association, initiated by the state governor, has been embraced by many neighbourhoods and communities and commended the supportive roles of the Security, Justice and Growth programme of the British Department for International Development.

Posted by Publisher at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

Contempt case for Shell over gas

The oil multinational Shell is facing contempt of court proceedings in Nigeria over gas flaring.

By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

Last month, a court ordered the company to stop flaring gas from oil wells in the country, which accounts for much of Africa's greenhouse gas emissions.

Shell has not halted the practice, so campaign groups have initiated proceedings for contempt of court, which can result in imprisonment.

Shell has appealed against the initial judgement and denies it is in contempt.

Waste of resources

In November, the Nigerian Federal Court, sitting in Benin City, ruled on a case brought by environmental and social groups on behalf of the Iwherekan community of Delta State.

They argued that flaring creates significant local pollution and health problems, and is inherently wasteful of a resource which could bring income to local communities.

International environmental groups also argue it is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, with flaring in Nigeria perhaps the biggest source of emissions in Africa.

The Benin court ruled that gas flaring amounts to "...a gross violation of [the plaintiffs'] fundamental right to human life and dignity...", and that Shell and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had broken national law by failing to carry out an environmental impact assessment.

By failing to stop flaring, as ordered by the court, campaigners now argue Shell is in contempt, and have initiated proceedings in the Federal Court.

"Since judgement was passed, Shell has not halted her illegal activities," said Nnimmo Bassey, of the Nigerian group Environmental Rights Action.

"We see a multinational corporation that has no respect for the rule of law, but who at every turn loves to characterise local people as vandals and saboteurs."

Earlier this month, an attack with explosives on an oil pipeline forced Shell to suspend extraction at two of its wells and delay shipments.

The background to this and other incidents is the view held by some Nigerian communities that they do not benefit from oil wealth, with profit going to the multinationals.

"It's astonishing that Shell has not complied with this court order preventing it from continuing gross violations of human rights," added Peter Roderick of the international organisation Climate Justice, which has been involved with the action.

"Its behaviour seriously undermines respect for the rule of law that its operations rely on."

Appeals pending

In London, a Shell spokeswoman said that the company did not believe itself in contempt.

"The Benin High Court went ahead with its decision despite the fact that Shell Nigeria's preliminary appeal on jurisdiction was still outstanding," she told the BBC News website.

"In addition, the company has made a further appeal because it believes that the court did not adopt the correct procedure.

"Our appeals will be held by the Nigerian Court of Appeal; until then, our understanding is that we are not in contempt of court for continuing to flare gas."

The company says it flares the gas rather than processing it because there is no local market and no facilities which could liquefy it for export, though such facilities are now under development.

Shell and the Nigerian government have both committed to phase out flaring in Nigeria by 2008.

In 2004 the World Bank said that companies operating in Nigeria, which include Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron, flare 75% of the gas that they produce.

Posted by Publisher at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria to offer free Aids drugs

Nigeria's government will provide all anti-retroviral drugs needed to fight HIV/Aids free of charge within two weeks, a health ministry official says.

Dr Abdulsalami Nasidi told the BBC the government planned to have 250,000 people on the drugs within a year.

After India and South Africa, Nigeria has the most HIV infections at 4m.

The BBC's Africa editor Martin Plaut says with such a high infection rate, fighting HIV has now become a national priority in the country.

Nigeria has been stung into action by criticism from the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) that the government was asking Aids patients to pay for their drugs, which it got free.

Fight stigma

The project will be financed by a $250m grant from the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria as well as from money released after Nigeria's international debts were cancelled.

Much of the rest of funding has been promised by the United States.

This has meant that charges for administering the drugs, which put them beyond the means of the poor, have now been scrapped.

"Those that are already receiving the treatment that were paying that token money will just be getting the drugs free of charge. [For new patients] all the drugs will also be given to them free of charge," Dr Nasidi told the BBC.

Medecins Sans Frontieres' research found nearly half of people on drug treatment in Nigeria did not receive sufficient doses due to lack of funds.

With HIV patients having to pay for their drugs, many had been forced to beg or borrow to raise the money they needed, the medical agency said.

But Dr Nasidi said he hoped that providing free treatment would reverse this trend.

"To survive if you are infected with HIV/Aids, you must take the tablet daily. So now that we are giving free we hope more people should come in for treatment.

"And there will be less stigma in society, people will not discriminate against people carrying the disease like before," he said.

Posted by Publisher at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2005

Supporters of Ladoja, Adedibu in bloody clash

Ibadan, the hotbed of South-West politics, was on Thursday turned to a theatre of war in a violent clash between the two factions of the state House of Assembly.

Toyin Obadina and Akin Oyedele, Ibadan

In spite of the heavy presence of policemen at the assembly complex, adjacent to the governor’s office, a group of 18 lawmakers loyal to the governor’s estranged godfather, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, engaged the group of 14 lawmakers loyal to Governor Rasheed Ladoja in a gun duel that lasted for over four hours.

Though there were rumours of deaths resulting from the clash, our correspondents gathered, that no fewer that 21 persons were injured.

Hundreds of bewildered civil servants scampered to safety as a pall of tear gas enveloped the entire area.

The pro-Adedibu legislators and their supporters, backed by a massive police contingent, subdued the pro-Ladoja group and forcibly gained entrance into the assembly complex where they had a hurried sitting.

At the brief sitting, the group, which only last week initiated impeachment proceedings against the governor, directed the Chief Judge of the state, Justice A. Adeniran, to raise a seven-member panel of enquiry to look into the allegations of gross misconduct and maladmistration levelled against the governor in an earlier notice purportedly served on him.

According to the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Mr. Babatunde Eesuola, the panel must be inaugurated within seven days in accordance with Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution.

But it is doubtful if the move initiated by the legislators can be sustained in law. The constitution requires two-thirds majority to support the motion that any allegation of misconduct against the governor should be investigated.

The Oyo State House of Assembly has 32 members, 18 of whom are in support of Adebibu, while 14 are in support of the governor.

Eesuola said the House also extended the contract of the Sergeant – At – Arms, Mr. Olawuyi Abioye, for another two years and overruled the earlier termination of the contract of the SA announced on the state radio on Wednesday evening.

The group further directed that the proceedings of the house presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Adeolu Adeleke, in the last one week be expunged from the assembly records, because it was conducted with an illegally procured mace.

Eesuola, who spoke with newsmen after the Thursday sitting, said the House also dispensed with the services of the Assembly Clerk and his deputy for failing in their responsibilities.

The two officials were therefore directed to report to the chairman of the Civil Service Commission for immediate redeployment.

The governor’s supporters, who had received information of the plan by the pro-Adedibu group to storm the Assembly complex, had arrived early to resist them.

But the police moved in to ward off the governor’s supporters. The riot policemen, assisted by the anti-bomb squad, as well as regular policemen, arrived the vicinity in about 10 lorries including those marked Mopol NPF 28526, NPF 8520, NPF 8561G and NPF 6295 and cordoned off the area.

There were already signs on Wednesday of an imminent showdown in the state as a detachment of riot policemen took over the parliament building, which houses the assembly complex.

By Thursday morning, the police had sent in reinforcement.

It was not clear, however, why in spite of the security build up, the police failed to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

Contacted on the development, the Commissioner of Police at the state command, Mr. Audu Abubakar, said he was not aware of the development as he was in Abuja for an “important assignment.”

The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Jonathan Johnson, said policemen were at the assembly complex at the instance of the legislators who, he claimed, sought for police protection.

He dismissed the allegation that the policemen were there at the instance of the Federal Government.

He noted that the police had provided similar protection to the group of 14 when they met two days ago.

The team that managed the Thursday clash was led by a police Area Commander, Mr. M. Ajiboye. He was assisted by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Operations, Mr. Shola David, and the Divisional Police Officer, Iwo Road, Mr. Ezeifedikwa C.

Supporters of the governor, comprising mostly youths, traders, members of the Hausa community and members of the road transport unions, dared the police and marched into the secretariat premises chanting anti-police and anti-Adedibu songs.

At exactly 11.20a.m, the situation got tense when the Commander of the Mobile Unit of the state police command, Mr. Basil Idegwuo, arrived the scene with another contingent of about 50 riot policemen.

Idegwuo was however met by the daring supporters of the governor who insisted that the police should stop taking sides in the crisis.

The protesters held sway until noon when the pro-Adedibu lawmakers arrived and attempted to forcibly enter the Assembly premises, which was under lock and key.

The police shot several tear-gas canisters into the protesting crowd. They hurriedly took cover inside the governor’s office.

They were also repelled with heavy gunshots from the police.

Determined not to be cowed, the governor’s supporters engaged the security men in a gun duel that lasted four hours.

The ugly scene stalled traffic flow on all the four routes leading to the secretariat as motorists, civil servants and passers-by scampered to safety.

The commercial banks in the area were forced to scale down their operations and hurriedly close shops, while outpatients and workers at the nearby University Teaching Hospital fled from the pervasive effect of tear gas.

Bullets shattered facilities in the governor’s office and in the neighbourhood.

The police later used an armoured personnel carrier to dislodge the protesters, paving the way for the group of 18 to gain access to the Assembly complex.

The proceedings were closed to the public. After a short meeting, they relocated to the De Rovans Hotel, Ibadan, where they have been sheltered in the last one week.

The state government reacted immediately with a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Ayodele Adigun, saying the whole plot was part of a scheme to destabilise the government.

The statement read in part, “It is unfortunate that the Nigeria Police Force is involved. At the end of the day, they got the doors of the parliament building broken.”

The government appealed to the people of the state not to panic, stressing that efforts were being made to address the situation.

Fielding questions from newsmen after the fracas, Adedibu said he was appalled that the supporters of the governor attacked the group of 18 lawmakers who were on lawful assignment.

He said that nobody attacked the governor and his supporters at the governor’s presentation of the 2006 budget to the house two days ago.

According to him, there was no justification for the Thursday confrontation, which he described as “satanic.”

The PUNCH, Friday, December 23, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria hits back at US warning

Nigeria's government has told the United States to mind its own business over speculation that the president may stand for a third term.

US State Department officials have warned that any constitutional amendment to allow this would undermine Nigeria's democratic advances.

But Nigerian presidential spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode said Nigeria did not need lessons in democracy from abroad.

He said President Olusegun Obasanjo believed in constitutional rule.

"At no point in time has President Obasanjo said that he has any intention of not only staying on but also violating the constitution of Nigeria and neither would he do so," Mr Fani-Kayode told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Hypothetical

Mr Fani-Kayode was responding to comments by US State Department officials that Mr Obasanjo should not seek a third term.

Herman Cohen, former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Mr Obasanjo had improved human rights and freedom of speech.

"I say he should take that credit and retire and leave it to a new generation of leaders who can take Nigeria a step further and start using those resources for the people - which he has not done," Mr Cohen told the BBC's World Today programme.

Mr Fani-Kayode said the US was responding to a hypothetical situation.

"We in our country, and certainly our president, does not need lessons in democracy, or in constitutional rule, or indeed in interpreting constitutional rule from anybody, least of all people from outside our shores," he said.

Nigeria's parliament is currently discussing proposed constitutional amendments which, if approved, could allow presidential third terms.

"If there is an amendment in regard to tenure of office, we will cross that bridge when we come to it," Mr Fani-Kayode said.

Correspondents say the issue has been the subject of heated debate in Nigeria since the amendments were tabled in the National Assembly.

Last month, the leaders of two major ethnic groups - the Yoruba and Igbo - come out strongly against President Obasanjo running in polls in 2007 saying it would cause instability.

Any constitutional amendment needs to be approved by parliamentarians and two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states.

Posted by Publisher at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

el-Rufai dethrones Chief of Garki

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, has dethroned the Chief of Garki in the FCT, Alhaji Usman Nga’kupi and five other lesser traditional rulers, over alleged opposition to government policies.
The chief, Alhaji Nga’Kupi, a 3rd class chief, was also banished to Abaji Area Council, although his whereabouts still remain unknown to members of his family.

by Shehu Abubakar & Nasir Dambatta / 2005-12-23

The dethronement order was conveyed to the chief in a letter with reference FCTA/AC/13/S.79/vol.1, dated December 19, 2005 and signed by Mallam el-Rufai.

The eight-paragraphed letter, copied to the chairman, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), read in part: “Events of recent past have however revealed that contrary to government expectations, you have maintained a posture of undue opposition and aggression towards all well-intentioned government policies and programmes aimed at facilitating the development of the territory. These actions of yours, of course, constitute a serious affront to the principles of good governance such that no responsible government can condone further.”
The minister noted in the letter that the dethroned chief has consistently been displaying lukewarm attitude towards the affairs of his domain, adding, “this indicates very clearly that you are incapable of managing the affairs of the chiefdom under you.”

el-Rufai, who said he had consulted the FCT Department of Area Councils and Chieftaincy Matters in taking the decision, said he was satisfied that Alhaji Nga’kupi was no more eligible to continue as a chief.

“Consequently, in exercising the powers conferred on me by section 4 of the Chief (Appointment and Deposition) Act, no. 8 of 1997, I, Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, OFR, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, hereby depose you, Alhaji Usman Nga’kupi, as the 3rd class chief of Garki,” the letter said.

“Further to the above, you are banished to Abaji Area Council forthwith,” it added.

Similarly, the district heads of Garki and Galadimawa; the village heads of Pyakassa and Galadimawa and the ward head of Alieta were also relieved of their appointments by the minister.

Though the letter did not explain the cause of the dethronement of the five lesser traditional rulers, the AMAC chairman was instructed to cease payment of their allowances alongside Chief Nga’kupi’s.

When this reporter visited the palace of the dethroned chief at Garki village, one of the title chiefs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the only known controversy that exists between the dethroned chief and the FCT authorities in the recent past was on demolition.

He said the dethroned chief and all the affected lesser traditional rulers were opposed to the demolition exercised proposed by the FCT in their various domains.

He said dethroned Nga’kupi had maintained his position that the areas lately proposed by the FCT minister under his domain were local settlements for intermediate and junior public servants and petty traders, which he requested should be spared.

“Apparently, the firm opposition of the chief to the proposed demolition did not go down well with the minister who decides to dethrone him,” he said.
The source also said the deposed chief, who was whisked by AMAC officials since Wednesday, could not be traced by his family members as his whereabouts remains unknown as at press time.

When contacted for comments on the whereabouts of the chief, the FCT Commissioner of Police, Mr. Lawrence Alobi, who said he was aware of the matter, however denied police involvement.

“That is a chieftaincy matter; we are not involved. We don’t know his whereabouts. We are not holding him. We don’t know where they are keeping him,” said Mr. Alobi.

However, the special assistant to the Minister on Information and Strategy, Hajiya Amina Salihu, said the chief of Garki was suspended, pending the end of investigations by the Onah of Abaji, who is the chairman of the FCT traditional rulers, into the activities of the Garki chief. She explained that there were cases of financial exploitation of people around the Monday Market;

and “allegations of disharmony between the original inhabitants and informal settlements for which security is threatened.”

She maintained that since it was a suspension, the matter is now left for the Onah of Abaji, Alhaji Baba Yunusa, to investigate, while the case of five others would be handled by Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).

Posted by Publisher at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

Govt issues security alert in Niger Delta

IN a move aimed at countering the activities of militia groups and pipeline vandals, President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday placed all defence and security in Niger Delta on "high alert"

From Madu Onuorah, Mohammed Abubakar (Abuja) and Chido Okafor (Warri)

The President gave the order at a meeting with senior members of the nation's security and intelligence communities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Top among those who attended the talks include the Chief of Defence Staff, service chiefs, Inspector General of Police, heads of the State Security Services (SSS) and other allied institutions.

Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media), Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, said that the meeting was called to review the security situation in the Niger Delta following two pipeline explosions in the region in the past few days.

Oyo said that while addressing the meeting, Obasanjo reaffirmed the determination of the Federal Government to provide adequate protection for persons and oil installations in the Niger Delta.

He told the defence and security chiefs: "We will not abandon this country to brigands. Criminals must be chased, caught and punished."

Meanwhile, indications emerged yesterday that the Federal Government my have begun probe into the oil pipeline explosion near Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Edmund Daukoru, who gave the indication at a press briefing in Abuja, however, added that the incident would not affect Nigeria's quota in the international oil market. He also faulted claims by a militia group in the Niger Delta area that it was responsible for the incident.

According to him, the cause of the explosion could not be ascertained immediately, but it was suspected to have been caused by a third party, saying that the explosion resulted in a major oil spillage and fire incident. He said due to safety and security concerns, neither the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) nor SPDC personnel could conduct ground investigations.

However, three aerial flights, using helicopters were undertaken and it was observed that fire issuing from the 28-inch manifold of the pipeline had died down considerably and was at that stage expected not to pose any serious threat to life and property.

He added: "However, some houses were burnt down along Opobo Channel with no confirmation of casualties as at yet."

The minister said the 28-inch line had since been isolated resulting in a production deferment of about 170,000 barrels net oil per day.

He added: "A joint investigation team of DPR and SPDC including the Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA) would conduct ground investigations. SPDC has arranged to deliver relief materials to affected persons, once access is granted and as soon as it is ascertained that the SPDC 24-inch pipeline is not affected, limited production will be restored".

The minister cautioned against working on any claims by any group or individuals, saying that the outcome of the investigations would determine the real cause of the incident.

According to him, the position outlined by the government so far was based on the accounts of the people of the area, where the incident occurred. "It happened in the early hours of Tuesday. The villagers said they noticed some suspicious movements, that is some people in a speedboat. But these reports need to be confirmed because it is a criminal matter. If the people are caught, justice will take its course, we can't lightly make accusations, it needs to be thoroughly investigated."

On the group from the Niger Delta that had claimed responsibility for the incident, Daukoru said all leads were being followed, adding, "It is obvious too soon, almost 48 hours to the incident to be able to verify claims like this. Some groups will just want to give themselves some notoriety to claim credit, but it will have to be thoroughly investigated and that is being done."

Daukoru, who is the current President of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said it would not affect Nigeria's crude oil production at the international market. Nigeria at the moment produces about 2.5 million bpd, even though it has production ceiling of between 2.3 and 2.4 million bpd.

The minister added that there was no amount of security surveillance that could cover the entire territory, not even in a country like Iraq that is in a state of civil war. You have to depend on the goodwill of communities in the vicinity of the pipe facilities.

"They have to partner with government because, they benefit from the statutory allocation that come to their states and local governments directly, so that goodwill have to be retained by the operators and government, because you are the ultimate custodians of the asset that comes to the territory, we depend on them.

Also, SPDC yesterday said crude oil theft and sabotage of its facilities by vandals were the major setbacks suffered in the Niger Delta in 2005.

The firm, which took stock of its activities in the Niger Delta at the end of the year media briefing in Warri, said but for these twin forces, which adversely affected its operation, the year was a success.

According to the External Affairs Manager (West), Harriman Isa Oyofo: "We have many more challenges ahead in the coming year. For instance, we have had to grapple with continuing acts of wilful sabotage of our facilities, and increasing incidents of crude oil theft. We acknowledge that relevant agencies of government are doing their best to check these acts of criminality...which portend ill not just for our nation's economic well-being, but also put the environment and people at grave risk."

He said the company accelerated its gas gathering project towards increased gas utilisation, and therefore fully met the gas supply obligations to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), even though the year had not ended.

Posted by Publisher at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

Constitutional review: Kano spits fire..Says move reeks of immorality

THE people of Kano state have adopted a resolution kicking against the proposed review of the Nigeria’s Constitution calling the move as immoral.

By ADAMU ABDULLAHI

This position of people of Kano state was made known to newsmen yesterday, shortly after a stakeholders meeting held at Murtala Muhammad Library Complex, Kano.
According to the resolution read by the chairman of the forum, Alhaji Magaji Dambatta, OFR, it is gross fraud and rape of democracy for those elected into office on the basis of definite terms provided by the constitution to engage in the process of changing such order.
‘’It is immoral, unethical and contrary to the spirit and letter of the constitution for people in power to initiate constitutional changes that are primarily designed for their own benefit,’’ Alhaji Dambatta stated.
He explained that those elected officials seeking extension and stay in office, they do not only reeks of corruption but amounts to fatal subversion of the constitution and the people’s will.
The chairman maintained that it becomes imperative to allow subsisting rule and regulations informing the conduct of democracy governance to take roots in order to ensure our capacity to effect transition from one civilian regime to another.
He said it is part of the surreptitious agenda to perpetuate the current regime in power that the National Assembly Constitution Review Committee plans to visit only six state capitals ostensibly to sample public opinion in support of what is clearly a predetermined position.
To this effect, the forum called on all well-meaning Nigerians to come out strongly in opposition, as many Nigerians as possible should therefore troop to the six selected public hearing venues to demonstrate their opposition in a peaceful manner as it is their right.
The resolution, according to the chairman, observed that should the NASS by any chance be presented with a recommendation from the review committee that was contrary to the popular views of Nigerians, the majority should outrightly reject it in conformity with the wishes of generality of Nigerians.
He stated that in that regard the forum has called on Kano state representatives at the National Assembly to take note of Kano’s position and ensure they abide by it as well as be vanguards of its actualisation.

Posted by Publisher at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

Alamieyeseigha Urges Court to Restrain New Bayelsa Gov

Embattled ex-Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, has urged a Yenagoa High Court to stop his erstwhile deputy, and successor, Dr Jonathan Goodluck, from parading himself as governor of the state, insisting that the executive seat is still vacant, with his alleged impeachment and forceful removal on December 9.

By Abimbola Akosile, 12.23.2005

Alamieyeseigha's prayer, among 13 other reliefs, is contained in a 14-paragraph writ of summons, filed at the Yenagoa High Court.
The plaintiff, who is represented by a trio of Professor A.B. Kasunmu, SAN, Chief Mike Okoye and Mike Ozekhome, SAN, is currently facing a 40-count charge of money laundering, illegal acquisition of property and false declaration of assets before a Lagos Federal High Court judge, Justice Mohammed Shuaibu, where ruling would be delivered today on his application against plaintiff's arraignment and trial.
The suit with No. YHC/173/2005, was brought against 11 defendants, among them Chief Judge of Bayelsa State, Justice Emmanuel Igoniwari, newly-sworn in Governor Jonathan Goodluck, Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Bayelsa State Police Commissioner, and members of a probe panel whose indictment led to his impeachment and removal from office.

The embattled governor, who has consistently claimed he is still the de-facto governor of Bayelsa State, despite his impeachment by his State House of Assembly members on December 9; also prayed the Yenagoa court to declare that his alleged forceful removal from Bayelsa by the State Police Commissioner (11th defendant), amounts to an unconstitutional take-over of his government through a police-aided civilian coup, contrary to Section 1(2) of 1999 Constitution.
Alamieyeseigha, who is facing a fresh 17-count charge filed against him by the Federal Government before a Code of Conduct Tribunal now sitting in Abuja, in addition to the current one in Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), also prayed the Yenagoa court to restrain Bayelsa Chief Judge, Speaker and Police Commissioner (1st, 3rd & 11th defendants) from recognising Dr. Goodluck as Bayelsa Governor; and to remove the panel members (4th, 5th, & 8th defendants) from acting thereon consequent upon their alleged disqualification under Section 188 (5) of 1999 Constitution.
He prayed court to issue an order of mandatory injunction directing the Investigation panel to be re-constituted by the Chief Judge, to commence sitting and afford him (Alamieyeseigha) an opportunity to defend himself personally or through his counsel.
Meanwhile his matter resumes in court today where Justice Shuaibu is expected rule on plaintiff's application brought by his counsel that the instant case, in which he has twice refused to take a plea) be stopped until the determination of his two previous applications before a Federal High Court in Abuja, and the High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Alamieyeseigha had earlier fled London on November 19 where he was awaiting trial in a money laundering case after his arrest on September 15, and dramatically re-appeared in his state capital Yenagoa on Monday, November 21. He was impeached on December 9 by 17 members of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, who had adopted a report of a seven-man panel set up by the Chief Judge of the State, Emmanuel Igoniwari, on allegations of gross mis-conduct against him; and immediately arrested and whisked to Abuja, where he was later brought to Lagos on Tuesday, December 20, to face trial.

Posted by Publisher at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

Anenih, Ogbeh trade words over zoning formula

The former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday described as ‘futile escapism’ the claim by Chief Tony Anenih, the chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, that he (Ogbeh) killed zoning in 2003 by allowing candidates from other zones to contest against President Olusegun Obasanjo.

by Sufuyan Ojeifo & Emmanuel Bello / 2005-12-23

Anenih, reacting to the Daily Trust lead story of last Wednesday which revealed the contents of the letter he wrote on August 5, 2002, confirming the existence of an agreement on zoning, claimed however that the agreement did not happen since Ogbeh did not implement it.
Ogbeh, who was forced to resign his chairmanship of the party in January this year, told reporters in Abuja that it was agreed in 2002 that the South should be allowed to hold the presidency for eight years after which the presidential baton would pass to the North in 2007.
He said that Chief Anenih was at the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party at which the zoning agreement was reached. According to him, “The claim that I killed zoning is a futile escapism. Compare that statement with the declaration he made in Enugu last Monday.
“It was agreed at a NEC meeting in 2002 with forty-seven votes to two; I chaired the meeting. I put the issue to vote that we should allow the South eight years and the North eight years, and then everybody was happy.
“The issue he raised here is that I allowed people from other zones to contest in 2003. Two of our members took us to court. The National Working Committee (NWC) sat down and said there was no point wasting N10m hiring lawyers just to go and deal with an issue that we knew had been resolved.
“Ninety-nine per cent of party members knew that the decision was eight years, South; eight years, North. That decision reflected in the votes cast at the primaries, to the extent that the two candidates from the other zones who contested did not poll up to a total of five per cent of the votes.
“Now, to say that we allowed them is unnecessary. They went to court. We did not want to waste any time on court cases. The instruction had gone to all party members - eight years, South; eight years, North.
“This is the same principle out of which I did my best to help the president out of impeachment. He knows it. Anenih knows it. The same I did during the primaries when some people wanted us to shift it or bring another candidate. He knows it and I know it.
“But the issue now is the question of honour. If at the highest level of leadership in our country, we begin to show lack of honour and try to find clever arguments to cover up mischief and dishonour, it is a tragedy.
“This is the problem killing the PDP slowly today: arrogance and dishonour, and they have got to cure it because it has given rise to an opposition, which probably would not have come up on its own. They created it by arrogance and dishonour.
“Chief Anenih should ask himself how far he has gone in creating part of this tension that is in the country today, in declaring in some states that there was no vacancy even when we were going to primaries. He did so in the South-South in Port-Harcourt and I challenged him.
“We were going to check our governors to know which of them had any problems and which should be removed or stopped from contesting. He went on air and said there was no vacancy in any Government House; every governor had an automatic ticket. Declarations like that, making him the supreme Pontiff of the PDP, are killing the PDP and hurting the country very badly.
“He needs to check himself just as we all need to check ourselves. Now the communiqué (of the Enugu meeting) came out almost like; there are so many threats: we would boycott this; we would boycott that. It was not necessary.”
Ogbeh said that Chief Anenih was at the meeting where the zoning agreement was reached, but was not at the meeting of the NWC where the decision not to go to court to stop those who went to court over the agreement was taken.
In his response to the Daily Trust story of last Wednesday, Anenih specifically accused Ogbeh of failure to implement the zoning formula, stating, “It is true that I wrote the letter dated August 5, 2002 on zoning pattern of the PDP. But you will recall that despite my letter, the party, under Chief Audu Ogbeh, failed to respect zoning, which he met and allowed candidates from all zones to contest the PDP presidential nomination of 2003.
“It was this stance of the party that made the following to contest the presidential nomination at the PDP convention of January 2003 at the Eagle Square, Abuja: Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (Southwest), Dr. Alex Ekwueme (Southeast), Chief Barnabas Gemade (Northcentral) and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi (Northwest).
“The PDP nomination convention of January 2003 disregarded my letter on zoning. But as I said in my written speech in Enugu on Monday, the 19th of December, 2005, I will subscribe to the decision of my party, the PDP, in respect of nomination of candidates, come 2007.”

Posted by Publisher at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

There must be change in Nigeria - US

Top United States officials for Africa have opposed any tenure extension for presidents insisting that there must be change in Nigeria so that someone new can come in.

by Elkanah Chawai / 2005-12-23

Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen, in a statement made available to Daily Trust in Abuja yesterday and the incumbent, Jendayi Frazer, in a recent press conference in Washington DC, expressed US reservations on extention of tenure for presidents which they said threatened democracy in Africa.
Cohen, who has been an observer of political transformations in Africa for more than four decades, said presidential limits were critical because they guarantee change in policy and the people who surround the leader, adding that a political turnover makes it more difficult for corruption to become entrenched because office-holders leave when a new leader is elected.
He noted that, President Obasanjo had improved the democratic system, but that he had not done enough to end corruption, and if he stays in for another term, the people around him who have been benefiting from the continuation of vested interests in corruption would just continue.
“There must be a change in Nigeria now, so someone new can come in and move the anti-corruption programme forward,” Cohen said.
An official position on President Obasanjo’s term had earlier been made by the assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, who said though President Obasanjo had not officially declared his intentions to succeed himself, the US would oppose any plan to alter term limits.
“He hasn’t said that he’s running for a third term. But our view is very clear that term limits should be respected.
“It’s extremely important in Africa to respect term limits because it allows for the grooming of new leadership, and it supports the rule of law. In contrast, societies… countries that have had… 20 to 30-year presidents… haven’t developed,” she said.
“Having a regular turnover of power actually ingrains and institutionalises a democratic process. And so it’s extremely important for us, the United States … to push African heads of state to respect their term limits. And we certainly would have that message for President Obasanjo should he indicate an interest in running for a third term,” she added.
Frazer, while highlighting the dangers of holding on to power by African leaders, said “what happens is when people feel that they can’t get into government because they’re going to have a life president, what do they go on to do? They pick up arms. They go to the bush or it opens up the space for a military coup d’ etat.”
On attempts by some African presidents to manipulate the constitution to suit their interests.
Cohen pointed out that moves to alter constitutions to allow incumbents to extend their terms in office were counter-productive, adding that, it is very undemocratic to change the constitution to benefit the person in power.
If people want to get rid of the two-term limit, she said they should do it for the next president.
“Note that long ago, our president’s salary was increased by Congress, but the law went into effect for the next man in office, not the sitting president”, he recalled.
“Even our own country, the United States, set a limit of two terms, or eight years, for the presidency after Franklin D. Roosevelt won his fourth presidential election in 1944,” he said.
Cohen added that despite Roosevelt being a great war-time leader, many people who had known no other president in their adult lives thought 16 years were too much for one political leader to serve in a democracy.
Recently, a Nigerian daily newspaper revealed that there are plans to use world figures that are very close to President Obasanjo to intimate them about the views of the international community which asserts that Obasanjo must relinquish power at the end of his second term.

Posted by Publisher at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

Robbers hijack luxury buses, kill 8

AN eight-month old boy was among eight passengers of two commercial luxury buses killed by armed robbers in Benin, Edo State, Wednesday night, while about 16 others were left with degrees of injuries.

VINCENT ADEKOYE, Benin

The bloody robbery operations Wednesday night lasted till 5.00 a.m. yesterday while property worth millions of naira were stolen from the victims.

It would be recalled that bandits numbering about six had Wednesday seized the ancient city of Benin, killing five persons and robbing as many business centres as possible in what calls to mind the bloody reign of the late robbery kingpin, Lawrence Anini.

The latest luxury bus hijack was the second since the past one year. Early this year, bandits had intercepted a luxury bus on Ikpoba slope, Benin and diverted it to a lonely village on the Benin-Auchi road where they robbed, raped and killed some of the passengers.

Daily Champion investigation revealed that the first of the latest hijack took place about 2.00 a.m. Thursday. It was gathered that the ill-fated luxury bus belonging to one of the leading transport company in the Eastern part of the country was hijacked at the popular Iyaro Bus Terminal by a 12-man robbery gang, which rained bullets on it as soon as it approached the park.

One of the victims Mr. Ochiagha M. C, who claimed to be a programme moderator with Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) told Daily Champion that they boarded the bus at Maza-Maza bus terminal in Lagos and were on their way to the eastern part of the country when the incident occurred.

According to him, prior to the hijack, the police escort of the bus had disembarked at the Lagos-Benin toll gate where another uniformed man who later turned out to be the leader of the gang, entered.

Mr. Ochiagha stated that when the bus got to Iyaro park at 2,00 a.m, the uniformed man who entered the bus at the toll gate, ordered all occupants to lie down after which others emerged from the park and rained bullets on the bus.

The robbers were said to have diverted the bus to Upper Sakpoba area of the City where they took time to rob the passengers one after the other.

Posted by Publisher at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

2007: Power shift may lead to crisis –Balarabe

SHARP disagreement between Southern and Northern political leaders over which region should produce the next president will jeopardize the nation’s continued unity and may plunge it into a major crisis, if not carefully handled.

THOMAS IMONIKHE, News Editor

Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa who gave the warning in an interview with Daily Champion Wednesday however, called on patriots to immediately unite to resolve the challenge posed by power shift amicably.

His words of caution came even as second republic governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi came hard on the resolve of southern political leaders to retain the presidency in the south in 2007.

In a separate interview, Rimi described the resolution as unfair and part of the plot to actualize the alleged third term bid of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

But legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi in his contribution to the power shift debate said only the best candidate should be voted as the next president irrespective of his state of origin.

Prominent political leaders from the Southern part of the country had after a crucial meeting in Enugu Monday, among other things, insisted that the presidency remains in the south after the tenure of President Obasanjo.

They had noted that the North had dominated power at the centre for 35 out of 45 years of the nation’s independence.

Reacting to the stand however, Musa, who is also a former governor of Kaduna State said rigid claims and counter-claims by the North and South to the presidency will fuel disunity and degenerate to the pre-1966 era.

Said he: "We are gradually returning to the pre-1966 era when the antagonistic stance of the part of South against the North which resulted in the military coups and later the Nigeria civil war.

He said the only way to avert the looming danger is for patriots to join forces with the CNPP to provide an alternative platform that would defeat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2007 general elections and give the country a new lease of life.

On his part, Rimi said "the demand by Southern leaders is not correct, not right and not fair because since the presidency would have resided in the South for eight years come 2007, it is only fair that it should return to the north then."

He, however, said he was not surprised by the outcome of the parley alleging that the conference was sponsored by the Presidency to accentuate the purported bid by Obasanjo to succeed himself.

Said he: "The conference was sponsored by the presidency to pave way for the actualization of Obasanjo’s third term bid."

On argument that the North had held power for 35 out of 45 years of Nigeria’s independence, Rimi who is also a chieftain of the Movement for the Defence of Democracy said it does not hold water since the military which had dominated governance since October 1, 1960 had no mandate of the people.

He also described as playing to the gallery, threat of a confederation of Southern leaders adding that Nigerians had settled for a Federation.

Meanwhile, Chief Fawehinmi has said only merit and competence should be the sole criterion in the choice of next president.

Speaking with Daily Champion he said: "I will support any credible candidate who can provide the basic things of life for the people. I am not in the business of supporting North, South, East or West whom at the end of the day will have no impact on the nation."

Posted by Publisher at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

MDD, MRD merge, seek INEC registration

THE political stakes in the country were raised higher yesterday as the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD) and the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) formally adopted a common name. The new group wants to be known as Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD).

From John Abba Ogbodo, Abuja

They also proceeded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seeking registration as a political party.

Also yesterday, the immediate past national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh, accused the chairman of its Board of Trustees (BOT), Chief Tony Anenih, of stoking the fire of discord in the PDP and the polity.

Ogbeh, who spoke with reporters when the members of the new association visited INEC headquarters, accused Anenih of partly creating the tension engulfing the polity over 2007.

The former national chairman alleged that when the PDP wanted to do a thorough screening of the gubernatorial candidates, Anenih went on air to declare that there was no vacancy in any government house.

Ogbeh said that the declaration led to the resentment of the party by the public. Ogbeh, therefore, said Anenih needed to check himself.

"Chief Anenih should ask himself how far he has gone in creating part of this tension that is in the country today in declaring that in some states, there was no vacancy - even when we were going for primaries. He did so in the South-South, in Port Harcourt and I challenged him.

"We were going to check our governors to know which of them had any problem and which should be removed or should be stopped from contesting. He went on air and said there was no vacancy in any government house, every governor had an automatic ticket. Declarations like that make him the supreme pontiff of the PDP. That is the thing killing the PDP and haunting the country very badly. He needs to check himself just as we all need to check ourselves."

Ogbeh maintained that there was an agreement, which was accepted by the members of the party that power should stay in the South for eight years after which it would rotate to the North.

He emphasised that it was for that reason that the other aspirants for the presidency in the 2003 primaries lost woefully. He described Anenih's allegation that he, Ogbeh, frustrated the zoning formula as sheer escapism.

It was in this alleged agreement, Ogbeh said, that he did his best to help the President out of impeachment. "He knows it, Anenih knows it. The same I did during the primaries when some people wanted us to bring another candidate. He knows it, Anenih knows it."

Ogbeh said further that the major problems of the ruling party border on arrogance and deceit.

He said these were largely responsible for the disintegration currently going on in the party, stressing that the deceit had eaten deep into the highest level of the party.

According to him, this led to the springing up of opposition.

"The issue now is the question of honour. If at the highest level of leadership in our country, we begin to show lack of honour and try to find clever arguments to cover up mischief and dishonour, it is a big tragedy; and this is the problem killing the PDP slowly today. Arrogance and dishonour and they have got to cure it because they have given rise to an opposition, which probably would not have come up on its own. They created it by arrogance and dishonour," he said.

At the meeting with the INEC officials led by the acting chairman of the commission, Uchola Amuka, the leader of MRDD, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, said having fulfilled necessary conditions prescribed in the constitution for a political party, the MRDD had come to obtain forms for registration.

He expressed disappointment over the performance of the former commission, pointing out that the 2003 elections had no modicum of credibility.

He urged the new INEC leadership to try and live above board.

The acting chairman said the new team would not do anything that would undermine the democratic process, adding: "If we see anything that will hinder us from performing well, we all have the option to resign."

He said INEC had decided that there would be zero tolerance for violence in 2007, emphasising that election results would not only be cancelled in such areas but the perpetrators would be punished according to the law.

Amuka said the commission was already meeting with stakeholders on the matter.

He assured them that the necessary materials for registration would be made available to the new association, saying: "We have not declared electoral guidelines yet, so the registration of parties has not closed."

Other members of MRDD who accompanied Gambo and Ogbeh to the INEC headquarters were former Minister of Power and Steel, Bashir Dalhatu; former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Duben Onyia; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Umar Ghali Na'abba; former Minister of State for Health, Princess Funke Adedoyin; Alhaji M. M. Abdul; Lai Mohammed and Kaleel Bolaji.

But in a swift reaction, Chief Tony Anenih alleged that it was Ogbeh who thwarted the zoning arrangement, saying that the PDP under Ogbeh failed to respect the zoning agreement by allowing candidates from all the zones to contest for the party's presidential ticket in 2003.

In a statement, he said that despite his belief and stance in the zoning agreement, it was on record that it was Ogbeh who encouraged Dr. Alex Ekwueme (South-East), Chief Banabas Gemade (North-Central) and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi (North-West) to contest against President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Anenih stressed that even though the PDP nomination convention in 2003 disregarded his position on zoning, he still subscribes to the decision of the party in respect of nomination of candidates when 2007 comes.

Posted by Publisher at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

CBN Gives New Conditions for Foreign Reserve Management; N129bn capital base required

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has said that any bank wishing to partake in the management of the nation's foreign reserves, which now stood at about $23 billion at the end of October, must have a capital base of at least N129 billion ($1 billion).

From Josephine Lohor and Kunle Aderinokun in Abuja, 12.23.2005

CBN Governor, Professor Charles Soludo, who made the disclosure in his end of year address to the apex bank’s staff said, "Any bank with $1 billion in capital base will receive at least $500 million reserves to manage."
He also added that, any global custodian wishing to manage the reserves must be ready to partner with one or more local banks in order to develop them into world class players.
Noting that, the appointment of global custodian for reserves management will be concluded early 2006, he explained that, the decision to ensure local participation was in fulfillment of one of the incentives under the Banking Sector Consolidation Guidelines.
He also stated that the envisaged amendment to the CBN Act would, under reserve management, provide flexibility in eligible asset classes, which would in addition allow for more diversification and higher returns.
The apex bank governor said he expected the completion of the Dealing Room Project next year, so as to develop in-house asset management competency. Speaking on "Towards a Stronger Monetary Authority and Financial System", Soludo also said the CBN had commenced the use of CBN Bills for liquidity management.
According to him, the bank issued N60 billion 182-day, non-rediscountable CBN bills and the 2-year and 3-year FGN Bonds while the Treasury Bills were restructured into longer tenors. Speaking on the phased withdrawal of parastatals’ deposits from banks, Soludo said a total of N88.7 billion was withdrawn in the first phase, out of which N75.28 billion was withdrawn on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
He also disclosed that the minimum rediscount rate (MRR), was also revised while the apex bank’s balance sheet had also been realigned.
According to him, the bank has been able to increase the frequency of the production of its analytical balance sheet from monthly to daily series and this has enabled it capture the current growth rate of reserve money, while monetary policy actions were promptly taken to bring the growth of reserve money below the Policy Support Instrument (PSI) target.
While disclosing that, "as at June 2005, broad money supply growth was 18.9 per cent though projected to fall to 15-16 per cent by end 2005, he pointed out that "reserves money dropped to N714 billion as at December 16, 2005 compared to the target of N764 billion for end 2005."
On a general note, Soludo noted that the economy experienced a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 5.85 per cent in the first half of the year, led by the non-oil sector with 8.2 per cent, agriculture 6.8 per cent and oil with a negative 2.26 percent.
Also, he said the bank was able to reduce the inflation rate which jerked up to 28.2 per cent in August to 18.6 per cent in October adding that, mechanism has been put in place to bring it down to between 12 and 15 per cent by year end. Soludo said the Central Bank has lived up to the goals it set out to achieve within the year.
These, he said, include: "taming the excess liquidity, due to expansionary fiscal policy; restoring stability to the naira exchange rate, which was maintained around the pre-determined exchange rate band of plus/minus 3 per cent; implementing the banking sector reforms; implementing the final phase of Project Eagles, including staff realignment and installation of IT infrastructure."
Meanwhile, President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday that, henceforth, all government ministries and agencies must adhere strictly to the financial instructions by keeping its monies only in three specified banks.
President Obasanjo gave the directive at a meeting on the recovery of tax arrears from ministries, departments and agencies of government and banks at State House, Thursday but he did not name the banks.
Obasanjo also expressed concern that some banks, where government funds were trapped, were offering equity, in exchange for the deposits, and stated that such was illegal and unacceptable.
He said that the order should take into account all the issues thrown up with the successful consolidation of the banking sector adding that it is mandatory for all government ministries, departments and agencies to harmonise deposits of money in banks.
He said all those who were responsible for running down banks would have to account for their actions.
Obasanjo also instructed the Accountant-General of the Federation to arbitrate and reconcile all debts owed by ministries, departments and agencies to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, agree modalities and schedules for re-payment by the end of February, 2006.
Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Ifueko Omoigui, who was at the meeting had told the President that steps needed to be taken to check non-remittance of collected tax to the FIRS.
She also expressed concern at the amount of money trapped in some banks.

Posted by Publisher at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2005

PDP bans governors from regional meetings

The Peoples Democratic Party has directed governors elected on its platform to stop attending meetings called by regional groups.

Musikilu Mojeed, Abuja

The party gave the directive on Wednesday at a meeting with the governors at its National Headquarters in Abuja.

Though the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. John Odey, said the meeting only discussed the fortunes of the party, a source quoted the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, as having directed the governors to severe links with regional political groups.

The directive, it was learnt, was as a result of the far-reaching decisions taken by southern leaders under the aegis of Southern Forum at a one-day meeting in Enugu, Enugu State, on Monday.

Almost all the governors from the southern states attended the meeting where the South threatened to boycott the 2007 general elections if the North insisted on producing the country’s next president.

The southern leaders threatened to demand for a confederation arrangement if the North eventually had its way.

The source at Wednesday’s meeting in Abuja said Ali and other party leaders expressed displeasure with the “divisive declarations” made at the Enugu meeting and other such gatherings in the recent past.

The PDP Chairman, according to our source, also expressed disappointment that the governors and other political office-holders were fanning the ember of disunity through such gatherings.

Insisting that the country would collapse if the trend were not checked, Ali was said to have declared that the party would no longer tolerate a situation where its chieftains were gathering to express sectional or ethnic sentiments.

The source said, “The chairman expressed bitterness with the utterances of leaders of the Northern Senators Forum, Southern Senators Forum, Southern Forum, South South Peoples Assembly and other such groups. He told the governors that their roles in the formation and existence of the groups were despicable.

“He also told them that as governors, they should always work to unite all parts of the country rather than divide them. He therefore directed the governors not to attend such meetings any longer and that the party would punish any governor who violates the party’s position on the issue.”

The Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, confirmed that issues bordering on sectional and ethnic political groupings dominated the meeting.

Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Ladoja said, “The party told us that we should not turn Nigeria into an ethnic enclave; that we should face issues that will unite us and not those that will divide us. It said we should remember that we all belong to the PDP family and that we should not do anything that is divisive.”

The Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, also told journalists that the meeting discussed modalities for using the party’s platform to further cement national unity.

Odey said in a statement made available to newsmen after the meeting that the leadership discussed party issues with the governors.

The statement said, “The dire need to build bridges of understanding within the polity in order to ensure national unity was stressed. The National Chairman emphasised on the need to put the nation first over sectional interests.”

Other governors at the meeting included those of Bauchi, Alhaji Adamu Muazu; Taraba, Rev. Jolly Nyame; Nassarawa, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu; Niger, Alhaji Abdulkadir Kure; Kogi, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris; Kwara, Dr. Bukola Saraki; and Kaduna, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi.

The deputy governors of Edo, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa and Benue States were also at the meeting.

The meeting came on the heels of a similar one the party held with senators elected on the platform of the party on Tuesday.

At the meeting, Ali had counselled the senators to put national unity above all other considerations and desist from using regional and sectional platforms to cause disunity in the country.

The meetings became necessary following vociferous claims to the presidency of the country in 2007 by the North, the South-East and the South-South.

The Arewa Consultative Forum, the Northern Senators Forum and the Northern Lawmakers Forum are insisting that the presidency must return to the North in 2007 in line with an agreement on the issue before the 2003 elections.

But the South-South and the South-East are also saying they should be allowed shots at the presidency in subsequent elections.

The PUNCH, Thursday, December 22, 2005

Posted by Publisher at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

I want to be remembered as teacher -- Shagari

FORMER president, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, has observed that teaching is not only a noble profession but also one that produces the builders of the modern society, hence he will want to be remembered as a teacher.

Stories from ABBA LAWAN KURMAWA, Sokoto

Alhaji Shagari who made the observation on the occasion of the distribution of certificates during a three-day capacity building workshop and roundtable for teachers in Sokoto, stated that without professional teachers, no one will be able to build anything at all.

Said he: ‘’Throughout my long years of services up to my retirement period, I was a teacher which I want to be remembered for.’’

Shagari posited that the key to progress in any endeavour is learning but no one will be able to learn anything at all without a teacher, adding: ‘’that is why learners and the learned must always respect their teachers.’’

‘’We teachers do not need to demand respect from anyone because for a teacher/student relationship, respect is always taken for granted,’’ he said, adding that, ‘’there is always a natural feeling of pride and satisfaction from the teacher whenever he meets the one he has taught especially if he or she has been very successful in life,’’ Shagari remarked.

He regarded it as a great honour to be formally recognised as a licensed teacher among Nigeria’s professional teachers, and he thanked the TRCN for appreciating the little contributions he has made in the development of education in his locality in particular and the country in general.
‘’That explains why I grabbed your kind invitation to me to attend this occasion with enthusiasm,’’ he stated.

Posted by Publisher at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

'No evidence' Saddam was tortured

The Iraqi judge who prepared the case against Saddam Hussein says there is no evidence he was beaten in US custody. Iraq's former leader has claimed he has been tortured, and accused the US of "lies" for denying it abused him.

His trial went into closed session on Thursday afternoon, after one of his co-defendants said he needed to speak to the judge privately.

He and seven others are on trial over the killing of 148 people in Dujail in 1982. They all deny responsibility.

On Thursday, Iraq's former leader repeated claims in court that he had been beaten "all over my body" while in US custody.

The US has dismissed the idea as "preposterous".

The former president said the US denials could not be believed.

He cited as proof America's pre-war claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that none were found.

"We don't lie. It is the White House that lies," he told the court.

Investigating magistrate Raed Juhi said Saddam Hussein had never before said he had been mistreated.

"My job requires me to ask each of the defendants if he has been abused, and... I have received no complaints," the judge told reporters on Thursday.

'Grandstanding'

The US said Saddam Hussein was treated very well in custody.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack said his allegations that he was beaten and tortured were "highly ironic".

"Look, he's been given to grandstanding in this trial, but where the focus should be is on the testimony of those people who were victimised.

"That's what people should be listening to."

In the courtroom on Thursday, the judge dismissed a guard the defendants said had threatened them.

There was a stand-up row between Saddam's co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti and a prosecutor, whom he accused of being a former member of the governing Baath party.

The prosecutor called the accusation an insult and asked to be relieved of his duties. The judge refused.

Barzan al-Tikriti - Saddam Hussein's half-brother and former intelligence chief - praised the judge as "brave", "educated" and "smart", but repeatedly defied his order to sit down.

He complained about the trial being televised with a 30-minute delay, which he said was an "undemocratic" means of editing out parts the authorities did not want heard.

He later said he wanted to speak to the judge in private, prompting Rizgar Amin to clear the court.

Families taken away

Three witnesses testified on Thursday, speaking from behind a curtain to conceal their identities.

The first said he was eight years old during the killings in Dujail.

He said his grandmother, father and uncles had been arrested and tortured. He said his male relatives were taken away and he never saw them again.

Saddam Hussein said the witness was too young at the time of the incident for his testimony to be reliable.

On Wednesday, witnesses had described being taken away and tortured by Iraqi security forces.

Saddam Hussein said on Thursday that he was sorry to hear accounts of torture.

"When I hear that any Iraqi has been hurt it hurts me too," he said.

"The wrongs that were done to those people were wrong and, according to law, those who did it should get what they deserve."

The ousted president is expected to face further charges relating to his tenure as Iraqi leader and could be hanged if found guilty.

Posted by Publisher at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

U.S. moves to abolish visa lottery

The Unites States House of Representatives has endorsed the abolition of the diversity visa lottery programme through which hundreds of Nigerians and others enter the country yearly as legal immigrants.

By Chuks Isiwu
Foreign Editor
(with agency reports)

The House voted 273 to 148 to end it, the argument being that it is susceptible to fraud and could be a way for terrorists to slip into the U.S.

The House, aiming to further tighten the country’s border controls in the wake of recent terrorism onslaught, also passed a bill upgrading illegal entry into the country, currently a civil offence, to a felony.

But the lawmakers left for next year the tougher issue of what to do with the 11 million undocumented people already in the country.

The House legislation, billed as a Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, includes such measures as enlisting military and local law enforcement help in stopping illegal entrants and requiring employers to verify the legal status of their workers.

Sponsors, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Peter King, insisted that the bill was a needed step to restoring the integrity of U.S. borders and re-establishing respect for the law.

It authorises the building of a fence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The House bill would beef up border security with the help of local law enforcement and military technology, impose tougher penalties for smuggling and re-entry, and end the "catch and release" policy for illegal non-Mexicans.

It makes drunken driving convictions a deportable offence.

Posted by Publisher at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

U.S. moves to abolish visa lottery

The Unites States House of Representatives has endorsed the abolition of the diversity visa lottery programme through which hundreds of Nigerians and others enter the country yearly as legal immigrants.

By Chuks Isiwu
Foreign Editor
(with agency reports)

The House voted 273 to 148 to end it, the argument being that it is susceptible to fraud and could be a way for terrorists to slip into the U.S.

The House, aiming to further tighten the country’s border controls in the wake of recent terrorism onslaught, also passed a bill upgrading illegal entry into the country, currently a civil offence, to a felony.

But the lawmakers left for next year the tougher issue of what to do with the 11 million undocumented people already in the country.

The House legislation, billed as a Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, includes such measures as enlisting military and local law enforcement help in stopping illegal entrants and requiring employers to verify the legal status of their workers.

Sponsors, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Peter King, insisted that the bill was a needed step to restoring the integrity of U.S. borders and re-establishing respect for the law.

It authorises the building of a fence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The House bill would beef up border security with the help of local law enforcement and military technology, impose tougher penalties for smuggling and re-entry, and end the "catch and release" policy for illegal non-Mexicans.

It makes drunken driving convictions a deportable offence.

Posted by Publisher at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

INEC decries alleged Speakers' roles in violence

THE controversy over the recent bye-elections in some parts of the country is yet to end. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday publicly confirmed the alleged involvement of some highly placed government officials and political office holders in the electoral violence in those states.

From Mohammed Abubakar, Abuja

Notable among the states listed by the commission are Ondo and

Imo, where bye-elections took place, but which turned violent. The commission regretted that the violence, and other malpractices that characterised the bye-elections and which in some cases marred the smooth conduct of the polls had rendered them questionable.

In a statement in Abuja yesterday, the commission's Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Olusegun Adeogun said the bye-elections into the vacant seats in respect of Akoko North West 1 State Constituency and Imo East (Owerri ) Senatorial District took place on November 26 and December 3, respectively.

The statement said the commission received reports of malpractice allegedly committed by high-ranking government and party officials in both Ondo and Imo states, including the Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Victor Olabintan and his Imo State counterpart, Kelechi Kennedy Nwagu.

In the case of Ondo State, the statement said acts of violence and vandalisation of election materials were reported in several wards that make up the constituency. It added that the whole result of Oke Agbe had to be cancelled by the commission as a result of widespread malpractice. Adeogun further alleged that armed gangs, "supported by men dressed in police uniforms and sometimes, in convoy of several vehicles bearing state government registration numbers roamed the streets of the constituency, terrorising and generally, harassing INEC officials, innocent citizens and perceived opponents alike, snatching and stealing ballot boxes and other election materials."

"So widespread was the malpractice in Akoko North West Constituency 1 that INEC regretted that it could not categorically say that the will of the electorate had been reflected in the outcome.

The commission was prevented by the violence and intimidation from conducting the said bye-election in accordance with the provisions of the law. This being so, it is compelled to dissociate itself from the declaration of the final result of the exercise.

In the case of Imo State, the statement said, while the nature and extent of the violence and malpractice was not as widespread as that of Ondo State by-election, isolated cases of misconduct were reported. It stated that INEC took the development very seriously, more so, because of the high offices occupied by some alleged perpetrators.

"Ballot boxes were forcibly removed and other election materials were snatched in several centres. The level of violence and malpractice in several polling units led to the non-acceptance and cancellation of the results of Akabo Ward 1 of Ikeduru Local Council Area and some units in Aboh Mbaise, and others in Owerri Metropolis Local Council Areas of the District," it said.

The commission's statement noted, however, that the malpractice limited scope and in the opinion of the most independent observers, the monitors and the commission, did not affect in a substantial manner the overall outcome of the results.

It noted that it was an indication that certain sections of the political class had learnt little from the past experiences. The statement considered the situation very disturbing and unacceptable as it portends the violence that will characterize the 2007 election.

INEC said it had taken some measures to safeguard the electoral process and deter those who may be desirous of compromising the integrity of the process. Consequently, in the first place, the commission has forwarded a report to the Inspector-General of Police to investigate and take appropriate steps towards the prosecution of all those found to be involved in the breach of the law.

In addition, the commission is to establish an administrative panel to inquire into the actions of its permanent and ad-hoc staff, who participated in the said elections and make appropriate recommendations, including, disciplinary action against all found wanting in the discharge of their duties.

Posted by Publisher at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)

2007: Obasanjo not eligible –Nnamani

Enugu State governor, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani has dissociated President Olusegun Obasanjo from the alleged third term campaign, describing it as an elitist deceit aimed at distorting the growth and development of the Nigerian state.

By HENRY EBIRERI, EMMA EZOMIWU and DENNIS AGBO

Fielding questions from journalists in Enugu, Dr Nnamani stated that the country is a true democracy that guarantees two terms of four years each and that any attempt at amending the constitution may spell doom for the country. He said President Obasanjo is not eligible to contest in 2007.

“From what you saw, was it likely Obasanjo sponsored it? Was it like something that will end in stalemate and then third term? Was it likely Obasanjo sponsored Ebitu Ukiwe, sponsored Senator Okunrounmu to sign the communiqué? Why would a political editor even use the term third term? It doesn’t mean anything. Third term is meaningless. Can anybody define it? Third term of what? We have a true democracy that guarantees two terms of four years each, so how do you get a third term? You change the constitution and say do a third term with or without election? It is not possible, there is nothing like that. How do you do a third term when you have a constitution that says two terms of four years each? So you now amend the constitution and add a third term? It is not on the table. There is nothing like that,” he said.

Nnamani dismissed insinuations that the governors, Chief Olu Falae, Ebitu Ukiwe and other leaders were financially induced by President Obasanjo to converge in Enugu over the third term agenda.

Insisting that southern leaders cannot allow the issue of third term or no third term to affect the ongoing constitutional review, Governor Nnamani said, “I have not come here to talk about third term. That is not the issue. It is confusion and pure elite deceit. It is about constitutionalism, true fiscal federalism; it is about problems causing restiveness all over the country. It is about sharing resources. It is about self respect; dignity and self determination. It is not third term. I have told you that the polity is not matured enough. The politics is not based on ideology; it is not based on right or wrong. The system is inherently incapable of even producing the best,” he lamented.

Governor Nnamani said there are many people in government without vision “No vision, pure artisans.” Those who profiteer from the system who otherwise under a level playing field cannot even have a say but because of arbitrary rule that forced out mediocrity; commissioned agents and contractors who are at the right place at the right time.

Posted by Publisher at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

I’m still Governor, says Alamieyeseigha

Former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, insisted in court in Lagos on Tuesday that he is still in post as his impeachment violates the Constitution.

By Odudu Okpongete
(Port Harcourt)
Maxwell Oditta (Lagos) and
John Adi (Kaduna)

He urged the court to halt the case instituted against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because it does not comply strictly with Section 77 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

He made the point on a day Bayelsa State Governor, Goodluck Jonathan, visited his Rivers counterpart, Peter Odili, to personally commiserate with him over the Sosoliso plane tragedy and to seek support for his new assignment.

The relationship between Alamieyeseigha and Odili was lukewarm as each pitched his tent with rival political camps.

“I have also come to tell you that I have been given enormous responsibility because of the circumstances in Bayelsa State”, Jonathan informed his host.

“I found myself wearing shoes that are bigger than the size of my leg and I need people like you who are quite experienced in the business of governance to assist me in one way or another – so that I will be able to move and handle my state affairs for the remaining period of this tenure”.

Jonathan said God would always use people to help others, and that Odili is one of those he would always run to in time of need.

He appealed to him to come to his aid whenever he knocks on the door.

Odili thanked him for the visit. He condoled with the government and people of Bayelsa State for the “direct and tangential losses” as a result of the crash.

“I see in this visit a rekindling of fraternal ties”, Odili stressed, recalling that he was the Chairman of a Conference Committee in 1995 that recommended that Bayelsa State be created to facilitate development and to compensate for past neglect in the Niger Delta.

Meanwhile, the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Kaduna has adjourned the hearing of the 18-count fresh charge against Alamieyeseigha till January 18, 2006.

Justice Bashir Sambo said the decision was as a result of the motion filed by the prosecutor, Thompson Olatigbe, which said federal attorney general asked him to inform the court that there is a case against Alamieyeseigha in Lagos and Abuja.

But Alamieyeseigha has urged a Federal High Court in Lagos to order a stay of proceedings in the case instituted against him by the EFCC.

He said the court should discountenance the application of the prosecution that the 40-count charge against him and seven others be read out for the purpose of plea taking.

His counsel, Alfred Babatunde Kasunmu, moved the motion before proceedings commenced on Tuesday. Two prayers and an alternative prayer are sought on the application, he informed the court.

Alamieyeseigha, the first accused person, demanded an order staying further proceedings pending the determination of actions he filed in Yenagoa against his impeachment and in Abuja against his incarceration.

Alternatively, he implored the court to decline jurisdiction in the matter until his claim to immunity from arrest and prosecution conferred by the Constitution is vindicated or villified.

Kasunmu argued that the issues, including whether it is appropriate to say Alamieyeseigha ‘is’ or ‘was’ the Governor of Bayelsa State, are at the forefront of the cases filed by him in Yenagoa and Abuja.

Alamieyeseigha insisted that he is still the Governor of Bayelsa State and urged the court to halt the case as the application instituting it does not comply strictly with the Criminal Procedure Act.

Kasunmu submitted that the prosecution of Alamieyeseigha would involve matters subjudice.

If the case in Bayelsa State succeeds, that would result in a reversal of roles and his client would have gone through trial on the grounds that he has no immunity as a governor and thus incur irreparable loss to his reputation and public esteem, he averred.

Mike Ozekhome similarly argued a preliminary objection he filed on Wednesday seeking an order to strike out the charge against the second, third and fourth accused persons.

He said these accused persons have not been properly brought before the court as the prosecution failed to comply with the process of summoning a corporate body to court as provided by Order 13, Rules 8 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules.

In an oral application, Mike Okoye, who appeared on behalf of the sixth, seventh and eight accused persons, allied himself with the positions canvassed by Kasunmu and Ozekhome.

He told the court that the charge was not served on the corporate bodies for whom he appeared – instead the application was given to Alamieyeseigha (who is remanded in the custody of the EFCC) for onward transmission to other accused persons.

But EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, argued that the first issue for determination is whether a case has been made for a stay of proceedings. He said Alamieyeseigha has failed to satisfy the court that a stay should be granted.

On the argument that the two pending cases are civil cases while this one is criminal and cannot all go on simultaneously, Jacobs explained that the position in Nigeria is that where there are related civil and criminal cases, the two are allowed to go on.

He urged the court to disregard the argument that the present case is subjudice and to discountenance the claim by Ozekhome and Okoye that their clients have not been served with the charge, since these lawyers already have copies.

Justice Mohammed Shuaibu reserved ruling on the applications for Friday.

Posted by Publisher at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

Fresh pipeline fire kills 5 in Edo; Death toll in Rivers explosion rises to 11

BENIN—A FRESH pipeline explosion, this time in Edo State, claimed five lives, yesterday, just 24 hours after a suspected terror gang blew up a Shell pipeline at Agba Okwan Asarama in the Andoni local government area of Rivers State and another pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) caught fire in Delta State.

By Osaro Okhomina
Posted to the Web: Thursday, December 22, 2005

The death toll in the Rivers State explosion rose to 11 yesterday from eight while Shell struggled to put out the fire.

Yesterday’s explosion, at Ehor, in the Uhunmwode local government of Edo State, Vanguard gathered, was caused by vandalisation to the pipeline by people suspected to be illegal bunkerers. The explosion occurred at about noon. The victims were mainly youths of the community.

A tanker and equipment believed to belong to the bunkerers also got burnt.
Residents of Ehor told Vanguard that the bunkerers by-passed the security surveillance mounted by armed policemen at a checkpoint along the pipeline route and capitalised on alleged laxity of the policemen said to have mounted an illegal road block on the expressway.

The bunkerers were alleged to have cut through the pipe but a spark ignited a fire that caused the explosion. Many of the villagers were reported to have attempted to rush to the scene following the multiple explosions created, leading to many vacating their homes in fear.

Chairman of the local government, Mr Ehosa Ogbemudia, was reported to have stopped them. Vanguard, however, gathered that the Divisional Police Officer of the Command, yesterday, dispatched an urgent signal to the state headquarters of the Police Force to assist in the deployment of a rescue team and emergency fire service team to the area.
It was gathered that the fire fighters contacted claimed to lack equipment to fight a fire of that magnitude, while efforts were still on to contact the management of the NNPC. Attempt to contact the Chairman of the council, Mr Ogbemudia and the Chief Press Secretary to the council, Mr Nosa Adun, yesterday failed.

Spokesman for the State Police Command, Mr Peter Ogboi, could not confirm the incident, claiming he had not been officially briefed by the Police Division in Ehor. A senior Police source, however, confirmed that the incident was reported to the Police Headquarters around 2.30p.m. yesterday but the team dispatched to the scene was yet to return with details of the incident.
Meanwhile, death toll in the Shell pipeline explosion rose to 11 from eight yesterday as the company struggled to put out the fire that engulfed its pipeline.

“The fire is still on. We are trying to determine the extent of the fire. We are organising a flight today (yesterday) to oversee the situation, the extent of fire,” the spokesman said under the cover of anonymity.
The fire, apparently caused by a dynamite attack, according to an initial probe, cut production and this has not resumed. “We have not resumed operations for now. It is impossible. After fighting the fire, we will have to repair the pipeline and see what again need to be repaired before we can resume operations,” he said.


Shell announced Tuesday that unknown persons attacked its pipeline near Port Harcourt, resulting in a major spill and fire and slashing production by 170,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, accounting for about seven per cent of Nigeria’s total crude export.

“Preliminary investigations revealed that the fire might have been caused by a dynamite attack carried out by unknown persons. To help curb the fire, Shell shut its production from Diebu Creek and Nun River fields as well as all land area facilities except Rumuekpe. Some 170,000 bpd net oil have been deferred,” the company said in a statement.
Shell officials, yesterday, still declined to comment on whether lives were lost in the explosion which affected badly nearby communities. “The number of affected communities is yet to be determined but we understand that some nearby settlements may have been impacted. We have mobilised a medical team that is now on standby in Port Harcourt,” the Shell text said.
Chairman of the Agba Okwan Asarama Community Development Committee, Chief Oraka Benjamin, has called on the state government and the SPDC “to do something urgently to put out the fire.” Naval personnel and SPDC officials had been mobilised to assess the extent of damage.

Posted by Publisher at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

Shell Explosion: Investigators Discover Pipeline Rupture

Investigations into the oil pipeline belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), blown up Tuesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State by suspected members of militant groups has revealed a rupture in the 28-inch pipeline of SPDC and a severance of a 24-inch Port Harcourt refinery supply line while the Nigeria Gas Company line is seriously damaged.

By Stanley Nkwazema, 12.21.2005

According to sources close to the investigation team, officials of Clean Nigeria Associate, a pipeline repair crew, security men and a Joint Investigation Team visited the site of the explosion for closer examination and inspection yesterday.
THISDAY gathered that Clean Nigeria Associates has boomed off oil spill at the 24-inch refinery supply site to stop further spread of oil sheen while a fire fighting crew has been mobilised to put out the fire by today.
The source disclosed that although the fire is still burning, its intensity has reduced, following the closure of all valves to the affected pipeline.
He also disclosed that some relief materials have been supplied to the affected communities, while the Rivers state government has set up a joint impact assessment team that will include SPDC personnel to determine appropriate intervention measures, including the full scope of relief materials scope and security.
He added that the motive of the attackers is still unknown but the current economic impact of the explosion is said to include oil production shut which remains at 180,000 barrels per day, although following today’s repair works, deferment may be reduced to 80,000 barrels per day.
THISDAY also gathered that following the cut in crude supply to the Bonny Terminal, a force majure was declared after the loading of a tanker at 1730 hours yesterday while domestic gas supply to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has fallen from 140 to 80 mmscf/d, and there is currently no gas supply to the Bayelsa State gas turbine.
A crude oil pipeline belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), was Tuesday blown up in Port Harcourt, Rivers State by suspected members of militant groups while the resultant fire killed eight persons and destroyed several properties.
Shell had said that the oil pipeline, which runs across the Opobo Channel, 50 kilometers Southwest of Port Harcourt, as well as the Diebu Creek and Nun River fields were immediately shut down, to curb the fire and this has also resulted in the loss of 170,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude production.

In a development that signaled a resurgence of violence in the oil producing Niger Delta area, the militias were said to have also burnt down some communities including Agbaokwani, Asarama- Andoni, Ama – Lagos, Amapalambo, Amannema, Ama Kauirkor, Ama – Jim, Ama – Atande, all in the Andoni Local Government of Rivers State.
Shell had said in a statement Monday, signed by its Corporate External Affairs Manager, Mr. Don Boham, that preliminary investigations revealed that dynamite was used in blowing up the pipeline.
“The pipeline explosion follows on from two security incidents – an attack by unknown gunmen on a security post at Fisiokiri in our Cawthorne Channel field, and another attempted attack on an NLNG tugboat within the same period”.
“The relevant government agencies have been notified while a Joint Investigation Team comprising security and regulatory agencies and the community people, has been constituted to look into the incident,” Shell said.

Posted by Publisher at 03:27 PM | Comments (0)

Abuja airport not licensed - GM

The General Manager, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Mr Edward Imoh, yesterday revealed that the airport has been running without a certified operating licence from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) or the International Civil Aviation Organisation, (ICAO) since the last 20 years.

by Mohammed S. Shehu / 2005-12-22

The general manager made the stunning disclosure when members of the Presidential Task Force on Aviation Industry led by its chairman, Air Vice Marshal Paul Dike, went on an inspection visit to the airport.
However, while answering questions from the chairman on the state of the airport, Imoh said that he was not aware that NCAA, the only aviation regulatory body in the country, has licensed the airport.
“But the ICAO requirement made it mandatory for you to have an operating licence,” Dike insisted.
But the general manager maintained that he was not aware of any operating licence from either ICAO or NCAA.
Also yesterday, the task force grounded one faulty aircraft Boeing 737-200 series with a registration number 5N-BFQ, belonging to Fresh Airlines on a scheduled flight from Maiduguri to Lagos via Abuja for bad tyres.
The aircraft, which just arrived from Maiduguri, attracted the attention of the task force when one of the members observed an oil leakage from the landing gear and in the process of ascertaining the source of the leakage, the chairman discovered the worn out tyre which he said he was not comfortable with.However, before the action was taken, the pilot, Capt. A. Inameti, and the engineer of the aircraft, Engr. Chris Anele, admitted knowing the problem but requested to be allowed to fly the plane to Lagos where they would replace the bad tyre.
But Dike insisted that it should be replaced in Abuja in order to avoid any accident.
The incidence came at a time when another air disaster was averted mid-air on Tuesday after an EAS aircraft on a scheduled flight from Abuja to Lagos developed a technical problem a few minutes after take-off but the pilot successfully returned to the airport safely.
During the inspection of facilities, the task force uncovered lapses in the running of the airport.
At the control tower, the task force was told that all the communication equipment and the navigational aids were obsolete and there was manpower shortage which the management said had been hampering operations at the airport.
However, efforts to link up Kano, Sokoto and Owerri from the control tower in the presence of the task force failed, even after repeated trials by the controllers.
Daily Trust gathered that since 1982, when the airport started operating, no new equipment has been installed at the domestic wing of the airport despite its statues as an international category 8 airport.
After a facility tour of the airport, particularly the control tower, fire service station, and the administrative sections, the chairman expressed dissatisfaction with the way the airport is being run.
“Our investigations have shown that the airport is operating far below standards,” Dike said.
At the end of the tour, the task force identified lack of modern equipment, poor staff welfare, lack of parametre fencing and safety standards as major problems facing the airport.
The task force is expected to visit all major airports in the country in accordance with its terms of reference.
The task force was recently set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo at the stakeholders’ forum following the spate of air mishaps in the country. The recent is that of Sosoliso Airlines crash at the Port Harcourt Airport where about 117 passengers lost their lives.

Posted by Publisher at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

Bellview: FBI Rules Out Explosion; ...‘Sudden change in wind speed before Sosoliso crash’

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Accident Investigation and Preve-.ntion Bureau (AIPB), have ruled out explosion as the cause of the October 22 crash in Lisa Village, Ogun State of Bellview aircraft flight 210.

By Ndubuisi Francis, 12.21.2005

AIPB also gave a graphic detail of circumstances leading to the Sosoliso aircraft crash in Port Harcourt saying there was a sudden change in wind speed and direction as well as rain and thunderstorm shortly before the aircraft crashed.
Giving an update in Lagos yesterday on the recent air crashes, Director of AIPB, Engr. Angus Ozoka alongside his deputy, Engr. Femi Faminu and Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Dr. Imoru Kubor, said result conducted on the crashed Bellview aircraft's parts to ascertain whether there was an explosion was negative.
Soon after the Bellview crash, the plane was believed in some quarters to have suffered an explosion which made sabotage theory gaining ground in some quarters.
"I can tell you categorically that examinations done by Nigerian security personnel and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was negative. The result was negative", Ozoka stated.
Giving further insight into the Bellview crash, he said: "We studied and examined the aircraft's log books, including the technical and engine log books. We examined the pilots' records, including their licences, among others", adding that the medical examination of the pilot was also taken from the medical doctor.
He added that investigations are continuing, disclosing that it might take a long time.
On the black box of the ill-fated aircraft which is yet to be found, Ozoka's deputy, Faminu, said the fact that the casing was found was indicative that the crashed aircraft was indeed carrying a black box, noting that the work of the investigators would be much easier and faster if it was retrieved.
Ozoka who at this point interjected stated that some people had made insinuations to the extent that the investigators had seen the black box and decided to hide it, arguing that they (investigators) needed the instrument more than anyone else since it would fast track their work.
On the Sosoliso DC-9 aircraft crash, Ozoka who gave a graphic blow by blow detail of how the accident happened said the pilot of the aircraft which left Abuja to Port Harcourt with 109 passengers and crew on board was handed to the Lagos Area Control at 1.41pm on the fateful day as it took off from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
According to him, the Lagos Control later handed over the pilot to Port Harcourt Control at 1.50 pm when the plane was 90 nautical miles from the oil rich city. The pilot, he said, at this point contacted the control tower at the Port Harcourt Airport to know if it was raining to which he was said to have been told that there was no rain.
At 2.04 pm, according to the AIPB Director, the Approach personnel spoke with the pilot and asked him to contact the control tower, which he reportedly did at 2.05pm and was asked to commence descent into the airport.
He stated that at this point there was there was a sudden change in wind speed and direction as well as rain and thunderstorm.
Ozoka said three minutes later, the aircraft impacted on the land 300 metres beyond the threshold of the runway.
The wreckage of the aircraft, he disclosed

Posted by Publisher at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

Help, they want to sack me from office – Gov. Ladoja; Alleges plan to install unpopular governor in Oyo

Governor Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo state yesterday disclosed that the state government has uncovered a plot by a section of members of the state House of Assembly to replace him with an un-elected politician due to his refusal to allow some people to plunder the state treasury.

By SOLA BALOGUN, Ibadan

Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Strategy, Prince Adekanmbi disclosed that the game plan of the 15 legislators who recently authored an impeachment notice to the governor was actually to bring in an un-elected politician as the governor of the state.

According to him, the plan was to install the incumbent deputy governor (Otunba Chris Alao-Akala) and only to remove him after six months in office and then bring in the real person they want to use to plunder the state.

“We know their game plan; they have plans to bring in a prominent politician who had failed to win gubernatorial elections so many times as governor. They want to first remove the incumbent (Ladoja) and then install his Deputy only for them to remove the deputy after six months and allow the politician who would have been then picked as the deputy to become the governor. You can imagine the magnitude of the political crisis they will throw the state into. To have three governors within one year. It is saddening that they are doing this with the active support of a prominent traditional ruler,” he said.

He was, however, silent on the real identity of the politician that was to replace the governor.

Adekanmbi stated further that the 15 lawmakers who purportedly initiated impeachment proceedings against the governor were out to blackmail the governor into backing off his planned decision to probe all the contractors that failed to deliver the desk and chairs contracts awarded to them.

To him, the action of the lawmakers who are presently held up at the D’Rovans Hotel was nothing but sheer blackmail.

He said: “they were aware that the government has already compiled the names of those contractors who are yet to deliver on the desk and chairs given to them with the aim of taking action. That was why they are trying to create crisis and confusion in the state so that the government would not have a rest of mind. These desks and chairs contract was awarded to them to aide the education of the common man but they failed to deliver and want to cover up there track”.

The special adviser who indicted the lawmakers of moving against the governor due to his refusal to allow them access to public fund insisted that “they wanted to be feeding fat on the Government which Ladoja won’t condone because he has responsibility to the people”.

Adekanmbi while maintaining that the Governor was yet to be served with any impeachment notice, picked hole in the entire impeachment brouhaha saying “in actual fact there had been a disclaimer personally signed by the Speaker. Again you are aware that the house has not met since September 1st 2005, where did they meet to be able to come out with the letter dated December 9th? That is to show the dubious intention of these people. The intention was to destabilize government for their narrow selfish interest.”

The media adviser also took exception to a statement credited to one of the lawmakers, Hon. Babatunde Eesuola that the free education programme of the state government was a sham.

Adekanmbi said that workers in Oyo state have started enjoying 12.5% salary increase from this month.

Posted by Publisher at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2005

2007: Anenih’s letter confirms power shift agreement- Again, FG denies third term

A letter written by the Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, has confirmed that the party agreed on a formula to zone the presidency to the North in 2007.

by Hammed M. Bello, Joe Oroye & Abdullahi M. Gulloma / 2005-12-21

A letter written by the Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, has confirmed that the party agreed on a formula to zone the presidency to the North in 2007.

This is coming on the heels of another denial by the federal government of any third term agenda for the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Anenih’s letter which was written to the leadership of the PDP, cautioned the party to uphold the sanctity of the zoning arrangement, presumably to prevent a breakdown of order in the party.

Anenih’s confirmation is among other several confirmations by stakeholders in the PDP of the resolve for power to shift to the North in 2007.

In the letter personally signed by Anenih, dated August 5, 2002, and addressed to the then national chairman of the PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh, with the title, “PDP Zoning Arrangement”, the BOT chairman said just as the party obeyed the zoning arrangement to the letter in the 1998/99 general elections, it has to abide by it strictly in the 2007 elections.

He said the zoning arrangement, which produced President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southerner, in 1998/99 also zoned the position of the party chairman to the North, while the positions of the vice president and the president of the Senate were respectively zoned to the North and the South.

“The speaker of the House was zoned to the North; PDP national Secretary to the South; deputy Senate president to the North while the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives was zoned to the South,” Anenih said, adding that it was this arrangement that ushered in the current officers.

“As it was in 1998 till date, only candidates from the North were allowed to contest for the post of the national chairman. In the same vein, only candidates from the South collected presidential nomination forms. The only aspirant from the North – Abubakar Rimi- withdrew from the race before the convention. As a result, only President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Graham Douglas and Chief Don Etiebet attended the convention in Jos and contested,” the letter said.

“I am writing this to put you on notice so that you will A letter written by the Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, has confirmed that the party agreed on a formula to zone the presidency to the North in 2007.

This is coming on the heels of another denial by the federal government of any third term agenda for the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Anenih’s letter which was written to the leadership of the PDP, cautioned the party to uphold the sanctity of the zoning arrangement, presumably to prevent a breakdown of order in the party.

Anenih’s confirmation is among other several confirmations by stakeholders in the PDP of the resolve for power to shift to the North in 2007.

In the letter personally signed by Anenih, dated August 5, 2002, and addressed to the then national chairman of the PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh, with the title, “PDP Zoning Arrangement”, the BOT chairman said just as the party obeyed the zoning arrangement to the letter in the 1998/99 general elections, it has to abide by it strictly in the 2007 elections.

He said the zoning arrangement, which produced President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southerner, in 1998/99 also zoned the position of the party chairman to the North, while the positions of the vice president and the president of the Senate were respectively zoned to the North and the South.

“The speaker of the House was zoned to the North; PDP national Secretary to the South; deputy Senate president to the North while the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives was zoned to the South,” Anenih said, adding that it was this arrangement that ushered in the current officers.

“As it was in 1998 till date, only candidates from the North were allowed to contest for the post of the national chairman. In the same vein, only candidates from the South collected presidential nomination forms. The only aspirant from the North – Abubakar Rimi- withdrew from the race before the convention. As a result, only President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Graham Douglas and Chief Don Etiebet attended the convention in Jos and contested,” the letter said.

“I am writing this to put you on notice so that you will remember when you are considering the guidelines for the presidential primaries that the above zoning arrangement stands till 2007 when the reverse will be the case.”

The reverse, in this context, means the North is to produce the president in 2007.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had also confirmed at the last PDP convention that held in Abuja that there was power shift arrangement, although it was not included in the party’s constitution or the national constitution.

It would be recalled that the North has been making case for power to shift to the region, while the South is insisting that power must remain with it.

The southern governors and the leaders had risen from their meeting in Enugu on Sunday with a resolution not to relinquish power in 2007, while northern leaders, senators and members of the House of Representatives resolved to fight against the third term agenda and other plots to deny the region of power in 2007.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Frank Nweke, said yesterday that the federal government does not habour any third term agenda in favour of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The minister, who made this known at a press conference in Abuja, said that the third term agenda was only conjured up by what he referred to as ‘frustrated persons who will stop at nothing to thwart the well-meaning efforts of this administration’.

“On this score, they now claim that one of the strategies for the actualization of the bid is to precipitate a crisis in the Bakassi Peninsula that will lead to a declaration of a state of emergency in the country,” he said.

He said that the submission by some individuals that the federal government would precipitate crisis in Bakassi Peninsula as a strategy for the third term agenda was a ‘figment of the demented imagination of its propagators’.

Mr. Nweke also described as “wild, baseless and thoroughly laughable” remarks by some people that the federal government would seize the opportunity of the 2006 census to foment national crisis in furtherance of the alleged third term bid.

“The Obasanjo administration remains fully committed to ensuring that the March 2006 National Census is efficiently and justly conducted in all parts of the country and has no intentions whatsoever to sacrifice its well laid plans for a successful and credible exercise on the altar of a political agenda that exists only in the minds of disgruntled, frustrated and corrupt power seekers,” he said.

The minister said also that the present administration had no intention to clamp down on what he referred to as ‘the so-called opposition’ as canvassed by the people he described as ‘enemies of progress’.

“They have falsely alleged that Sgt. Jabila Barnabas, alias Sgt. Rogers, and Lt.-Col. I.A. Yakassai, who were closely associated with excesses of the Abacha regime, have been recalled to the Nigerian Army to help in the elimination of opponents of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“This charge, as it is easily verifiable, is based on a completely false premise. The truth of the matter is that Lt.-Col. Yakassai was dismissed with ignominy from the Nigerian Army. After his application for presidential pardon was granted, he applied to the Army Council for the conversion of his cashiering to voluntary retirement and this application had been granted by the council.

“For his part, Sgt. Barnabas is still very much in the custody of the State Security Services and is still facing criminal charges in a civil court. As it is the practice in the Army, until his case is concluded, he continues to receive half pay,” he said.

It would be recalled that the presidential spokesperson, Mrs. Remi Oyo, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs Chief Fani Kayode and other top government officials have at different times denied the third term agenda.

Posted by Publisher at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)

Minister Ayu sacked; No, I resigned, says he

The Minister of Environment, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu has been relieved of his appointment folowing allegations of inappropriate financial transactions and other corrupt practices as Internal Affairs Minister by the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs.

By UMAR AFEGBUA, Abuja

Although his letter of sack, did not state reasons for removal, the Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mrs Remi Oyo, who signed the notice wished Dr. Ayu success in his future endeavours.

But, briefing journalists at the NUJ centre yesterday, Dr. Ayu swiftly refuted the statement that he was sacked and said, “ I had to resign to defend my long earned integrity and honour outside the government since laudable intention of fighting corruption is being deployed to become a political weapon. All you need to hang any public officer is to brand him as corrupt. Yesterday (Monday) I tendered my resignation orally to Mr. President while I submitted my letter of resignation formally today (Tuesday)”.

He made further clarifications that his resignation has nothing to do with the embattled Vice President President Atiku Abubakar. “My relationship with the Vice President has nothing to do with my resignation. I have known him for 15 years and I have a good relationship with the President. I campaigned for him (the President) in 1998," he said. On the alleged indictment by the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs, Ayu said he was never invited by the Committee headed by Senator Abubukar Sodangi prior to November 18,

Said he: “In the said letter, I was invited to appear before the House Committee, the Chairman (Hon. West Idahosa) stated that the House Committee carried out ‘investigations into regularisation of Ranks and the income and the expenditure of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)’and during the said hearings, inappropriate financial transactions and other corrupt practices bordering on the administration of the NSCDC were established and that I as the minister purportedly authorised such transactions and practices”.

He explained that when he appeared before the Committee on November, 29, the Committee decided to make it a question and answer session. “I objected and requested that they forward to me all the specifics of the established corruption and malpractices to enable me respond to them. This they agreed to do”.

Dr. Ayu berated the House Committee conduct of forwarding their report to President Olusegun Obasanjo as well as circulating it to the press without giving him a fair hearing.

“I had believed that the House Committee would abide by the principle of fair hearing and provide for my perusal of the documents tendered before it and received in evidence and recall witnesses who testified before the committee for my cross examination if I so wish. But this was not to be”, he said.

Explaining further, he said, “everything was moving from the committee to the executive without passing through either the floor of the Senate or that of the House of Representatives for proper scrutiny, debate and adoption. This is not only curious, it is strange and contrary to all known procedures of legislation in a presidential system”.

Ayu who tried to justify his stewardship as the Internal Affairs Minister at a press briefing held in Abuja while noting that the issues raised by the Senate Committee are the same with those of the House Committee said, “ all procurements in the ministry followed Due process as stipulated by the regulation”.

The issues, according to him are purchase of properties for the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), involvement of Osieka Nigeria Limited in the transaction (where his wife is a director), personnel cost of NSCDC and Purchase of vehicles in the ministry.

Posted by Publisher at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

Militants suspected in oil pipeline fire in Nigeria

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (AP) -- Investigators are probing the source of a fire that was still blazing Wednesday on a ruptured Royal Dutch Shell oil pipeline in southern Nigeria as the company announced further petroleum production cuts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005; Posted: 11:20 a.m. EST (16:20 GMT)

Residents near the conduit in Nigeria's strife-riven south said suspected militia fighters blew up the pipeline southwest of Port Harcourt Tuesday with dynamite, sparking a conflagration that killed eight.

Shell spokeswoman Caroline Wittgen said she couldn't confirm any deaths or injuries, citing the ongoing investigation. She said the pipeline was still ablaze Wednesday.

Nigeria normally has daily output of about 2.5 million barrels. Shell and its local partners normally produce about 1 million barrels per day.

The company said its daily output reduction reached 180,000 barrels per day, up from 170,000 a day earlier, after the company and its local partners shut down a flow station. There was no word on when full production would be restored.

In Wednesday trading, crude prices rose on the news coupled with an expected release of petroleum-supply data in the United States.

Despite the valuable crude pumped from Nigeria's south, the region remains one of the country's poorest and is frequently the site of violence as rival groups compete for power -- which means access to oil revenues.

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Alamieyeseigha in court, faces 40-count charge

The former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, is to face a 40-count charge bordering on money laundering, false declaration and illegal acquisition of assets.

Tony Amokeodo

Alamieyeseigha, who was brought to a Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday, was also charged along with seven companies in which he is said to have substantial interests.

His lawyers however said that the charge sheet was served on their client late on Monday and that they did not have sufficient time to study the offences before proceedings opened in court.

An official of the EFCC, Mr. M.S. Hassan, signed the charge sheet, made available to journalists.

Going by the charges, the former governor was said to have embezzled N3.89billion, $160.25million and £258.98million.

The offences are contrary to Section 14 (1) of the Money Laundering Act 2003 and Section 27 (3) (a) (b) (c) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act 2004.

The seven companies joined as co-defendants in the suit No FHC/L/328/C/05 are: Solomon & Peters; Santolina Investment Corporation; Pesal Nigeria Ltd; Salomein & Associates (Nig) Ltd; Kpedefa Nigeria Ltd; Jetty Properties Ltd and Herbage Global Services Ltd.

Before 8.40am when Alamieyeseigha arrived in the court presided over by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu, riot policemen had taken strategic positions within and outside the premises.

Alamieyeseigha who is facing almost similar charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Kaduna, was brought to the court in a green Peugeot Expert marked HD 421 AA.

The former governor wore a white and blue long-sleeved stripe shirt with a pair of black trousers and a black slip-on.

He was sandwiched between 10 EFCC security agents and scores of riot policemen.

Inside the courtroom, the former governor was calm, as he appeared to have come to terms with the situation.

Intermittently, Alamieyeseigha looked furtively at the faces in the courtroom.

At a stage, he shared a joke with a photojournalist who was taking his photographs.

He said, “If you take my photographs, your paper may not sell o!”

The joke drew laughter from lawyers, litigants and journalists in the courtroom.

Alamieyeseigha, later took his seat in the middle of the courtroom, when his lawyers, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof Alfred Kasumu, and the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, engaged in a heated argument.

Jacobs had told Justice Shuaibu to allow the accused to take the necessary pleas since he had been served with the court processes.

But Kasumu, leading two other lawyers-Chiefs Mike Ozekhome and Mike Okoye- kicked against the idea.

The SAN argued that it was not proper to ask one accused (Alamieyeseigha) out of eight accused persons to take his plea on a joint charge.

Kasumu, who claimed that the other seven accused had not been served, added that they must also be in court.

He added that he had just seen a copy of the charge and needed some time to study it in order to advise his client accordingly.

Kasumu also hinted that he would file an application to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.

He consequently urged the court to allow him come on Thursday for further hearing of the matter.

But Jacobs insisted that the plea should be taken since the accused were duly served.

In his short ruling, Shuaibu held that the accused were duly served, based on the proof of service before the court.

The judge therefore adjourned the matter till Wednesday (today) and directed that the former governor be kept in the custody of the EFCC.

“He should also be allowed access to his lawyers,” he added.

Some of the charges against Alamieyeseigha are:

• Buying Chelsea Hotel, Abuja at N1.5billion;

• Spending N450million on the purchase of a property on Plot 26, Bashir Dalhatu Close, Abacha Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos;

• Transferring £3million from Lagos to Barclays Bank Plc, London;

• Transferring £122,175 from Lagos to Royal Bank Scotland, London;

•Transferring £198,814.88 from Lagos to Royal Bank Scotland, London;

•Transferring £299,465.61 from Lagos to National Westminster Bank, London a subsidiary of Royal Bank Scotland, London;

•Transferring £203,753.34 from Lagos to Barclays Bank Plc, London;

•Transferring £1.75million from Lagos to London 247 Water Gardens, London, W2 2DG London;

•Using £241 million to buy flat 202 Jubilee Heights, Shootuphill London NW2 UQ;

• Using £475,724.08 to buy a property on 68-70 Regent Park Road London;

• Transferring $160,000 million from Lagos to America to open an account number 0054 8256 2491

• Failure to make full disclosure of his assets by not disclosing his account No 2010062850006 with Bond Bank Plc with the outstanding balance of N105million;

• Failing to declare the five accounts Nos 541-510036-110, 541-510037-110, 541-510038-110, 541-510039-110, 541-510040-110, respectively held by his children and funded by Bayelsa State Government at Guaranty Trust Bank;

• Using N1billion to buy shares in Bond Bank, Lagos.

Alamieyeseigha is expected to also appear on Wednesday (today) before the CCT in Kaduna where he is facing an 18-court charge brought against him by the Federal Government.

The PUNCH, Wednesday, December 21, 2005

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Northern Senators fire back at Southern leaders

*Insist on 2007 presidency

ABUJA — NORTHERN Senators denounced yesterday, Monday’s resolution of Southern political leaders on the North’s quest for power shift to the North in 2007. While agreeing that the Southern politicians were entitled to express any opinion they so desired, the Northern Senators asserted the region’s claim to the presidency in 2007, stressing that if not zoned to the North, then the zone would clinch it through its assumed superior number of voters.

By Emmanuel Aziken & Paul Odili
Posted to the Web: Wednesday, December 21, 2005

However, two principal participants at the Enugu meeting, Chief Matthew Mbu and Chief Olu Falae, have declared that the call for a South-South/South-East president in 2007 is a no-go-area should the need arise for negotiation on the issues raised at Monday’s meeting.

Senators Abubakar Maikafi (PDP, Bauchi South), Mohammed Ohaire (PDP, Kogi Central), Tawar Wada (PDP, Gombe South), Abu Ibrahim (ANPP, Katsina South) and Bala Adamu (PDP, Bauchi Central) in separate reactions to the resolution of the Southern politicians’ summit of Monday said the South had no case on its insistence on power retention.
Senator Wada, chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, said: “It is alright for Southern Senators to demand that the presidency should remain in the South. It is equally alright for the Northern Senators to demand that it should shift to the North. As long as the game is played according to the rules, the dynamics of politics will determine where the presidency will remain.”
On his part, Senator Maikafi said: “I think they are entitled to their own views but what we have said is that while we recognise the zonal arrangement which is not in the constitution, we still plead with our colleagues that since the presidency has been in the South for the past eight years, let it come back to the North for another set of two terms. They are entitled to their own views, but if you are asking for equity, you should come with clean hands.”

Senator Ohaire said: “What is happening is the beauty of democracy and in a democratic set up like this, pressure groups are normally needed to allow certain things to be corrected. Whatever is happening over there is a kind of political development. As far as I am concerned, the majority carries the vote and when it is time, I believe the people who were there, that they are all wise men, they love this country, they will toe the line that will suit this country.”
Echoing the opinion of the NSF on the issue, Senator Adamu said: “They have a right to say whatever they may feel, but my opinion is which I have said previously and echoed by the Northern Senators Forum that the principle of rotation should be allowed to take its course and that means shifting the presidency to the North.”
Senator Ibrahim said: “We are politicians and we know how to resolve our issues. Well, it is good that they didn’t say that Obasanjo should continue. I am sure we will find a solution to it.”

Power shift, no-go area—MBU, FALAE

Two southern leaders, Chief Matthew Mbu and Chief Olu Falae, have declared that power shift to the South-East or South-South in 2007 is a no-go area should the need arise to negotiate issues raised by the Southern Leaders Forum at the Enugu summit, on Monday, with other geo-political zones of the country.
They further explained that the threat to declare a confederacy was not to dismember the country but to show resolve that the issues raised by the summit were serious. They were also confident that the summit would succeed in delivering on the task it had set out for itself.

Chief Mbu, reviewing the resolutions of the summit, said: “In politics, you never say nothing is non-negotiable. The word, impossibility, can only be found in the dictionary of those who are fools. However, we have said on the question of providing the President for the country in 2007, we will provide a candidate. And so if there is any no go area that is one.”
Commenting on the task before the national working committee of the Southern Leaders Forum, which he chairs, Chief Mbu, exuding confidence said: “I am very optimistic that this time around we will work to succeed based on the experience of very many mistakes we had made in the past. Why should we go on replicating these mistakes? We have made mistakes, we acknowledge them, and we are forging a new alliance that based all these things if we carry them out, which will benefit us and our future generations. These things are not for me as an individual. It is for the well-being of the people of the South-East and South-South and for the whole Nigeria. So, why should it not work, except for those who do not believe in freedom, justice and fair play?

Rejecting any talk that the summit is out to break up Nigeria, Chief Mbu, said: “What we mean by confederation is not breaking up. Rather, it is a losing up so that we do not get into friction. America began with confederation, but look at how closely they have knitted, peace and confidence built within their institution.”
Relatedly, Chief Falae expressed his hope that the resolution of the summit would open up opportunities for discussion across the geo-political zones, adding: “Why some people may view the resolution of the summit as capable of polarizing the nation, I think what ought to happen is an immediate negotiation across the board. That is what ought to happen. My reading of the consequence of this summit: Once all sides have seen that there is a resolve on all sides, then we will go to the conference table. We are brothers, every disagreement ends at the conference table, even a shooting war."

On why he led Afenifere to protest the composition of the working committee, Chief Falae said it was to address imbalance in the membership. “Various organisations sponsored this summit. In constituting the steering committee, there should be balance in the membership, because what we are quarrelling about is that there is imbalance in Nigeria. And so we should not carry that into the new arrangement. We are happy that we corrected the error,” he said.



Posted by Publisher at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

FG uncovers alleged plots

FEDERAL government says it had uncovered what it described as dastardly plans by certain group of people to cause ethnic disaffection, thereby negating the positive results of the present administration’s efforts in the past six years to comprehensively reform the nation for the collective benefit of its citizens.

Minister of information and national orientation, Mr. Frank Nweke Junior, who made this disclosure yesterday at Presidential Villa, Abuja, warned that the planners and their collaborators should know that their reprehensive plots to destabilise the country are being carefully watched and monitored.

According to him, some heinous allegations and baseless rumours on the intentions of this administration being spread by what he called selfish, self-seeking later-day ‘’defenders of democracy’’ are falsely alleging that government had recalled Colonel Ibrahim A. Yakasai and Sgt. Barnabas alias Rogers into the Nigerian Army to help in the elimination of opponents of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He maintained that the true of the matter is that, Yakasai was dismissed with ignominy from the Nigerian Army and after his application for presidential pardon, it was granted, he also applied for the conversion of his cashiering to voluntary retirement which was granted by the Army Council.

As for his colleague, Seargent Barnabas alias ‘’Sgt Rogers,’’ Nweke said, ‘’he is still very much in the custody of the State Security Services facing criminal charges in a civil court.

The information minister further said, another regrettable rumour being peddled by ‘’these frustrated persons’’ in their so called third term agenda campaign, is their claim that one of the strategies applied by government for the actualisation of the bid, was to precipitate a crisis in the Bakassi peninsula that will lead to a declaration of a state of emergency in Nigeria.

In his words: ‘’The facts as they stand on Bakassi is that Nigeria lost its case for sovereignty over the territory at the International Court of Justice. Since then, President Obasanjo has worked tirelessly with his Camerounian counterpart to find a political solution that will fully protect the interest of thousands of Nigerians who have the peninsula as their ancestral home.’’

Similarly, he added, these enemies of progress alleged that the planned 2006 Census is deliberately fomented to cause a national crisis in furtherance of its alleged third term agenda. ‘’The plan, they claim, will be to make it seem as if the country would be ungovernable, unless President Obasanjo continue in office.’’

Mr. Nweke who described all these allegations as a wild, baseless, and thoroughly laughable allegation, however said, Obasanjo’s administration remains fully committed to ensuring that Nigeria and Nigerians would continue to enjoy the dividend of democracy as well as peace, law and order.

‘’This administration remains fully committed to upholding the rule of law in our country at all times. It has never sanctioned the arrest or detention of any individual merely on account of their views or for being opposed to its programmes, policies or actions and has no intention to begin to do so now,’’ he concluded.

Posted by Publisher at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

Ladoja presents N51b budget amid tight security

Oyo State Governor, Rashidi Ladoja, on Tuesday presented a budget of N51 billion for the 2006 fiscal year to the state Assembly. It was witnessed by a crowd of supporters amid tight security.

By Sola Shittu
Reporter, Ibadan

His supporters booed Deputy Governor, Adebayo Alao Akala, when his name was mentioned.

He is said to be the brain behind the impeachment plot against Ladoja, allegedly being one of the major sponsors of the Lamidi Adedibu faction in the Assembly.

The budget is about N18 billion more than the N33.2 billion figure for 2005.

Ladoja said education will continue to enjoy high priority as the government has set in motion all the machinery to overhaul it.

He added: “The gains from this policy objective will be consolidated in year 2006. Consequently, a significant percentage of the capital budget (27.38 per cent) has been devoted to education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

“To this end N13, 966,065,945.00 or 27.38 per cent of total budget size of N51 billion has been allocated to education in 2006. This is made up of N9.64 billion and N4.2 billion recurrent and capital estimates respectively”.

The government, “in its determination to provide an environment conducive to learning”, earmarked N320 million to build new class rooms and rehabilitate existing ones.

Up to N150 million will be spent to provide furniture in secondary schools.

“To further the pursuit of effective transportation, this administration has embarked on an aggressive road construction scheme in collaboration with local governments.

“In this arrangement, each local government is to construct at least 10 kilometres of road in a year with the state government providing the asphalt. When consideration is given to the fact that there are 33 local governments, this translate to 330 kilometres of roads”, Ladoja explained.

Two trucks of policemen were deployed to the secretariat complex while the presentation was going on.

Some young men with green bands on their wrists checked vehicles at the entrance gate to the Governor’s Office.

The Adedibu faction of the lawmakers did not show up in the Assembly, leaving only the 14 on the side of Ladjoja to hear the breakdown of the “Budget of Consolidation”.

But the presentation witnessed the presence of the Olubadan of Ibadan, Yinusa Ogundipe, represented by Samuel Lana and other Obas and chiefs from Oke Ogun Ogbomoso and Ibarapa areas of the state.

The Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi, who has gone to court over the creation of the five zonal Councils of Obas and Chiefs, was absent.

The Olubadan and the Oke Ogun Conference of Obas support Ladoja in the arrangement of the councils.

Posted by Publisher at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

FG revokes Bellview’s AOC

Minister of Aviation Professor Babalola Borisade has authorized the immediate revocation of Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) of Bellview airlines following the recent spate of accidents/incidents involving its aircraft.

By Rotimi Durojaiye
Aviation Correspondent, Lagos

According to the chairman of the verification task force, Mrs. Folasade Odutola, the airline would be required to undergo a re-certification process following the success of which it would be allowed to resume operations.

The airline spokesman, Mohammed Habeeb, told newsmen on Tuesday in Lagos that the airline would comply with the ministerial directive.

Borisade, on Tuesday also justified the removal of the chief executives of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and some directors, saying they were inefficient.

He told aviation journalists at a briefing that on assumption of office he indicated that he was not keen on the arbitrary removal of officials and that he gave the various heads of parastatals under his ministry until December, 2005 to prove themselves or otherwise.

“In response, I got their undertaking to be alive to their responsibilities” he said.

Borisade said the changes were made for the efficient and service delivery in the aviation sector.

He noted that since he assumed office about five months ago, the Director of Operations at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had been outside the country for about seven times.

“When I wanted to know where he went to he said he got the permission of the minister that was my predecessor. As I am talking to you with all the accidents happening in Nigeria, the Director of Operations of FAAN is outside Nigeria. So, do I continue to keep that kind of person in office?”, he queried.

He also regretted that some NCAA officials colluded with airline operators to issue wrong airworthiness certificates.

Borisade promised that with a new team in place, his ministry was prepared to comply with the due process to move the industry forward.

Posted by Publisher at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

Sosoliso: Senate to reform aviation laws

CIVIL Aviation Laws and other regulatory laws governing the industry would soon be reformed and properly regulated so as to reduce the cause of plane crashes in the country.

CHINEDU WOSU, PH

Senate Committee Chairman on Aviation, Senator Mohammed Ibrahim, who disclosed this to Daily Champion in Port Harcourt while inspecting the scene of the Sosoliso plane crash that claimed over 106 passengers at Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.

The senator who faulted the aviation industry in the country for using obsolete equipment decried the presence of non-functional and obsolete radars at most airports.

Senator Ibrahim who stated that the National Assembly received the news of the crash with rude shock, noting that the senate would set up a committee that will ascertain the immediate and remote cause of the mishap last weekend.

According to Ibrahim, "the senate will consult some relevant experts on Aviation industry to ascertain the cause of the Sosoliso plane-crash that killed over 60 students and other prominent Nigerians and proffer necessary solutions."

He described the ill-fated accident as colossal and the loss of future Nigerians, noting that the new laws would conform with international standards on aviation.

The Senator charged the management of the Port-Harcourt airport not to allow any aircraft to operate when the visibility is poor.

The committee chairman called for more autonomy in the aviation industry so as to improve on their efficience.

He attributed most causes of plane crash to human factor, facilities and environments, even as he called on Nigerians to shun corrupt practices and negligence at their work places.

Posted by Publisher at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

Vmobile gets N142bn facility

NIGERIA’S leading Global systems telephony firm, Vmobile, yesterday in Lagos, announced a financial leverage of $1.1 billion (N142 billion) to it from 16 local and foreign banks.

REMMY NWEKE and CHIOMA CHUKA

The financial package would assist Vmobile’s pursue its five year growth plan agenda.

Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr Willem Swart, who made the announcement, explained that the deal would equally boost the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) by $650 million.

Mr. Swart said the financing is the largest in the country from non-oil sector in the last one year.

He also said that the facility, was a medium-term debt financing agreement with leading international banks, a consortium of 16 top local banks including export credit agencies, multilateral institutions and equipment vendors.

Described as a major feat in the history of Vmobile, Mr. Swart said the deal confirms international and local financiers’ confidence in the company’s operations in the country.

He said that the finance would be used to drive Vmobile’s aggressive network roll out and support the on-going coverage expansion programme tagged Project ROSE, nationwide.

"In addition, the deal further reaffirms the increasing international confidence in Nigeria as a fast growing investment destination and boosts Foreign Direct Investment by more than $650 million," he said.

Emphasizing that its significance is underscored by the fact that it is by every standard the biggest indigenous transaction in all the sectors of the nation’s economy.

"Specifically, it is the biggest funding arrangement in Nigeria, second only to one or two other transactions in the oil and gas sector" he declared.

He maintained that it has been structured with international market best practice and provides a seamless, flexible and robust framework to facilitate easy entry of new lenders as need arises.

Explaining the processes, the Chief Treasury Officer at Vmobile Nigeria, Mr. Ayo Gbeleyi, said, conclusion of negotiations and execution of its Global Finance Documents took place on September 16, this year.

He offered the breakdown of the agreement as offshore lenders led by Standard Chartered Bank and include African Export-Import Bank (AfrexIm), Rand Merchant Bank, Barclays Bank, Nordea Bank AB and Ericsson Credit AB.

While onshore, he said, the consortium of 16 leading banking institutions include First Bank, Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, AfriBank, Wema Bank, National Bank, International, UBA, Ecobank, Lead Bank, Access Bank and Oceanic Banks.

Posted by Publisher at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

10 Feared dead In Onitsha market clash

HOSTILITIES between two rival groups laying claim to the leadership of the Ogbaru Main Market, Onitsha, Anambra State on Monday have left no fewer than 10 persons dead and several others injured.

From Gbenga Akinfenwa, Onitsha

Monday's hostilities were however a development emanating from earlier encounters between the rival groups which transpired at the weekend.

The Guardian learnt that some individuals allegedly led by a chairmanship claimant Mr. Joe Nwokoye had at the weekend stormed the market and sized the White House office of the incumbent, Mr Evans Ihesi. They were also said to have declared an end to Ihesi's leadership.

This however was not to last as it changed by Monday afternoon.

This, according to witnesses, was when the Ihesi faction regrouped ready to reclaim the secretariat.

An offensive was launched but vehemently resisted by the opposition. A gun battle of about four hours was reported to have ensued.

By the times the bullets stopped flying and the staccato burst of gun fire subsided, bodies had already littered the groun