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2023: Yahaha Bello’s presidential bid and bailout controversy

By Chinelo Obogo

When speculations that Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State will contest for the presidential ticket of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) began to circulate last year, many of his supporters cheered him on, touting his youthful age and the fact that he appointed many women and young people into his cabinet. While his critics accused him of not doing enough for the state, his supporters said he has achieved more than his predecessors.

But while the back and forth continued over his presidential bid, reports emerged alleging that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had received intelligence reports that the bailout funds given to the state by the Federal Government meant for the payment of salaries was domiciled in a fixed deposit in a new generation bank, rather than using it for what it was meant for.

The state government shut down the reports and insisted that the funds claimed to have been found and returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), didn’t belong to the state and that it had already disbursed its bailout loans for the purpose of which it was granted as of October 2019.

EFCC takes Kogi govt to court

At one of the hearings headed by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court, Lagos, counsel to Kogi State government, Prof. Sam Erugo (SAN), told the court that the freezing order Justice Tijjani Ringim granted after an ex parte application brought by the EFCC for an interim forfeiture of the sum of N19, 333, 333, 333.36 billion was illegal.

Justice Ringim made the order of the interim forfeiture after taking arguments from the EFCC’s counsel, Abbas Muhammed. In asking the court for the order, Abbas told the court that the application was brought pursuant to section 44(2) of the Constitution and section 34(1) of the EFCC Act and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.

The EFCC, in its 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte application deposed to, by a member of EFCC’s team of investigators, stated that the Commission received intelligence, which led to the tracing of funds in a bank and suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities deposited in an account with the name ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout’. He said the Commission acted on the intelligence after it discovered that on April 1, 2019 the management of the bank approved N20b bailout loan facility for Kogi State meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the government.

He said that on June 26, 2019 the loan facility offer was accepted vide a memorandum of acceptance signed by Governor Yahaya Bello, the Commissioner of Finance, Asiru idris and the Accountant General, Momoh Jibrin. He then alleged that rather than use the intervention funds for the purpose for which it was granted, the state government proceeded to open a fixed deposit account and transferred the money from the loan account.

CBN claims bailout money received

The EFCC published on its official website recently that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has acknowledged the receipt of the sum of N19, 333,333,333.36 (Nineteen billion, three hundred and thirty-three million, three hundred and thirty-three thousand, three hundred and thirty-three naira, thirty-six kobo) recovered from the Kogi State salary bailout account.

It said that in a letter referenced, DFD/DIR/CON/EXT/01/099 and dated November 9, 2021, the CBN informed the Executive Chairman of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa that it has received the money in compliance with the October 15, 2021 order of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi Lagos directing the unfreezing of the Kogi State salary bailout account to enable the bank to remit the balance in the account to the CBN.

Kogi refutes EFCC’s claims

The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Femi Fanwo in a recent meeting with the media in Lagos, disputed all of EFCC’s claims, insisting that the funds does not belong to the state government and accused the agency of kowtowing to governors who want to discredit Governor Bello over his 2023 presidential ambition.

He said not only does the state not own the said funds but that it does not currently operate or maintain a fixed deposit account with the bank in question and neither is there a mandate letter from the government to do so

He revealed that as at August 31, 2021, the balances in the Kogi State Salary Bailout accounts are as follows: Account 1 (0072969301), Nil balance, Account2 (0073522756), N999,190.50, Kogi State Government Salary Account (0073499012), N44,816,195.24.

On EFCC’s claim that the sum of N666,666,666.64 was transferred from the sum of N19,333,333,333.36 on the instruction of the Kogi State Government, he said the account is not an operational account but was opened for administrative purposes and that the amount represents eight instalments of principal amount and interest covering July 2019 to Feb 2020 that have been paid to the CBN which is in line with the terms of the on-lending facility which provides that interest of 2% is due to CBN.

On the whereabouts of our bailout funds which was obtained in June 2019, Fanwo said the bank in its statement clearly confirmed that the entirety of the bailout fund was transferred to the State Salary account in accordance with the mandate and on-lending structure and that some of the information and documents previously submitted to the EFCC and the treatment and recognition of the liability to CBN in the bank’s books including the internal labelling of the liability account in favour of the state government under the account type intervention fund, could have been misconstrued as a fixed deposit created on behalf of the state government.

Fanwo alleged that officials of the bank who wrote the letter on September 1, 2021 were invited and detained by the EFCC and under duress made to write and sign extra-judicial statements which fit the narrative which the EFCC wanted. He said despite the treatment, the bank still proceeded to deny via their letter dated October 5, 2021 that the Kogi State Government opened or operated a ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account, wherein an alleged N19,333,333,333.36 was hidden by the state government.

“We had in the past challenged and we hereby again challenge the EFCC to produce the account mandate, account package, and the phone number and BVN of those who allegedly opened and operated the ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account’ on behalf of the Kogi State Government. Nigerians know that a fixed deposit account cannot be opened without a mandate, an agreement as to terms including tenor, interest rates and the rest. The EFCC should produce all these to the public. Finally, the EFCC should tell Nigerians who was drawing the interest from the said fixed deposit account and where the interest was being paid by Sterling Bank Plc.

“Rather than provide all these documents to back up their wild claims, and answer the above posed questions truthfully and faithfully as a responsible organization; the EFCC descended into the realm of lies, not only to Nigerians but to the Court. The EFCC claimed that the mandate form which was duly signed and clearly endorsed with our Bailout Accounts 1 and 2 covered and serves as the mandate for the ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account even though the mandate/account opening form attached to their affidavit in support of that deposition court did not support their claim.

“If truly the Kogi State government own and operates the ‘Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account’ including the funds which were alleged to have been found in it, why has the EFCC not arrested and prosecuted those who signed the account opening form for opening the said fixed deposit account and those who have been giving instructions in respect of the account? Why is the EFCC only harping on the refund of the funds to the CBN? Or does the refund of proceeds of crime cancel the commission of the crime? If the Governor of Kogi State has immunity from arrest and prosecution, do the officers of government who usually sign mandates and account opening forms including supplying their BVN for account opening and who also provide instructions for movement of funds, immune to arrest and prosecution?

“The answers to the above is clear because the EFCC is just chasing shadows particularly as it relates to Kogi State and Governor Yahaya Bello. If anyone should be maligned in this entire saga, it is the bank which admitted opening a mirror account in the name of Kogi State Government without its mandate and authority and which has now undertaken to return funds found in the said account to the CBN. Nigerians should ask the EFCC whether Kogi State government sat down with the EFCC or any bank and undertook to refund any money to the CBN? Is it possible that the bank will write and undertake to return funds or a loan it has already granted to Kogi State government and which has been disbursed to its account without the authority or consent of the borrower or an order of Court?

“This whole saga is a hatchet job conceived by politicians and implemented by the EFCC and we need not look further for evidence of the foregoing statement than the mischievous and defamatory use of Governor Yahaya Bello’s picture in the body of the statement released by the EFCC on November 19, 2021. This whole charade is political, it is aimed at tarnishing the governor’s rising political image, ridiculing him, bringing him into disrepute, lowering him in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society by portraying him as a corrupt person.  The EFCC does not care for how this will affect the fortunes of the state and shake investor confidence once it can satisfy the desires of its political allies and godfathers.

“Let it be known that the Kogi State Government refutes every bit of these false allegations being peddled by the EFCC. The Kogi State Government had disbursed its bailout loans for the purpose for which it was granted as of October 2019. There is therefore no ‘hidden bailout funds/loan’ belonging to Kogi State that is capable of being returned to the CBN or frozen by an order of Court. The EFCC knows this; indeed, the fear of exposure of its lies in Court and the attendant sanctions/backlash informed its decision to hurriedly withdraw the sham suit it filed in Court,” Fanwo said.

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Baby’s disappearance from church: Appeal Court frees convicted church founder

From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure

The Akure Division of the Court of Appeal on Friday discharged and acquitted the founder of Sotitobire Prayer Centre, Akure, Prophet Alfa Babatunde who had earlier been sentenced to death by an Ondo State High Court over the disappearance of a year-old-baby, Gold Kolawole in his church.

Kolawole’s sudden disappearance during a programme at Alfa’s church had led to a protest by some members of the public. Some irate youths had during the protest burnt the church and vandalized many valuable belongings of the founder of the church.

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The Department of State Services (DSS) had taken over the case and prosecuted Alfa who was eventually sentenced to death by the State High Court. The parents of the one-year-old baby had told the court that their baby (Kolawole) was allegedly used for rituals as he could no longer be seen despite efforts by security agents.

The State High Court, after series of adjournments, declared that Alfa was instrumental to the disappearance and eventual death of Kolawole, and thereby sentenced him to death by hanging. But the Appeal Court in its judgment set aside the ruling of the lower court and set Alfa free.

The cleric, who had been standing trial since 2019, had asked the Appeal Court to nullify his conviction. The court ruled that the circumstantial evidence the High Court based its judgement on was not enough to convict him. Justicr Gamma Barka who read the judgement on behalf of  other judges therefore discharged and acquitted him.

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Kalu commiserates with Igbinedions over Maria Igbinedion’s demise

Former Governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr Orji Kalu has condoled with the House of Igbinedion over the demise of Mrs Maria Igbinedion, mother of former Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion.

Describing the deceased as a woman of virtue, Kalu acknowledged the outstanding attributes of the late Igbinedion, adding that her good deeds would continue to speak for her. The Chief Whip of the Senate, while conveying his heartfelt condolences to the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion and the entire members of the House of Igbinedion, prayed to God to give the deceased’s family the fortitude to bear the loss.

In a condolence message, Kalu urged the former governor to uphold the worthy legacies of his late mother.

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He said: “On behalf of the people of Abia North Senatorial district, I commiserate with former Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion over the demise of his mother, Mrs Maria Igbinedion.

“Mama was a virtuous woman who lived a purposeful life dedicated to the service of God and humanity.

“She left behind good children, who are doing well in various fields of human endeavour. The deceased will be remembered for her selflessness, kind heart and dedication to the service of mankind. She will be missed by family, friends and associates.” The former governor prayed to God to grant the deceased eternal rest.

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Northern group under fire for opposing Kanu’s release

From Stanley Uzoaru,Owerri

The Northern Consensus Movement (NCM) has come under severe attack by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for criticising and opposing Igbo elders pleas to President Muhammadu Buhari to release its leader, Nnamdi Kanu being detained by the Department of State Services (DSS).

IPOB, in a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful described the views of the northern group as stupidity and shameful display of arrogance, while emphasising that such comments have been the sole reason for the group’s agitation for self-independence. He added “The ranting by these groups are not only disgusting but provocative, and one of the very reasons we agitate for self-determination. How can we continue to belong to the same country with people who are self-centered and don’t reason objectively?

“We don’t want to dignify these inconsequential groups, but we just want the world to note that these were the same charlatans responsible for the killings of Biafrans living in the North even before the civil war.

“These people were behind the killing of our people during Kano riots, Kaduna riots, Bauchi riots, Maiduguri riots, Katsina riots and beheading of Gideon Akaluka and others beheaded in the North during their community meetings in the North.

“They are still the masterminds of unprovoked and senseless attacks on Biafrans living in the North up till date. They want to keep us together in this bondage so they can continue in their genocidal attacks against us but it’s too late.

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“We are warning these Northern attack dogs to stop disparaging Igbo elders, traditional rulers and respected Bishops who made out time to meet the President in Abuja for a peaceful resolution of the debacle. These are the real enemies of Nigeria who don’t want peace to prevail because of their selfish interests.

“The Igbo elders and traditional rulers were doing Nigeria good by telling Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu. We believe much in what we are pursuing and their ranting cannot afford to move us in our resolve to get Biafra.  “It is quite appalling and unfortunate that these attention seekers are showcasing their stupidity and ignorance to the world by coming out openly to rant in the very manner they did. They should stop pretending that they don’t see the handwriting on the wall against Nigeria government and its security apparatus for the extraordinary rendition of Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya.”

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Former administrator of Imo Col. Zubairu laid to rest in Kaduna

From Sola Ojo, Kaduna

A former Military Administrator of Imo State (1996-1999), Col Tanko Kurah Zuabairu who died a few months ago at the age of 74 has been laid to rest in Kaduna on Friday.

Speaking to newsmen shortly after the funeral service for the late senior military officer at Saint Luke’s Military Church, Camila Barracks 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma described Zubairu as a focused Nigerian whose long term plans for the state outlived him.

Uzodinma who spoke through his Commissioner of Information and Culture, Declan Emelumba said, the government and good people of Imo state would not forget the good legacy the late administrator left behind.

According to Emelumba, “Our governor sent high power delegation to represent the government and good people of Imo state here in Kaduna as we buried the man that had done well for Imo state.

“With the records, the man left behind in terms of contributions to infrastructural development, peace in the state and initiation of prayers in Imo, we have to be here to pay him this last respect.

“The governor asked me to condole with the family and government of Kaduna state. We regard him as one of us in Imo so we will continue to have regard for him and his family”, he said.

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A former Special Assistant (Chief of Staff) to the late colonel, Ugochukwu Onachukwu, described his former principal as a man who fear God, High integrity, professionalism and respecter of all categories of people irrespective of their status in society.

“Colonel Zubairu was ahead of his kind and so many things stood out for him. One is professionalism. I joined his administration from a professional background – banking and finance. I was thinking of how would I cope but I met a man who want things professionally done.

“What stood him out most is his integrity. He never took a dime from a bank. He is the first governor in the history of this country that refused to add to the debt of a state. He taught me a lot of adjustment within available resources. He said we were going to adjust to our cash flow because the state was already groaning in the debt burden.

“And for three years, a lot of banks came and he rebuffed them. He owned no asset in Imo not one plot of land. Even as his Chief of Staff, I stayed in a refurbished house. We refurbished and used cars used by previous commissioners. Due process was his keyword.

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“Talking about his personal life as a pastor before I went into governance, his perception of God, his spirituality was overwhelming particularly humility. Except he introduced himself, you would not know he was a governor. He drove himself. He lived a great life and we will forever remember him”, he eulogised.

He however urged the current governors to emulate the prudent spending of the late administrator saying “let us practice continuity. When you take over, you must not start afresh but build on the structure you met on the ground.

“We must not borrow to find out the budget. Let see how we can maximise what we have, try to think through and professionalise what we do. These are some of the things he did that the current politicians can learn from.

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Referendum: IPOB have no respect for democracy – Former ACF Scribe

From Noah Ebije, Kaduna

An Elder Statesman and former Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani has said that Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have little or no respect for democracy and its tenets to attaining political desires.

A recent reports credited to IPOB quoted them as saying that only a date for referendum could stop them from violent agitations for State of Biafra.

However, Sani, in a statement, said for IPOB to give a condition that a date must be fixed for a referendum before they could slow down violent agitations spoke volume about their respect for democracy and its tenets.

Ex-ACF Scribe said he saw no wisdom of such demand under the current constitution which does not provide for a referendum for split of the country.

“When I read reports credited to Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that only a date for referendum can stop them from the violent agitations for state of Biafra, I begin to wonder the wisdom of such demand, to wit, how a date for referendum can be fixed under the current constitution which does not provide for a referendum for split of the country. Can a date be fixed for referendum without amending the constitution? Certainly not.
“I had thought if IPOB believes it can prevail in a referendum, it should demonstrate it by sponsoring candidate to the National Assembly that it wants referendum using a political party, say APGA, to cause amendment of the constitution to that effect. But for IPOB to give the condition that a date must be fixed for the referendum undemocratically before they can slow down violent agitations speaks volume about their respect for democracy and its tenets.

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“When IPOB alleges lopsidedness and marginalization, I begin to wonder if they know the import of the fact that despite losing the war, Igbo have been Vice President/Chief of Staff Supreme HQs. From 1970 to date Igbo have produced Senate Presidents, Speaker of House of Reps and Chairmen of the ruling political party.

“Igbo have also produced Secretary to the Federal Government, have produced coordinating minister, have produced CBN governors and have produced service chiefs. If this is not the clear manifestation of the “No Victor, No Vanquished,” one wonders what else it could be.

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“It is to be noted that the former Eastern Region now has nine states while the former Mid Western Region has two states. The former Western Region has six states while the former Northern Protectorates also called Northern Region has 19 states compared to 17 states enjoyed by former Southern Protectorates comprising three regions.

“As regards allegation of marginalization against the regime of President Buhari, we challenge IPOB to do some facts check on distribution of access to national resources of appointments, projects and major contracts during the regime of President Buhari by ethnicity, by state and by geopolitical zone and make it public for Nigerians to see.

“For IPOB to say they are not opposed to restructuring yet are demanding for Biafra is one and the same thing with the contradiction inherent in Igbo asking to be president of Nigeria they want split. It simply does not add up”. Sani stated.

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UI students hold charity walk against drug abuse

From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan

Students of the University of Ibadan under the aegis of Sigma Club on Friday staged a charity walk to sensitise Nigerian youths on effects of drug abuse and other hard substances.

The charity walk, which took off at the Trenchard Hall on the campus of the institution, took the students to Ventura Mall at Sango, before they also walked back to Trenchard Hall, ahead of tomorrow’s (Saturday) induction of Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, as an honorary member of the club.

The charity walk according to the leader of the club, Ibrahim Habib, known as Sigma Chief, was to commemorate the 70th founders’ anniversary of the club.

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Addressing journalists on the sidelines of the charity walk, Habib said: “We want to sensitise Nigerian youth on the danger and effects of drug abuse. We want to tell them to shun drug abuse. Instead, they should channel their energy on something productive, not what can endanger their lives.”

He noted that one of the challenges facing the country is youth empowerment and development. He enjoined government and private sector to look into the menace.

The Vice President and Group Head of Financial inclusion, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Mr. Adetunji Lamidi, an old member of the club, who participated in the charity walk, also stated that the club, which was established in 1950 is the oldest surviving students’ club in Sub Sahara Africa.

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“Nigerian youth should keep themselves busy They should channel their energy to the right direction for them to become better Nigerians in the future. There is only one Sigma Club in the world, which only exists in the University of Ibadan,l. This is a club, where energy and intellectual capability can be used for someone to become a better Nigerian.”

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2023: Enemies of Nigeria’s unity against power shift to South – Obaze

From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu

Ahead of the 2023 general election, a diplomat and former governorship candidate in Anambra state, Mr. Oseloka Obaze has made case for all regions in the country particularly the North, to firmly support power shift to the South.

Obaze said that was the sure way for the unity of the country to strive, stating that every patriotic citizen should encourage, support and work for its realization.

Speaking in Enugu at the first annual public lecture series and award of the Pacesetter Frontier Magazine with theme “Mental Power at the Mercy of Political Will,” Oseloka, who was also a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) of Anambra state, made a strong case for the restructuring of the country.

Obaze noted that, “Leadership of Nigeria in over 60 years has resided mainly with the North. This has elicited, quite rightly, discussions for a power shift to the South and particularly South East.”

On the non commitment of the North to power shift to the South in 2023, Obaze insisted that any Northern politician not in support of power shift was not committed to the unity of Nigeria.

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He said, “Any stakeholder from the North who dares to disclaim that power shifts to the South in 2023 should not be deemed to be serious. That person does not wish Nigeria well.”

Obaze, who admitted that cabals in governance were the manifestation of the failures the country was going through, stated that Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution “does not fit well with our desirable federalism.”

Emphasizing the issue of restructuring he said, “Restructuring will reduce the untenable cost of politicking and governance. We are already seeing the manifestation of restructuring in the security reforms and governance, with the emergence of regional Amotekun, Ebubeagu and Hishbah security networks. We are also witnessing the early reforms of fiscal federalism with the VAT litigations.”

On the 1999 Constitution he said, “The Constitution lacks equity. For instance, Kano state has 44 local government areas (LGAs), which are greater than LGAs in Enugu state (17) and Anambra state (21) combined, and the number of LGAs is a key criterion for federal revenue allocations.”

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In a brief remark, the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu looking at the theme of the lecture “Mental power at the mercy of political will,” said politicians were not the only ones taking advantage of the people that religious leaders also do.

He also said that the just concluded Anambra state governorship election was difficult for the politicians to rig because of electronic transmission of votes.

Other dignitaries at the event included the Special Adviser to Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Media, Steve Oruruo who represented the Governor, Archbishop and Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, for Minister of Information, Chief Frank Nweke (Jnr.) and some traditional rulers.

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Nigeria needs rebuilding, restructuring plan – Gbajabiamila

From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan

Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said Nigeria is in need of a rebuilding and restructuring plan that would be developed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the state governments.

He made the disclosure in the 2021 public service lecture, entitled: ‘Nation-Building in a Time of Turbulence’, organised by the University of Ibadan Alumni Association (UIAA), held in Ibadan on Friday evening.

Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Prince Hakeem Adeyemi, representing Oyo Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, stated that Nigeria must draw lessons from is the story of Western Europe at the end of the World War II. He noted that though the continent then laid in ruins, physically, economically and psychologically devasted to a degree, unlike anything the world had ever seen.

“Now, despite the destruction, the strategic importance of western Europe in the global order was evident to those paying attention. For us in Nigeria, our conditions are not quite the same. Nonetheless, securing our future requires us to think in similarly broad terms. We must recognise that structural factors, historical choices, and contemporary dynamics have created a dangerous vortex of insecurity, social upheaval and economic uncertainty that requires urgent and strategic action to overcome.

“We must act in the conviction that despite our present circumstances, we still have it in our power to make decisions and take action to prevent the worst outcomes. In effect, we need a Rebuilding and Restructuring Plan developed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the State Governments.

“We need a program that is honest in its assessment of our present realities and draws upon our unique strengths to deliver a proposal for the future that is both realistic and immediately implementable. We need a plan that addresses economics and national security, infrastructure development and healthcare, job creation and social welfare. We also need a program of broad structural change that addresses the foundational issues of identity and history that have too long troubled us and inhibited our ability to rise to our highest potential.

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“Something else that happened at the end of the second world war was the formation of the United Nations (or the United Nations Organisation as it was then called). The UN replaced the League of Nations, which was created at the end of the first world war but proved ineffective in delivering its mandate to maintain world peace.

“The formation of the United Nations marked the birth of modern multilateralism and the broad recognition that we achieve more when we band together to pursue shared objectives. Multilateralism has had more than its fair share of failures. However, the fundamental truth of strength in unity cannot be reasonably disputed. If anything, we are reminded once more in our present circumstances that the alternative portends a far greater danger to world peace, economic prosperity, and social development.

“Let us take two lessons from this. The first is that national unity is an essential requirement for peace, progress, and prosperity in a heterogeneous society such as ours. However, we must understand that unity by itself is not the objective. This understanding is the missing component in our conversations about the unity of our country.

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“Too often, when we speak about Nigerian unity, we talk about unity as if that by itself is the objective, without clarifying the goals of the unity we seek. Unity is merely the means to an end. Unity is required for effective national collaboration. This is, in turn, the essential condition for Nigeria to make the hard decisions necessary for successful nation-building.

“The second lesson is that for us in Africa, we must actively seek partnerships that allow us to address our common challenges and prepare ourselves and each other to respond more effectively to future threats. We have institutions in place to pursue the sort of partnerships we need. The goal now is to develop the political consensus to support those institutions to make them more responsive to our needs and more effective in delivering on our expectations.

“In the coming months and years, all Nigerians, regardless of religion or creed, partisan affiliation or political history, tribe or ethnicity, will have to decide if we are willing to take the lessons of history and build for ourselves a nation capable of meeting our highest expectations.

“Citizens and leaders alike have to make hard choices about the kind of country we want to live in and leave for the next generation. Let this present crisis be for us a moment of discovery when with love and honesty, we inspire each other and our nation to greatness beyond the limits of what we have previously allowed ourselves to imagine.”

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LG poll: Ekiti CP promises adequate security, cautions against malpractices, violence

From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti

Ekiti State commissioner of police, Tunde Mobayo, has assured electorate and residents of the state of adequate security before, during and after Saturday, December 4 local council election.

He also cautioned against all forms of electoral malpractices and violence, urging party leaders and supporters to uphold electoral guidelines and principles to ensure a free, fair and credible poll.

Mobayo, in a statement signed by the command’s spokesman, Sunday Abutu, on Friday, explained that there will be restriction of persons and vehicular movements in and out of the state during the election while only individuals on election and essential duties are exempted from the restriction.

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The statement, entitled “Ekiti State LGA Election: CP Assures Adequate Security”, reads :

“In a bid to have free, fair and credible election in the forth coming Local Government Areas election that is scheduled to hold on Saturday 4th December, 2021, the Ekiti State Police Command has deployed adequate security personnel across the State.

“The Commissioner of Police, Ekiti State Command, CP TUNDE MOBAYO, while giving the assurance of adequate security before, during and after the election, charged the Personnel deployed to be professional and avoid all forms of corrupt practices while discharging their duties.

“The Commissioner warns against all forms of electoral malpractices and violence during the election and after, while calling on the political party leaders and supporters to conduct themselves in accordance with the electoral guidelines and principles.

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“The Command has, however, declared restriction of vehicular and pedestrian movements in and out of the State as well as unnecessary movements within the State during the period of the election except those on election duties and essential services, while appealing to motorists who plan to enroute the State to take alternative routes.”

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FG approves COVID-19 vaccine booster dose

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Federal Government has approved the administration of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for persons that have completed two doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer Bio-N-Tech or one dose of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The exercise, it said, will be monitored by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development (NPHCDA).

NPHCDA Executive Director, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in a statement, on Friday, explained that the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine booster doses will commence from the 10th of December, 2021, across all states of the federation.

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Dr. Shuaib, further explained that COVID-19 vaccine booster dose gives greater protection against the virus, and urged all Nigerians to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

He said; “The booster dose is for any person that is 18 years and above; has time interval of six months or more after receiving the second dose of AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer Bio-N-Tech; time interval of two months or more after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.”

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“Consequent upon the above, eligible Nigerians are advised to visit the nearest health facility or mass vaccination site for their booster doses as from the 10th of December, 2021, across all states of the federation.”

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Nembe Oil spill: Alaibe calls for urgent action to contain spill

From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa

Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe has called for an urgent action to stop the spewing crude oil from the Oil Mining License (OML) 29, Santa Barbara oil field in Nembe, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State owned by Aiteo.

Alaibe in a statement who described the massive oil spill that has been raging for over a month into the Nembe ecosystem waters as catastrophic, expressed fears the massive spillage may lead to serious health hazards to the indigenes of the area if not stopped on time.

According to him the people of Nembe communities do not deserve the social and economic death sentence being handed to them by the ongoing oil spillage,.

He called on the relevant agencies to redouble their efforts towards clamping the spewing oil well to save the people.

” The land has turned infertile. Nothing can grow there any longer. The rivers are polluted forever. Our fishermen are out of work. Our hard-working farmers have been rendered jobless. In the absence of clean, pipe-borne water for the people, a commodity that is taken for granted in other climes, today, with this oil spill, not even the river water is worth any domestic use any longer.

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“There is no doubt that this oil spill has the capacity to result in health hazards that would eventually lead to loss of lives. Let me repeat that the good people of Bayelsa State, the oil-bearing
centre of Nigeria, do not in any way deserve this catastrophe. The people of Nembe do not deserve this avoidable environmental affliction. The question is: when will this leakage be put under control,” Alaibe said.

While lamenting that the people of Nembe have not benefited from oil like other communities in America and Europe where oil has transformed their lives, he commended the Minister of State, Environment, Sharon Ikeazor for speaking up strongly on the side of the people by calling for measures to prevent oil spill and stiffer penalties for those behind any acts of sabotage.

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Alaibe pleaded with Nembe people to remain calm, stressing that those in charge of policy must act to save the situation.

”To my fellow citizens of Nembe, words are not enough to describe your agony and hopelessness. Be assured that you are not alone. My appeal to you is that in spite of this, please stay calm as we join hands with the appropriate authorities to seek the way out of this mess. No blame game can reverse what has happened. No act of violence can bring back what we have lost. We all share in your pain. This is no time for dirty political grandstanding. This situation needs a practical solution. The people in charge of policy must rise and act now.

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APGA hails NCAA approval of Anambra Airport flights operations

From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha

National Coordinator, All Progressives Grand Alliance Media Warriors Forum, Evang. Chinedu obigwe has hailed news of the approval for the commencement of commercial flights operation at the newly built Anmabra International Cargo Airport describing the gesture as the sweetest Christmas gift for ndi Anmabra.

Obigwe in a statement issued in Awka said that with the latest development in the state, Governor Obiano has succeeded in putting enemies of progress to shame even as he described the Governor as truly a warrior whose eyes were focused on not missing his target.

“Ndi Anambra are overwhelmed with joy when they received the trending news report that NCAA has finally given approval for commencement of flights operation immediately at Anambra State International cargo and passengers Airport.

“If anybody reads the NCAA letter to Governor Obiano very well, the person will discover that even before the commissioning of the Airport project that NCAA wanted to grant approval to the State government for commencement of flights operation at the Airport but some evil forces led by Andy Uba and his cohorts at the Presidency used the untenable excuse of adverse security report to stop them from doing that.

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“I give NCAA kudos because I know very well that they gave the State government all the required cooperation needed from them to make Anambra Airport project a success story”

He said people were jubilating because the news of commencement of flights operation at Anambra Airport came at the right time being a festive period where many people will come back home from abroad and other States in Nigeria to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.

“What it means is that they will now make use of Anambra Airport and will not suffer the stress of staying for hours in a go slow at Asaba, Enugu and Owerri after landing at their Airports. They will just land straight at Anambra Airport and within few minutes they will be with their loved ones in their communities. Lovers of Governor Obiano have always known that he will finish strong and that is why we are not surprised that he is finishing strong”

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“The opening of Anambra Airport for flights operation this Christmas period is an already scored goal for Governor Obiano. More good things are coming for our people and he will give it to them before the March 17th 2022 handover ceremony to Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo, his preferred successor that is now the Governor elect. Governor Obiano is truly a blessing to ndi Anambra and the good people of the State will remain eternally grateful to him for the good works he did in our beloved State” Obigwe said.

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Electoral bill: CSOs write Buhari, demand urgent assent into law

From Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja

Some civil society organizations and partners on Electoral Reform have on behalf of other Nigerians asked president Muhammadu Buhari to urgently assent the Electoral Reform Bill in to law.

In a letter sent to the president, yesterday,reminding him of the promises he made to Nigerians and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) inJune 2021

The letter was signed by .Ariyo-Dare Atoye,Executive Director, Adopt A Goal for Development and endorsed by Centre for Liberty,Raising New Voices,The Nigerian Alliance,ACCESS Nigeria,NESSACTION,Speak Out Africa,Ready To Lead Africa,Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiative (YSAD),The Art and Civics Table, Victory Advocate of Nigeria.

The CSOs appealed with the president to advise politicians to bark on internal reforms, adopt digitization of membership and also operate a standard register, which are basic elements for direct primaries.

“The opportunity has therefore come for you to show fidelity to your words and reject all manner of excuses being made by a few persons who want to continue with the business-as-usual politics. It is gratifying that INEC has said publicly that: “It is the constitutional and legal responsibility of the commission to give effect to laws passed by the National Assembly.”

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” Your excellency, while it is a welcome development that you have written to seek INEC’s advice and clarification on a number of provisions in the Electoral Bill, we wish to do you and INEC a public service by drawing your attention to the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, Item F, Paragraph 15(c), which states “the Commission [INEC] shall have power to monitor the organisation and operation of the political parties, including their finances, conventions, congresses and party primaries”.

“By this provision of the Constitution, it is clear that direct primaries will not impose any additional burden on INEC beyond what it ought to have been doing at every stage of the more demanding, complex and opaque indirect mode. In addition, the problem is not really about the system of primaries but the character of the political players.

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“Mr. President, in addition to giving your assent to the Bill, we urge you to advise the political parties to embark on internal reforms, adopt digitization of membership, operate a standard register and make a success of the direct primaries with acceptable guidelines.

“We, however, concede that after testing the exclusive use of direct primaries in the coming governorship primaries in Ekiti and Osun states, the process could be re-evaluated to assess the impacts and challenges. We must continue to learn and get better, but never afraid of taking bold steps.

“Ince again, we urge you to demonstrate leadership, show courage and sign the Electoral Bill bearing in mind that it was passed as the Electoral Bill 2021, requiring that the process is concluded soonest, and it provides an opportunity to reinvigorate the electoral legal framework for early preparation ahead of 2023.”

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e-Customs for launch Q1 2022, says CG

From Uche Usim, Abuja

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr Hameed Ali on Friday asked anxious Nigerians to relax as the long-awaited e-Customs package will be launched within the first quarter of 2022, and will immediately replace the analogue arrangement that requires high human contact and huge paper work.

Ali made the disclosure in Abuja at the graduation ceremony for Customs Senior course 5 and Junior course 11 held at Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College, Gwagwalada.

According to him, once the e-Customs package is deployed, all officers and men are expected to be fully fortified with digital procedures as the Service is not ready to habour non-compliant staff who may become a clog in the wheel of progress.

The e-Customs, he explained, is expected to boost national security through the development of systems and networks aimed at the prevention and suppression of smuggling; while boosting revenue generation and deepening ease of doing business by eliminating unnecessary human contact.

He said: We’re almost signing the e-Customs concession agreement and once we get that signed, the next thing is the commencement of implementation. The consortium is ready. They’ve made the contacts for their supplies and their suppliers are ready and so are people who are keying into it. “All we’re waiting for is to get the vetted copy of the agreement from the Ministry of Justice and once it’s signed, we would launch the e-Customs process and that should be around the first quarter of 2022 and then, we monitor implementation”, he said

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On how the Service has fared operationally so far in 2021, Ali said: “We are very grateful to God. In 2020, we did very well despite the pandemic and the hiccups. We are doing exceptionally well too this year. We have crossed the N2 trillion border in terms of collection. Before the end of the year, we hope to achieve N2.2-2.3 trillion.

In his remarks at the event, the Commandant of the Customs Command and Staff College Gwagwalada, Adewale Adeniyi, an Assistant Comptroller-General, said the programme recorded a good pass.

He added that the 78 participants, comprising 38 senior staff and 40 from the junior cadre, displayed a high level of professionalism in the training started in June this year.

Adeniyi appreciated the Customs CG for the approval for the acquisition of two generating sets in addition to solar energy arrangements as a strategic way of tackling the epileptic power nightmare jolting the college.

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He added that the school was working closely with other security agencies to ensure peace and tranquility since security in Gwagwalada is still rated as tense.

The Commandant added that a peer review was carried out in the college to identify gaps and sort them out.

As regards the COVID-19 pandemic and the discovery of the new Omicron variant, Adeniyi said all stipulated measures were strictly adhered to, adding that the students were subjected to carry out a mandatory PCR tests as a prerequisite for admission.

He noted that there has been no adverse effects of COVID-19 recorded in the college community as many people have been vaccinated.

He urged the NCS management to help expand the college as Customs formations from overseas have asked for exchange programmes, even as many want to school in Gwagwalada.

“We urge the Customs board to accord the expansion agenda of the college a priority status next year”, Adeniyi added.

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UPDATED: Policeman mobbed for killing drill operator, shooting driver in Osun

From Lateef Dada, Osogbo

Angry protesters today mobbed a policeman for allegedly shooting a truck driver and killed a drill operator in Osogbo, Osun State.

The incident happened at Otaefun area, Osogbo when a driver whose truck developed fault blocked the road and caused traffic gridlock.

It was gathered that policemen who saw the development challenged the driver and asked him to move his truck from the road.

Sources said the incident led to argument and a policeman shot the driver, Harisu Musa while the bullet also hit a drill operator staying with the driver, Kabiru Bapai.

One Olagboyega Olaide, said “after the policeman shot the two staff of the company, a mob gathered and were angry, they beat the officer mercilessly and took the corpse of drill operator to the police station at Ota-efun. Police were shooting sporadically to scare them away.”

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The Executive Operating Partner of Shekeenah Zelter Global Centre, Bayo Daudu, where the two victims were working, said, “the person that was killed was our Chief operator and they shot the driver on his hands. He left Ede this morning after finishing a job and he was going to Igbajo for another job when the incident happened.

“We demand that justice must be done and nothing must be covered up, it will cause other trigger-happy police officers to desist from doing all sort of nonsense.”

Speaking with our correspondent, one Adam Ibrahim, explained that they were coming together with the deceased when the truck stopped and they were struggling to fix it when the policemen numbering about four came.

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He said, “as we were coming from work and about to take a U-turn, the motor stopped. We tried to start it. The Police came around, they asked what was amiss and we explained to them. We were still trying to start the vehicle so we could be on our way. We tried to beg them. It was during the process that one of them shot him.”

The spokesperson of the Osun police command, SP Yemisi Opalola, said investigation has commenced on the case, promising that justice would be done.

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