Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fayose: no regrets breaking up PDP

Fayose: no regrets breaking up PDP 5/8/2008

By Kelvin Osa-Okunbor

Former Ekiti State Governor Mr. Ayo Fayose yesterday described himself as a factor that cannot be ignored in the politics of the state.

Fayose, who was travelling abroad for medical treatment, told reporters in Lagos that he had no regrets in leading a faction of the PDP in the state.

He said:"That there is a problem in PDP in Ekiti State is not deniable. And if the problem is not well managed, it will have great consequences on the party. In life, when you start trouble, you may not know where it would end.

"The situation in Ekiti calls for caution because all is not well with the party, PDP. Without doubt, I am part of the other group and I stand to say I am part of it and I will continue to be part of the group until justice is done.

"When we started the PDP, when I contested, I contested under a party that we built together. We labour for the party; and today the governor and his cohorts are driving away the original members who laboured for the party.

"At the meeting at Ota, he (Oni) said he preferred those who decamped to old members. We would want to see how far those who decamped would take him and we are waiting for the tribunal to give the judgment."

Fayose said his faction was waiting for the party leadership to finish its reconciliation to know what next to do.

"If it measures up to our expectation, fine. If not, we would continue with the struggle. It is a struggle. We cannot leave our house for tenants," he added.

Asked to assess the situation in the state, he said: "When you fall from somewhere, you look at the consequences of your fall and you address it. One of the things that caused problems in the state is because a few cliques connived and conspired to cause the whole state to fall on its knees because of their selfish agenda.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Storm in Agagu’s tea cup

Storm in Agagu’s tea cup

Published: Aug, 3 2008

There is no doubt that Justice Garba Nabaruna and four other members of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which sacked Governor Olusegun Agagu of the Peoples Democratic Party, are the most hated persons among the supporters of Agagu, at least for now. The PDP state chapter, which had hitherto never raised any allegation of bias or bribery against the tribunal, was shocked at the declarative judgment which pronounced Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party as the duly elected governor of the Sunshine State following the April 14,2007 governorship poll.

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Nabaruma’s ‘unpardonable sin’ is that his panel heaped the deluge of votes turned in, in favour of Agagu into the garbage bin and declared the Iroko of Ondo politics the winner. With the cancellation of 220,219 votes?allegedly cast in favour of Agagu and ?27,752 cast for Mimiko, the state PDP leadership claimed that the tribunal erred by declaring Mimiko the winner. The argument of the party leadership is that since about 50 per cent of the total votes cast were cancelled, a fresh election should have been ordered throughout the state.

Although Agagu said immediately after the judgment that he accepted the verdict, he had expressed dissatisfaction and vowed to regain his mandate at the Court of Appeal. Suffice it to say that the PDP and Agagu’s aides have been pouring invectives on the tribunal for declaring Agagu’s archrival?as the winner of the election. ?

The state PDP chairman, Dr. Tayo Dairo; Special Adviser on Politics to the Governor, Chief Segun Adegoke; Chairman, Ondo State Electricity Board; Mr. Femi Fasawe, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Prince Tokunbo Kayode , Prince John Mafo, the state Commissioner for Information, Chief Eddy Olafeso, and other PDP leaders have all condemned the? July 25 judgment. Agagu’s supporters, including lawyers among them, have not spared the tribunal in their attacks.

The PDP chairman said that as the party awaits for the appeal tribunal to do justice to Agagu’s grounds?of appeal and returns his mandate to him, the public must be made to know about “moral and political questions that put the integrity of the tribunal into doubt.” While condemning the verdict which many allies of the governor perceived as jaundiced, Dairo who contested for? the party’s ticket to represent Ondo Central Senatorial District at the Senate said, “The verdict ?has raised very serious and weighty legal and moral, as well as political issues that deserve public attention. The legal issues raised would, of course, soon be a matter for the Appeal Court to examine and consider. The moral and political issues, on the other hand, are in the realms of the curious and the absurd that affront fairness and equity.”

Dairo, a medical doctor, condemned the panel for nullifying, either in whole or?part, the election results obtained from 10 out? of the 18 local government areas.? He argued that the panel ought to have ordered a re-run, which he claimed, Mimiko also prayed for in his petition. According to Dairo, whose constituency was won by the LP, “It must be curious to all discerning minds that the bulk of the nullified results came from Governor Agagu’s stronghold, the Ondo South Senatorial District, which constituted the governor’s home base.”?

The PDP expressed its dissatisfaction that, while the tribunal nullified election results from Agagu’s strong areas, it upheld results from areas which Mimiko performed well, even in the disputed area. He noted that the tribunal’s decision was ridiculous because Agagu called witnesses who testified?before it that free and fair election indeed took place in areas which results were nullified.

?Apart from aborting the live transmission of the judgment which nearly caused heart attack to many politicians whose ‘pot of soup’ were broken by the verdict, the PDP is also annoyed with Nabaruma for not reading the whole judgment. The sudden verbal onslaught of the PDP against the tribunal came to many as a surpsise. This is because the party had never raised an eyebrow at the second tribunal headed by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, over similar situations when it determined petitions filed before it.? The Ikyegh- led tribunal, which was noted for its “taken as read,” abridged some? of its judgments to save time. But Dairo said that Nabaruma had no excuse for not reading the 607-page judgment. Dairo said that having blacked out the public from following the judgement, Nabaruma also denied those present at the tribunal to hear the details of the judgment.

The PDP also cried foul that the over 607-page? judgment was not given to Agagu’s counsels ??two hours after the verdict was read. For failing to make the judgment available immediately after it was read, Dairo insinuated that the judgment might have been doctored in order to frustrate Agagu’s appeal. He stated, “The Tribunal had all the time in this world to prepare the judgment prior to its delivery. It could, therefore, not have been working on, or is it re-writing, it unless it had to do so to conform the text to the apparently absurd verdict.”?

The aggrieved PDP chairman also accused the tribunal of closing its eyes to an important legal requirement that a petitioner must?prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt especially? criminal content? of the petitioner’s allegations. He is of the opinion that the tribunal did not require Mimiko to prove the criminal allegations in his petitions? according to the provisions of the? Electoral Act 2006, but that the tribunal assumed that the petitioner had proved them.? Such assumption, Dairo said, were “not permitted in law, which means in effect that the tribunal’s verdict cannot stand even on this basis alone.”

On his part, Fasawe described members of the tribunal as jesters. He argued that it contradicted its earlier judgments which upheld results of House of Assembly poll and nullified the governorship election results in the same constituency. He is annoyed that votes from the constituencies in Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo, were cancelled by Nabaruma. Fasawe’s ?argument is that the tribunal ought to have nullify or upheld the results of the two polls, since the elections were conducted the same day and ballot papers dropped inside the same boxes. ?He said, “It is quite unfathomable that the tribunal could ride rough-shod on the genuine wishes and aspirations of the people, particularly voters whose votes were nullified so as to award Mimiko an underserved victory, which in no time will become vague since it was a pyrrhic victory.

“The decision of the judges to nullify results from the PDP stronghold of Ondo South Senatorial District in order to create a window for Mimiko smacks of a jaundiced perception of basic tenets of law. How could they decide to disenfranchise some voters as if their votes do not count? This is a sufficient ground for the appellate court to discard with their foul judgment which is premised on bias and crass gluttony.”

But political allies of Mimiko and LP members are not keeping quiet over the vituperations of PDP men on the tribunal. They accuse the latter of being a bad loser in the face of overwhelming evidence agaist them. Many of them see the storm in Agagu’s tea cup as the real test for the respect for democratic ethos by the governor and his supporters. They have advised Agagu and his supporters ?to appeal the verdict and stop passing uncomplimentary remarks at the judiciary. The spokesman for the LP queried those castigating the tribunal to remember when Agagu was desperately in need of witnesses to testify in his favour during the sitting of the tribunal.

The spokesman of the party in the state, Mr. Kolawole Olabisi, said the PDP leaders were not sincere in their outbursts, as they had failed to address critical issues that culminated in the judgment of the tribunal. He said, “The Governor-elect, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was the duly elected governor of the state. Dr. Mimiko called credible witnesses who testified that election was either marred with irregularities or failed to hold in the contested areas.? The Governor-elect also used science to show that there was multiple registration, multiple voting ballot stuffing and all manner of irregularities in these areas where they turned in concocted figures with the collaboration of INEC. Dr. Mimiko did not mind the cost; he brought in one of the renowned hand writing and finger print experts from Britain who carried out scientific analysis on over 100,000 ballot papers. His results also proved that?irregularities marred the voting exercise as he discovered that pebbles, candle ends, cashew nut and other inanimate objects were used to thumbprint. So, you expect the tribunal to close its eyes to those evidence”

“Where were those who are calling for the heads of the tribunal members when Agagu could not bring witnesses. Those, who they assembled, were regarded as? political office holders, who turned themselves to party agents and failed to come out to defend themselves at the tribunal. Now, they are making noise. They are not surprised that Mimiko was declared the winner of the poll. They knew what they did at the poll; the stolen mandate has been returned to the rightful owner.”

?Olabisi also accused the PDP?of double standard. He said that the party did not call for the heads of the same tribunal members when they dismissed some petitions filed by LP candidates. He cautioned those still aggrieved over the outcome of the trial against making inflammatory statements since democracy was largely about the rule of law. He also advised the PDP leaders to exercise their right of appeal rather than making unnecessary noise. He said, “When Dr. Mimiko felt aggrieved after his mandate was stolen by Agagu and his cohorts, what we did was to file petitions. We diligently proved to the tribunal that ?Agagu was using a stolen mandate and now the mandate has been restored to the rightful owner.”

But the opposition parties in the state have called on Agagu to pack and leave the Alagbaka Government House. They are advising him to emulate the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati who was dethroned by Agagu in 2003.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bankole sacks 69 committee chairmen, deputies

Bankole sacks 69 committee chairmen, deputies

Published: Aug, 1 2008

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, on Thursday, formally dissolved the membership of 69 out of the 72 standing committees of the House.

Bankole specifically said that the development meant that the chairmen and deputies of the affected committees had been relieved of their duties.

The only committees whose members were spared for now were those of Finance, Business and Rules and the Committee on Appropriation.

Bankole explained that the committees had been reconstituted but kept the list of new members to himself saying that he would release it in September.

The speaker announced the removal of the chairmen of the committees shortly before the House proceeded on a five-week recess that would terminate on September 9.

The lawmakers also passed an amendment Appropriation Act of N2.6tn for 2008, which President Umaru Yar’Adua sent to the National Assembly on Thursday.

The dissolution of the committees had followed several months of speculations and tension in the House as some chairmen had reportedly vowed to fight the Bankole leadership if they were sacked.

Between June and July, the House had remained largely unstable owing to the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the chairmen and the plot by some other lawmakers to take-over their positions.

It was the first time since Bankole assumed office in November 2007 that he dissolved the committees, seen as the engine room of legislative duties, would be reshuffled.

The committee members were inherited from his predecessor, Mrs. Patricia Etteh.

Many committees were alleged not to be working due to reports that members opted to chase after certain committees considered as “juicy” at the expense of the assignments of their own committees.

It was also found that while certain powerful lawmakers belonged to as many as 12 committees, there were members who had no committees at all.

Investigations also showed that many lawmakers were in the “wrong” committees as they had little knowledge of the duties of the committees, thereby rendering themselves redundant.

Due to lack of proper coordination, most committees consistently failed to submit reports on assignments given to them by the House.

The poor performance of the committees affected the number of bills the House passed into law in the last session which ended on June 3.

Out of the 65 bills before the House as at June, only 11 had been passed into law.

Worried by the record, Bankole had observed, “Painfully, in lawmaking, we are not doing well.”

Yar’Adua initially proposed a budget of N2.4trn but the National Assembly jacked it up to N2.8trn and later reduced it to N2.7trn.

However, following a consensus said to have been reached between him and lawmakers, both sides had agreed that he should forward an amendment to the legislature.

Last month, the President sent the amendment to the National Assembly, further slashing the budget to N2.6trn.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Attah vs Akpabio: Cold war rages

Attah vs Akpabio: Cold war rages 31/7/2008

Against the backdrop of the unending cold war between the immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah and his successor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, INIOBONG EKPONTA traces the root of the crisis, which may affect the socio-political and economic fabrics of the 21-year-old state.
Until May 29 last year, Obong Victor Bassey Udo Attah superintended over oil rich Akwa Ibom as the second civilian governor of the 21-year-old state.

Attah was elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999 following political change of guard from military rule to democracy.

In 2003, Obong Attah was again re-elected to pilot the ship of the state.

However, the drum beat of power shift resonated in the twilight of his government, pitching Attah’s Ibibio ethnic group (which had enjoyed much political power) against the Annangs which recently came to the state political calculus with the election of Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, an Annang of Essien Udim extraction.

Attah had during the December 2006 governorship primaries held at the State House of Assembly complex, Uyo, said the decision to respect the zoning principle was in line with ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s directive as adopted by the PDP .

With the political blank cheque handed over to Annang, the race for the Hilltop Mansion; Akwa Ibom seat of government was thrown open.

Roll of contestants included Obong Ime Umana; Chief Don Etiebet; Obong Christopher Ekpenyong; Dr. Udoma Bob Ekarika; Chief Itak Bob Ekarika and Akpabio, who took the crown when the final whistle was blown. He beat the over 50 candidates who jostled for the exalted position to the PDP ticket.

But the battle was fiercely fought as Attah who had initially anointed Akpabio, withdrew his support mid way and positioned Dr. Ekarika, his son-in-law who served in his cabinet as Works Commissioner to succeed him.

And with the power of incumbency and state funds at his disposal, Attah succeeded in pushing his son-in-law to the fore, but Ekarika, eventually lost to a combination of forces.

He, however, came second in the contest, but Attah was quick to devise another strategy, taking the matter to the party turf where he is the Board of Trustees (BOT) member. Those army of Akpabio’s supporters who rolled out the drums when Akpabio was declared winner of governorship primaries were quick to stop celebration when the picture was no longer clear about who would be declared the party’s flag bearer.

What heightened the anxiety of Akpabio’s men was PDP’s abracadabra politics, which could see the first becoming the last and the last first.

The political atmosphere of Akwa Ibom was heavily charged; suspense reigned supreme, giving room to speculations. When Akpabio could not be persuaded by his boss whom he served as Commissioner for Lands, Petroleum and Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs between 2002 and 2006, the PDP hierarchy led by the then BOT Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih stepped in.

The party was in dire need of party faithful who could win election and Akpabio fit the bill .

At the reconciliation meeting held at Ibom Hall, Uyo, the Anenih group was able to impress it on Attah to sheathe his sword so that the state would not go to the opposition because of the crisis.

Attah was, therefore, asked to choose a running mate to Akpabio and he beckoned on his loyal friend and former Commissioner for Information, Chief Patrick Ekpotu, an engineer to team up with Akpabio in the task of running the state.

But in a manner reminiscent of Jesus Christ’s encounter with his disciple, Peter in the Bible, Attah lifting Akpabio’s hand asked three times: "Akpabio do you love me?", to which he answered three times in the affirmative.

But the battle line was to be drawn again soon after Akpabio was sworn in on May 29 last year. He said Attah left empty treasury with N40 billion declared missing from the vault.

Although Akpabio was quick to eat up his words, which were already amplified on the state-run radio, Attah saw this as a breach of the reconciliation agreement.

Since he took seat last year, Attah’s men in hooded garbs including Ekarika have been critical of Akpabio’s style of administration. Several petitions allegedly from Attah’s camp were sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accusing the government and its officials of engaging in corruption.

Secretary to State Government (SSG), Obong Umana Okon Umana; the Speaker of the State House of Assemby, Rt. Hon. Ignatius Edet and the former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Patrick Udomfang were among those summoned by the anti-graft agency to Abuja over the allegation, which the SSG described as baseless and frivolous. He said the EFCC could not prosecute the case because the petitioners were faceless.

Also, the battle for the soul of the PDP in Akwa Ibom has once again pitched Attah against his estranged god-son, Akpabio.

At the expiration of the tenure of Chief Otu Ita Toyo as the chairman of the party in the state late last year, investigation by The Nation revealed that Attah was given the free hand to pick the next chairman of the party.

Akpabio mobilised his men to take over the party machinery. They include Prince Uwem Ita Etuk, former Council Chair of Ibesikpo Asutan (Chairman PDP); Apostle Samuel Akpan, former Political and Legislative Adviser to Akpabio (Deputy Chairman) and Mr. Ibanga Akpabio, his relation who is the party secretary.

Attah is said to have petitioned the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, seeking the correction of the anomaly. The party chair, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, The Nation gathered, has conferred legitimacy on Attah’s candidate, Mr. Abasi-Ubong Iniobong while Prince Etuk is barred from representing the state during party meetings in Abuja.

Political activities at the Ikot Ekpene Road, Uyo Secretariat of the party have been at the lowest ebb. The former PDP Chair, Alhaji Ahmadu Alli had on February 28, dispatched his wife, Mrs. M.N. Alli to Uyo to inaugurate the party executive, loyal to the Akwa Ibom State Government in a consensus arrangement which Mrs. Alli described as "carry go".

In Attah’s camp, his loyalists are crying foul as the event of the last couple of weeks, appeared to have punctured the ego of the former governor.

For instance, they pointed out that the politics of projects commissioning which Akpabio had embarked on since May 29, which marked his one year anniversary in office is aimed at removing Atttah’s imprints on the sands of time.

Mr. Stephen Akpan, an apostle of Attah’s school of thought, said the action was a calculated attempt to pooh-pooh Attah’s achievements in the last eight years preceding May 29, 2007.

He said: "Many of the projects bear Attah’s imprints, because he initiated it and he should be accorded that recognition as a statesman."

Besides, Akpan who hails from Attah’s area in Ibesikpo Asutan expressed disgust at what he called systematic expulsion of Attah’s forces in the state executive council.

He said the sacking of Mr. Essien Ubong Attah, younger brother to Attah as the Commissioner for Tourism was in bad faith. "Such action has political undertone", he said.

Other Attah’s loyalists that were eliminated in the recent cabinet shake-up, Akpan said, include: Dr. Ebebe Ukpong who had served in Attah’s cabinet for eight years and was named in Akpabio’s cabinet as Commissioner for Education; Dr. Chris Ekong, former Sports Commissioner in Attah’s administration who became commissioner for Economic Planning in Akpabio’s cabinet.

Just last week, a senior aide to Akpabio on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Udeme Nana, who Attah recommended for Akpabio was also asked to go.

This has however raised fresh anxiety in the state, which prides itself as the most peaceful in the Niger-Delta region.

Last week, Mr. Nicholas Andy, the Returning Officer in the last state congress of the PDP accused Attah of perpetrating crisis in the state PDP. Contrary to the petition by Attah’s camp to the national chair of PDP that the election of the party executive in the state did not follow due process, Andy said the process that brought Prince Etuk-led executive was in line with the provision of the party’s constitution.

For the crisis not to degenerate into a full blown war, observers said there is need to douse the tension for the benefit of the people of the state.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How Mantu was dismantled

How Mantu was dismantled 29/7/2008

The bid of former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu to return to the Senate suffered a major setback on Saturday, as he was defeated by the Action Congress candidate, Satty Gogwim. From Jos, PAM AYUBA writes on how various forces teamed up against Mantu to ensure his defeat.

The polls had been closed. But, the results were yet to be officially released. Yet, his country home in Gindiri was populated by people wearing long and gloomy faces. From a distance, one could sense that already there was acceptance of defeat. There was an unusual silence in the large compound built on a large expanse of land, that houses more than five different structures of different styles.

Before the re-run election in the Central Senatorial district last Saturday, the owner of the house, former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu was sure of returning to the National Assembly. The second chance provided by the Court Appeal’s order of June 16, 2008, which annulled Satty Gogwim’s election was what Mantu needed to make a bodl bid to return to political relevance. But he missed it, as Gogwim won the seat for the second time in less than two years. He thus lost another chance of representing the Plateau Central Senatorial district, which is made up of five of the 17 local government areas of the state. They are Kanke; Pankshin; Mangu; Kanam and Bokkos. The zone has a population of 952,392 people out of which there are 465,738 registered voters, according to the latest 2006 census figures and INEC statistics.

The court of appeal under Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa had, on June 16, 2008, held that the lower court was right when it ruled that INEC was wrong in its decision not to include Zainab Abdulmalik of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in that election. It therefore ordered the electoral body to conduct fresh elections in the senatorial district within 90 days. And in compliance, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted the election last Saturday.

The golden opportunity provided by that re-run election could not redeem Mantu’s dwindling political fortunes. It also made nonsense of his claim of being the "Ultimate Leader" as voters humbled him in his central senatorial district.

Results of the bye-elections as announced by the returning officer, Ndechi Okechukwu showed Mantu of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, polling 103,513 votes to place second to Senator Gogwim of the Acton Congress, AC, who polled 141,297 to retain the seat he won April last year.

Okechukwu announced the outcome of the elections at exactly 6:30am last Sunday after all the five local government areas that participated in the re-run election had submitted their results.

In Mangu, Mantu’s home local government, Gogwim was returned with total votes of 32,685 to Mantu’s 30,977, showing a difference of about 1,708 votes.

In Kanke and Pankshin local government areas, where Gogwim has dominance due to ethnic considerations, Mantu was squarely rounded up as Gogwim scored 31,489 to 6,158 and 37,307 to 19,041 respectively.

In Kanam, Mantu took the day as he polled 34,685 to Gogwim’s 20,708 while in Bokkos Gogwim polled 19,108 to beat Mantu who scored 12,667 votes.

Since the announcement of the results, not a few have wondered how Gogwim did it. The Nation learnt that several forces teamed up to ensure Mantu was defeated. In the forefront of the forces against Mantu was former governor Joshua Dariye from Bokkos local government area. Dariye personally led the AC campaign.

In all the five local government areas that the campaign train went, a large turn out of party supporters came to welcome the Dariye-led team, despite the heavy down pour witnessed in most of the campaign grounds. The situation was not so with Mantu, where in some instances only a few "hired-crowd" were seen scantily showing support for the former deputy senate president.

Dariye, while addressing party supporters, said: "Plateau State needs peace and for such peace to be attained, the likes of Mantu can not be entrusted with leadership position as he still has an unfinished business to achieve."

"Mantu is an impeachment senator," Dariye said in one of his campaign speeches in Mangu, Mantu’s home local government area. He told party loyalists that those who still believe in him should not vote Mantu as anyone who does that has "betrayed him".

The former governor said voting Mantu was like voting for the impeachment of Jang, a situation he said he does not like. He said he would not allow anybody to go through what he passed through. "Plateau state needs development not impeachment," he said.

The presence of Dariye throughout the re-run campaigns of Gogwim did not only add impetus but was an indication that the rivalry between him and Mantu was far from being over as earlier speculated.

Weeks after the appellate court up-held the judgment of the lower tribunal, romance between supporters of Dariye and Mantu became the talk of the town. In some quarters, it was held that the two had reconciled and were always seen eating together and exchanging banters. However, supporters of the two camps soon engaged themselves in physical combats.

In Mangu local government, for instance, Mantu’s supporters known as "Mantu Vanguard" allegedly destroyed cars that were on the convoy of the AC candidate and beat one person to a state of coma. The situation was worse in both Pankshin and Kanam where supporters of the two main parties displayed political intolerance.

The voting pattern at the election shows that in Mangu local government area where he hails from, voters voted based on religious sentiments. Mangu is made of over 85 percent Christians with the dominant tribe being the Mwagavwuls.

In Bokkos, the Dariye factor played a role in dismantling Mantu. Though, religious sentiment could not be outrightly ruled out, the people of Bokkos are still very bitter with the former Deputy Senate President for his role in the ‘illegal impeachment’ of their son, Dariye.

In Pankshin local government, ethnicity and religion played a significant role in the defeat of Mantu. This was the same with Kanke, home local government to Gogwim.

However, in Kanam, where there is a large concentration of Muslims, Mantu won.

Whatever the factors that led to his defeat, Mantu may need to do a lot to oil his political machinery if he wants to remain relevant in the politics of the state.

Militants attack two oil pipelines, SPDC shuts in production

Again, militants attack two oil pipelines, SPDC shuts in production

Published: Tuesday, 29 Jul 2008

Militants struck twice in the Niger Delta region on Monday, forcing the Shell Petroleum Development Company to shut in some production in one of the damaged facilities — the Nembe Trunk line in Kula, Rivers State.

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Agency reporter

Niger Delta Militant

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Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Azazi

The second facility (pipeline) attacked by the militants is located in Rumuekpe, Emuoha Local Government. The owner of the pipeline was yet to be ascertained as 7pm on Monday.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the attacks just as the Nigerian Army said that it would continue to use minimum force in its efforts to restore peace in the area.

The Public Affairs Manager of the SPDC, Mr. Precious Okolobo, explained that the decision to close the Nembe Trunk line was to prevent more crude from spilling into the neigbourhood.

Okolobo, however, said the company was still trying to find out the extent of the damage to the trunk line, one of the major components of its operations.

He said, “We can confirm some damage to our Nembe Trunk line and we are working to ascertain the extent of damage to it.

“But as a precautionary measure, we have shut in some production so that more crude does not sip into the environment.”

MEND said in an e-mail statement to THE PUNCH that the attack was carried out in fulfilment of its pledge to resume hostilities in the region.

The two-paragraph statement reads, “In keeping with our pledge to resume pipeline attacks within the next 30 days, our detonation engineers backed by heavily armed fighters today (Monday) sabotaged two major pipelines in Rivers State of Nigeria.

“The first pipeline is located in Kula, which has been previously sabotaged by us and the second in Rumuekpe both belonging, we believe, to the SPDC.”

But when contacted on the telephone, the Spokesman for the Joint Task Force, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, claimed that no attack was carried out on the facility in Rumuekpe.

Musa said the facility in Rumukpe was heavily guarded by troops from the task force.

MEND had on July 19 attacked the multi-million dollar Bonga and Pennington oil fields of the SPDC.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has said that in spite of losing some of its men in the battle to restore peace in the Niger Delta region, it would not apply full military force in dislodging the militants in the Niger Delta.

The Army Chief of Operations, Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Sale, told journalists in Kontagora, Niger State on Monday, that the Army needed to exercise restraint because the militants were a symmetric force (weaker force).

Sale said, “We cannot use our might to resolve the crisis in the Niger Delta and this is because of the simple reason that it is a homeland affair.

“We regard what the militants are fighting for as a home affair. So the best thing to do is to use the minimum possible force to resolve the crisis.”

He said another reason why the Army would not embark on full scale war against militants was because every Nigerian had the right to express his or her dislike against some perceived misgivings in the country.

Also on Monday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Luka Yussuf, empahsised the need for officers and men of the Nigerian Army to be trained on a regular basis.

Yussuf, in a message to the opening of a four- day Combat Support Arms Training in Kontagora , said that the nation’s combat support troops were well trained and equipped to cope with modern day warfare.

In his address, the Commander, Corps of Artillery, Maj.- Gen. John Samuel, noted that training was a phenomenon the Army should not allow to be taken to the back stage.

He said history was replete with instances whereby armies had failed or lost battles because they lacked up-to-date training to meet present day challenges.

Monday, July 28, 2008

‘Yar’Adua should declare emergency on corruption, not power’

‘Yar’Adua should declare emergency on corruption, not power’

Published: Monday, 28 Jul 2008

Nigeria‘s image seemed to have improved with former President Olusegun Obasanjo‘s claim to fight corruption during his administration. Do you think with all the revelations now, the country‘s image outside would not have worsened?

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Gen. Ishola Williams, TI boss

The corruption drive that started during the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo gained some momentum. It showed that we were ready to expose to the world, some of our corrupt practices. We can call that washing our dirty linen in the open. But this is something that is necessary in order to be able to minimise corruption in our country. At least, that is good for our image. On the negative side, what is important is this: It is not the probe as such; but whether those who are found to have committed what I will call crime against poor Nigerians by taking out contracts, collecting money and not doing anything; that is what I call crime against poor Nigerians and therefore, they should be like crimes against humanity. Because it is a very serious problem, it is a very serious issue. If they are not punished, that is very bad. Secondly too, not only should they be punished, but they should have all their assets forfeited and I want to see a situation in which like the election tribunal, that will judge their cases within three months and there should be a situation in which once it has been proven from the probe and the National Assembly members have visited the sites (contracts) and there is nothing on those sites, then it is assumed that those people are guilty. So it is left for them now to prove to the world that they are not guilty, and if they cannot, all their assets should be seized and they should send them to jail for forty years, minimum. That is what the world is looking for now. If they can do that, I am assuring you that our image will skyrocket. We do not even need to publicise ourselves on CNN. But at the very moment, we are not the envy of any investor that comes to Nigeria. Any investor that comes to the country is investing in corruption, which is the way I can describe the present situation.

What was the involvement of TI in Obasanjo‘s battle against corruption?

To a certain extent, it is not the business of TI to help Nigeria to fight against corruption. There are 51 nations that are members of TI; it has no capacity to stop corruption in any of those countries. It is our own responsibility as TI in Nigeria because we understand the conditions better. The issue is that it is not only TI, it has to be the will of Nigerians to take the matter up, accountants, judges- must have the will to be able to do what they are expected to do. Just like the case of Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, the press will not allow us to rest, every single day it was Ribadu, Ribadu. How did the gentleman get N40-60m to buy house in Abuja? And the man said his father-in-law got a loan from the bank for him. So if he were caught in that kind of situation, what about his subordinates, and right now Mrs. Farida Waziri got there and she is saying, I am not going to probe him, it is all because they are policemen and women. As long as we continue to have policemen and women investigating corruption in our country, then we are wasting our time.

What is Nigeria‘s rating in TI at the moment?

The point is that we have just moved on to the stage. We are making effort, we are exposing all the cases of corruption and this had never happened before and if we want to move up that stage, we should be seen to be punishing all those who have been found to be wanting by the court. Secondly there are so many numbers of people who have stolen money and are sitting down in the Senate. Even from the leadership of the Senate to members of the House of Assembly who are alleged to have gone to Port Harcourt to collect N200m, the hunters are now being hunted. The issue is very straight forward, punish those who have been found wanting. All those former governors and the rest of them who are running around the place and they are giving them back their passport, and now we have a very serious situation today in the country. Most of those governors who have stolen public money are establishing newspapers, buying big shares in television houses, they want to control the media, and that is dangerous. If they do that, journalists cannot do their job because they will be looking down their back, if not they would not get paid. In any case, how many journalists get paid? So, if you look at all these things, the average policeman collects N20, and you see that the Inspector-Generals, one after the other, they are so corrupt. One of them was even buying the official quarters of his position. So, you see, it is the system that is so rotten. We are talking about ‘2020‘, how can you talk about building a skyscraper when you have not put in the foundation. It will collapse. Therefore, what the President should do is to declare a state of emergency against corruption, not on power. Electricity is not a big deal; it is just the supply of electricity. Lagos State wanted to do it, it was the Federal Government that stopped them. If not, everybody would have been having electricity in Lagos. Power is not our problem, what our problem is, is corruption. Until Yar‘Adua does that, we would know that he is a very serious person. After all, who is supplying water to all the states? Are they not supplying their own water? So let electricity, just like water, be handled by individual states.

Who would you blame for some of the amazing discoveries over contracts awards in the various institutions?

The whole thing is that; let us assume that the system is so bad that even if they put you there, it is like putting honey on the tip of your tongue. Would you swallow it or spit it out? So in most cases, they will swallow the honey. When ministers, permanent secretaries get there, they meet our contract system that is bad. What we need to do is this; no ministry should be allowed to award contracts. We should have government procurement agency. During the time of the British, there used to be what they called the ‘crown agent.‘ The tasks were given to them (crown agent) and they in turn will order what you want for you; from pencil to paper to everything that you want in your ministry. That was the only contract point of the government. That allows us now to be able to monitor that particular agency where contracts emanate. But where you have all the ministries in the world that are doing contracts, then you have a problem. That is why we have this very bad system, and of course the ministers, permanent secretaries and civil servants would like that kind of system to remain. One of the areas where we are having corruption cases in Nigeria and why it is very fundamental is that, one, the derivation system that we use in sharing money, is corrupting itself. How would the mobilisation and allocation commission that is distributing salary for everybody, when they do not mobilise any revenue. It is very bad. People should be paid according to what they can generate in their local government in their states. Not somebody sitting down in Abuja, and telling people what to be paid in remote areas of this country. We do not need all those ministries that we have at the federal level. What are the states there for? They should reduce the number of ministries (federal) to twelve, let the states do their job, as well as the local governments. That is why we have three tiers of government. In Nigeria, it is only one tier that seems to be working; the others are just spending money.

In all of this, where do you put Obasanjo?

Right from the beginning, I knew that Obasanjo was a hypocrite. I never accepted that, one, Obasanjo could fight corruption, because of his character and he has not disappointed me at all, from the investigations that are going on now. Two, it is stupid for anyone to think that politicians can fight corruption. Political system all over the world is corrupt. It is the people, and the people must work with the mass media so that there would be constant investigative journalism in the press and the judiciary. And then, we must have lawyers and accountants with conscience. Our lawyers and accountants do not have any conscience; they follow money.

Of what use would the ongoing probes be to the country?

These probes are very useful. There have been rumours and the probes are now there to confirm the rumour. Therefore what is EFCC waiting for, what is the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission waiting for? Once people have written petition to EFCC and ICPC, these probes would now make them to act because many people had written petition before about their governors, local government chairmen, contractors, ministers and so on. There are some that are still being kept under the carpet, there are rumours about the one of fertilizers in the agriculture ministry, we have not heard anything about that. The former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, is running around the whole world. There are some other governors who are sitting down in the village, while others are being arrested. So this is the issue. But the media would not bring this out, because they are their friends or if a journalist goes ahead to do the story, the editor may not publish them. Look at the way journalists are doing their election, they are not different from the politicians. It is because everyone wants to be the president of the Guild of Editors.

How do you situate the National Assembly in all these cases of corruption, especially with their attitude to the Freedom of Information bill?

I know people are making a big issue about this FOI bill. There is no doubt that it is very important, but as long as you continue to push the National Assembly, they would say there is a hidden agenda, and therefore they would continue to resist it. Now, the Senate may want to prove that it supports, but they know that as long as the House of Representatives does not pass it, it would not have any value, even if the President is ready to sign it. It is like the Yoruba saying that there are many ways of killing a chicken; either by putting the knife on its neck or in other places.