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Following the recent threat by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to resume attacks on oil installations, the federal government at the weekend released plans for the development of the volatile oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Nigeria depends on its oil for almost 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings and 70 per cent of total earnings.

Sustained attacks on oil installations by the Avengers in the first of 2016 contributed to halving Nigeria’s oil output and plunging the country into its first recession in 25 years.

But with the temporary end to hostilities secured by the government late last year, Nigeria has been able to ramp up crude production and was one of the major factors, along with higher oil prices, that the country exited the recession by the second quarter of 2017.

A statement by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, Sunday night listed the plans to include increased budgetary allocation to the Niger Delta ministry and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), take off of the Maritime University in Delta State, commencement of the Ogoni clean-up exercise, investment in infrastructure such as the construction of N120.6 billion Bonny-Bodo Road and N1 billion Ibaka deep sea port.

Other plans he listed were approval for the establishment of an export processing zone in Delta State, approval for establishment of modular refineries, and increased allocation for Presidential Amnesty Programme.

Giving details of the budgetary allocations for the region’s programme in 2018, Akande said N71.20 billion was allocated in the 2018 budget to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), N65 billion for the Amnesty Programme, and N53.89 billion for the Ministry of Niger Delta, up from the N34.20 billion in 2017.

On the Maritime University, he said: “The new Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State, has now commenced operations, inviting job applications for academic staff.

“President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration recently approved an increase in the take off grant from the N2 billion earlier announced to N5 billion. This sum was included in the 2018 budget presented to the National Assembly earlier this week under the Federal Ministry of Education allocation.

“Academic activities are expected to start in the university soon following the completion of the hiring process for professors, readers, senior lecturers, lecturers, assistant, assistant lecturers and graduate assistants to teach in the Faculties of Science, Maritime Transportation, Maritime Engineering and Technology, Maritime Environmental Management and General Studies.

“The take off of the Maritime University was one of the major requests tabled before the federal government when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo went on a series of tour to all the Niger Delta states during the year, following President Buhari’s meeting with leaders of the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) last November.”

On Ogoni clean up, he said in June 2016, the administration started the implementation of the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland devastated by decades of oil spills.

“An inter-ministerial committee on Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) under the Federal Ministry of Environment was established.

“HYPREP has since set up structures in place for the final take off of the clean up and restoration of the region devastated by oil spills. This shows the commitment of the FG to restore the region.

“Eight companies have been engaged to conduct demonstration clean up exercises in the four local government areas of Ogoniland, to enable HYPREP select the best and most suitable technology for the remediation work.

“These demonstrations were recently concluded; the results are being studied by the governing council of the Ogoni clean up project.

“HYPREP has also trained 15 indigenous Ogoni scientists on environmental assessment remediation.

“HYPREP assessed existing water facilities in Ogoniland in line with the UNEP recommendation report that potable water be provided for Ogoni, following pollution of water sources in the region by oil spills.

“A health impact assessment study to be done to ascertain whether there is a link between some disease patterns and oil pollution in the affected communities is also being done.

“Bids have been invited for consultancy on provision of water, health study and environmental remediation,” the statement added.

It explained that the Bonny-Bodo bridge and road project is a public private partnership arrangement jointly funded by the federal government and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) on a 50:50 basis.

According to him, when completed, the 34-kilometre road will connect several major communities in the Niger Delta region and boost socio-economic development and improve on the lives of people in the region.

Akande also said the federal government approved the establishment of the export processing zone (EPZ) comprising the gas city project at Ogidigben and the deep seaport in Gbaramatu, Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State.

“When fully operational, these projects are expected to boost socio-economic activities and improve the security landscape of the Niger Delta region,” he added.

On the modular refineries, he said 13 of 35 applications received by the government had reached what he described as the LTC (Licence to Construct) stage.

He also said two of these 13 refineries are almost ready for shipment while consideration for a customs duty waiver and some form of tax holidays are also underway.

The advent of modular refineries, he added, would create a robust domestic refining sector necessary to meet and exceed the full capacity of national demand, address the proliferation of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta and attendant environmental degradation, and provide jobs for unemployed youths in the region.

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2019: Atiku’s emergence means it will be eagle vs eagle…..Bakare

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The Convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Pastor Tunde Bakare on Sunday congratulated Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on his emergence as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate.

According to Bakare, Atiku’s victory would make the 2019 election keen and interesting.

Bakare, Senior Pastor, Latter Rain Assembly, spoke to newsmen in Ikeja after making a speech on Nigeria’s 58th Independence in his church.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Abubakar, a former Vice-President, was declared winner at his party’s convention in Port-Harcourt early Sunday.

He polled 1,532 votes to defeat his closest rival, Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State (693 votes) and Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, among others at the convention that started on Saturday.

Bakare said the emergence of Atiku was a welcome development as it meant the battle for the presidency would be a tough contest between him and President Muhammadu Buhari.

The SNG convener said both the president, who is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Abubakar were equal match and it was Nigerians who would decide between the two.

“I congratulate him (Abubakar), he makes the issue in 2019 more robust.

“It is not going an eaglet versus an eagle but an eagle versus eagle: an old eagle versus new eagle and probably both of them old eagles.

“I wish president Muhammadu Buhari the best in 2019.

“He has the power of incumbency and he will do his best to win the election, but Atiku is not going to take No for an answer when the two forces collide in the election,” he said.

Bakare said Abubakar, just like Buhari, had the experience, the exposure and the acceptance expected of the country’s president.

He, however, pointed out that having those qualities alone would not translate into the victory for him, as the electorate would decide the parameters on which to elect the next president.

“I can’t say Atiku will win or lose. You see, I am not advocating for him. Among all the aspirants who contested the PDP’s ticket with him, he is perhaps the most cosmopolitan,he is a Wazobia man.

“He was Vice-President for eight years, and he inherited something from late Yaradua that he had held on to so effectively.

“He has been a businessman with a business acumen and he has the exposure.

“But you see, that is not what qualifies you to win. A lot comes into play, so again, I can not say whether he will win or lose,” he said.

Bakare said for the PDP to win the 2019 elections, they would need to demonstrate to the electorate that they were a regenerated party and “show repentance for the years of the locust they engineered”.

He added that the opposition party had to convince Nigerians that they would not return to corruption, which he said was the way of life during its rule, to win the confidence of the electorate.

On the chances of APC, Bakare said though the government was trying its best, there was the need for them to do much more to win the next election.

He said the country was facing a lot of challenges which the government needed to offer solutions to, in order to fast track pace of development.

The cleric said that performance and policies, and not necessarily incumbency factor, would guarantee victory for the APC in 2019.

The SNG Convener said his comments about the Buhari’s administration from the beginning, should not be interpreted to mean he was attacking the government, but he was just raising issues needing attention.

“I didn’t take any swipe at the administration of President Buhari.

“What I have always said is that despite the acclaimed progress in the country, Nigerians are not feeling the impact in their homes.

“That does not mean the government is not working. Look at the groanings of the people, the government still has to do a lot more before the 2019 elections.

“They have to work harder to assure Nigerians that they are really up to the task of listening to their yearnings and aspirations.

“The purpose of government is the welfare and security of people.Take that from the equation, then governance means nothing,” he said.

He said the emergence of many political parties was good for democracy and freedom.

Bakare, however, said many of the parties were pretenders and they would need to “rise above the cacophony of noise” they were making to make impact in the elections.

The SNG Convener said he had a presidential ambition but would not contest against President Buhari.

Bakare, who did not say the year he would contest, however, said he would be the one to succeed the president.

In his speech on the Independence titled “The Road to 2019: Quo Basis Nigeria’, Bakare said Nigeria had the potential to be great with the right leadership and positive attitude of followers.

He said 2019 presented another opportunity for citizens to realise the destiny of the country by participating in the process and voting right.

Bakare urged citizens to vote according to their conscience and elect leaders that mean well for the country.

Source: NAN

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BreakingNews: Atiku Wins PDP Presidential Primaries

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Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has emerged the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic party for the 2019 election after four attempts.

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COLUMNISTS

Osun Election: Is this the INEC or should We Expect another?

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By Jude Ndukwe

During his screening exercise before the senate prior to his confirmation as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof Mahmud Yakubu had, in response to one of the questions from the senators, said it was too late in his life for anyone, no matter how highly placed or powerful, to influence him in the discharge of his duties. Although I had my reservations about his sincerity but having watched him on that day, he performed so well in convincing the senators and every other person who might have had doubts about his capacity, firmness and fairness that he was the right man for the job. Since then I have taken special interest in him to know if indeed we still have men around who honour their word irrespective of the prevailing circumstances and pressure.

For a majority of the elections which Mahmud Yakubu’s INEC has conducted since he came on board, Nigerians have often expressed strong reservations about them to the extent that at a point in time, the Commission was rechristened Inconclusive National Electoral Commission, INEC, in mockery of its several elections it declared inconclusive as a result of reasons not appearing genuine to some citizens, a move which many saw as attempts to rig the system in favour of one party against the other.

Although INEC has stoutly defended its conduct of elections, if there was still any faith in INEC by the citizens, such faith must have finally melted away with the conduct of the Osun State election which started well but whose rerun ended up leaving soured grapes in the mouths of electorates, observers and Nigerians in general.

To start with, it is believed by many Nigerians that the Osun rerun was conjured up by INEC under the influence of powerful forces who were desperate to subvert the people’s will in the election in order to create time and space for the many infractions observed during the rerun on Thursday, September 27, 2019. The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room rightly observes that “the circumstances that led to the cancellation of the election in the seven polling units where the election were rerun including violence, also repeated themselves in most of this election, raising questions on why results obtained under these conditions should now stand”.

It further stated that “the entirety of the Osun State rerun election derogates from the recent gains made in our elections process and the confidence that was beginning to be built. The lapses in the Osun rerun election have put a serious question mark on the electoral process and raise concerns about the forthcoming 2019 Nigeria general elections”.

Also, missions of the US, EU and UK observed these infractions with particular concern about the role of the security agents who were reported to have harassed and intimidated voters as a way of preventing some of them from voting and even arrested some election observers including those from the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA. It is therefore troubling that despite these reports from credible local and international observers, INEC still went ahead to declare results in a rerun where a good number of the voters were deliberately disenfranchised.

The Osun election has, no doubt, cast a dark shadow on the nation’s electoral process. Following the election, Nigerians across spectrums have questioned the usefulness of their PVCs which they conclude are only just another card that has no value whatsoever for elections as, in their reckoning, INEC, the security forces and other relevant agencies of government have over time shown unrestrained bias and openly pitched their tents consistently towards one party against the other.

There is no stronger evidence of the rigging template and determination of the APC in their insatiable desire for power even if it means severely circumventing the process and denying the people their will and choice than the Freudian slip of the APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole who was caught on camera saying “Only people who can afford the pains of rigging…should partake in elections”. The bravado with which the former Edo State governor said it is even a louder testimony that the APC is working in cahoots with INEC and security agencies to continue to demean the system.

The Osun debacle borrowed its roots from the earlier Ekiti governorship election that was heavily militarized with the security agencies showing unmitigated bias against the PDP and other political parties in favour of the APC. It is therefore most unfortunate that the zeal and enthusiasm with which Nigerians registered for and collected their permanent voters card just in August have been dampened only barely a month after by the shenanigans of those in authority.

Some Nigerians have even been forced to conclude that the results of the 2019 general elections have already been written to favour the ruling party at the centre and therefore there is no need participating in the electoral process any longer.

How we got here is saddening. While APC rode on the goodwill of Nigerians based on their scurrilous attacks, campaigns of calumny, propaganda, half-truths and sophistry embarked upon against the then president Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, it is bewildering how this same party that had endeared itself to the hearts of Nigerians with their vitriolic style of campaign has lost so much support and so fast just in three years to the extent that they apply the win-it-by-all-means strategy including dubious collaboration with security agencies and INEC officials to manipulate the process and thereafter declare themselves winners with aplomb while dismissing the electorates and other participants with the “go-to-court” sermon that has now become a new catchphrase of ridicule in our electoral lexicon.

The Osun rerun is a monumental travesty. Videos abound where electorates were lamenting their inability to vote because security agents or APC thugs either harassed them or turned them back from approaching their polling units to cast their votes. The larger implications of such practices could be very dire on the nation. It was John F. Kennedy who once said that “Those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.

In as much as no one wishes violence on another not to talk of the nation, the actions of some of our leaders have gone beyond preaching the impossibility of making peaceful change impossible to actually practicing its impossibility. Such leaders should know that there is a limit to the endurance of a people, and no one has the monopoly of violence. When people are constantly pushed to the wall, they would be forced to react and the extent of their reaction is sometimes only measured after the billowing smoke have gone down and the dust settled.

Prof Mahmud Yakubu and his team must realize that they owe posterity their integrity. They owe the nation their sworn impartiality. They must realize that sovereignty resides with the people and the people have the freedom to exercise it as they see fit. From Kogi, Ondo, Edo, Ekiti to Osun, the story has not been different. The disenchantment created by INEC’s perceived partiality against the people is leaving question marks on their lips? They are asking, is this the same INEC which Prof Mahmud Yakubu promised during his screening was going to be impartial and conduct free, fair and credible elections, or is there another INEC which Yakubu and his team want us to wait for to conduct a widely acceptable 2019 general elections?

INEC should know that the election observers including the US, EU, and UK who spoke with one voice in condemnation of the Osun rerun process cannot all be wrong. The nation is already hanging by the cliff and it might just take only one more push by INEC and the security agencies at the 2019 elections to finally push her down the abyss and set off a conflagration that might make historians write on the nation’s epitaph: “Here lays the ashes of Nigeria, murdered by her electoral umpires. Indeed, there was a country”! May this not be Nigeria’s lot. It will not be only if INEC, the security agencies and other critical stakeholders in the polity allow a free and fair electoral process.

INEC, over to you!

—jrndukwe@yahoo.co.uk; Twitter: @stjudendukwe

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