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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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COLUMNISTS

Lawyer raises alarm over N15 billion NDDC payments

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A legal practitioner, Mr. Godwin Ojeh, has lamented what he called corruption of self-enrichment in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Nigerian Senate , Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila to stop the payment of N15 billion to contractors.

‘’The Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission has thrown caution to the winds. It is about to pay for jobs not done. The committee is processing the payment of a whooping amount of N15billion on spurious contracts in the name of ‘’Desilting of Waterways’’.

He particularly decried the misappropriation in the management of the funds of the commission.

‘Is the 2020 budget of the commission ready? Where are they spending from? ’Recently, the Senate set up an ad hoc committee to probe the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over alleged mismanagement of N40billion. The Senate also requested for 2019 budgetary performance. The commission doesn’t have power to expend public money. There is no budgetary provision’’.

In a tone suggestive of his hatred for corruption, the Benin based lawyer asked the National Assembly and the executive arm of the government to stop the commission from wasting the country’s resources.

In a statement in Benin, Ojeh described the intention of the NDDC Interim Management Committee as ‘’a move that will endanger development of the region

‘’There is no greater danger to the development of the Niger Delta region than the payments for fictitious contracts’’ the statement said.

He also harped on the need for transparency in government organizations, saying ‘’it is necessary for the National Assembly and the executive arm of government to adopt a collective position on the allegation of corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)’’.

 

Credit: Ebireri Henry Ovie

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ABEOKUTA AND ITS PERENNIAL FLOODING: GOV. ABIODUN TO THE RESCUE

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By Elijah Udofia

Saturday, July 4, 2020, is a day the people of Abeokuta, particularly those living very close to the city’s waterways, would not forget in a hurry. Like in the days of Noah, the floodgates were opened and the showers came down heavily, causing floods of havoc that ravaged portions of the city. For somebody who was in the capital city of the Gateway State for the first time, the sight of flooded roads, with water subterranean enough to swim, floating household possessions, evacuated trees, washed way bridges and people congregating on high rise buildings, waiting for the water to recede, is something he or she will live to remember for a long time.

On that day, the heavens opened and brought with it sorrows, but thankfully, without blood. The torrential rain which started at about three in the morning did not stop until six in the evening, thereby thrashing hard on the ancient city for 16 good hours, non-stop. It is instructive to note that July of every year, has always been a period when the city experiences great flooding, occasion by torrential rain. Apart from the destruction of critical public infrastructures, mostly roads and bridges, it is always a time when those living close to the canals, have their hearts in their mouths. Hardly a year passes without these areas experiencing flooding which lead to loss of properties and in some cases, life or lives as the case may be.

The recent one affected mostly areas are; Isale-Oja, Kuto, Ago-Ijesha, Ijeun-Titun, Ijeja-Igbore road, Gbangba, Elite-Lantoro road and Oba Adeleye’s recreational park. One is however happy that areas like Ijaye and Isale-Igbein, which used to experience serious flooding had been taken care of, by the construction of Lafenwa, Sapon, Idi-Aba, Ajebo road and Onikolobo, Omida and Sapon road. It should be noted here that the issue of flooding in Abeokuta is not new, as previous governments, including military administrations, had course to contend with this menace. The presence of the Vice President, who came to inspect the extent of damage caused by flooding two years ago, is an indication that the issue is not a child’s play. What is disturbing however is that the damages caused are becoming more devastating, which calls for concern by all and sundry?

Being the head of a government that came to power on the popular mandate, the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, immediately the rain ceased on Sunday morning, ordered a team of government officials, led by the Environment Commissioner, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun took a tour of the areas affected by the flood and came up with a report to enable the government to respond accordingly.

As if that was not enough, the Governor, the following day, personally went round the affected areas to see things for himself. Prince Abiodun who was shocked due to the extent of damage caused not only to public assets, but to the property of the people, there and then, promised that his administration would assist them in mitigating the effect of their loss.

“I am here to look at the damage caused by the rain that fell on Saturday. Though I have sent my Commissioners and other government officials to inspect the damages, I decided to also come and see things for myself. I am happy that no life was lost, though you lost properties.

“I want to assure all of you who lost property to the flood that we will support you. In a few days’ time, government officials will come to see you to take down your names and properties affected, so that we can look at how to compensate you”.

On what the government intends to do to settle the matter once and for all, Prince Dapo Abiodun said the dredging of the canal that crisscrosses the State capital was on-going, while clearing of refuse in the gutters, was also carried out. He then informed the people that the government has assessed the damage caused to the roads and bridges with a view to carry out a comprehensive and proper channelization of the waterways.

“I want to assure you that we will repair the damaged roads, expand the gutters and bridges so that when rain falls, the gutters and the bridges would be able to accommodate the large volume of water. With this, the problem of erosion would be a thing of the past”, he promised

Governor Abiodun attributed flooding in the State capital to rapid development, besought the people to desist from dumping refuse or building structures on the waterways as these also contributed to the flooding. Collaborating the position of the Governor on the ways to find permanent solution to the menace of flooding in the State, the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, noted that regular dredging of the waterways, converting some old culverts to bridges as well as delisting drainages to allow free flow of water will be done by the government.

The Commissioner disclosed that dredging is currently going on at Isale-Oja to Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library up to Orange Valley View Estate, adding that the government is not only looking at Abeokuta alone, as dredging is also ongoing in 16 places across the State. Though the government ultimate goal is to find a permanent solution to the problem, in the meantime, a temporary arrangement according to the Commissioner, was going on at the sites, as allowing the affected areas to remain unattended to, will adversely affect the socio-economic well-being of people and adds to their suffering. The Commissioner appealed to residents of the State to properly dispose of their refuse and desist from dumping them on waterways, to minimize the effects of flooding.

For Alhaji Bello Mohammed, Secretary, Isale-Oja, Kuto, Community Development Association, his community has been experiencing flooding on a yearly basis in the last 10 years. He opined that proper channelization of the canal with an adequate drainage system, would bring an end to the flooding. Also, Mrs. Abike Awosanya and Abideen Musibau, residents of Ago-Ijesha, in Abeokuta South Local Government, said that they want the government to urgently find lasting solution to the flood problem, as it has affected their means of livelihood and make life unbearable for them.

Also bearing his mind, Mr. Raphael Anthony, a motorcyclist, who plied Ijaye-Kuto route, appealed to the State government to regularly dredge the waterways and expand the drainages system as the existing ones can no longer accommodate large volumes of water, during heavy rain. More so, Mrs. Florence Adegbite, an apprentice hairstylist at Ijeun Titun, opined that, “from what I am seeing, I think the State government would need help, particularly from the Federal government to permanently address this problem, a huge amount of money will be involved.

Though Government has a big role to play in bringing an end to the flooding issue, l observed with pain that the actions and inactions of the people are not helping in this regard. A walk through the State capital, one will see the non-challant attitude of the people as they dump refuse even at places where they are not supposed to.

Some simple questions I would like to ask are, what is refuse doing on road medians? Why do people turn gutters, drainages which are supposed to carry water to the canal, to refuse dumpsites? Why do people find it difficult to clear gutters, even those in front of their houses? And most importantly, why do people build structures on waterways that were invented/constructed to serve as drains to the river. All these questions need urgent answers, if the problem of flooding in Abeokuta, is to be addressed.

Now that Governor Dapo Abiodun’s government is showing commitment by putting in place measures that will permanently solve the problem of perennial flooding in the capital city, it is imperative for citizens to also play their parts, because as the African saying goes, “one cannot clap with one hand”.

Udofia, Head of the Governor’s Press Crew, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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AREGBESOLA COMES TO JUDGMENT

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www.securenigeria365.com
By: Femi Adesina
Wednesday June 10, 2020, was ‘judgment day’ for Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola.
Incidentally, the day had broken with stories of denials of rift between him and his political mentor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former two-term Governor of Lagos State, and National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC).
The APC had outlawed all party sub-groups in Lagos, where Aregbesola had his political foundations, and still maintains a stranglehold, despite having been a two-term Governor in Osun State.
The buzz was that the Minister was possibly eyeing the Presidency in 2023, a diadem also reportedly coveted by his mentor, so the rug had to be pulled off under his feet early enough. Frost followed. Cold War, said the rumor mills.
Strident denials came from the Tinubu and Aregbesola camps. And it was mere distraction for the Minister, as he had a huge assignment ahead of him on that same Wednesday. It was his turn to brief the Federal Executive Council, headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, on his stewardship, since assuming office in August last year.
Called Ministerial Performance Report, it was something instituted last year to receive regular feedbacks from Ministers, to judge whether they were complying with the spirit and letters of the mandates handed over to them when they were sworn in 10 months ago. It is something like a peer review session, in which the President, the Vice President, and all members of the Federal cabinet would listen, dissect, interrogate, applaud or bash the Minister reporting, depending on performance.
It is usually like judgment day, in which a man gives account of his works, and he either hears, “well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master,” or he is told; “depart from me, you worker of iniquity.”
The Ministry of Interior exists to foster and ensure the maintenance of internal security, public safety and citizenship integrity, for the promotion of good governance of the nation.
There are four main agencies and a Board under the supervision of the Ministry. They are: Nigerian Correctional Service (formerly Prisons Service), Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Fire Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board.
Now, it is very easy for citizens to live their lives, and not be mindful of these agencies. They just take them for granted, reckoning that they must just be there. But after listening to the performance report of the Minister, one comes to grasp with the reality that they do make a lot of difference in the lives of the citizenry. Without them being efficiently there, lives would be a lot worse. Nasty, brutish and short.
Do you know that the Ministry of Interior is vested with ensuring timely processing of permits for those coming to the country to establish businesses? Possibly not. Do you also know that the Ministry processes expatriate quota in line with the Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business? It equally is vested with easing of tourist visa, biometric visa at all entry points into the country, and many others.
So, how well has the Ministry fared in 10 months? The Cabinet listened, as Aregbesola reeled out the achievements, agency after agency.
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Which was why the Minister took the key officers of all the agencies to a resort in Ilesa, Osun State, early in the year. The purpose was a Strategy Retreat aimed at aligning mandate delivery.
Within five months last year, the Federal Fire Service responded to 2,615 fire calls, saved 724 lives and assets worth N1.629 trillion across the country. We take things like this for granted, don’t we? May we never see the fury of fire, as it ravenously devours everything in sight with its furious tongues.
At least 3,000 Custodial Centers are under construction and in various stages of completion in the six geo-political zones of the country. It would assuage the problem of congestion to a large extent.
Custodial Farm Centers have been reactivated round the country for large scale agricultural production in piggery, fishing, cattle rearing and poultry. Tractors and harvesters have been procured to facilitate the work, and contribute to food security in the country. Trust President Buhari, any opportunity to feed Nigerians, he utilizes.
There’s rehabilitation program, aimed at reducing the rate of recidivism (that’s big vocabulary, which means going to jail again and again) by engaging inmates in both vocational and entrepreneurial initiatives.
About 1,000 inmates were enrolled for the 2020 WAEC/NECO examinations, while the number of study centers of the National Open University of Nigeria have been increased to 10 across Custodial Centers.
The Border Management Strategy (BMS) has begun, and is being implemented at all international airports in the country. Management Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS) is now deployed at all air borders. Very easy to fish out anyone with criminal records from anywhere in the world, attempting to enter the country.
Nigerian passports can now be applied for online, while there’s also Visa-On-Arrival with biometric features at all air borders.
At the social end, the statutory marriage process has been automated to make things easier. Young people must marry, mustn’t they?
The Federal Fire Service is now present in all states of the country, with 28 newly procured fire engines deployed.
Six new fire service training schools have been established across the geo-political zones to cater for human capital development needs.
Over 5,000 officers of the Civil Defence have been deployed to protect IDP camps, and re-occupy liberated towns and villages in the North-East.
The Ministry has trained and deployed over 1,500 personnel as Agro-Rangers in Yobe and Adamawa states, to protect farmers and their farms. This will eventually go round the country as required.
And many more.
Minister Aregbesola took questions, made explanations, gave clarifications, and it was obvious that council members were satisfied.
No wonder when the meeting was over, his well starched white Agbada billowed in the wind, as he left the Presidential Villa.
*Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari
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