President Umru Yar’Adua has advised the Niger Delta region to embrace peace and support development initiatives in the region.
The president also reaffirmed his administration’s readiness to invest in power to eradicate poverty.
President Yar’Adua, who is on an official visit to Bayelsa State, arrived the peace park, venue of the civic reception held for him by his host, Governor Timpre Sylva, in company of the Minister of Solid Minerals, Mrs. Daezani Madueke and Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State.
However, both senators and members of House of Representatives representing the state in the National Assembly were absent. An Abuja source confided that the legislators did not accompany the president because they said they were not invited by the state government. But a top government official denied this saying they were sent letters of invitation.
Yar’Adua, who expressed his administration’s preparedness to transform the Niger Delta, urged those he described as merchants of violence to change their ways.
But to those who genuinely took up arms to draw attention to the sad situation to the region, he said, “we have heard you and we are ready to work with you to move the Niger Delta forward in the interest of its long-suffering people.
“But to those hiding under the cover of legitimate protest to feather private nests, those merchants of violence, I say to you: change your ways, the people of Niger Delta have seen through your antics and will soon expose you”.
He urged all the people to give the administration a chance to earn their trust.
The president expressed hope that soon, “the region will be transformed into a development hub not only for Nigeria but also for the West African sub-region, in a way that will surpass the recent post-conflict transformation of Angola. But this cannot happen without peace and partnership.
“This is why we are strongly committed to prompt payment of all statutory allocations due to the region and to continued support to interventionist agencies like the NDDC. This is also why we created the Ministry of Niger Delta to coordinate our holistic approach to he transformation of this region.”
He, however, noted that all these would come to naught without peace, without trust, and cooperation of stakeholders.
“Let me therefore use this opportunity to state categorically that our amnesty offer to militants is not a ruse. It is for real “he said, and stressed that the administration would continue to put in place every measure that would bring about peace.
He said the complaints of the people of the region have been noted and expressed his determination to work with them to uplift the state and the region.
Speaking on power, he said it would impact on the lives of Bayelsans.
According to him, regular supply of electricity would improve the productive capacities of Bayelsans and deepen opportunities for growth and prosperity.
The administration, according to him, believes power represents a principal pathway out of poverty for Nigerians.
“Clearly, we need to fix electricity as quick as possible”.
“This is why electricity is accorded a priority position under critical infrastructure in our 7-Point Agenda. And this is why we are not wavering in our commitment to generating and distributing 6,000 MW by the end of this year, and 10,000 MW by 2011. There are enormous challenges ahead but the targets will be met”.
Edo Guber Poll: Obaseki Has No Opponent, Wike Declares
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has restated his earlier position that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki, has no opponent.
Speaking as a guest on a live television programme, last Wednesday, Wike said that the people of Edo State already know the type of candidate the All Progressives Congress (APC) was presenting, going by what Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said of him four years ago.
“Adams Oshiomhole told Edo people that Osagie Ize-Iyamu was rusticated from school; that he poured acid on a fellow student which destroyed his manhood. That he is an armed robber that cannot be trusted with money.
“Such a character cannot be accepted by Edo people as governor during the election.
“I respect the Benin tradition and I know that Edo people are educated to know that Oshiomhole cannot play on their intelligence. If he is now retracting what he said of Ize-Iyamu, who is sure that he’s saying the correct thing now.
“Adams Oshiomole’s sudden u-turn is a great insult on Edo people. This is an opportunity for Edo people both at home and in the Diaspora to use their votes to tell Oshiomhole that they cannot take his lies anymore.
“From all indications, it is obvious that there is no strong opposition against Obaseki, and he will win convincingly”, he said.
Wike, who is the chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council, stated that he and his team accepted the responsibility to lead the campaign because they were satisfied with results coming out already from Edo State.
Wike pointed out that the PDP has continued to take steps in strengthening the nation’s democracy.
According to him, the party does so with the promotion of internal politics, and resolving conflict of interests of members to achieve common goals.
He noted the success recorded by the PDP in conducting free and fair party primaries in Edo State.
The governor explained that all the aspirants decided to work together to support the candidature of Governor Godwin Obaseki who is the party’s flag-bearer.
“It was not easy to have a sole candidate for the party in Edo State. People thought there will be problems, given the fact that Obaseki was coming from another party. But party members who are grounded and believe in the party didn’t see any sacrifice too much to make.
“Even in Ondo State, the former Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who decamped to PDP, contested keenly during the primaries and lost. If there are other pending issues in the South-West, be sure that the party will resolve them.
“That is exactly what Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as the chairman of South-South States’ Governors had done. He is making sure that we are all on the same page to ensure that all states in the South-South are controlled by PDP,” Wike added.
We’re Prepared For Schools’ Resumption, RSG Assures
The Rivers State Government has assured parents, guardians and students in the state that it was fully prepared for the resumption of schools for exit classes in line with the Federal Government and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) COVID-19 guidelines.
The state Commissioner for Education, Prof Kaniye Ebeku, gave the assurance while meeting with staff of the ministry in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday, to brief them on the preparations for schools’ resumption in the state.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had, last Monday, announced that secondary school students in the exit classes would resume on Tuesday, August 4.
He enjoined the ministry staff to work assiduously to ensure successful reopening of schools, noting that all hands must be on deck to achieve successful resumption and safe operations of schools.
Ebeku said: “all necessary hygiene kits needed for the safe resumption of schools will be deployed to all public schools”, disclosing that the ministry will also deploy its staff “to ensure strict compliance with the wearing of nose masks and other COVID-19 hygiene protocols within the school premises”.
The commissioner said “there will be a team that will be going around enforcing the compulsory wearing of face masks at the entrance gates, around the schools and in the classrooms.”
He disclosed that the ministry, with support from the state Ministry of Health, will make provision for a sick-bay or nursing stations with first-aid boxes in all schools to facilitate immediate response to emergency cases in schools, and added that the “ministry shall provide hand sanitizers, buckets with running water and infrared thermometers for temperature checks which will be placed at the entrance gates and at the front of each classroom.”
Ebeku emphasised that all schools must ensure strict enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines, noting that a task force comprising officials of health and education ministries as well as security agencies would be constituted and deployed to monitor compliance and enforcement of extant Coronavirus protocols.
The commissioner explained that the state government was working ahead to ensure a seamless reopening of schools to allow students writing their external examinations to start revision classes.
However, the National Association of Parents of Private Schools Students (NAPPSS), Rivers State chapter has restated its readiness to support the state government’s plan to reopen schools in the state.
The President of the association, Mr Ovie Chukwu, who stated this in Port Harcourt, said the association would support government guidelines with a monitoring team, which would regularly go round, especially private schools to ensure full compliance with government directives on safety of pupils/students and teachers in the state.
“We are making effort to raise a monitoring team to go round to various private schools to see that compliance is effected; and not only that, we will teach the children the guidelines for them to follow to ensure they are safe while in school”, he said.
He commended the decision of government to reopen schools while maintaining strict compliance with Covid-19 safety procedures.
Meanwhile, worried by the spate at which hoodlums sabotage government efforts in the rural communities, the Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Prof Kaniye Ebeku, has challenged community leaders and all stakeholders to safeguard completed and ongoing government projects in their domains.
He gave the charge while condemning the wanton act of vandalism on school facilities at Western Ahoada County High School, Ahoada East Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Expressing concern on the level of theft in the school, Ebeku explained that what he saw during his assessment tour of ongoing schools’ construction works in Ahoada East and Abua/Odual local government areas, was unfortunate and condemnable.
Ebeku, who maintained that the durability of government facilities was dependent on their protection from hoodlums by community members, disclosed that facilities installed in some schools have been burgled while others have been damaged by miscreants.
“Communities where government projects are sited must see the projects as their own. They must strive to protect the projects. I will sincerely urge communities where government projects are ongoing to partner with government and the contractors to see that these projects are protected”, he advised.
On the ongoing review exercise by the ministry, the commissioner said it was to ensure that contractors meet the standards and specifications for the projects which the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, was executing in the state.
He urged contractors to ensure timely completion of their projects, and expressed satisfaction with the quality of work and pace of delivery by some of the contractors.
Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, Kevin Nengia & Enoch Epelle
‘Senate Begins Constitution Review After Sallah’
The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege has said that work on altering the Constitution would commence after the Sallah break.
Omo-Agege, who chairs the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution, disclosed this when two groups – Women Education Advocacy and Development Initiative (WEADI) and League of Women Voters of Nigeria (NILOWV) – paid him courtesy visits in Abuja.
He stated that rights of women and the girl-child would be protected in the exercise.
He added that his committee would take into account experiences from other African countries.
“Immediately after the Sallah, we are going to hit the ground running with Constitution review exercise. And there are a lot of bills dealing with women rights advancement.
“We will take the Ugandan and Rwandan experiences into account to see how we can meet up with the agitation of our women in the Constitution review exercise,” he stated.
Omo-Agege had said that Sexual Harassment Bill recently passed by the Senate was not targeted at lecturers in higher institutions of learning.
He said the bill was to flush out the few bad eggs tarnishing the image of their colleagues.
The lawmaker regretted that few educators were soiling the image of their colleagues, majority of whom he described as “decent”.
He said: “This bill is not targeted at our lecturers in tertiary institutions. To the extent that it is targeted at anybody, it is targeted at the errant few, the few predators in their midst. And we have them everywhere.
“So, this bill is targeted at the very insignificant few who cause most of these atrocities and we have decided that we should put a stop to it. I am sure that even most of these lecturers know that they are not the target.”
He expressed optimism that given the level of overwhelming support from the Presidency, it would get presidential assent once it receives concurrence from the House of Representatives.
The Bill to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions, 2020, which was passed by the Senate at its sitting on July 7, 2020, prohibits sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions and prescribes jail term ranging from two to 14 years for various degrees of offences.
Sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate and co-sponsored by 106 lawmakers, the proposed legislation also prescribes N5million fine for offenders.
When signed into law, any educator who whistles or winks at a student or makes sexually-complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique would be liable to two years imprisonment or a fine of N1million, if found guilty.