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2011: Credible Elections, How Feasible?

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The promise by the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan restating federal government’s commitment towards conducting a free, fair and transparent elections in 2011 should, as a matter of utmost national interest, be taken seriously.

Dr. Jonathan told the visiting former US President George W. Bush and his British Counterpart, Tony Blair, of government’s resolve to hold credible polls which would be generally acceptable by contending parties.

Though details of how government intends to make good its resolve are still very sketchy, especially against the backdrop that the elections will hold in the next twelve months or thereabout.

As much as one will not want to doubt the acting president’s determination to, for once, prove our critics wrong that Nigeria can hold elections that would be acclaimed worldwide as “fair and credible”, we really need to remain ourselves as a geo-political entity whether or not the enabling environment has been put in place for a smooth, credible and transparent elections come 2011.

I thinks that for Nigeria to hold credible elections, we need institutional and legal reforms as well as administrative amendments to realise the desired goal.

Proclamations and policy statement by the presidency, National Assembly, the Electoral body (INEC) and other relevant stakeholders are not enough. We need the political will and commitment to depart from the ugly past to actualise our dream.

Nigerian leadership needs to purge itself of partisan politics in preference for patriotism and national interest if we must succeed in this direction.

Besides, the political will on the part of the presidency, the National Assembly must as a matter of necessity facilitate the process of reforming our electoral system and law in tandem with realities on ground and in conventionally acceptable global norms.

Besides, INEC, as an umpire must be made to be unbiased and independent and not necessarily taking tall “orders from above” to subvert peoples choices of candidates.

The voters register must be reviewed as the existing one no longer conforms with current realities. Rules, regulations and guidelines on elections must be rigidly adhered to and not bent to suit sectional or partisan interest.

Electoral officers need re-orientation and a complete departure from the existing order which they think that power of incumbency and the ruling party interest must be protected always.

The security apparatus needs to be overhauled, especially those involved in monitoring and supervising elections. Our security officers tend to naturally align with the ruling party or person in power either for gratifications or other considerations.

The police, State Security Service (SSS) and other military or paramilitary officers involved in elections must realise at all times that Nigeria is far greater than those temporarily in power and therefore must exhibit neutrality and fairness to all during elections.

The judiciary also has a major role to play towards a fair and credible electoral system. Apart from avoiding unnecessary injections and avoidable adjournments on electoral cases, the judiciary as the last goal and hope of our fragile democracy must ensure that electoral disputes are dispensed off on time, possibly before winners are sworn into public offices.

Similarly, voters have a major role to play in our crave to achieve credible polls. They need not mortgage their conscience but insist on credible candidates with good credentials.

Hence, as the 2011 general elections draw closer, the presidency and other stakeholders must ensure that this time around, Nigeria evolves an electoral process that is transparent and credible and which will leave a lasting legacy in our political history.

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Edo Guber Poll: Obaseki Has No Opponent, Wike Declares

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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.

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We’re Prepared For Schools’ Resumption, RSG Assures

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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

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RSG Appeals For Calm Over Oil Spill

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The Rivers State Government has called on the people of Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state, to remain calm, following an oil spill from a production facility in the Oil Mining Lease (OML-11) that occurred in the place.
The OML-11 is operated by a subsidiary of Eni, the Italian oil and gas giant, Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
The state Commissioner for Environment, Dr Igbiks Tamuno, made the appeal during an on-the-spot assessment of the impacted site of oil spill on farmlands and rivers in Obrikom OML-11 in Omoku.
Tamuno said that a joint investigation (JIV) has commenced between the oil firm and experts to ascertain the real cause of the spill, saying that action would be taken by the state government.
He noted: “There is a lot of devastation occasioned by oil spillage through the facilities of Nigerian Agip Oil Company.
“Three days ago, we got wind of it, and we took steps. As we talk, a joint investigation is going on between the state government and Agip, without basing on presumption. We expect that we will get the reports and we will take action from there.
“I must once again thank leaders of Omoku community, the youths and everybody that behaved themselves, not taking the laws into their hands. We have come and what we have seen is enough to say that there is really devastation”, Tamuno noted.
The spokesman of the affected Umueje community, Levi Uche, called on the government to take urgent action, as lives and sustenance of people were at risk.

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