President Goodluck Jonathan’s meeting with the leadership of Labour failed last night to resolve the petrol price crisis. It was inconclusive. The talks continue tomorrow.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Abdulwaheed Omar declared after the meeting that the strike, which started on Monday, will continue today.
But he said Labour and the government shifted grounds.
The government asked Labour to call off its strike, besides insisting on “total” deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry an action that shot up the price of petrol from N65 to between N138 and N200 per litre.
Labour insisted on reversal to N65. But Omar did not give details of the shift in positions.
After the five-hour negotiation, the government offered N120 per litre for petrol, down from N138 and N200 that it has been sold since January 1.
The government team said they would not go back to N65. But Labour insisted on the mandate from workers for N65 per litre.
A source at the meeting said: “The President set the tone for the meeting with preliminary remarks which bordered on his usual points that everything was done in the interest of the nation and not to punish Nigerians.
“Shortly after the opening remarks, he left the negotiation hall with the Vice-President. But Senate President David Mark took over to moderate the session.
“After the usual appeal and justification for deregulation by all the governors and other Federal Executive Council members, the government said it would not go back to N65 per litre. It, however, said it will be willing to peg the pump price of PMS at N120 per litre.
“The government was emphatic that it will not go below N120 per litre although some government officials were saying in confidence that if Labour pushes for N100 per litre, the government may concede.
“The way the government presented its arguments, they were not too keen on return to N65 per litre, they were more interested in security implications of the ongoing action. They were raising issues on how things will not get out of hands. That made the Labour to be suspicious.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole said he knew the thinking of Labour but now that he is on the other side, he knows what he is experiencing. He, however, did not say what he is going through in office.”
“The NLC President and the TUC President, Peter Esele spoke on why the labour will not trade away the N65 per litre mandate given to them by workers.
“The Labour went further to say that the government must reverse the pump price to N65 with a 90-day moratorium to enable all stakeholders look at the challenges of subsidy, pump price and find ways for appropriate pricing for the PMS.
“The idea is that within 90 days, a larger committee will look at the entire subsidy picture and the deregulation plans of the government and find a common ground. But this window was not acceptable to the government.
“When the deadlock was evident, the Labour leaders said they will go and consult with their National Executive Committee on Saturday and get back to the government the same day. No time was fixed for the resumption of negotiation on Saturday.”
Omar said: “The outcome is that we have not concluded discussions yet but we have had fruitful discussions and we re to continue on Saturday.”
On whether both parties shifted ground, he said: “Yes; it’s part of it. Of course, all of us are trying to shift ground, that’s why I told you that we have had fruitful discussions.”
On the possibility of the strike being called off, Omar said: “Unless and until we get a conclusive conclusion from the discussion; that means we’ll maintain status quo.” The meeting, which was held at the Presidential Villa, started at about 4pm.
Senate President David Mark led a team which included Senators Ike Ekweremadu and Victor Ndoma-Egba.
Nigeria Governors’ Forum Chairman, Rotimi Ameachi (Rivers) led the governors’ seven-man delegation, including Babatunde Fashiola (Lagos), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Peter Obi (Anambra), Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Gabriel Suswam (Benue).
Vice President Namadi Sambo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, Justice Minister, Mohammed Adoke, Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, Minister of Petroleum Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke and National Security Adviser, Patrick Azazi, represented the Executive.
With Omar on the Labour side were Peter Esele and 14 others. There were also Civil Society Organisations, representatives.
However, former military Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon has urged the Federal Government and labour to engage in dialogue “without any condition” to facilitate a quick resolution of the anti-fuel subsidy withdrawal strike.
“The strike is assuming strange dimensions and has been taken up by groups that are causing violence, destruction and deaths. This is unfortunate and unnecessary,” he told newsmen yesterday in Jos in a telephone interview.
Gowon challenged labour to consider the hardship the strike was causing to innocent Nigerians who could not do their normal business, and called for “absolute care, patriotism and consideration” from all parties.
He likened the current impasse on the fuel subsidy removal to the resentment his government faced when he introduced the NYSC scheme in 1973.
“When we introduced the scheme, it was stiffly rejected. We were called names by people, who said we wanted to enslave the youths. “But I was determined and honest about it. I was looking at the future and wanted the young Nigerians to have a feel of what other parts of the country were like, because I knew that such youths were certain to be Nigeria’s leaders in future. “After the scheme took off, I visited some camps and the corps members apologised for their initial demonstrations against it. Since then, the corps members have continued to play prominent roles in national development as witnessed in the last elections,” he noted.
He said he had listened to the strong argument put across by the CBN Governor over why the fuel subsidy could not be sustained, and had also listened to suggestions that those benefiting from it (subsidy) would seek to create a situation where it would continue.
The former leader decried a situation where leaders of some political parties were getting involved and making statements that had little or no link with the issue at stake, and suggested that leaders should rather work toward resolving the issue.
He commended the police authorities for apologising and taking steps to deal with a police officer who allegedly shot some protesters in Lagos, stressing that such “irresponsible” officers should not be spared, “as they usually give the government and the nation a bad name”.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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