Before the 2011 general elections, which was conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega ,many Nigerians had expressed the belief that several factors had constituted hindrances to the country’s development.
One of such important factors for attaining its potential of an egalitarian, rich and prosperous country with a stable polity ,despite its huge endowment in human and material resources has been the nation’s inability over the years to conduct elections which results are widely accepted as representing the people’s wish, save for the 1993 Presidential elections, the results of which were unfortunately annulled.
Since the 1993 Presidential election, which many believed was won by late Alhaji Moshood Abiola, many Nigerians regard other elections in the country as having been marred by partisanship on the part of the electoral body unbridled violence leading to loss of lives and various forms of corrupt practices, including the manipulation of votes through dishonest and deceptive means ,especially by the ruling political class.
It is widely believed that the situation is far worse at the Local Government level, where public opinion holds that state Electoral Commissions, which shoulders the responsibility of conducting elections at that level, simply reflect the wishes of the party of the government in power without recourse to fairness, equity and aspirations of the people.
Indeed, so strongly debated have election issues become in Nigeria, with a huge outcry for electoral reforms ,that they are currently situated on the front burner of national discourse as flawed elections have come to be regarded by many as the very essence of the nation’s backwardness.
This public outcry informed the change by Governor Chibuike Amaechi, when he inaugurated Prof Nimi Briggs on the 27th of November,2007, a month after the supreme court ruled in his favour the governorship of the state, to salvage the electoral process and conduct an election which would be worthy of emulation by other electoral Commissions in the country.
No doubt, the Commission under the leadership of Prof Briggs took its assignment seriously and put in great thought and time. In the end, it achieved some level of success in the 2008 and 2011 Local Government Elections in the state.
Prof Briggs made history not only in Rivers State, but in Nigeria when in 2010, he presented a written report of the 2008 local government council elections in Rivers State. In that election, other political parties won some wards though the ruling peoples Democratic Party (PDP)won the Chairmanship seats in the 23 Local Government Areas.
It is, therefore, expected that the present Chairmanship of Prof Ahiazu whose record had been transparent in his previous major public task as Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Nkpolu, would be discrete to carry out the task of conducting and supervising the next Local Government election in the state.
His appointment and subsequent confirmation by the Rivers State House of Assembly recently, makes Prof. Ahiazu the third Executive Chairman to continue the task of piloting the State Electoral body which was established in 2003.
He succeeds the former Chairman, Prof Nimi Briggs whose tenure expired last April. The former University of Port Harcourt Vice Chancellor, took over from the pioneer Chairman, Senibo Sam Jaja after whose tenure crisis erupted, before the court intervened.
The State legislators confirmed Ahiazu’s appointment with six other commissioners, Dr.Eddy Adiele, Mr Kennedy Saro Pueba, Dr Viviala Fubara, Mrs Ngozi Ayayi, Dr Solomon Nwanchukwu and Mrs Ibiso Dakuru.
The Electoral body was established in the state in accordance with section 197(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The then Governor of Rivers State, Dr.Peter Odili, established the Commission to conduct and supervise Local Government elections in Rivers State.
From the fore-going the immediate, task before the commission is the Ogba/ Egbema/Ndoni local Government Council election scheduled for January 2013. The board would be expected to conduct an election that would be fair and acceptable to all in the area by all the participating political parties.
The commission as a matter of urgency should. thus commence extensive consultations with stakeholders in that Local Government Area and, all the political parties to ensure an acceptable election in the January 2013 election.
This approach would not only form the basis for careful planning of the forthcoming Ogba/ Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Council election, but would also help the Commission to conduct, supervise and monitor all the primaries of political parties and ensure the safety of electoral materials.
During the presentation of the 2008 Local Government Reports to Governor Chibuike Amaechi, the then Chairman, Prof Nimi Briggs noted that he faced many challenges during and after the election. It is therefore not out of place to expect that the present Commission will face tougher challenges.
Apart from the challenges, the conduct of an acceptable election can only be made possible with cooperation and participation of everyone, and the determination of the electoral body to remain transparent and impartial. This among other factors includes provision of a level playing field for everyone who wish to stand for the election.
Political parties, on their own, must not only apply for internship for the Ogba/Egbema /Ndoni Local Government Council election, but must have well defined and organised structures with sufficient presence that should make them electable.
Political Parties, especially the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), should start by first practicing internal democracy, which should preclude them from thwarting and frustrating the wishes of their party members with often unpleasant consequences.
As for other stakeholders, they must always stand up for their rights at all times and be prepared to take all necessary legal measures that would ensure they are able to cast their votes, and that those votes count in the eventual outcome of the elections.
Lastly, our law courts must realize the powers they are vested with regarding respect for the electoral process, and that these powers should be used to make votes count.
It may also be pertinent to appeal to the Executive Governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi to continue to keep away from interfering in any way in the electoral process in the forth coming election which will serve as a test for the new RSIEC board.
Meanwhile, the new board of the Rivers State the Commission has promised to use the required process in conducting a free and fair election.
Addressing the press after their first inauguration meeting at the RSIEC headquarters, the Commissioner in charge of media and Public Affairs, Hon. Ibiso Dakoru said the Commission will consult widely with stakeholders in making sure the right things are done in the electoral process.
The Commissioner stated that the new boards have resolved to carry every body along in the scheme of things, adding that the board decided to resume duties immediately in order to acclimatise with both men and materials in the commission.
APC, PDP Bandy Words Over Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have argued over President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval to borrow $4 billion and €710 million to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Recall that the president made the request in a letter he addressed to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in reaction to the development, cautioned the NASS against approving the request, saying it could set the country’s debt profile skyrocketing without a feasible repayment plan.
With the approval to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans by its legislative body barely two months ago, Nigeria’s debt profile risks reaching over N40 trillion.
“More alarming is that the debts that APC is hanging on Nigerians are for nebulous projects whose scopes, utilities, locations and contractors are largely vague; a development that validates apprehensions of a huge swindle on our nation at the expense of innocent Nigerians, including generation yet unborn.
“Our party holds it as an act of wickedness that individuals who know that they will be leaving office in less than two years will be accumulating debts instead of seeking ways to reduce the liability they have brought upon our nation.
“The APC knows it will not be around after May 29, 2023. That is why it is pushing our nation into a deeper economic quagmire with foreign loans, which are largely diverted to the personal pockets of their corrupt leaders,” the opposition PDP said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday.
But responding to the PDP’s criticism, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, said the loans are for “the good of the country” and well-being of the citizenry.
The ruling party also accused the opposition party of looting foreign loans obtained during its 16 years rule rather than spending on infrastructure and economic growth as, according to it, Mr Buhari-led government is doing.
“It was in PDP’s era that loans to fund power generation, purchase arms and ammunition to fight a raging insurgency were misappropriated and diverted to fund PDP activities; and the borrowed money ultimately found its way to the pockets of cronies, friends and family members of administration officials. Nigeria is still servicing a $460 million loan taken from China to fund a phoney Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract awarded in August 2010.
“Nigerians should also reflect and recall that the PDP had in its 16 years of misrule pushed the country into a dark ditch of insolvency, and a period in which most state governments could not pay workers salaries, not even the minimum wage, or settle contractors’ bills and cater for patients in hospitals, to name a few,” the APC interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said.
A’Ibom Gov Signs Anti-Open Grazing Law
Akwa lbom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law a bill to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches in the state.
The Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Udom (SAN), presented the bill for signing on Wednesday at the State Executive Chambers, in the Governor’s Office, Uyo.
The governor, after signing the bill into law, stated that the new law was no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre.
He instructed relevant authorities of government to ensure that the law was implemented and enforced to the letter with strict compliance, stressing that, culprits must be brought to book accordingly.
The new law will promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state.
It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.
The state Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, directed the Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the decision of the House to the Governor for his assent.
Also at the Executive Chambers, the Speaker who was accompanied by the Leader of the House, Udo Kierian Akpan, and the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to the signing ceremony witnessed the inauguration of two C\committees by the Governor.
The committees are the Akwa Ibom State Gender Based Violence Management Committee, chaired by the First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, and Akwa Ibom State Road Safety Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo.
NASS S’East Caucus Moves To Reconstruct Federal System
Members of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly have resolved to join hands with other patriotic Nigerians across regional, religious, political, and ethnic divides to reconstruct a federal system where the rights, happiness, and prosperity and those of unborn generations are guaranteed.
Making their feelings known in a communique issued at the end of an extraordinary meeting held at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja last Wednesday, the law makers said the topic of the meeting centered on review of developments in the South East, particularly the security situation in the region vis-à-vis the sit-at-home orders by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“We expressed solidarity with our people of the South East over the marginalisation of the region in the scheme of things within the Nigerian commonwealth. The Caucus feels the pains of our people and their quest for equity, justice, and protection of their lives and property in every part of the country. The Caucus, therefore, resolved to continue to fight for a level-playing ground and an enabling federal system where Ndigbo are able to develop their homeland at their own pace and equally pursue their happiness and actaulise their enormous potentials in every part of the country, unmolested.
Reviewing the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of the people, the Caucus equally reviewed and rued the incalculable economic losses and hardships these have brought upon the region.
They, however, condemned in strongest terms the disruption of the ongoing Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the South East, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, where the English examination organised by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, on Monday, September 13, 2021, was ruthlessly scuttled by armed men, who chased away the students, teachers, and examiners before setting ablaze motorcycles belonging to the teachers.
“This is certainly not who we are as a people. On the contrary, we are a people, who have always cherished and encouraged learning from the ages. We are a people that fully appreciate the place of education in the liberation and enlightenment of the human mind and the socio-economic and political emancipation of a people”.
The South East legislators equally condemned in strongest terms the incessant killings in the South East, adding “This must stop immediately. We call on the security agencies to unravel the culprits behind these wicked acts and ensure that they are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“ Noted with delight that IPOB has called off the Monday sit-at-home order and resolved to ensure that nobody uses them as façades to bring ruination on Igbo land.
“ Call on our people to go about their lawful businesses and enjoin our governors and the security agencies to rebuild confidence in our people by not only ensuring the security of their lives and properties, but also ensuring that our people feel safe as they undertake their legitimate businesses.
”Elaborately discussed the issue of Mazi Nnamdi and resolved to intervene. To this end we resolved to set up a committee to constructively interface with relevant stakeholders, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies towards finding a political solution. We will keep Ndigbo abreast of developments in regard.
“Appeal to our people not to allow anyone to destroy the South East region. The post-war South East was not built through government patronage, but largely by the sheer determination and sacrifices of our people, who refused to resign to fate or bow their heads in defeat.
“It is in Igbo land that you easily find hospitals, schools, roads, and other social amenities built by individual or communal efforts of the people, home and abroad, through the instruments of the town unions and other community organisations such as the age grades, Umuada, etc.
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