To the chagrin of his persecutors, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was re-elected as the chairman of influential Nigeria Governor Forum (NGF) in an election that was characterized by intrigues, suspense and intimidation.
He polled 19 votes to beat his challenger, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau who secured 16 votes.
Announcing the result to newsmen, the Director-General of NGF, Mr Aishena Okauru said 35 governors voted in the keenly contested election, while the Yobe State governor, Ibrahim was the only sbsentee. He affirmed that the election was free and fair.
With deflated ego, the anti-Amaechi governors who are widely believed to be working at the behest of the presidency later converged at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s lodge to discredit the electoral process that returned Governor Amaechi as the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum.
Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State who is the chairman of the newly formed PDP Governors Forum and also the arrow-head of the anti-Amaechi forces said that Governor Amaechi ought to have resigned as NGF Chairman before seeking re-election. According to him, his non-resignation breached the rules. He denied outright that he participated in the election, describing it as a sham. He told reporters that Governor Jonah Jang had been chosen as the new chairman of the NGF following an earlier resolution of the Northern Governors Forum and the PDP Governors Forum. He therefore, distributed copies of a statement entitled. Resolution of Nigerian Governors,” purportedly signed by 19 governors.
The statement reads, “we the undersigned Governors of Nigerian Governors Forum, having taking cognizance of the state of the nation and the perception of Nigerian people do hereby resolve as follows:
That we thank the out-going chairman, His Excellency, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State for his leadership and achievements.
That we strongly agree for a change of leadership of the forum from may 2013 to May 2015.
We hereby, therefore, elect His Excellency, Jonah Jang of Plateau State as the new chairman of the forum.
But the pro-Amaechi group has insisted that all the 35 governors consented to the electoral process which resulted in the re-election of the preferred candidate of the majority of the governors.
Speaking on the outcome of the election, a Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist Femi Falana (SAN) said “The Victory of Governor Amaechi is clear affirmation of the confidence of the majority of the governors in the leadership of their chairman.
“It is hoped that Mr Amaechi will accept the renewed call to service as a challenge to lead the forum to address the increasing wave of poverty, unemployment and insecurity of lives and property in the land.
“Now that the election is over, the governors should close ranks and collaborate with President Goodluck Jonathan to restore law and order in all parts of the country.
“It is however unfortunate that some of the governors who contested and voted in the election have decided to embarrass themselves by challenging the integrity of the exercise. Indeed, the reason adduced for attempting to discredit the election by the camp that lost is childish and bunkum.
“They claim that the election was vitiated because Governor Amaechi did not step down before the race. Did any of the governors who re-contested elections and won in their states step doom before the elections were conducted by the National Independent Electoral Commission?
“In any case, having not complained before the NGF election, before voting for the candidates of their choice, all the 35 governors who took part in the election are deemed to have waived any right to challenge the procedure collectively adopted and agreed upon by them an the voting.
“Therefore, all the governors are estopped from questioning the results of the polls on the basis of the alleged procedural defect.
“In line with the decision of the election petitions tribunals which upheld the election of each of the governors on the basis of substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in their respective states, it is indubitably clear that the election of Governor Amaechi as NGF Chairman was in substantial compliance with the Electoral Rules and Guide-Inies of the NGF.
Reacting to reports in some sections of the media, linking the presidency with the crisis in the Nigeria Governors Forum, the special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati denied the involvement of the presidency in the NGF election.
“Contrary to the impression of presidential partisanship and interference in the affairs of the governors forum erroneously conveyed by some headlines in the media today, President Jonathan who is currently leading Nigeria’s delegation to African Union summit in Addis Ababa had no preferred candidate in the NGF election and could therefore not have been flooned by any other candidate as some newspapers sensationally reported.
“Jonathan trusts that as true democrats and respected national political leaders, members of the Governors Forum will quickly resolve the issues and differences amongst them, which emerged yesterday and continue to contribute effectively to national development as strong and progressive body,” Abati said.
While Abati has done so well to exonerate his principal from the crisis rocking the NGF, political pundits have wondered why the president who has severally expressed his commitment to democratic ideals would feign ignorance of true picture of what transpired in the NGF election. Moreso, there is a video-tape that captured the proceedings of the day.
Again, as the leader of the PDP in the country, the president, the pundits said would find it difficult to convince Nigerians that he was not privy to the party’s decision to suspend a high ranking member, in the person of a governor of a state, for a flimsy reason of disregarding the directive of the party leadership in Rivers State to recall elected officers of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council who were suspended by the State House of Assembly for alleged corruption.
The pundits have argued that the body language of the president shows he is not happy with the re-emergence of Governor Amaechi as the NGF chairman.
However, Governor Amaechi has expressed his willingness to work with the president to realise the development dream of Nigerians.
“Today, the governors have spoken with one voice, re-affirming our faith in democratic governance as the hope of Nigeria’s future. We remain committed to supporting our leader, the President and Commander –In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to realise the development dream of all Nigerians by reducing tension, uncertainty and in our beloved country,” he said.
Inasmuch as well-meaning Nigerians would be glad over the speedy reconciliation of the president and the Rivers State Governor, we must not fail to condemn our leaders who publicly he to their subjects to advance their selfish interest.
The NGF election is indeed an eye-opener to the amount of lies that unsuspecting Nigerans have been fed by these governors. We now understand why some states under the leadership of these terrible governors will not experience face and fair elections. In those states, the majority will only have their say but certainly not their way.
Finally, we salute Governor Amaechi on his re-election as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum.
Still On Security Votes
When Mr Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), spoke at the induction programme for returning and newly-elected governors, he did not mince words in accusing governors of misusing security votes.
He alleged that some governors deliberately fuelled insecurity in their states just to collect more money as security votes.
He noted that some of the governors “now covertly promote insecurity as justification to inflate their security votes.”
Magu also alleged that there was a link between corruption, banditry and terrorism.
His allegations were contained in a paper, titled, “Imperative of Fighting Corruption/Terrorism Financing in Nigeria.’’
Magu told the session that a debate on the legality of security votes enjoyed by the governors was ongoing.
“We have also seen evidence of theft of public resources by some state governors, cashing in on the insecurity in their states.
“Insecurity has also offered the required oxygen for corruption to thrive as evident in the $2.1bn arms procurement scandal involving top military commanders both serving and retired.”
A study carried out by the University of Nigeria, agreed with Magu on the abuse of security votes.
The study is titled “Legitimising Corruption in Government: Security Votes in Nigeria.’’
It was authored by Obiamaka Egbo, Ifeoma Nwakoby, Josaphat Onwumere and Chibuike Uche, of the Department of Banking and Finance, University of Nigeria.
“The tendency among Nigerian politicians, particularly the executive arm at the various levels of government, to manipulate security issues for political and economic gains is widespread.
“This has been fuelled by the abuse of security votes, an ‘opaque fund’ reserved for the executive which is not appropriated, accounted for or audited through the legislature.
“ Sometimes, a state governor could (mis)appropriate as much as N100 million monthly as security vote.
“Such slush funds are channelled into the secret funding of militias and gangs of government enforcers.’’
The appropriateness or otherwise of security votes was at the centre of discourse at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) second Quarterly Anti-Corruption Policy Dialogue Series.
The dialogue focused on Accountability for Security Votes.
ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who spoke, agreed with Magu that security vote is an easy and attractive route for stealing public funds.
According to him, it is also a veritable avenue for abuse of public trust, escalation of poverty and underdevelopment and ironically the escalation of insecurity.
“It has pushed up insecurity somehow, that is not to say we do not need security vote.
“In the 2019 budget as appropriated, for example, 162 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had money appropriated for them as security votes.
“These MDAs span boards, centres, committees, ministries, commissions, councils, hospitals, schools, law enforcement agencies, obviously the armed forces and intelligence offices.”
Owasanoye said that the number and categories of MDAs given security votes, suggest that something was wrong with the parameters for determining those who are entitled to security votes.
“This then provokes some question as which MDAs are entitled to security votes and how should security votes be accounted for?
“It is clear from our present approach, that we do not have any rational principle being followed at the moment.
“If there is one, I will be happy that my ignorance will be diminished and removed,” he said.
The chairman explained that it was clear from the current approach to budgeting for security votes, that no principle was being followed.
He said that this is clear from the quantum and range of sums appropriated in the 2019 budget for MDAs, where the lowest amount for security vote was N3,600, while the highest amount was N4.20 billion.
“What on earth can anyone do with N3, 600, and I am not talking of an individual.
“If the N3, 600 is the security vote of an individual, most likely it will take him from somewhere to his house. That is the safest place to be.
“But what on earth can an agency do with N3, 600 as security vote, as appropriated?”
With this disparity, what then should security votes be used for?
Owasanoye opined that it was pertinent because MDAs with budgets for security votes also have separate budgets for other security related matters, such as the production or procurement for security or defence equipment.
“In the case of defence and core security and law enforcement agencies, some of these items and the votes are undoubtedly justified. But the quantum and use is open to scrutiny,” he said.
He, however, explained that it was apparent that security vote was not for any of those other security items mentioned, because they were often separately covered in the budget.
“There is the erroneous impression that security votes are not being accounted for with our recent experience as a country, that almost lost a geo-political zone to insurgency.
“Whereas billions of dollars were appropriated for security, but diverted by corruption to matters like engaging prayer warriors demands that we reflect very closely and ask ourselves whether we can afford to continue on the same trajectory of lack of accountability for security votes.
“We need security votes; we should give the votes to those who deserve to have security votes and we should demand some framework for accountability,” he said.
On his part, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said that security vote was subject to audit and “if it is not done, it is wrong”.
He said that the votes were not votes for defence and were also not meant for the armed forces.
“Strictly speaking, if you look at security votes in the true context, it is not meant to tackle insecurity.
“We have funding for Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. If you have budget lines for these services and organisations, then why security votes?
“However, it can be used for security; but it is not meant to solve insecurity,
“There are other votes which are constitutional which include the contingency fund,” he said.
Buratai explained that even though there was security vote that was generally applied, it must follow the Public Procurement Act 2007.
The chief of army staff said that if security vote was made constitutional and proper guidelines set out on utilisation, the issue will be laid to rest
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, described security vote as the budgetary or extra budgetary allocation ostensibly for security, received by the President, Governors and Local Government Chairmen.
This allocation he said, is spent without legal obligation to account for how it is spent.
Fayemi said that security votes have not been widely accepted by citizens, because of the assumption that such funds are being abused by state governments.
He said that the problem really is not about the security vote but about its usages and the character of the people administering it.
“Security votes attract more attention because of the seemingly non accountable nature of the expenditure under the budgetary provision.
“There is widespread belief that the appropriation of security votes in Nigeria is unconstitutional and thus illegal.
“This is not correct because in the Nigerian constitution, the executive is entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a budget which is then sent to the legislature for ratification.
“The fact that huge amount of monies are routinely being budgeted and expended in the name of security vote does not make it an illegal practice
“The act of approving any sum allocated to such a heading, covert or overt, legalises the concept. The insinuation that such money is not budgeted for is not true,” Fayemi said.
Like Magu said, the legality or otherwise of security vote is ongoing, and must continue until it properly defined. The earlier the better to avoid misuse and diversion of public funds in the guise of security vote.
Sharang writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Grudges Not Healthy For Our Music Industry –PMAN President
Voombalistic Uncle P, National President, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), says grudges among Nigerian musicians is not healthy for the music industry.
Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) is an umbrella organisation that guides, protect and promotes the interests of musicians in Nigeria.
Dr Obi Okwudili Casmir, popularly known as Voombalistic Uncle P, who spoke with our source in Lagos, advised musicians to shun grudges to avoid resentment in their relationships.
“Grudges amongst musicians is not healthy for our industry and will only create further resentment in their relationships as musicians and may affect what we represent or present to the public.
“Being emotionally immature when composing or writing your songs means you can not control your emotions or reactions towards your colleagues.
“Having quarrel is a fact of life amongst best of friends but you don’t take it too hard on yourselves because it might graduate to what happened in the case of 2pac and Biggie.
“I advise we settle our differences internally if we have any, rather than taking them to the studio and then streets/homes. That doesn’t project us in good light,” he said.
It was gathered that Nigerian rappers Jude Abaga popularly known as M.I and Olanrewaju Ogunmefun (Vector) are currently expressing grudges against each other in songs which had been trending on social media platforms.
The grudge, which reportedly began over supremacy in the rap category of the music industry, has being described as publicity stunts, while some saw it as real disagreement between the two rappers which had been brewing over the years.
Rescind N5,000 Fee For National ID, PDP Tells Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, charged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to recind the N5,000 fee for national identity cards immediately.
The PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the new fee is repressive and an attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to further impose hardship on the citizens.
The opposition party noted that the idea of an ID card fee is offensive to the sensibilities of Nigerians, as it amounts to stripping Nigerians of their constitutional rights in their own country..
“Our party holds that issuance of national identity card to citizens, as an obligation of the state to its citizenry, must remain free as established by the PDP. The N5000 levy must be immediately rescinded before it triggers restiveness in the nation.
“Already, the fee is generating tension in the country as Nigerians have continued to register their rejection in the public space.
“The PDP notes the increasing penchant of the APC administration to impose all sorts of taxes on suffering Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed five bills passed by the 8th National Assembly into law, Mr Umar Yakubu, his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) has said.
Yakubu who made the announcement at a news conference last Wednesday in Abuja, said that the Acts were to ensure good governance in the country.
The bills include the Obafemi Awolowo University Transitional Amendment Act, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi Amendment Act, the University of Maiduguri Amendment Act, the National Fertiliser Quality Control Act and the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology Establishment Act.
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