January 14, 2015 marked what seemed a watershed in the political evolution of Nigeria. It was a day the top political class gave Nigerians hope of a violence-free and indeed responsible electioneering process.
The occasion was the Workshop for Presidential Candidates in Abuja, which climaxed with the signing of the now popular Abuja Peace Accord by 11 Presidential candidates, including those of the two dominant parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP leader, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his All Progressives Congress, APC counterpart, General Muhammadu Buhari.
The warm embrace, statesmanly remarks and body language did not indicate pretentious conscription nor forced indoctrination. All depicted free will, belief, willingness and indeed readiness to make the peace accord work. Essentially, both candidates spoke with mutual respect, integrity and hope for a better and indeed violence-free electioneering process up till the elections proper.
That ceremony was indeed applauded by many, with the hope that the new thinking will be driven down the ranks of the various parties, whose foot-soldiers are often unpredictable, hasty in judgement and easily given to violence.
Coming after the horrible stories of pre-election violence in Jos, the Plateau State capital and parts of Rivers State, the Abuja Peace Accord was considered very timely. In condemning the disturbances, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, had promised to fish out and punish culprits of electoral violence as a means of checking the negative trend.
The IGP’s assurance indeed served as a security backing to the Peace Accord and which gave Nigerians the impression that the remaining part of the parties’ campaigns will be violence-free, peaceful and indeed civil. Many hoped that campaign venues, individuals and property will also be made safe, since there could always be fifth columnist ready to confront good.
This is why stories of renewed political intolerance and avoidable violent destruction of property reported in Bauchi, Jigawa and parts of Rivers State should worry many.
In Bauchi State, the Presidential Motorcade conveying the PDP candidate, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan came under attack by suspected hoodlums chanting anti-PDP war songs. In Jigawa, Governor Sule Lamido raised the alarm that a lot of religious sentiments were being injected into the campaigns, capable of causing violence. There too, according to media reports, the PDP campaign train came under attack.
Only on Friday, eve of the January 24, Governorship Campaign of the APC candidate, Dakuku Adulphus Peterside in Okrika unknown gunmen raided the campaign venue; Okrika National School Field at night, destroying hi-tech musical equipment, collapsible stages and a 40 megawatte sound-proof generating set hired for the event.
Early Saturday morning, as APC sympathisers counted their losses and attempted to piece-together what was left for take-off of the day’s programme, using alternative public address systems and hand-made stages, the venue came under another vicious attack, this time leaving in its trail, a huge inferno that consumed whatever was left of the campaign venue. And that day’s campaign could no longer hold as the Police went after suspects.
Naturally, in all such instances there would be name calling. But what was indeed strange was that the two dominant parties in the Okrika Local Government Area had earlier in the week carried out their ward Campaigns without any incident.
Infact, both parties had their Ogoloma Wards’ rallies on Tuesday: APC at the UNA Church School Field for Wards 10, 11 and 12 while the PDP had theirs at the three various ward – units. It was very peaceful with each party, displaying tremendous amount of responsibility.
That same spirit continued all through the week. Infact, Ex-Militant Leader, High Chief Ateke Tom, sent out a town – crier urging tolerance and peaceful campaigns to avoid any breach of peace, with the warning that any party member caught disrupting the activities of another party will be apprehended and handed over to the law-enforcement agencies.
Such was the harmony and peace that Okrika enjoyed up to PDP governorship campaigns of Thursday, January 22, at the Okrika National School Field, Okrika, two days before the APC rally scheduled for the same venue, only for the arena to come under such destruction.
These cases of violence do not reflect the spirit of the Abuja Peace Accord which the 11 Presidential candidates signed for and on behalf of their parties. They really do not support many Nigerians’ optimism that the elections would be violence-free and credible.
But it shouldn’t be so. It must be said for the umpteenth time that no individual’s ambition is worth any body’s blood. Although no human life was lost, the amount of destruction was indeed huge and could cause sudden death among proper owners.
Can it be said that these actions were ordered by the Presidential candidate? Very unlikely. Then by whom? Should any one deviate from the non-violence crusade of the candidates and at what prize? What would such a fifth columnist gain from such unauthorised violence?
Again, can the parties claim ignorance of standing ‘armies’ in the name of thugs in their ranks? Were such thugs expelled after the Peace Accord or granted amnesty to go home and rest since there would be no more work left for them to do?
No political party readily accepted the existence of such armies, not to talk of disbanding them. So where do we place the Abuja Peace Accord vis-a-vis violent characters within political parties, who in demonstration of fanatical support for their principals and parties could undertake all manner of unprintable violent actions. They could maim and destroy property even without an order as long as they feel that their self-acclaimed supremacy was under threat.
It was this understanding that stopped this writer from joining the bandwagon of optimists and believers in the Abuja Peace Accord. The top-down approach hardly records meaningful results in matters of this political nature. It is the bottom-top that is preferred.
That approach captures the people as the central focus of political activities and easily identifies violent people. If political parties are popular and properly rooted in a given area, their tendency to embrace violence would be minimal. It is instead, the one threatened by the other’s rising profile and popularity that kicks.
For the Abuja Peace Accord to be meaningful therefore, the political parties should transprint the message down to their parties’ roots, dismantle standby political militia groups, embrace issue-based campaigns, avoid inflammatory and insulting languages, eschew religious and ethnic sentiments and above all mean it.
For now, what I see is desperation among all parties, particularly the dominant ones. A desperation that depicts a win-at-all-cost mien, that runs through its membership ranks, up to the grassroots. Comments like defend your votes, depict a typical war situation where, the voters’ votes could be attacked. And since, it is often said, that the best form of defence is attack, the affected party faithful prepares earlier for a known or imaginary enemy.
These are ways of creating political armies without arms and implanting intolerance among ordinary folks in different political parties.
Without a doubt, the Abuja Peace Accord can only have meaning if honestly and religiously enforced to the letter by the parties themselves. They should be willing to lose elections rather than fan the embers of hatred and violence.
My Agony is that no true Nigerian politician willingly loses elections by his unwillingness to defend against violence, through a little violence, by a few volunteers of violence. Fact is, violence is not often carried out by those who signed the Abuja pact, their body language and public speeches are, may be, misunderstood by volunteers of violence who act without express order.
That is the missing link and true source of worry.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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