The United States Government has expressed disappointment over the postponement of Nigeria’s general elections which was announced Saturday night by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega.
In a statement in Washington, DC, shortly after the announcement of the postponement in a press briefing in Abuja, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said: The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone Nigeria’s presidential election, which had been scheduled for February 14.
“Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government does not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process”, he added.
According to him, “The international community will be watching closely as the Nigerian government prepares for elections on the newly scheduled dates.
“The United States underscores the importance of ensuring that there are no further delays. As I reaffirmed when I visited Lagos last month, we support a free, transparent, and credible electoral process in Nigeria and renew our calls on all candidates, their supporters, and Nigerian citizens to maintain calm and reject election-related violence”, Kerry noted.
Similarly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has lamented Saturday’s decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the 2015 elections by six weeks on the advice by the security chiefs, who said that they cannot provide security for the elections nationwide because of the commitment of its resources to fight insurgency in the Boko Haram-ravaged North-East.
“This is clearly a major setback for Nigerian democracy,” APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun said in a statement issued in Abuja.
He announced that the party had called an emergency meeting to study the implications of the poll shift, promising to inform Nigerians of its decisions in the next few days.
“In the meantime though what has happened is highly provocative, I strongly appeal to all Nigerians to remain calm and desist from violence and any activity which will compound this unfortunate development. We must not fall into this obvious trap. Change we must. They can only delay it; No one can stop it,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
“I want to assure all Nigerians that the All Progressives Congress will not abandon its commitment to change and will sustain the struggle to establish a new Nigeria,” he added.
But in contrast, however, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Organisation has expressed support for the INEC’s postponement of the general elections, saying it was in the nation’s interest.
The party’s position is contained in a statement by the Director of Media and Publicity of campaign organisation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, yesterday in Abuja.
Fani-Kayode said that the organisation concurred with the decision to shift the elections, stressing that it was in the interest of deepening democracy in the country and in national interest.
“INEC must be commended for showing the courage to shift the elections, after acknowledging the fact that its state of preparedness was not 100 per cent,” he said.
“Since this decision has been taken in the interest of deepening democracy and in national interest, we accept it in good faith.
“We commend INEC’s courage and obvious commitment to ensuring a free and fair election.”
Fani-Kayode said that with the postponement, INEC had allayed the fears of many Nigerians that may not have the opportunity to vote for the candidates and parties of their choice on election days.
He maintained that INEC had by the decision ensured that no one would be disenfranchised and had helped to guarantee the safety and security of Nigerians during the elections.
He added that the shift would enable the nation’s security agencies to put better measures in place to secure the North-East and ensure that elections could hold in the region.
He urged PDP supporters to remain calm and patient, stressing that the party was strong.
“Our candidate is confident; our course is just; our God is mighty and our victory is assured. No matter what happens and no matter how long it takes, we shall prevail,” he said.
The Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya said the postponement of the February elections to March 28, and April 11, 2015 was a plot by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rein its rigging plans.
Ikanya said this, Saturday, at the APC governorship rally at Opobo town, the headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State, barely four hours before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the postponement of February elections to March 28, and April 11, 2015.
Ikanya, who condemned the PDP’s conspiracy in the election postponement, said the sudden postponement was part of the PDP’s plans to impose President Goodluck Jonathan on the Nigerian electorate.
He called on INEC to be watchful, and not to succumb to PDP’s plan to truncate the country’s democracy, assuring that APC would surely win the polls, in spite of the postponement.
Also condemning the postponement, a House of Representatives candidate on the platform of APC, Hon. Sampson Egop said, this is the first time Nigeria would witness a ruling party seriously agitating for election postponement.
According to him, for the ruling PDP and key officials of the Federal Government to call for postponement of elections, calls for serious scrutiny and probe.
He called on Nigerians to resist any plan by the PDP to draw Nigeria’s democracy backward.
The APC House of Representatives candidate in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Chief Tony Okocha, also condemned the polls shift, describing it as PDP’s master plan to manipulate and rig the elections.
According to him, the insecurity in about 14 local governments in the North and the non-collection of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by eligible voters were not enough reasons to justify the election postponement, adding that it was certain that not all registered voters would collect their PVCs before the elections.
The National Assembly member representing Rivers South East, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, described the poll shift as the shameless manipulation of the security services, against the interest of the country by the PDP.
Abe said that it was not only immoral to contrive the election shift, but using the armed services and feasting politically on the suffering of innocent Nigerians in the North East, was despicable.
According to him, in our quest for power, wealth and undeserved privileges, surely there must be some things that we cannot and should not do.
This is one of those things that will never be forgotten because it is a new low, even for Nigeria.
The Rivers State Governorship Candidate of the Labour Party, Prince Tony Princewill, described the shift of the election as a divine intervention for him and his party.
According to him, ’’the party campaign was just getting warm”, adding that the decision was wise for the country, stressing that it will deepen the country’s democracy by ensuring increased participation by voters.
‘’The 60 per cent collection of the permanent voters’ cards is nowhere near enough. My worries were eased when I saw All Progressives Congress keen for the elections to hold. I often find them doing the opposite of what they say. Why the rush?”, he asked.
It would be recalled that at a press conference in the late hours of Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission in Nigeria (INEC) had formally announced a shift in the 2015 general elections dates to March 28 and April 11.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who announced the new dates after series of meetings with political stakeholders, had said that the presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on March 28 while the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections would hold on April 11.
While struggling to pacify majority of Nigerians who were angry over the postponement, Jega and other top officials of the INEC, had justified the date shift, stressing that the decision was not influenced by any group or individuals.
He said: “We have done wide reaching consultations to enable us have as much input as necessary before taking an informed decision.
“In the series of consultations that we had with stakeholders, the questions constantly posed to them for consideration are; in view of the latest developments, should INEC proceed with the conduct of the general elections as scheduled in spite of the strong advice and if so, what alternative security arrangements are available to be put in place.
“The second is; should INEC take the advice of the security chiefs and adjust the schedules of the general elections within the framework of the constitutional provisions,” Jega said.
According to him, the commission decided to take the advice of the security chiefs and adjust the dates of the elections in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“We have done this, relying on section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act, as amended.
“Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct an election as a result of natural disaster or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area or areas concerned appoint another day for the holding of the postponed election provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”
The INEC Chairman pointed out that for the fact the commission was not a security agency that could guarantee protection of personnel, voters during elections and observers, the commission could not likely wave-off the advice by the nation’s security chiefs.
“The commission is concerned about the security of our ad-hoc staff, the young men and women of the NYSC and students of the tertiary education who constitute at least 600,000 young men and women that we will use in the election,” he said.
Jega further said that the concern was not limited to the areas in the north-eastern part of the nation that has witnessed series of attacks by the members of a terrorist group, the Boko Haram but to the security of the commission’s officials and the observers.
“We believe that few election management bodies around the world will contemplate conducting elections under these circumstances,” he said, emphasising that “the prospect for free, fair and credible elections will not be guaranteed if the election was held as scheduled”.
The commission’s boss said that the rescheduling fell within the constitutional framework for the conduct of the election, stressing that the INEC will, “under no circumstances approve an arrangement that is not in line with the provisions of our rules.”
Jega said that the decision to shift the election was taken in good faith and in the best interest of democracy in Nigeria.
The commission expressed hopes that the security services would ensure that the security environment needed for safe and peaceful conduct of the elections were rapidly put in place, promising that it would do everything within the law to conduct a free fair and credible election.
“We call on security agencies to restore sufficient normalcy for elections to take place within the period of extension.
“Nigerians and political parties’ candidates were urged to accept the decision in good faith and ensure the maintenance of peace.”
The issue of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) distribution had also been raised at different occasions, with some electorates lamenting that the process of distribution was slow.
Jega said that out of the 68.8 million registered voters 66.58 per cent of the PVCs have been distributed, promising that the commission would continue to do its best to resolve all issues in respect of non-collection of the PVC.
He further said that the commission had considered the effect the postponement would have, but decided to take the decision in the interest of the nation’s democracy.
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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