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That Alarm By Gov Wike …Why Police, INEC Must Act

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No sane Nigerian can dispute the fact that the country is facing tough times. Times, so challenging, nothing short of financial discipline, political tolerance, prudent management of scarce resources and indeed selfless service are required of those the people look upon to offer leadership.
It is a period that demands optimum protection and maintenance of existing infrastructure, build capacity and inspire the people to give of their best in hope that the period will merely be a phase that would soon be history.
These indeed are times when governments and the people alike must unite in fight against unnecessary controversies likely to cause insecurity, strife and indeed further destruction of an already creeping economy.
Last week, Nigeria’s Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said the dark days are over. But no Nigerian that patronises the market place would share same sentiment, for, it amounts to telling a blind man that there is salt in his soup, when there is none.
Truth is, many states cannot pay workers’ salaries. More than a bunch is in arrears of close to eight months, while others who manage to meet their obligations to their workforce do so at great pains and at the expense of other competing needs, like the much required infrastructural update necessary to attract investments and boost internal revenue generation.
These indeed are times when, even the Federal Government borrows to pay its staff, with doubts hanging around the full implementation of the 2016 budget. With the free fall of the Naira against other major currencies, a virtually dead manufacturing sector and with inflation rate hitting an all time 17 per cent high, it should dawn on all that all is not well.
At times like this, to allow any form of insecurity, protestations and violent conflicts would be putting salt upon injury. It indeed would be a perilous voyage to encourage any miscarriage of justice or promotion of partisanship that would push those denied justice seek alternative reliefs.
This is because such can threaten security and ultimately breed insecurity. Where such insecurity holds way, where crime blossoms where injustice reins, where lawlessness replaces rule of law and where impunity takes the place of order, all other positive efforts take back seat. Investors are threatened, and the local economy at the risk of getting stalled.
These are why none should venture any action or inaction capable of engineering chaos, crisis, insecurity and strife. These indeed are why the concerns recently expressed by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike concerning, ‘flawed’ police postings and ‘glaring efforts’ by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rig the forthcoming re-run elections in Rivers State, must be addressed and fast too, to prevent the agitated from seeking alternative reliefs.
Last week, the governor pointedly accused the National Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmud Yakubu of moves to scuttle credible re-run elections in the state by holding secret meetings with the state’s All Progressives Congress, with APC Chairman, Chief Davies Ikanya, Senator Magnus Abe and others on July 19, this year. According to the Governor, the INEC boss might have concluded plans to postpone the July 30 elections over fears of defeat expressed by the APC leadership, or rig the elections in favour of the APC.
Wondering why anyone would be happy to destroy Rivers State just because he or she wants to satisfy the politician who funded APC national elections through Rivers resources, the governor lamented:
“They are frustrating elections in Rivers State because of one man who sponsored APC. They have posted electoral officers from APC states to rig elections and they want to accede to the request of the Rivers APC to post out the Resident Electoral Commissioner.
“But the truth is that nobody can rig elections in Rivers State. The INEC Chairman only has the power to postpone elections but he has no power to rig elections here.
“As I speak to you, 7.30 to 8pm, on 19th of July, 2016, the APC Chairman, Davies Ikanya, Senator Magnus Abe and others, were with the National Chairman in his office.
“Rivers State is key to development of this country. Will they continue to deny us representation at the Senate and majority of the constituencies of the House of Representatives?”
These are serious concerns. Even more worrisome is the alarm raised by the governor over recent postings in the Police Command, which he described as politicized.
According to Governor Wike, the new Inspector General of Police (IGP) recently posted Mr. Akin Fakorede, a Police officer formerly in-charge of the state’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad and who allegedly distributed fake SARS uniforms to APC thugs during the March 19, re-run elections leading to the death of several innocent Rivers people. He also accused the same officer of embezzling N18 million meant for the rehabilitation of armoured personnel carrier before he fled the state, after the last re-run.
Governor Wike also accused the IGP of posting back to the state, one Mustapha who ran away from the state after giving false testimony at the Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal. According to the governor, that ‘APC Witness’ has now been posted to head MOPOL 56 in Bori, one of the battle-ground locations, in the July 30, rerun elections.
He added that the Police High Command also reposted to the state, one Stephen Asin, an officer formerly in charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, after same officer had allegedly declared publicly that he would destroy the security network in the state. That Asin, the governor alerted, is now to head the Police Operations Department in the state.
The governor said, ‘my interest is for the security of the state to be sustained. We are enjoying relative security in the state and I will not fold my arms and allow anyone destroy the security of the state through the posting of politicians who hide under Police uniforms’, he said.
These are serious accustations that ought to attract the urgent response of both the Police High Command and INEC. This is because one wants to resist the temptation of rushing to the natural conclusion that silence means acceptance. In this case, acceptance of the governor’s concerns as true in every material particular. Even so, I pray am wrong.
This is because, one of the greatest incentives to strife and conflict, is the attempt to impose one’s ambition on others, even when as one time United States President Abraham Lincoln once warned, ‘no one is good enough to lead another man without that other’s consent.’ The crises that characterised the elections in Bayelsa State last year, where, several lost their lives, is traceable to same conflict of interest.
Delta State is now boiling on account of renewed insurgency by a new group of militants, Bayelsa sleeps with only one eye closed, Cross River is facing challenges of criminal gangs. To push Rivers State into any form of disturbance would not be in the interest of the country, and its economy.
While one is reluctant to agree with the governor that APC leaders’ meeting with the INEC Chairman is wrong. What is wrong is the INEC chair’s refusal to grant same audience to the PDP leadership or even return the governor’s call, just as didn’t the new IGP.
Also curious is the timing of the postings and the calibre and character of those involved. The choice of officers, obviously APC-friendly, if records of the last Governorship Petitions Tribunal are any leads to go by; indeed raises eyebrows and portend a special assignment. Such job cannot be apolitical, unless INEC and the Police convince the people otherwise.
INEC in particular, must realise that once the populace loses confidence in its impartiality, it shall brew discontent which in turn gives birth to resistance. Such resistance very often rises up to become civil, even militant disobedience. As supposed umpire, INEC must resist the temptation to support one party against another or one candidate against the other.
Such would, without doubt, heat-up the polity; incite the civil populace against the institution and by extension government, a volatile scenario none should wish for. And not of all places, Rivers.
Rivers is a very strong factor in the economic equation of the country. Its peace should not be sacrificed on the altar of political compensation. The people should instead be allowed to vote according to their conscience and let the people alone determine who represents them.
In spite of what Abuja politicians may wish to accept, Rivers State has enjoyed relative peace and progress. That is why it has become a destination of choice for frontline professional bodies to hold their conferences in the state. The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) are merely two of such bodies that consider Rivers as peaceful.
This should not be sacrificed for the likely desire of a group to win the elections by hook or crook, through armed Policemen and soldiers and through fake election results. These can only elicit protests, even violence which scope and consequence cannot be predicted.
My Agony is that some politicians in Abuja still believe that election results written in hotel rooms can be declared, unpopular candidates can be made popular overnight and that elections can be rigged in Rivers State.
In my over 33 years in the business of minding others business, I have come to the conclusion that politicians can only rig successfully, where, they enjoy, at least a marginal majority of the electorate. To attempt to rig when the opposite is true, is to replay the Bayelsa governorship elections debacle. Not at these tough times, please.

 

Soye Wilson Jamabo

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Don’t Borrow Money Without Approval, Wike Warns New LG Chairmen

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has told newly sworn-in chairmen of the 23 local government areas of the state not to approach any financial institution to borrow money without first clearing with the state government.
The governor gave the warning shortly after the elected chairmen of the 23 LGAs took their oath of office at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
According to Wike, the caution has become necessary in order to stem unguarded desire of some council chairman to access money without any development plan.
“Don’t go and borrow money without the state government approval. Some of you tried it last time and started with your blackmail, saying help us, we are finished. You have no authority to go and borrow money. Even we as state government, before we go and borrow money we get approval from the Debt Management Office. No bank will even give us.
“Before you borrow money, the state must know what you want to use it for, and how you will pay it back, so that others who are coming will not suffer because of your indebtedness.”
Wike also charged the council chairmen to pay proper attention to issues of security in order to stem likely security breaches in their various councils.
The governor particularly urged them to establish a robust working relationship both with the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and the traditional rulers that will engender having regular security meetings for proper briefings.
“Stay in your council areas. Don’t stay in hotels and in Port Harcourt. If you’re not at home, how do you know about the security situation in your local government? Security is key!
“Relate with your DPOs. It does not cost you anything. Even if it cost you, governance is not easy. Governance is expensive. Security is expensive. Some of you cannot relate with the DPOs.
“It’s only when you have a problem that you relate with your DPOs and some of them are intelligent and when you call them that time, they turn their face the other way. You must make effort to relate with your DPOs.”
The governor urged the council chairmen to ensure they hold Security Council meeting weekly or better still, once in every two weeks for proper briefing.
Speaking further, Wike warned them against embarking on needless travel outside of the state and the country without notifying the state government.
He also encouraged them to work to strengthen the unity of the party in their various councils, consult widely with the leaders over appointments, and on other issues that will give everybody a sense of belonging.
Wike frowned at the worsening sanitary conditions particularly in Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt City, Eleme, Oyigbo LGAs, and charged the council chairmen to work assiduously to regularly evaluate refuse dumped on major roads in their councils.
The state governor revealed that the state government prevented the former chairmen whose tenure ended, last Wednesday, from paying local government workers salary due to security report and complains by some councillors and political appointees that they will not be paid what was due them.
“So, I decided to suspend the payment of local government workers and political appointees, so that the newly sworn-in chairmen will have to pay them without any crisis whatsoever.”
He said the state government will set up a committee to oversee the payment of all entitlement of immediate past chairmen, their political appointees and councillors.
According to him, “All the former council chairmen, all political appointees and councillors must be paid their money.”
Wike said he has received intelligence report that some council chairmen have sworn that they will not swear in some elected councillors who they perceive to be opposed to them.
He warned that if this happens, appropriate sanction will be taken against the erring council chairmen.
The newly sworn-in chairmen are, Daniel E. O. Daniel (Abua/Odual); Benjamin Eke (Ahoada East); Hope Ikiriko (Ahoada West); Rowland Sekibo (Akuku-Toru); Barrister Awortu Erastus (Andoni); Onengiyeofori George (Asari-Toru); Irimagha David ( Bonny); Michael Williams (Degema); Obarilormate Ollor (Eleme); Dr. Lloyd Chidi (Emohua); Obinna Anyanwu (Etche); Deko Confidence (Gokana); and Engr Nwanosike Samuel (Ikwerre).
Others include, Bariere Thomas (Khana); Barrister Ariolu George (Obio/Akpor); Nemieboka Vincent (Ogu/Bolo); Akuro Tobin (Okrika); Nwaiwu Chisorom (Omuma); Vincent Job (Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni); Enyiada Cookey-Gam (Opobo/Nkoro); Nwaogu Akara (Oyigbo); Ihunda Allwell (Port Harcourt City); and Mbakpone Okpe (Tai).

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Drop Press Regulation Bill, Media Bodies Tell Reps

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The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), which comprises the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), has called on the House of Representatives to step down a bill seeking to amend the Nigerian Press Council Act, noting that it is still a subject of litigation the Supreme Court.
Several media organisations and groups also criticised various clauses in the bill as possibly discouraging freedom of speech and press in the country.
The House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, which organised the hearing on the bill, however, insisted on going ahead with the exercise.
The committee had organised the hearing on five bills including the ‘Bill for an Act to Amend the Nigerian Press Council Act, CAP N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, to Remove Bottlenecks Affecting Its Performance and Make the Council in Tune with Current Realities in Regulating the Press and for Related Matters (HB 330).’
At the opening of the event, Chairman of the committee, Hon Olusegun Odebunmi, apologised to the media bodies, especially NPAN, which had protested, last Wednesday, over exclusion from the exercise.
He noted that an “open invitation” to the event was extended to stakeholders.
“So, I am sorry if there is anybody who thinks we did not invite them. It is not by intention; it was definitely a mistake. Notwithstanding, we have covered everybody through our advert,” he said.
The Editor-in-Chief of Leadership Newspapers, Azubuike Ishiekwene, who represented the NPO, stated that contrary to the claim of an “open invitation” by the committee, the organisation did not receive any notification that would have enabled it to engage the lawmakers and Nigerians robustly on the bill.
Ishiekwene said, “There is a matter and I am sure that as stewards of the people and the law, you are aware that there is a pending matter between the NPO and some parties involved in this legislation.
“That is why a negotiated conversation seems to us to be a way to deal with it because there is a matter pending before the Supreme Court: between the NPAN and some parties involved in this bill that is being amended. And as stewards of the law, I am sure you are constrained just as I am to make any further conversations on this matter because it is a pending matter before the Supreme Court.
“The last time it came up in 2010 – it is a matter that has actually been pending since 1999 – 17 of the 39 clauses contained in the bill that you are considering were ruled unconstitutional by the court at that time. Of course, the Federal Government appealed the ruling. We won the appeal and the matter is currently before the Supreme Court.
“I will rest my case by appealing to the honourable members of this committee; I crave your indulgence to refer to a conversation that was had on a similar matter in 2018 when this matter came up before the Senate and the pendency of this matter before the court was canvassed. And the Senate – the 8th National Assembly – at that time agreed that the prudent thing to do was to step it down. I urge this House to also consider a similar step.”
Odebunmi, however, argued that the House was doing its constitutional job “and I am very sure (that) no court will restrain us from doing the job.”
He noted that while the lawmakers would not stop anybody from going ahead with the judicial process, the lawmakers have the mandate of Nigerians to amend laws.
“It is not about the matter in court, it is an Act of the National Assembly and we deemed it fit to amend it and we are doing that. It does not stop you from what you are doing but this is the position of the National Assembly,” he stated.
Also, the International Press Centre, Media Rights Agenda, Centre for Media Law and Advocacy, and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, in a joint memorandum titled, ‘For a Truly Independent and Media Freedom Friendly Nigeria Press Council’, called on the National Assembly to expunge all laws intended to criminalise free speech and press.
The memo was signed by the Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade; Executive Director, MRA, Edetaen Ojo; Executive Director, CMLA, Richard Akinnola; and Executive Director, PTCIJ, Dapo Olorunyomi.
Arogundade, who read from the memo, said, “First, we like to say that the international behaviour towards media regulation is peer regulation, constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press, and the expunging from statute all laws that criminalises freedom of expression. This is the line the committee should tow like Ghana has done and like South Africa has done; and with regards to throwing off defamation statute from the books, the way Sierra Leone has done.
“A consideration is that the amendment seeks an unabashed focus to restrict freedom of expression while masking the toga of something else. It attempts to do what other laws have done like the Cybercrimes Acts which Sections 24 and 38, which in no fewer than ten instances have been used to clampdown on bloggers or journalists for expressing opinion antagonistic to politically or economically powerful elites.
“Bodies like the Amnesty International has documented 50 cases where the law had targeted, not cybercrime suspects, but bloggers and journalists for writing on what they ‘know to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another.’”
Others are that, “The ethical code that should be operationalised by the council is the Code of Ethics of Journalists in Nigeria as adopted by the Nigerian Press Organisation, comprising the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria in Ilorin in 1998, and as may be regularly updated. This has been the practice. A political and non-journalism office like that of the Minister of Information should not be given the power of approval over the code of conduct of journalists.
“The power to determine sanctions relating to hefty fines should be vested in the courts and not the council. The Court of Appeal has clearly established this legal principle in NOSDRA v Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (2018) LPELR-44210 (CA) where it held that ‘the imposition of fines by NOSDRA was contrary to its powers on the basis that penalties or fines are imposed as punishment for an offence or violation of the law and the power as well as competence to establish that an offence has been committed belongs to the courts and not a regulatory agency.’
“The provision relating to revocation of license for alleged publication of fake news should be removed from the Act. Decisions for appropriate sanctions in relation to such offences should be vested in the law courts.”

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Buhari Promises Support For Families Of Fallen Military, Security Personnel

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration would ensure that resources are devoted to the care of the families and loved ones of the officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces, as well as operatives of other security agencies, who have died in the course of fighting insecurity in the country.
The President who spoke, yesterday, during a visit to personnel of the Armed Forces and security agencies in Operation Hadin Kai, at the Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri, Borno State, also expressed the gratitude of the nation to the security agencies.
The President, who is on an official visit to Borno State, however, charged the military and security agencies not to give breathing space to terrorists and criminals in various parts of the country, saying the war must be concluded with restoration of peace and reconstruction of all the affected areas.
“I am delighted to be with you this afternoon, to address you on this special occasion of my official visit to Borno State. I want to seize this opportunity to put it on record that our nation will forever be indebted to you, for your patriotic commitment to the defense of our fatherland against insurgency and criminality.
“I, therefore, commend you and remember all the personnel who have paid the supreme sacrifice in ensuring that Nigeria remains an indivisible and secure entity.
“As I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of our fallen heroes and pray for the souls of the departed, I want to assure you that my administration will spare no effort or resources to ensure that the widows and children of our fallen heroes who paid the supreme price in defense of our beloved country, are well cared for,” he said.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the President said wounded comrades will get the best medical attention towards their full recovery.
“While acknowledging your collective efforts at decimating and degrading the terrorists and reaffirming the inviolable sovereignty of our nation, I also wish to extol your steadfastness and untiring efforts in the face of the difficulties you experience in the Theatres of Operation.
“Your collective efforts have resulted in the relative peace being enjoyed in the region today. Under my watch, the Armed Forces of Nigeria have been provided a firm strategy and clear sense of direction to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
“We should not allow our adversaries the opportunity or breathing space to challenge or undermine our national interests and core values. The defense and security agencies should rest assured of the Federal Government’s unalloyed commitment to winning the battle against terror and criminality,” he added.
Buhari commended the military and security agencies for the synergy that translated into successes in restoring peace and order.
“I am particularly happy to note the increasing understanding and cooperation within the military, as well as the inter-agency cooperation in the fight against the terrorists and other criminal elements in the North-East.
“The outcome of this synergy is evidenced by the successes recorded in the ongoing Operation Tura Takaibango, which has so far degraded the insurgents’ capabilities in the Timbuktu Triangle, Sambisa Forest and the Lake Chad Region.
“I am, therefore, pleased to acknowledge that the military and other security agencies including civilian stakeholders are adhering to the true spirit of Operation Hadin Kai, which implies “jointness, synergy and cooperation.
“By pooling together the collective resources and comparative advantages of the Armed Forces and other security agencies, we hope the enemy will now feel the ferocity of our firepower and the weight of our resolve,” the President said.
Side-by-side with the efforts of the Armed Forces and security agencies, Buhari assured that his administration is developing a strategy for post-war reconstruction and peace building.
“Concerted efforts are being made to fast-track reconstruction and development programmes in the affected communities in the North-East.
“I am hopeful that this will lead to the speedy resettlement of displaced persons, as well as the restoration of bubbling community life as people return to their homes.
“Alongside investment in development and reconstruction, we will sustain our investment in the Armed Forces in a manner that balances the carrot and stick,” he said.
The President said several interventions by the Federal Government had led to the procurement and delivery of large consignments of critical combat enablers, including high calibre weapons and ammunition, “Many have been injected into the theatre and soon other equipment that have just arrived in the country would also be deployed to the theatre of operations. Much more equipment will be procured for the Armed Forces to cater for both the short and long-term requirements.
“I would like, at this point, to also commend the hierarchy of our Armed Forces for their strategic foresight in ensuring that some of our critical military equipment are fabricated locally.”
Buhari also noted that repairs and maintenance of some of the vital weapons were now being carried out in the country, thereby saving the nation a lot of foreign exchange and also creating jobs for our teeming population.
“As personnel of our Armed Forces and security agencies, you must understand that these items of equipment must be put to good use against the terrorists and other criminal elements. There is no room for complacency, and no need to be less than 100 per cent alert at all times.
“As your Commander-in-Chief, I want to assure you that my government will continue to work towards the provision of timely funding and procurement of equipment for the Armed Forces and other security agencies. This is intended to boost the prosecution of the ongoing war to a logical conclusion and also to serve our collective interests and well-being.
“In addition, your welfare is of utmost importance and concern to this government. I am glad that the gradual rotation of the troops in the field has commenced, as I directed. I am sure that this will minimize and possibly eliminate battle fatigue, as well as enhance troops’ morale,” he added.
The President thanked the military and security agencies for unalloyed loyalty and selfless sacrifices towards the defence of our country, adding, “Your courage and gallantry will continue to inspire others, as they echo into the future.”
“While I commend your resilience, let me remind you that there is still a lot of work to be done, to completely restore peace to the North-East, stem the activities of armed bandits in the North-West and North-Central, as well as deal with other security challenges across the country.
“You must, therefore, remain steadfast and see this war to a conclusive end. In doing so, you must rely on inter-agency cooperation, and strengthen your cohesion with the troops of neighboring Republics of Cameroon, Chad and Niger in our collective fight against the terrorists, under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force. This will consolidate our efforts and facilitate the speedy return of peace and stability to the region,” the President said.
He urged the military and security agencies to continue to make Nigeria proud.
Buhari also interacted with some of the wounded soldiers, assuring them that the government was fully committed to their recovery and welfare.
In his remarks, the Commander of Theatre Operations Hadin Kai, Maj-Gen Felix Omoigui, assured troops of the President’s confidence and commitment to their welfare, especially in bringing the war to a conclusive end.
The commander thanked the President for the visit to the troops, which he said will greatly boost the morale of all those fighting to keep the country in peace.
Governors of Borno and Yobe State, Babagana Zulum, and Mai Bunu, respectively; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Leo Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Maj-Gen Farouk Yahaya; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo; Chief of Staff, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao; and National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd), were also at the event.

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