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Saturday’s Polls And Nigerians’ Date With Destiny

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Tomorrow is yet another date with our collective destiny as a country. Millions of voters will once more troop out to the various voting units to exercise their franchise. The voters this time are to elect those who will be our governors and state Houses of Assembly men that will preside over the affairs of the various states including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory for the next four years.
Two Saturdays ago, the nation went on a similar journey to elect a President and members of the National Assembly. However those elections to those who monitored the process leave much to be desired as it was characterised by large scale arrests, intimidation, vote buying, violence, ballot box, snatching and killings.
In Rivers State alone, about 30 persons were allegedly killed by security personnel in Akuku-Toru, Bonny and Degema Local Government Areas.
And in Imo State, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof Francise Ezeonu said in the last election, there were deliberate efforts to frustrate the use of Registration Area Centres (RACs) as even wires used in reticulation of the centres were removed and taken away. In some places, community members disrupted elections at the RAC centres.
According to him, they also battled with thugs for electoral materials, with corps members kidnapped returning officers harassed and intimidated to write false results.
“The maxim was either to play along or be maimed for life”.
Also in Bayelsa State, we heard of reports that INEC was begging politicians and their thugs to return about 61 card readers that they forcibly took away from presiding officers during the elections.
Some independent observers of the last elections including civil society groups described the elections as not something to be proud of and said that to guard against a repeat of the violence and rigging in the last elections all stakeholders must comply with the electoral guidelines. They condemned the killings especially in Rivers State and the conduct of politicians and the military for their role in bringing shame to the country.
No election in Nigeria has taken place without controversy but the recent elections somehow took another dimension as some personalities of the major opposition party-PDP were it on the eve of the election. Some are yet to be released as at yesterday.
Do these people really pose a threat to democracy across the country? Why is it that during the administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’ Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, mass arrests of opposition figures were not carried out? But under the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, to even whisper is an anathema and will get you detained in a military barracks.
Nobody should think that we are under a real democratic government. To think so, the person must be naïve and not a critical political thinker. What we are under is a full blown dictatorship where even the judiciary is not respected and court orders disobeyed. The government chooses what order to obey and what to ignore.
For there to be a free, fair and credible election, the Presidency must not interfere with the conduct of the elections by deploying the military to do a repeat dance that negates all civilised norms of how an election should be conducted especially with the heating up of the polity in States like Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers Akwu Ibom and Benue.
From all indications, the factors hampering the smooth conduct of elections in Nigeria especially the last election are not the use of smartcard readers or the role of INEC officials but the shameful conduct of the political class.
According to, Prof Francis Ezeonu, “there is the need for Nigerians to create rules, a conducive environment for the ad-hoc staff to do their work and urged those who claimed to be honourable, distinguished and excellent to exhibit honourable conduct.
The experiences of the last election have some shock waves so much so that some ad-hoc staff have given notices that they would not wish to participate in the next election.
The way things are going, we may come to a stage where no person will be willing to participate during election.
These fears expressed by a resident electoral commissioner is not just an isolated one. All INEC officials are human just as the youth corps members recruited to assist the electoral body to conduct elections in 2015 in Rivers State, a serving youth corps member was killed. In 2011 about eight corps members were murdered in cold blood in Bauchi State. So are we sure that in the conduct of tomorrow’s elections, security agencies will play a neutral role and be as professional as possible?
Will the violence that occurred in Akuku-Toru, Bonny, Emohua, Ikwerre, Okrika and Abua/Odual Local Government Areas be replicated? Won’t the military assist politicians to disrupt the voting and collation processes and cart away electoral materials? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed before people cast their votes tomorrow.
However, hope is not lost as traditional rulers and other political leaders of thought have pleaded for sanity and for politicians to play by the rules.
Meanwhile, the Independent, Electoral Commission has assured Nigerians that it will do a better job tomorrow, Accorders to its spokesman Festus Okoye, the commission is ready to conduct a credible election and as part of its strategy has fine-tuned all the loose ends encountered during the February polls. He said each polling unit will start at 8am and the use of smart card reader, is compulsory adding that any unit where smartcard readers are not used, all votes in such places will be voided.
Probably this assurance is coming on the heels of accusations by opposition parties that there was a deliberate and well orchestrated plan to use smartcard readers only in the strongholds of the PDP especially in the South-South, South-East and North Central zones while leaving out the South West, North East and North West zones and the non deployment of the electronic collation system (E-collation for election results contrary to the provisions of paragraph 10 (a) and (b) of the regulations and guidelines governing the 2019 general election.
Nigerians in general believe in a free and fair election but the major actors have always been the problem. People who are outside the corridors of power and make the most noise about the conduct of the election are even worse than those they accuse of election manipulations. It is quite sad that the APC which claims to parade “holy men” in its rank and file has not shown any form of decency coupled with the utterances and conduct of some of its members which are not encouraging peace in the polity.
We pray the security agencies will not allow themselves to be used to unleash violence tomorrow and allow the will of the people to be thrown to the dogs.
We also hope that the fear of violence or being killed will not deter millions of Nigerians from casting their votes.
The power of the electorate lies in the positive use of their PVCs. There is no way that a government is bad or a person is not living up to expectation without a voter doing his or her duty by voting for his preferred candidate or rejecting such a person on election day.
Our destiny is in our hands, so let us go out tomorrow and make our choice of who will preside over our political and economic fortunes in the next four years.

Tonye Ikiroma-Owiye

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Politics

Still On Security Votes

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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).

 

Naomi Sharang

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Politics

Grudges Not Healthy For Our Music Industry –PMAN President

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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.

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Rescind N5,000 Fee For National ID, PDP Tells Buhari

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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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