Former President Dr Goodluck Jonathan has urged African Union (AU) to set minimum acceptable standards for appointing the leadership of electoral commissions as a means of building citizen confidence and ensuring credibility of elections on the continent.
The former President stated this last Friday at the International Leadership Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he emerged as the chairperson of the newly inaugurated International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP), a body made up of mainly African former Presidents and ex-Heads of State. The two-day conference tagged ‘Africa Summit and Leaders Conference 2019’ had in attendance government officials, former African Heads of State, clergy and traditional rulers from across Africa. South African President was represented by Mr Gwade Mantashe, national chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) and Minister of Mines and Energy.
In a keynote speech titled ‘The Need for Good Governance and Peaceful Electioneering Process in Africa’ former President Jonathan noted that the credibility and legitimacy of electoral processes are hugely dependent on the competence, impartiality and independence of electoral management bodies (EMBs).
He also stressed that many African nations face election-related crises in cases where the citizens have no confidence in the electoral process, especially when they suspect that the election umpires do the bidding of the partisan appointing authorities.
The former President said: “It is interesting that almost all the EMBs in Africa are identified with the prefix ‘Independent’, but the jury is still out on whether these agencies are truly independent as their names imply.”
As a means of deepening democracy on the continent Jonathan therefore urged the African Union to establish minimum standards and benchmarks for constituting electoral management bodies and encourage member-nations to ratify such declaration.
He said: “The AU should, through its Political Affairs Department, set up a team of electoral experts to study different models and recommend the system they consider best for the continent.
“Such benchmark should also take cognizance of the need to review the election of judicial processes to ensure that, where election tribunals are set up to specifically handle election cases, one judicial officer do not handle the role of appointing all members of the tribunals.
“Since neutrality of the security services is absolutely necessary in ensuring free and fair elections, it is also important that the Africa Union should establish a code of conduct guiding security officials in charge of elections. All these recommendations should be accommodated in AU’s procedures for elections that should serve as guidelines for election observers.”
Jonathan praised South Africans for the peaceful conduct of last May’s national and provincial elections, adding that the credibility of the process stemmed from the fact that all the stakeholders in the elections had confidence in the electoral commission and the security systems.
He said further: “Once you get to that point where all role players in elections can express confidence in the umpire and the security systems, you would have solved more than 70% of your electoral challenges. Sadly, not many African countries have got to this point. The point where they can beat their chest and boast of political freedom, inclusiveness, independence of the electoral management body and credibility of the political process.”
As the Chairman of International Summit Council for Peace the former President is expected to lead the charge for the association’s crusade for peace and good governance on the continent.
Speaking further Jonathan argued that “Africa’s leadership problem has more to do with weak institutions than the case of leaders serving in office for long periods of time. When the democratic institutions are strong they will develop firewalls that will resist attempts to alter the constitution and manipulate electoral processes for selfish reasons.”
According to the President: “Democracy is not about holding periodic elections but conducting credible, transparent, free and fair polls. African elections must meet minimum acceptable standards for democracy to be beneficial to the people of the continent.
“African nations must improve their electoral processes by establishing systems that will support and deliver credible elections. That is the impetus the continent needs to achieve lasting peace that will catalyse growth and sustainable development.”
NDIC Amendment Act: Senate Promises Accelerated Hearing
The National Assembly will give an ‘accelerated hearing’ to the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) Amendment Act, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, has said.
He said the National Assembly will expedite action when plenary resumes.
“When we resume plenary, the NDIC Act Amendment Bill will be a top priority,” Mr Lawan noted.
Mr Lawan disclosed this on Monday during the 30th-anniversary ceremony of the NDIC.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Ministers Festus Keyamo and Raji Fashola and the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi attended the event.
The anniversary celebration was held at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja.
The Senate president’s comment was in response to a call by the Ooni for the National Assembly to repeal the existing act of the NDIC.
“You will all agree to the need for an amendment of the NDIC Act. I call on the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to correct the NDIC law,” the traditional ruler had said.
In response, Mr Lawan said, “The Ooni of Ife moved a royal motion; when there is such motion, we don’t need to put it to question.
“Kabiyesi, your motion has received a yes, the ayes have it,” Mr Lawan said to thunderous applause from the crowd.
“We’ll work closely with NDIC to provide that amendment that will make you stabilise the banking system,” he noted.
NDIC Act Conundrum last year reported how the NDIC Managing Director, Umaru Ibrahim, blamed the delay in the amendment of the NDIC Act (2006) for the non-payment of entitlements to depositors of funds trapped in liquidated banks in the country.
Mr Umaru said depositors of Savanah Bank, Fortis Micro-Finance Bank and Aso Savings & Union Homes are suffering because they have not been able to recover their monies trapped in the banks since they were liquidated.
He said the suffering of the depositors would continue unless the NDIC enabling Act was speedily amended by the National Assembly.
Citing the defunct Savanah Bank as an example, the MD said the NDIC Act, as presently enacted, inhibits the corporation from reimbursing depositors since their bank licences were yet to be revoked due to protracted litigation.
Court Orders Forfeiture Of Kola Aluko’s $73m, N350m Properties
The Federal High Court in Lagos, yesterday, ordered the forfeiture of three landed properties belonging to Kola Aluko, an ally of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) gave the value of the landed properties located in Abuja and Lagos as $73million and N350million.
The EFCC gave the names of the properties as Plot 3389 and Plot 3390, House 2, Margaret Thatcher Close, Asokoro Cadastral Zone, Abuja; as well as Avenue Towers, Plot 1391 Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The anti-graft agency said the Plot 3389 and Plot 3390 in Abuja were purchased for N350million and $18million, respectively.
It said the Lagos property was bought for $55million.
The EFCC said the funds used to procure the properties were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
Following an ex parte application, yesterday, Justice Mohammed Liman ordered the properties temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, had told the judge that Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14 2016 empowered the court to make such a forfeiture order.
“The properties sought to be attached are reasonably suspected to be proceeds of an unlawful diversion from the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“That the respondent’s known and provable lawful income is far less than the properties sought to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria,” the lawyer said in the application.
An operative of the EFCC, Sambo Mayana, said the anti-graft agency investigated Aluko after receiving from Mr Debo Adeniran, the Executive Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, “a damning intelligence report and a petition alleging fraud, lack of transparency and unethical conduct in the transfer of production rights in the oil mining leases against the respondent and his cronies.
“That there are suspicious financial transactions involving the 1st respondent, KAA and Atlantic Energy Holding Limited based in the British Virgin Island.
“That the company, in the course of three years, received large suspicious transfers from two sister companies, namely: Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited, based in Nigeria.”
After granting the forfeiture order, the judge directed the EFCC to publish it in a national newspaper.
He adjourned till November 12, 2019, for anyone interested in the properties to appear before him to show cause why they should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
2020: Akpabio Shuns Senate On Ministry’s Budget
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has said that the ministry’s budget was not rejected by the Senate.
Reacting to the Senate’s purported rejection of the budget proposal; he called on the lawmakers to join him in appealing to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to increase the capital component of the ministry’s budget.
Akpabio told reporters, “The budget was not rejected. The senators feel that major projects that are already in the Niger Delta ought to be completed.
“I agree with them but unfortunately, we are working under a very tight envelope.
“The ministry was allocated about N23billion; 60 per cent of it will go to already existing projects in the region and 40 per cent will go to probably new projects.
“So, if you look at it very well, it is not possible for you to capture all projects with that amount and it is not even going to be possible to complete even 10 kilometres of road in the region.
“So, I think instead of saying that the budget was rejected, I think that the distinguished senators should collectively make an appeal to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to improve upon the envelope to expand it a little, so it can capture at least substantially most of the yearnings and aspirations of the good people of the Niger Delta.”
Earlier, the Senate Committee on Niger Delta had rejected the 2020 budget of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs headed by a former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, asked that the budget be re-represented, citing the omission of major ongoing projects in its capital appropriation.
Nwaoboshi (Delta North) pointed out that there were abandoned projects in the nine oil-producing states while other senators also noted that there was a need to increase the ministry’s capital budget.
According to Nwaoboshi, “There is no state, I dare to say, there is no local government where there are no abandoned projects in the Niger Delta.
“We cannot continue like that. With all the abandoned projects in the Niger Delta, we are talking about new projects; these new projects are designed to fail.
“Honourable Minister, we need to look at this budget again and we expect you to do your cleanup because the documents we needed were not supplied to us. The proliferation of abandoned projects cannot continue.”
The Delta-born lawmaker went on to note that President Muhammadu Buhari had not inaugurated any completed project executed by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in the last four years.
Also speaking, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe noted that the ministry’s budget is an “uncommon budget.
“When a budget is designed to fail, it is uncommon,” Abaribe said.
“I will suggest that the budget should be taken back for reworking, taking into cognizance all the projects that were pointed out and we give them another day to come and defend the budget.”
For Senator Rochas Okorocha, the budget was not different from the ministry’s budget of two or three years ago.
“This type of budget doesn’t produce anything feasible,” Okorocha said, adding: “You have to do your projects and complete them so you don’t sound like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“One of the worst establishments is NDDC known for funny activities because of the way it is set up.”
Senator Sandy Onor Ojang, representing Cross River Central, lamented a situation where capital components of yearly budgets would not be released to ministries.
He said: “We are faced again with the vanity of having a budget and almost through the budget year, there are no capital releases. It calls for concern and deep worry.”
Ojang decried a situation where the capital outlay is even lower than other costs.
“To speak of a situation where nothing is released for capital is a tragedy,” he said.
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