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INEC Expresses Fears Over Bayelsa Guber Poll

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned the actions and utterances of political actors were likely to militate against peaceful conduct of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, who spoke, yesterday, when he visited the office of the Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council in Yenagoa, said unguarded actions and utterances of politicians could lead to the breach of peace during electioneering, voting and collation of results.
Mahmood, who was accompanied by senior officials of the commission and security agencies led by the Zone 5 Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Dibal Yakadi, also complained about the use of armed thugs to disrupt the voting and the collation processes.
Describing Bayelsa and Kogi as the most difficult states to conduct major elections, Mahmood further said the commission was further bothered about the ugly trend of voting buying insisting that democracy should not be on sale in the open market.
He said the commission was deploying 10,000 ad-hoc employees in different parts of Bayelsa for the exercise, adding that INEC would not allow anybody to attack them.
Addressing the council led by the Amayanabo of Twon Brass, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, the INEC boss said: “We have a few areas of concern.
“The first one is action and utterances likely to lead to the breach of the peace during electioneering campaign, during voting on the Election Day and during the collation of results.
“In 2015, up to the eight local government areas in Bayelsa State, we conducted elections conclusively and made declaration of results only in one local government area, Kolokuma-Opokuma.
“I have been asking all my friends in Bayelsa, what makes Kolokuma-Opokuma thick?
“Today, I have the opportunity finally to actually visit Kolokuma-Opokuma and I was in Kaiama and the staff assured us that just as it happened in 2015, it will happen again.
“Next is the recurrent problem where some unscrupulous actors follow voters to polling units with money on Election Day to induce them. It is called vote buying.
“Our democracy cannot be on sale in the open market. The citizens should be allowed to vote for whoever they choose in the Election Day.
“We appeal to you to continue to speak to politicians and their supporters on peaceful conduct during the campaign process and beyond”.
On why all eyes would be on Bayelsa and Kogi, Mahmood said: “First, this will be the first major election since the 2019 general election in Nigeria.
“What lessons have we learnt since the conduct of the general election that will help us to improve on the forthcoming governorship election?
“Secondly, Bayelsa and Kogi are not easy states when it comes to conducting major elections particularly governorship election.
“The challenge is particularly in terms of the terrain, and therefore, it has an impact on electoral logistics.
“But another great challenge is the attitude of the political class which has become a source of concern to the commission”.
The professor also said that the House of Assembly election would hold in Brass Constituency 2 in Brass Local Government Area on the same day scheduled for the governorship election.
Mahmood said the commission was ready to conduct peaceful, free, fair, credible and conclusive election in Bayelsa and appealed to the traditional rulers to make suggestions and contributions that would change the narrative in Bayelsa.
Ditte-Spiff commended INEC for seeking the advice of the traditional rulers in the state and appealed to the commission to prevail on security agencies to reduce military presence during the election.
Addressing Mahmood, he said: “The military presence in the last election was too much.
“They were brought here by one or two candidates. They also after the election eliminated one or two persons.
“You will need to appeal to the army in particular to try to contain their men so that they would not go off the handle and scare people away from the polling units. One or two areas are not approachable.”
Meanwhile, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad has approved the request of the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe for the transfer of his suit against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), flag bearer of the party, Senator Douye Diri over the disputed September 3 governorship primaries of the party in the state.
The presiding Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Justice Jane Inyang, while announcing her decision to accede to the directive of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, said the decision was based on the request of Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, dated September 27, 2019 and received by her Court on October 10, 2019.
According to her, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe’s letter did not question the credibility of the Federal High Court but expressed security concern in the state, “I hear by transfer the case”
The decision of the court, which came as a surprise to the defendant’s counsels elicited protest over the alleged secrecy and perceived ambush.
The National Legal Adviser of the PDP and counsel to the party, Emmanuel Enoidem (Esq), the Counsel to the 4th and 5th respondents, Chuks Oguru (Esq) kicked against the request of Chief Timi Alaibe, while the counsel to Senator Douye Diri, Barrister Chiemezie V.C. Ihekweazu declined comments.
Emmanuel Enoidem, while speaking with newsmen after the court session said, “We came in this morning only to be told that the matter has been transferred due to a letter by Chief Timi Alaibe. We are a bit taken aback at the turn of events and not because we are afraid of the case in Abuja. This is a man who wants to be governor of Bayelsa State and not the governor of the FCT or any other state in Nigeria. And if he is running from Bayelsa, I am afraid what kind of governor the person will make.”
“So, apart from the inconvenience such transfer may cause, we were told this morning. When the matter came up on the 2nd and slated for Friday, 18th, and later 15th. We were surprised. But for a man who wants to be governor of the state and running away on account of insecurity, what will happen to millions of Bayelsa people residing here? Instead of coming to confront the issue of insecurity he is alleging in his letter, he is running away. This is not how to be a good governor.”
The Counsel for the 4th and 5th defendants, Barrister Chuks Oguru, also complained that the letter of Chief Timi Alaibe, “Court matter is not done in the way of Robin Hood method is to lie in wait for innocent wayfarers. We should have been put on notice. We find the method of the plaintiff objectionable because parties are not allowed to go forum shopping.
“If you are sure of your facts, you go to court and argue your case. Anywhere they take us to, we will meet them with concrete facts for facts, jurisprudence for their law and we will match them constitutionality for their own constitutionality. Anywhere they go in Abuja or even the House of Lords, we are very prepared because we are sure of our grounds. You know the nitty-gritty of the case is that the plaintiff wants to torpedo the entire primary election that produced the 2nd defendant, Senator Douye Diri as the flag bearer of the PDP.”
But the lead Counsel of Chief Timi Alaibe, Barrister Ayodele Adedipe, said the decision for the transfer of the case to Abuja was the decision of the plaintiff and that he expressed security concern about the matter being heard in Yenagoa, “and the CJN found merit in his concern and direct the presiding Judge and acceded to the request”
Adedipe described the comments by the defense counsels as diversionary and petty.
“ The point here is that the plaintiff said he had confidence in the judge and sited an example of the incident where a Federal High Court was invaded sometime ago because of that he said. Let us have the legal battle on a neutral ground where people can come to court and lawyers can advocate without fear. And when people come and play to the gallery over the decision, I don’t have much comment on that.”
Alaibe, who approached the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa in a suit numbered FHC/YNG/CS/99/2019, also included as defendants the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Douye Diri, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Embeleakpo Alale for himself and representing the elected local government chairmen, vice-chairmen and councillors of the PDP allowed to be delegates at the elective state congress of the PDP in Bayelsa State held on September 3, 2019.
Also joined in the suit as defendant is Doubra Kumokou, for himself and on behalf of the three ad-hoc delegates allowed to be delegates at the elective state congress.
Alaibe is seeking, with an application, for cancellation of the result of the primary election based on cited procedural flaws.
The suit, which was filed in pursuant to Order 3(9) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, seeks answers to questions bordering on obvious non-adherence to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act 2010, the People’s Democratic Party Constitution and Election Guidelines, by the state chapter of the party in the conduct of the ward congresses, inclusion of local government council officials in the delegates list and the procedure for inclusion of three ad-hoc delegates.
Citing specific sections of relevant laws and guidelines, Alaibe is asking the court to examine the entire processes that resulted in the primaries and rule in his favour in the light of violations committed in a desperate move to impose a pre-determined hand-picked candidate on the people out of 21 aspirants.
It would be recalled that the Timi Alaibe’s Campaign Organisation had raised objections against what it described as crass disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines in the build-up to the conduct of the governorship primary election by the state chapter of the PDP.
The objection covered open disobedience to the party constitution and electoral guidelines and the manner in which ward congresses were conducted; among others.

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Army To Mobilise Troops, Military Equipment For Crocodile Smile IV

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The Nigerian Army, yesterday, alerted the public that troops and military equipment would be mobilised frequently as Exercise Crocodile Smile IV kicks off in Lagos and Ogun states.
This was contained in a statement released by acting Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Major Kamurudeen Adegoke for the 81 Division.
He appealed to residents of both states to stay calm at the sight of such movements noting that the exercise would run from November 19 to December 23.
Adegoke said exercise will commence with Beach Landing at Takwa-Bay Island on Tuesday morning, adding that Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will conduct the flag off.
“The event is aimed at enhancing troops ‘operational proficiency, inter-agency cooperation and civil-military coordination. Others include effective training on Rules of Engagement, handling of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in line with international best practices.
“The exercise is also designed to curb the prevalent contemporary security challenges such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism, ritual killing, and pipeline vandalism among others within the division’s Area of Responsibilities (AOR)
“During the period of the exercise, there will be free medical outreach, maintenance of some selected roads as well as donations of educational materials to some schools within Lagos and Ogun states. Participants will include members of the military, paramilitary and other security agencies.
“In view of the above, 81 Division wishes to advice members of the public not to panic on sighting troops and movement of military”, he added.

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‘Buhari, Redeem Six Years Of Failed Power Privatisation’

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Contrary to all expectations, the power sector privatisation has turned out to be an unreserved fiasco. The optimism of economic and social revolution touted as an inevitable accompaniment of a steady and uninterrupted electricity supply has come to naught. Six years after the privatisation was pulled off by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Nigerians are now yearning for an urgent intervention to save the sector from an utter collapse, which could be only a matter of time.
Encumbered by a public power sector that reeked of corruption, ineptitude and facility decay, Nigeria had readily embraced an option of reform, which could only be effectively implemented through privatisation. “To the Nigerian people, who have demonstrated such great patience and confidence, putting up often with darkness…I say better days are coming,” Jonathan had boisterously promised. But rather than carry out a transparent bidding process that would have attracted not just the much-needed investible funds but also the technical know-how, the exercise was mired in opacity.
In place of the experts and foreign investors that privatisation set out to attract, a motley group of Nigerians with practically no antecedent in power sector business and lacking the financial muscle was thrown up as the new investors. The result is now obvious; instead of an effective and efficient power sector that would guarantee constant electricity supply to light up homes and fire the industries, boosting the economy, Nigerians are now saddled with an albatross.
As currently structured, the power sector stands on a wobbly tripod, made up of the Generation Companies, the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the Distribution Companies. While it is the duty of the GenCos to generate electricity, the TCN, which is still wholly owned by the government, takes the responsibility for the transmission to the grid, from where the DisCos can then sell to the consumers. But none of them has been able to inspire confidence.
When the power assets were handed over to private investors on November 1, 2013, the electricity generated in Nigeria that day was 3,712.4 megawatts, from an installed generation capacity of 12, 910.40 MW and available capacity of 7,652.60 MW, according to data attributed to the Nigerian Electricity System Operator. For a population of 171.8 million then, this was ridiculous. But despite the generation capacity of 12,910.40 MW, the transmission could only boast a wheeling capacity of 8, 100 MW, while 5,375 MW remained the peak that had ever been generated.
Six years down the line, with a population of about 200 million, very little has changed. The distribution capacity is still estimated at around 4,000 MW, barely over the 3.712.4 MW of November 1, 2013. The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, was quoted in a report two months ago as saying that installed power generation had improved to 13, 427MW (as against 12,910.40 MW in 2013), while the TCN Managing Director, Usman Mohammed, said the national grid had the capacity to transmit 7,000 MW.
These figures remain mere academic, as long as they do not translate into improved electricity supply to consumers. What is however undeniable is the fact that the DisCos, which directly interface with the consumers, have emerged as the weakest link in the electricity supply value chain. They keep complaining about cost-reflective tariff, even though they have been found wanting through and through.
They whine over the reluctance of consumers to pay when more than 55 per cent of those consumers are not metered, and access to electricity remains a mirage. For sure, the GenCos are not generating enough and the TCN is not transmitting adequately, yet, even the little that is available is rejected by the DisCos. For example, 9,310.64 MW of electricity was reportedly rejected between August 13 and August 20.
Rejecting loads when there is not enough to go round may sound outrageous but there are other weighty issues that pointedly betray the investors as utterly out of their depth. Particularly, funding has remained a knotty issue. Having raided the local banks for money to buy the firms, the local investors have not been able to fund the needed facility upgrade that should have brought about improvement in electricity supply.
Although a REUTERS report put the cost of the purchase of the power assets in 2013 at $2.5 billion, the TCN MD said the DisCos alone would require a whopping $4.3bn investment to make the desired impact. Shorn of credit options, following challenges in servicing their loans, the investors are now at their wits’ end – uncertain of what step to take next, except perhaps to let go of their majority shares and pave the way for a takeover by capable foreign investors.
As the designated revenue collectors on behalf of other operators in the industry, the DisCos are heavily in debt and have failed to remit money collected to the others. As of July, the TCN said it was being owed N270 billion by the DisCos. The former Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had also said last year that the Discos’ indebtedness to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Company stood at N500 billion. “NBET also owes GenCos N325.784 billion, which can be settled if NBET collects what the DisCos are owing,” he said.
This debt burden has completely thrown the power sector off balance. Admitting that it would be difficult to pay, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Sunday Oduntan, said only a monthly revenue of N725 million by each of the DisCos could guarantee them meeting the 35 per cent threshold remittance requirement. Yet, the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Authority, appears helpless.
As Osinbajo has contended, only a recapitalisation can solve the problem. The government has already made some strides in this direction by bringing in Siemens, whose three-phased road map is expected to ultimately deliver 25,000 MW. The deal involves the German government and Siemens collaborating to increase electricity transmission and distribution capacities in Nigeria.
Although the government, which owns 40 per cent equity in the DisCos, has been castigated for not discharging its responsibilities satisfactorily, it has still taken some notable steps to pull the power sector out of its current mess. Apart from a loan intervention of N213 billion in 2014, another sum of N701 billion was announced two years ago to guarantee the NBET to be able to pay GenCos for two years. In August, President Muhammadu Buhari announced another intervention of N600 billion.
It is time for President Buhari to intervene decisively in the power sector logjam. The government cannot just continue to shell out public funds in this manner for a sector that has been privatised. Nobody needs to be told now that the privatisation was shoddily done but something drastic has to be done to salvage the situation in the national interest. The government has to take advantage of the performance review due in December to see whether to continue with the status quo or not.
Power remains a big incentive for economic and social development. When the government manages to get rid of the current investors, efforts should be geared towards targeted foreign investors, as is currently the case with Siemens, to get replacements. In Singapore, the system of Open Electricity Market is adopted. It allows consumers to migrate to other companies if they are not satisfied with the services they are getting. Nigeria will benefit immensely from such a system. What obtains now is still a monopoly that was in place before privatisation.

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IYC Tackles Amaechi Over Warri Port Dredging Accuses Minister Of Anti-N’Delta Activities

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The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has taken a swipe at the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi over his poor handling of the dredging of Warri Port in Delta State, accusing him of playing anti-Niger Delta politics with the project.
In a statement signed by the IYC President, Eric Omare, Esq, and made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt, yesterday, the Ijaw youth think-tank said that Amaechi’s behaviour portrayed him as a politician who was against the development aspirations of the Niger Delta people.
The statement read, “The attention of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has been drawn to a statement credited to the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to the effect that he would have stopped the planned dredging of the Warri port, if he was not from the South-South region over youth disturbances.
“Amaechi was reported to have made the comment at the Palace of the Ovie of Uvwie in Delta State during the reception in honour of the Minister of State, Labour and Productivity, Chief Festus Keyamo on Thursday, November 14, 2019. When the story was reported in the media, we had initially thought that the minister was quoted out of context. However, having waited for more than three days without a correction from the minister’s media office, we wish to correct the wrong impression created in the said media report.
“That the IYC completely condemn the statement made by Rt. Hon. Amaechi that youths are disturbing the commencement of the proposed Warri Port dredging because it is very far from the truth and calculated to paint the youths of the Niger Delta region in the wrong light before the Nigerian public.
“On the contrary, we state clearly without fear of contradiction that there is no existing contract to dredge the Warri Port that is being delayed by youth disturbances.
“For the purpose of clarity, we state that sometime in 2018, the Federal Government announced its intention to carry out dredging of the Warri Port channel so as to allow bigger vessels use the Warri Port and make the port functional.
“In response and to create the conducive environment for the project to take-off, the youths of Ijaw and Itsekiri under whose area the dredging was supposed to take place at their own initiative and expense organized a sensitisation workshop and indeed set up an advocacy team which went round the communities affected to allow for peaceful dredging in the interest of the Warri economy. This initiative was widely reported by the media and the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) management was excited by the initiative of the youths.
“The Warri Port dredging was supposed to be in three phases; which are the dredging of the Escravos bar, construction of the breakwater and the dredging of the Warri Port channel from Escravos to Warri.
“After the sensitisation workshop organized by the Ijaw and Itsekiri youths, there was supposed to be a meeting between the affected communities and stakeholders with Federal Government officials before the commencement of the first phase of the work which is the dredging of the Escravos bar.
“However, instead of meeting with the communities and stakeholders, Rt. Hon. Minister Amaechi as Minister of Transportation directed and handed over all community rights to a party chieftain from Delta State from one of the ethnic groups at the expense of the generality of the communities and stakeholders without regard to the multi ethnic sensitivity of the Warri area.
“However, the Ijaw leadership saw that this was another attempt by Rt. Hon. Amaechi to create room not to go on with the dredging as he is now doing. Therefore, the affected communities did not raise any issue and allowed the dredging of the Escravos bar to go on without any problem. In this dredging, the communities and stakeholders were not involved in anyway, hence they are not in a position to know if the dredging was actually done up to specification or not.
“The Escravos bar dredging was done without any disturbances whatsoever despite Minister Amaechi’s provocative conduct. Therefore, we are amazed that Hon. Amaechi is now accusing youths of the South-South especially from the Warri area of acting as hindrance to the Warri Port dredging. If we may ask Amaechi, who are the youths disturbing the Warri Port dredging and when did the engagement with the youths took place? Is there a contract in place to dredge the Warri Port by the Federal Government and who is the contractor and when was the contract awarded?
“To the best of our knowledge, after the dredging of the Escravos bar, the next phase ought to be the construction of the Escravos breakwater and then dredging of the channel from Escravos to Warri and none of these contracts has been awarded. So, which dredging contract and youth disturbances is Amaechi talking about? Who are the youth or community representatives that have been arguing with Amaechi over the Warri Port dredging in the past six months?
“It is obvious that Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi despite being from the South-South is allergic to anything development of the region. He always hide under spurious reasons to opposed any developmental initiative of the region just as he did with the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
“Consequently, we call on the general public, especially President Muhammadu Buhari to completely disregard the claim by Minister Amaechi that youths are obstructing the dredging of the Warri Port channel. On the contrary the youths have been very supportive of the Warri Port channel dredging but the Minister Amaechi seems to be playing politics with the dredging.
“However, Minister Amaechi should remember that he would not be Minister of Transportation forever and at the end of this tenure he would be asked what he achieved for the South-South region just as he used to ask former President Jonathan”, Omare added.

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