Alabotubo Charles Harry is the President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) worldwide. During a live Radio programme in Port Harcourt last Monday, he stated the position of the Ijaw apex organisation on the forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, insisting that the Interim Management Board of the commission led by Dr. Joy Nunieh should not be tampered with. He also spoke on the just concluded Governorship election in Bayelsa State. The Tide correspondent, Dennis Naku who monitored the programme presents this report. Excerpts.
Would you say happenings in Ijaw land in the last couple of months have been a good tiding for the people?
Elections are for the people to decide for themselves where they want to go whether we like where they have gone or not is not the issue here. What is an issue here is that the will of the people have taken place in Bayelsa and Bayelsa State cannot and will not be ruled through surrogates or God-fathers. For me I think where the people want to be is good tidings. A lot of people have few constraints here and there about what they feel about the elected or the Governor-elect. But I think that is not an issue.
What is the view of the INC on the forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari?
I think it is a welcome development. I mean the Ijaw nation considering the 13 per cent derivation, the NDDC, the Amnesty Programme and the Ministry for the Niger Delta should have done much way better than it is doing. It is doing really poorly and I think an audit into the NDDC in particular, which is an interventionist agency to take care of certain developmental aspect of the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta in general is a core place to begin.
Many Ijaw sons have held sway at NDDC, yet nothing seems to be coming to the Ijaw nation?
The real problem with the NDDC is the constitutional arrangement put in place. The NDDC act is set to fail. It is created in such a way that it puts a lot of power and puts the helmsmen in the NDDC under too much strain from extraneous quarters where they must kow tow to the dictates of the people who beat the drum, the senators, members of the House of Representatives, people in the executive. And you laden it up also with extraneous bodies like directors from the North East, North Central, North West, South West etcetera. All these things were time bombs that are now playing themselves out. I think the essence of this audit on the affairs of the NDDC is necessary because we need to find out why so much money has been pumped into the NDDC and it is not working. And the problem we are facing today, the fight against the Interim Management Board is because the same powers that be do not want that audit to succeed. Because if it does, maybe, we will get to a position where the NDDC Act will be amended to remove the overbearing influences that curtail its abilities to achieve its set aims.
The region has NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta, one may be tempted to ask how come you are complaining of underdevelopment or do you think it is an orchestration to blackmail the region?
I will want to say that a lot of the faults belong to us at home here (Niger Delta). We must take the bull by the horns and accept responsibility for a great number of the things that have gone wrong. We have members representing us at the National Assembly who should have asked for an amendment of the laws blackmail, yes it is because if the Niger Delta Ministry cannot build the East West Road in over, it is close to 10 years since that Ministry was created and one major artery that takes the bulk of the products because the industrial hub of Nigeria sits here into the developed quarters of Lagos and the Ports cannot be fixed, then something is deliberately wrong. I believe and I am not in any way controverted to say that there is more to it than meets the eye.
You said one of the biggest challenge is the NDDC Act itself though you support the forensic audit. Do you think the rot might not go away unless the NDDC Act is changed?
Correctly so. The truth of the matter is that I even see the process of amending the NDDC Act being truncated because we saw the hurry with which the National Assembly went on to confirm a list that in itself is an abrogation of the principles and practices of the NDDC Act itself. People were put there surreptitiously and now an Interim Management Board was put in for one purpose. Not to issue contract, but to go and try to find out what is the problem going on there. The Interim Management Board as led by Dr. Joy Nunieh is supposed to just go in there and create an enabling environment for internationally reputed companies to do a forensic audit and see why trillions of Naira has been put into this place (NDDC) and it is not working.
It is not working because the budget of the NDDC is approved by the National Assembly. The two Houses and their oversight bodies always scream of and do not carry out the contracts.
Don’t you think people that the Niger Delta should also share the blame for the underdevelopment of the region rather than trading blames?
I have agreed that there is need for the forensic audit. But what I am insisting on is that the Interim Management Board must not be tampered with because the source of the problem is the oversight function that has been given through the Act to certain people. The Interim Management Board does not owe its loyalty to the National Assembly. Its job is clear and distinct, go clear the rot. But I am saying that after the rot is cleared, let us also clear the debilitating factors. Let us deal with what is causing this problem ab initio and not the causative reactions. The problem if you remember under the Onene, I believe the first Managing Director of the NDDC, the problem was not much, but now every NDDC leadership owes all its life to some people in the National Assembly. That is unacceptable.
The NDDC was established and put under the presidency for a reason. It wanted to address the issue of underdevelopment and agitations in the region so that we can have a seamless way of producing oil and selling our oil. We in the Niger Delta are complaining of degradation, of dehumanization. That is what NDDC should take care of. What has happened to the master plan that came out from Timi Alaibe? It’s been dumped. All they do in NDDC is issue contracts without milestones. Knowing what have we achieved, where are we going and what should be done? Joy Nunieh’s board is not to take us forward. It is to look behind because the truth remains, and it is incontrovertible that until and unless the foundation on which we build the superstructure called NDDC is sustainably corrected, that is why I go to the Act, nothing good can be put on it. That is my position.
What will you want changed in the present NDDC Act?
First and foremost the NDDC Act must make the NDDC accountable to the Niger Delta itself. Once you make it accountable to the National Assembly, then it cannot carry what it is set up to achieve. Check the North East Development Commission today, the Act setting it up is quite different from the NDDC Act, why is that? There are no extraneous bodies in that commission. But for today, all I am interested in is that let a forensic audit be carried out and let those fat cows sitting at the National Assembly be put to the knife so that we can see whether they were doing their job of oversight or becoming cake sharers and developers of their own pecuniary interest rather than the interest of the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta is at fault. We have been slovenly, we have been very lazy in our intellectual and idiosyncratical attitude towards the NDDC. We only ask for crumbs to come to us rather than to ask where is that trillion? Where is that development? And challenge to know who are the contractors, what are the timelines and why is it not delivered? That is the crux of the matter!
That is the way to go because we have what it takes. We have the will to do it. So I am saying we will call a coalition of intellectual thinkers together that can think out a way through to solve this problem because we cannot continue to play the ostrich and sit down and watch what is going on go wrong. All we want from the Federal Government for now is that the Interim Management Board should not be hampered and that Dr. Joy Nunieh who I know personally as an amazon with a great heart can do this job without fear or favour. She will unearth the rot.
Omo-Agege Initiates Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege on Monday said, he had introduced a bill for comprehensive amendment of the Electoral Act No. 6 of 2010.
Omo-Agege said this at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room Stakeholders Forum on Elections, organised by the coalition of more than 70 civil societies in Abuja.
He said the bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Abubakar Kyari of Borno North Senatorial District, was now making its way to public hearing, having scaled Second Reading with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate.
“It is a decisive response to a plethora of our Supreme Court’s decision inviting the National Assembly to make sensible amendments to the Electoral Act.
“And I believe it is responsible for us to take the apex court’s constructive guidance on issues that fundamentally affect our democracy.
“This apart, Section 153 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, specifically and expressly empowers INEC to “issue regulations, guidelines, or manuals for the purpose of giving effects to the provisions of this Act and for its administration thereof.
“The pervasive non-compliance with the Guidelines, Regulations and Manuals, would carry clear consequences for people who think violating electoral due process is a rewarding exercise.
“The proposed Bill to amend the Electoral Act would focus on resolving issues surrounding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.’’
Omo-Agege said that the bill would also mandate INEC to publish the Voters’ Register for public scrutiny at every Registration Area and on its website, at least seven days before a general election.
According to him, it also mandates INEC to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that loses its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement.
He said the bill would grant agents of political parties the right to inspect original electoral materials before the commencement of election, define over-voting to include situations where “total votes cast also exceed total number of accredited voters’’.
According to the lawmaker, it also provides greater clarity and transparency in the process of reaching the final announcement of election results, starting with sorting of ballots, counting of votes among others.
Omo-Agege said the bill would mandate INEC to record and keep relevant detailed information of results sheets, ballot papers and other sensitive electoral materials used in an election, with clear consequences for violation.
He said the bill also provided sanctions for giving false information on registration of a political party, and that failure by INEC and others to comply with any provision of the Act carried clear and adequate sanctions.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who was represented by Mr Festus Okoye, Chairman Information and Voter Education, said the Commission was committed to electoral reforms that would strengthen the power and value of the vote.
Yakubu said the Commission would work assiduously with critical stakeholders in the electoral process in providing clarity, removing ambiguities, plugging existing lacuna in laws and constitutionally implementing those aspects of the law that guaranteed the credibility of elections.
“The Commission will definitely send its proposals to the National Assembly to clearly state aspects of the existing Law it supports, aspects that need further retooling, and new proposals that will strengthen the electoral process and the regulatory functions of the Commission.’’
Mr Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was committed to tackling electoral fraud and violence through the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission.
Malami who was represented by Ms Juliet Ibekaku, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Ethics and Justice, said the government was already working with the 9th National Assembly with a view to ensuring an early passage of amendments to the Electoral Act and the Election Offences Commission Bill into law.
Earlier, Mr Clement Nwankwo, Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, said the objective of the event was to discuss the current state of the electoral environment in the country.
Nwankwo said it also aimed to make recommendations and suggestions that would improve the political and electoral process in Nigeria.
“We believe INEC has the responsibility to be a key driver of the much needed change in the electoral sector,’’ he added.
‘We Are Confident Jonathan Won’t Defect To APC’
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Monday said it was confident that former President Goodluck Jonathan will not dump the party for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), no matter the amount of pressures piled on him to do so.
Speaking with newsmen a member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), who spoke on condition of anonymity said while they were aware of the scheming by the APC to lure the former President into its fold, it was confident that Jonathan will never leave the PDP.
He said the former president took the decision to support Lyon based on “personal reasons owing to the disagreement he had with Governor Dickson and not because of his interest in joining the APC”.
“ Yes, we have heard about it too. But we are not sleeping over it at all. We know former President Jonathan as a very loyal party man and one of the pillars of our great party. We are confident he will not join the APC no matter how they try to convince him.
“ I don’t want to go into details but from what we witnessed in the Bayelsa election, the people are not happy with the candidate anointed by Governor Dickson who was the candidate of the PDP. If that is the decision of Bayelsans, then I think the former president who is a tested democrat will align with that decision, irrespective of where the candidate the people wants comes from”.
Also speaking with our correspondent on whether the PDP has taken any action against Jonathan over his role in the party’s loss during the Bayelsa governorship election, the party’s National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan,said he was not aware if any letter was written by the party to the former President.
Ologbondiyan, who said there is no case concerning Jonathan at the national level said as a member of the Bayelsa state chapter of the party, if the former president had committed any wrongdoing, it was the state chapter of the party that will bring the report to the national level for action.
That, according to him nothing has not been done as at Monday.
“ I will have to ask the National Secretary if that was done because I am not the one that will write the letter. We are concerned about the loss of our party.
“Right now, there is no issue before us concerning the former President. The PDP is procedural. We work with procedures. If there were issues in a particular state, the state chapter will have to bring the issue before the national body before any action can be taken. That is the procedure” he said.
‘Violence Not Option For Transformation Of Nigeria’
United States.-based Human Rights Movement, the A.D. King Foundation, yesterday, advised Nigerian youths not to lose hope in the transformation of Nigeria, saying violence should not be an option.
The Chief Executive Officer of the foundation, Prof. Babs Onabanjo, made the submission in an interview with newsmen in Lagos.
Onabanjo said that the change the youths desired could be achieved in a non-violent form, a campaign that the foundation had been pursuing.
“It is sad that Nigerian youths have been asking questions which seems there are not answers to, but the fact is that the answer is no in one person’s hand to provide.
“If there is crisis or the crisis persists, what we should do is to seek for the solution and I am sure that there is hope for Nigeria.
“Our young leaders must have hope and not resort to violence; they should know that the hope will be challenged by their sacrifice and commitment to being good and doing the right thing.
“It is essential for the leaders to have followers, therefore, they must have integrity and influence.
“They must be able to communicate and persuade people in a reasonable way without resorting to violence,” he said.
Onabanjo said that some countries in the world had achieved greatness out of their problems without resorting to violence, a virtue Nigerian youths should emulate.
“Dr Martin Luther King said “Peace is not an absence of conflict, but the presence of Justice where there is no justice, there won’t be peace.
“The change our youths so desire can be achieved without violence because violence will not bring the right result, the youths need to appeal to other consciences to get result.
“The Civil Right Movement in the U.S., did not achieve their results through violence.
Also the Berlin Walls crumbled without violence.
So also the Apartheid regime in South Africa collapsed without shooting a gun.
“We should not lose hope yet although things seem not right, we should concentrate and believe that we will get it right; also our youths should engage the leaders constructively and positively”, he said.
A.D. King Foundation Inc., is a non-violent conflict resolution entity formed to revolutionise the mindset, attitude and behaviour that engages violence and war with non-violent principles, methods and direct actions.
The mission is to promote youth empowerment, development and non-violent social change strategies as a way of life throughout the world.
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