Senate President, David Mark, yesterday assured Nigerians that the nation will not disintegrate after the February general elections contrary to predictions that the aftermath of the poll would determine the continued existence of the country.
Mark, who stated this in his welcome speech on resumption of plenary after the Christmas and New Year holidays, asked his colleagues to see the forthcoming elections as a national challenge by playing a major role to ensure a peaceful exercise.
He said, “Despite the much vaunted fear, apprehension and anxiety that our nation may not survive the elections by some dooms-day prophets, I personally remain optimistic that we have the strength of character, the political will, the perseverance and maturity to rise above all the challenges that lie ahead. We are all leaders and I know that we will work towards peace and harmony. Our nation will not disintegrate after the elections.”
He appealed to politicians and the entire political class, to support the Independent National Electoral Commission in its responsibilities without hindrance in order to achieve free, transparent and credible elections, and urged the INEC to take into account, “the wishes of a large body of internally displaced persons who have expressed their desire to have their votes cast and counted.”
He said, “The electoral season brings an unusual amount of scrutiny. We are in the fevered grip of elections but despite the pregnancy of expectation and the excitement being generated by the elections, we must always stick to the task of delivering democratic dividends to our people. Politicians must desist from provocative and inciting utterances. We may be in different political parties but we are not enemies. We must educate, caution and guide our supporters and followers. Election should be an asset to democracy but where it leads to violence or acrimony, it becomes a liability.
“We must, irrespective of party affiliations, do our best to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections. At the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to emphasize that for us to hold an elective office, there must first be a nation. I urge all my distinguished colleagues to continue to set example for conduct in the public sphere. I am disturbed and saddened by the war songs emanating from many quarters, particularly from highly placed Nigerians who are threatening fire and brimstone. Elections need not dissolve into theatres of war. It is my belief that war mongering will only result in a legacy that we will all regret,” he added.
Mark urged politicians to renew their priorities, listen to one another more attentively and remind themselves, ways that their aspirations and destinies were intertwined as a people.
He said, “The task before us is enormous but not insurmountable. My distinguished bosses, we are equal to it and we will rise to any challenge that lies in our path. It is my belief that together we can make Nigeria great. As we do our best to serve our country, we need to cherish the beauty in our diversity. Rather than dwell on what divides us, let us look continually at what unites us.”
He commended the senators for the stability which the Senate was enjoying in this 7th Assembly, and urged them to continue to work together for the progress of the nation.
Meanwhile, the next House of Representatives would be short of experienced legislators following their inability to secure tickets to return to the Green Chamber.
Speaker of the House, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal made this observation, yesterday in his opening speech when the House resumed from its Christmas recess.
It is perhaps this issue that informed the defection of five legislators to other parties other than those that granted them ticket to the House.
According to him, ”the return rate of many legislators after the party primaries was below expectation. The expertise of those who lost primaries to re-contest the House will be greatly missed.”
He also expressed worry that crucial bills such as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the Electoral Act amendment bill and others are still pending.
Tambuwal also announced the defections of Eddie Mbadiwe (Imo) from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the ruling PDP.
The lawmaker cited as his reason the divisions in the party, which he said now have three factions.
The little known Social Democratic Party (SDP) gained three more members, two in Ogun State and one in Taraba.
Both Reps. Murtala Kayode Busari and Ibrahim Adeniyi, formerly of APC and Accord respectively, joined the SDP in Ogun State, just as Rep. Jerry Manwe left the ruling PDP in Taraba for the SDP.
In Niger, the PDP lost Ibrahim Gambo to the opposition APC.
Dislodge Illegal Oil Refinery Operators, Wike Tasks Monarchs
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has urged traditional rulers in the state not to allow illegal crude oil refining (Kpo-fire) activities to take place in their domains anymore.
Wike gave the charge at a meeting he held with traditional rulers in the state at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, last Friday.
The meeting was also attended by heads of security agencies and chairmen of the 23local government areas of the state.
Wike told the traditional rulers that those involved in illegal oil refining activities were sabotaging the economy.
He regretted that the Federal Government, which controls the oil industry and the security agencies, has been indifferent to the soot pandemic and the damage it was inflicting on the health of the residents of Rivers State.
“I should think that the way Federal Government intends to fight insurgency is the way they should fight illegal oil bunkering, because it is sabotage on the national economy. Very big sabotage! It affects our own revenue.
“If we are supposed to produce two million barrels, for example, we are now producing 1.2million. And that 1.2million barrels, it affects Rivers State because we are not producing up to the volume we are supposed to produce, and then, we cannot get the money to do whatever you want us to do.”
The governor also said that illegal oil refining activities constitute environmental hazard capable of causing cancer-related illnesses in the state.
According to him, his primary concern was to ensure that the health of residents of the state was not jeopardised.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to see how this thing can be stopped. As I speak to you, nobody has called me from the Federal Government to say how they can support us. But that is not my business. My business is the health of my people. I will not because the Federal Government is not interested to stop it, therefore, my people should die. If everybody dies, who are you going to govern?”
The governor, therefore, urged the traditional rulers not to be less concerned about the activities of illegal oil refinery operators, but to frantically mobilise members of their Community Development Committees (CDCs) and the leadership of their youth groups to work in synergy to dislodge them from their domains.
Wike berated the Nigerian Police for being complicit in the criminal act of illegal oil bunkering, which is why they were not committed to the fight to stop the illicit business.
He also described as embarrassing how officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have continued to be complicit in the act and shamelessly involved in sabotaging the national economy.
“I don’t know how I can be a security officer sent to a place to protect people, to protect whatsoever belongs to the Federal Government, at the same time, I’m involved in sabotaging the national economy. I don’t understand how I can wear uniform and be involved in that. If they do not want to support us, we have no choice but to expose all the atrocities that are going on in this state.”
Wike said he recently received intelligence that an Army Major was providing exit services to illegally refined petroleum products, and had to send security personnel to thwart it.
“In fact, I had to send my special security to go and intercept a major who was trying to escort some of these illegal products.”
The governor declared that his administration would not hesitate to expose any security personnel involved in such illegal oil refining activities.
Wike frowned at the inability of the Nigeria Police to arrest Chief W. J. Wocha; Fubara Ohaka; and other members of the illegal bunkering cartel operating at Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area.
He said the names of all indicted persons would be published soon and they would be declared wanted.
Rivers Rating In Ease Of Doing Business Rises -Banigo
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo has said that the sub-National Ease of Doing Business Baseline Survey indicates that Rivers State was doing great in the Ease of Doing Business Index in the country.
Banigo stated this at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, last Thursday, shortly after her arrival from Abuja, where she represented the State Chief Executive, Chief Nyesom Wike at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the National Economic Council meeting.
Banigo disclosed that the factors, which determine this survey, include infrastructure, security and healthcare.
“With the 10 flyovers the governor was constructing in Rivers State, and of course, with all the other infrastructure in health, education; and the monumental improvement in security as well as the clearing of the hideouts of criminals, obviously gave us a head way in doing very well in this baseline survey”, the deputy governor further stressed.
According to the public health physician, the response of the state to the COVID-19 pandemic, under the watch of the governor as the incident manager, has been tremendous in terms of healthcare delivery.
“I want to encourage the citizens of the state to maintain the non-pharmaceutical measures like the correct wearing of face masks, regular washing of hands with soap and running water for, at least, 20 seconds, social distancing, coughing and sneezing into one’s elbow as well as the improvement of personal and environmental hygiene. I also want to encourage Rivers people that vaccination actually reduces the mortality and morbidity that arises from COVID-19″, Banigo said.
Ex-Agitators Beg Firms To Return To N’Delta
Ex-agitators have pleaded with companies especially oil companies that relocated from the Niger Delta region following spate of insecurity triggered by militancy to return to the region promising uninterrupted peace.
The former warlords also called on interventionist agencies to work together to sustain the peace and ensure development of the region.
They spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a regional peace summit to sensitize people on the need to advance the peace currently enjoyed in the region.
The ex-agitators also condemned proliferation of illegal refineries and lamented its adverse effects on development.
One of the participants at the summit and ex-freedom fighter, Pastor Nature Dumale Kieghe said as ex-agitators, who keyed into the vision of the Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd), they have resolved to work for a new and better Niger Delta.
“It is important to sensitize our people towards a peaceful Niger Delta and create a friendly environment that will attract development, Multinational companies and other foreign investors to the region.
“We, who once carried guns, are now here to preach the message of peace to our people in the region. Peace is the only way we can have the developed environment that we dream of. Peace is the only way to attract the multinationals, investors and also be gainfully employed,” he said.
According to Nature, peace remained a vital tool to attract investors to the region which would in turn create business and job opportunities for the people.
“Companies that have left the Niger Delta because of insecurity need to return, this is the purpose for sensitization. We are blessed with an environment that is supposed to prosper us, we can only enjoy our natural resources if there is a peaceful environment, “ he added.
Nature pointed out that a major setback to the development of the Niger Delta was the absence of proper coordination among key stakeholders.
He said with the right synergy, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Presidential Amnesty office, could hasten the needed development of the region.
On illegal oil refinery, Nature explained that beyond hampering the development of the region, illegal refining of petroleum products was life threatening and dangerous to the ecosystem.
The sensitization programme commenced in Bayelsa state with 150 Niger Delta youths in attendance and would be held across the nine states of the region to create adequate awareness.
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