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Opposition In Rivers, On Terminal Decline – Hon. Herbert-Miller

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Hon. Herbert-Miller

Hon. Herbert-Miller

Honourable
Damiete Herbert-Miller is the Rivers State Commissioner for Social Welfare and Rehabilitation. Speaking with Opaka Dokubo in his office in Port Harcourt, he bared his mind on sundry issues in the polity including the withheld State Constituency results of DELGA and the ongoing restructuring effort of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the National level. Excerpts:

How do the people of Degema Local Govt. Area feel about the withholding of their house of Assembly Constituency Result by INEC?

Terribly disappointed, Degema people are terribly disappointed in INEC and the reason is obvious. The election was very peaceful, collations were made and declaration also made by one Mrs Ihuoma Ibekwe, I won’t forget her name, as the AEO, Degema. I do not know where it is written that after declaration the REC in the State will choose to withhold or confirm the declaration.

I think that the law is very clear in that anyone who has any issues with the declaration should head to the tribunal. So, Degema people are indeed disappoint in INEC on their handling of this matter.

Even though the candidate has gone to Court, are the people of Degema contemplating any other means of expressing their grievances?

Of course you know that the court is where anyone not satisfied with any process heads to. As it stands, any other measure outside going to the court to seek redress could amount to taking the law into your hands and Degema people know this too well as law abiding people. No Degema person would want this injustice redressed outside the ambit of the law. I think the candidate has done the most appropriate thing.

However, what is most surprising is that even as the candidate has taken INEC to court to release his certificate of return, APC and their candidate have also gone to court asking the court to prevail on INEC not to uphold his (the candidate of the PDP) victory but to issue the certificate of return instead. Logically, the APC and their candidate have also acknowledged that the candidate of the PDP, Hon. Doctor Farah Dagogo won the election.

Our contention is that INEC should issue Hon. Farah Dagogo his certificate of return and let the APC proceed to the tribunal to argue their case.

How does this absence of a representative in the State House of Assembly affect your people?

How can we go on without a representative? It is affecting us very badly because beyond the issue of representation, if anyone needs a letter of recommendation, that is the simplest service any representative renders to his constituents. As it stands now, the people of Degema Local Government Area have no one to render them that service.

Secondly, should anyone have something to bring to the notice of the government like communal issues, who will speak for the people? I am a commissioner but I can’t speak because my service area is the entire Rivers State. But the member representing the constituency is responsible to the constituency primarily because he was elected to do just that. So, it is an understatement to say that the absence of a representative for the people of Degema Local Government Area is affecting the people very badly.

How would you assess the performance of the Governor so far?

Sometime in February I went on tour to out stations under my ministry and of course you know that we’re the ones in charge of the deaf, the dumb and the blind. At the end of that tour I said something. I said that when I went to the Special School, the deaf have heard, the blind have seen and even the dumb have spoken that Governor Wike is working. It is as simple as that.

You don’t need to be told, go round Port Harcourt. Recall that on the 27th of May when the former governor was celebrating this birthday, he said that he would see where Governor Wike will get money to pay salaries, not to talk of money to do projects. Has he not been paying salaries? Is he not carrying out projects everywhere? Even Federal projects are not left out. Go and see what is happening to the Eleme Junction to Onne axis of the East/West Road. He has done it with Rivers’ money. Wike in short is a miracle worker.

How prepared is your Ministry to accommodate repentant cultists vis a vis the amnesty office established by the Governor?

This ministry actually has three rehabilitation centre. We have one at Iriebe where we accommodate the mentally challenged. We also have a rehabilitation centre at Borokiri where we have shut down at the moment for safety reasons. And then we have a modern, state-of-the-art rehabilitation camp at Okehi, so it’s not something we will have to task our heads on how to do.

Of course, you know that in this ministry, 90% of our staff are social workers and they are well equipped to handle rehabilitation cases. We’re fully prepared should we be required to shoulder that responsibility.

What is your task as a Ministry and How do you assess that task?

My ministry’s functions are spelt out and we operate within the law. Essentially, we provide social services to persons living with disability and to the needy generally. We take care of returnees and deportees. Beyond that we also take care of and rehabilitate repentant militants, rape victims, etc.

Recently we met with FIDA. Before FIDA we met with the Doctors Without Borders whose programme is centred on rape victims at the moment and we are partnering with them to set up a safe home for women and children who are affected.

At the moment we have the case of a little girl who was raped by her father and who eventually got pregnant and has a baby. We have just taken her and her baby in at the Children’s home, Borokiri.

It has to be understood that our ministry is a service ministry where you don’t see physical projects. The projects we carry out are mainly on human beings. That’s why many people fail to appreciate what we are doing. For instance, about two days ago I saw a youngman rolling on improvised means of mobility and I asked him to follow me. We got to the office and I handed him a wheel chair.

He could hardly contain himself with joy. If you go to the prison now, you will see a lot of juvenile inmates. They are our responsibility and where we accommodate them is the Remand Home.

If you go to our family Welfare unit, we handle more than 20 cases on a daily basis. We also take the responsibility of not only rehabilitating the mentally challenged but we also take the task of reuniting them with their families, sometimes outside the state, after a successful programme. Only a few months ago, we took somebody to Ogun State. At the moment we’re considering repatriating 10 young people to Cross River State to reunite with their families.

We need a lot of money to successfully run our programmes that includes giving assistance to the physically challenged as well we’re presently seeing one physically challenged through the University of Calabar. Of course government cannot carry this responsibility alone and that’s why we expect support and partnership from public spirited individuals and Corporate bodies.

Do you have confidence in the ongoing restructuring effort in the Peoples Democratic Party?

From 1998 when I joined the PDP until now, I have never lost confidence in the party. My confidence in the PDP can never be shaken. In a manner of speaking and at the risk of being misrepresented, I wish to say that it is after all blessing in disguise that the PDP allowed the APC to take poltical power at the federal level because today the emptiness of the APC has been exposed to the world.

Of course, Nigerians are wiser now and 2019 is as sure as the morning sun for the PDP to take back power in Nigeria. In terms of the economy, in what ways have they fared better? Everything they promised, has it not failed? Is the pump price of fuel now N40 as they said? Is the Naira now exchanging for one Naira to the US dollar? What is it they promised that they have delivered?

Of course, for as many as have left the PDP will come back because we will get stronger and stronger. Indeed, the results of the last elections in Rivers State is a testimony to the fact. In my particular village and ward, the leaders of the APC refused to show up during the elections because they know they were not on ground. Who will vote for them when all that they promised are collapsed? Their minister has nothing to lie about any more. They are on a terminal decline.

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PDP Reschedules NEC Meeting For Sept 26

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has slated September 26 for its second National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the year.
The date was announced by the party through its 2024 adjusted timetable and schedule of activities for congresses, which were released to party members and stakeholders on Monday.
Ahead of the September NEC meeting, the party has slated July 27 for the conduct of ward/delegate congresses to elect ward executives as well as three ad hoc delegates in 23 out of the 36 states of the country, including Abuja.
The timetable also disclosed that, among other things, the NEC is expected to ratify the list of executives that will emerge from the congresses.
According to the timetable, local government congresses to elect council executives and national delegates in 21 affected states are expected to follow on August 10th.
Recall that in April, the PDP held its first NEC meeting after acrimonious elections in 2023, where many of its high-profile members were involved in anti-party activities.
The party remains polarised, with some members supporting former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the party, and others queuing behind the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Nyesom Wike.
The outcome of the election and issues surrounding the role played by its leaders led to the suspension of the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, by his Igyorov Ward executives from the Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State.
However, the effort to remove the Acting National Chairman, Ambassador Illiya Damagum, to allow the North Central region where Ayu hails from to produce its successor was deferred to the next NEC meeting earlier slated for August, which has now been shifted to September.

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Edo, Ondo 2024: INEC Warns Personnel Against Corrupt Practices

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the success of any election largely depends on the professionalism and competence of those responsible for conducting it.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this while warning its personnel against unethical and corrupt practices in the upcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
He spoke on Monday in Abuja at a lecture in honour of late Abubakar Momoh, former director-general of The Electoral Institute (TEI), from August 2013 to May 2017.
Prof. Yakubu, represented by the National Commissioner, and Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, warned that any unethical practice before, during and after those elections would incur severe punishments under the law.
The theme of the lecture was: “Achieving Professionalism Among Election Personnel Through Effective Training in Preparation for the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections.’’
He advised electoral officers to be guided by the principles of integrity, impartiality, transparency, professionalism, gender and disability sensitivity.
He said it was important for electoral personnel to be knowledgeable, skilled and well-equipped with relevant competencies to handle the complexities and challenges of the electoral process.
“Moreover, the crucial role election personnel play in upholding the integrity of our democratic processes cannot be overstressed.
“The manner in which they discharge their duties and responsibilities affects the degree of confidence voters will have in the electoral process, which will impact their participation and turnout,’’ he said.
Prof. Yakubu said that to ensure credibility and trustworthiness in elections and build trust among the electorate, INEC had always prioritised the professional development of its election personnel.
He said the commission identified effective and efficient electoral training as the key to unlocking professionalism among election personnel.
“The commission’s involvement in effective training programmes has empowered its staff to uphold the highest standards of integrity and professionalism in order to strengthen our processes and procedures to serve the interests of all Nigerians,’’ he said.
The Director General of TEI, Dr Sa’ad Idris, in his remarks, said that INEC, in pursuit of its mission and vision, had prioritised professionalism toward achieving free, credible, transparent and inclusive elections.
“As we prepare for the 2024 Edo and Ondo off-cycle governorship elections, the commission is assured that the outcome of effective training of election personnel will manifest in a high level of professionalism”, he said.

 

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Reps Propose Rotational Presidency, Six-Year Single Term

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A bill seeking a single term of six years for the President and state governors was brought up on Monday by 35 members of the House of Representatives.
The bill also canvasses the rotation of the presidency among the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The 35 legislators, under the auspices of Reform-minded Legislators, said the proposition would lead to a reduction in the cost of governance.
Addressing a press conference at the National Assembly Complex on Monday, the spokesman for the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere, added that the move would unite the country and ensure a seamless transition and unprecedented development for the country.
Hon Ugochinyere emphasised the need to interrogate the challenges facing the Nigerian state, saying, “We should not be afraid to meet and discuss our problems, challenges, fears, aspirations, and prospects as a people. We should not discuss in fear and we should never fear to discuss.”
Speaking on the bill, Hon Ugochinyere, who represents Ideato North/Idaeto South Federal Constituency of Imo State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said, “On governance, we are proposing a constitutional alteration to provide for the rotation of executive powers among the six geopolitical zones to ensure equal representation and reduce the desperation and tempo of agitation for the creation of states. We are proposing to amend Section 3 of the constitution to provide for the recognition of the division of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones.
“And also, to amend the constitution to provide for a single tenure of six years for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the state governors. This will bring about a reduction in government spending and wastage; promote efficiency in governance, and national stability by providing a single term of six years for the President and the governors.”
The lawmakers drawn from different political parties are also seeking amendments to the constitution “to create the office of two Vice Presidents from the southern and northern parts of Nigeria.”
Hon Ugochinyere explained that the First Vice President would be a succession vice president, while the Second Vice President would be a minister in charge of the economy, and both shall be ministers.
Hon Ugochinyere said the 35 lawmakers were also pushing for a “constitutional amendment to provide that the President and the First Vice President shall come from the same part of the country (North or South) and the First Vice President shall become President whenever the President becomes incapacitated, that is, VP (succession), VP (Administration and Economy).”
The bill also seeks financial autonomy and accountability of local government councils by prescribing an independent Consolidated Local Government Council Account solely superintendent by Local Councils. It prescribes long-term imprisonment for any misuse of local government funds.
On electoral reforms, the group proposed amendments to the relevant sections of the Electoral Act to ensure “that all elections (presidential, governorship, National Assembly, state Houses of Assembly, and local Governments) are held on the same day.”
Hon Ugochinyere said, “We are pushing for amendments to relevant sections of the Electoral Act to provide that no declaration of a winner of an election shall be done by the relevant Independent National Electoral Commission officials until such officer has compared the results with the list of accredited voters and ensured that the results to be declared are in tandem with the list of accredited voters and the B-VAS machine or any other electronic device.
“Amend the Electoral Act to provide that any INEC officer who declares a false result will be liable for civil and criminal action personally brought against him by parties in the elections.
“An amendment to the Electoral Act to provide that all election-related litigations must be resolved and determined by the Elections Petitions Tribunal, Appeal Courts, etc before the winners are sworn into the respective elective offices.

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