The Senate warned yesterday that allegations of state-sponsored violence in Kaduna, Kano and Kogi States, could create conditions that would undermine democracy in the country.It also set up a panel to look into the allegations in Kogi, and to report back to it in two weeks. Senator Ahmed Salau Ogembe, representing Kogi Central, yesterday, sought the upper chamber’s intervention following his ordeal in the hands of hoodlums in Okene during an empowerment programme he organised for his constituents.
The lawmaker regretted that political violence, kidnappings, killings and assassinations have become commonplace in his state, while the police “choose to turn a blind eye.”
He said: “The Nigeria Police Force Area Commander and the Divisional Police Officers of Okene, Okehi and Adavi, which are Local Government Areas under Kogi Central senatorial district, seem to be under undue influence and strong control of the local government area administrator.
This political intimidation and violence has seemingly increased because of the 2019 general elections, which is less than a year away.”Ogembe claimed that many of his supporters who participated in the programme were beaten and that others were kidnapped and dumped in bushes and uncompleted buildings.
Some senators highlighted violent political situations in Kaduna and Kano states, recalling how they could not visit or organise meetings for fear of attacks. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said: “Last two weeks, we were talking about the house of a senator which was destroyed in Kaduna State.
We were talking about how security operatives laid siege on Dino Melaye. We are talking about Kwankwaso, who was stopped from going to his state, which he had ruled for eight years.
“In Kaduna, Shehu Sani cannot organise a meeting, and we are talking of democracy. And somebody says this democracy is going to continue this way. It is not. People are holding meetings everyday on how to deal with each and every one of us here.”There is the need for the international community to know this because they helped restore democracy to Nigeria. Some people are trying to truncate that entire democracy. We are now second-class citizens, not just in Africa but also in West Africa.”
He said further: “The problem in Nigeria now is that our democracy is receding and the international community needs to know this. Who says that the army cannot take over in Nigeria? It is possible. So, let us not joke with our democracy, especially with the way things are going.”
Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki who presided over the session, said: “It is not really just about Kogi State. It is clear from what we are seeing that Kogi is coming to a point where it is becoming a threat to our democracy. And we are going to be very serious about it. It cannot be seen to be defying our democracy because this is not what our democracy is about.
“For the role that we continue to make in the comity of nations, we must be seen as making good examples for other parts of the world. We must get to the bottom of this. We must take actions to stop these things from happening. This cannot be the democracy that we should be talking about after 20 years. It is totally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, raised concerns over underground plots to impeach the Senate president, Abubakar Bukola Saraki and destabilize the leadership of the Upper Chamber by some disaffected members.
Senator Obinna Ogba representing Ebonyi North under Order 43 alerted the Senate of surreptitious moves to cause crisis in the Senate.
He said against the backdrop of earlier rumour, it was now reported to be a verifiable fact as whooping sums of money was alleged to have started exchanging hands among some senators, civil society organisations and market women.
Ogba specifically accused Senator Abdullahi Adamu representing Nasarawa West of being the mastermind and arrowhead of the ongoing plot.
He said, “I have evidence to prove what I’m saying as there were telephone discussions between Adamu and other people. It is a serious issue.
‘We must stand up to look into this urgent matter, and not dismiss it with a wave of hand.”
The lawmaker, in support of his report, laid documentary evidence before the hallowed chamber for a speedy consideration and action.
Recall that Senator Isa Misau had earlier raised the alarm over a similar plot to remove the Senate President.
He had alleged that during the Senate’s New Year holiday, cabals in the Presidency became suspicious that the Senate President may defect to PDP, and they made up their minds to initiate impeachment moves against him.
In its reaction, Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters has responded to a comment by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu on the Nigerian Military, while contributing to a debate on a motion sponsored by Senator Ahmed Ogembe, representing Kogi Central.
Ekweremadu had stated that “The problem in Nigeria is that our democracy is receding. Who says army cannot take over, let us not joke with our democracy that is the issue”.
Brigadier General A Agim, Acting Director Defence Information, in a statement yesterday said while the statement appear cautionary and sincere in the atmosphere of discourse, it is derogatory to the Army used in the expression and by extension to the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
He said: “The statement in the true sense has the capacity to denigrate the Nigerian Military in every ramification including its loyalty to the President Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the confidence of the general public to defend Nigeria’s democracy.
“In the light of this, the Defence Headquarters wish to state clearly that the Nigerian Military has come of age and is in tune with best international military practices of complete and total subordination to democratic governance.
“In this regard, it is worthy to remind the general public about some key measures among others that guaranteed the present sustainable status of politically unambitious members of the Armed Forces:
“Shortly, after the transition from a military to a democratically elected government in 1999, officers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, who were quasi-political, were honourably eased out of service. This was done to avoid indoctrination of other officers in the Military in order to enable the democratic government commence a re-professionalisation process of the Armed Forces.
“The process commenced in collaboration with international organisations such as the United States Armed Forces and the British Military. By 2009, from the basic military training institutions through units and formation reorientation programmes to top management workshops and seminars for the military, it became clear that the Armed Forces of Nigeria has been re-professionalised to be totally subordinate to political leadership and democracy in the Country.
“In addition, the Nigerian Military began to take the lead at ensuring that the West African Sub Region is stable democratically through military diplomacy and physical actions where it is highly desirable and supported by ECOWAS.
“The case of the Gambia last year is still fresh in our memories, where democracy was enforced by an ECOWAS Military Coalition led by the Armed Forces of Nigeria, under the focused and abled leadership of Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General AG Olonisakin (NAM).
“Furthermore, the present crop of personnel in the Armed Forces of Nigeria right from the Service Chiefs to the men; are made up of the balance of re-professionalised officers and fresh intakes from 1999, who do not nurse political ambitions. They are fully committed to their oaths of allegiance to serve their fatherland Nigeria, with total submission to our democratic government.
“Defence Headquarters hereby assures the international community, Nigeria’s democratic institutions and the general public, of its unalloyed loyalty to the President Commander in Chief, provision of all necessary support for the sustenance of our democracy and carrying out our constitutional roles.
“Therefore, the apprehension by the Deputy President of the Senate should be totally disregarded.”
Nigeria Needs Effective Leadership To Be Great -Wike
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that Nigeria needs effective leadership for the country to achieve the dreams and aspirations of its founding fathers.
He stated this during the Juma’at service in commemoration of the 62nd Independence Anniversary of Nigeria, held at the JIBWIS Directorate Headquarters, Central Mosque, Bonny Street, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor, who was represented by the Special Adviser on School Sports, Dr Okiri Mohammed, said despite the numerous challenges bedevilling the country, Nigerians must collectively resolve to make the nation great.
“Remember we have one country Nigeria, and we must make it great. For us to make it great, we must see it as our duty.”
The Rivers State governor said the task of nation building was the responsibility of every citizen of the country, and the 62nd Independence anniversary celebration should be seen as a time for stocktaking.
He emphasised that Nigerians must collectively continue to demand for probity and accountability from the leadership in order to move the country forward.
“Let us continue to ensure that there is probity and accountability in this country. We need effective leadership in this country before it will go forward.”
The governor charged Muslims to continue to preach the message of peace and join hands with other Nigerians to reduce crime and poverty in Nigeria.
”As Muslim you are charged to preach peace in your various homes. We have to make sure we collectively reduce poverty and crime. We have to make sure that this country is better.”
The governor pointed out that the country is at a critical juncture, and charged Nigerians to participate effectively in the 2023 general election.
“We don’t have another country apart from Nigeria and so, all of us collectively and individually have a duty to make this country better.”
Delivering his sermon, the Imam of Bonny Island, Yusuf Lamis, charged Nigerians to be patriotic and contribute to the development of the nation.
He said the earnest prayer of every Muslims in the country is for God’s intervention in the emergence of credible political leaders in the 2023 general election.
Wike Intervenes In Ula-Ehuda, Julius Berger Dispute
Hope for the speedy completion of the dualisation of Ahoada-Omoku highway has been rekindled, following the intervention of Rivers State Governor, Chief NyesomWike, in the face-off between Ula-Ehuda community and the Julius Berger, the construction company handling the project.
Wike, who visited Ula-Ehuda, yesterday, to assess the progress of the ongoing construction work and to settle the disagreement between the community and Julius Berger, advised youths in the community to learn how to channel their problem appropriately to the government.
The governor, who was accompanied by the Rivers State Commissioner of Works, Dr. Dakorinama George-Kelly; former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Chibudum Nwuche; Deputy Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ehie Ogerenye Edison; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard bearer in Rivers State, Sir Siminialayi Fubara; and others, said his administration takes exception to disruption of construction work in any part of state.
He admonished community leaders in the state, irrespective of their political leanings, never to politicise the issue of development, as this could be detrimental to the progress of their people.
“I tell people: don’t be a curse to yourself. And I’ve always told people too: don’t bring politics in the development of a place. If you bring politics, you’ll suffer it. None of you put pressure on us to say we must dualise this road.”
The governor explained that his administration took the decision to dualise the road in recognition of the fact that it would promote access to economic and social services, generate increased agricultural incomes and productive employment opportunities and reduce poverty in the state.
Wike, who urged the community to support the state government’s effort to improve infrastructure in the area, cautioned that government would, henceforth, not tolerate any disruption of the ongoing dualisation work.
“If you have problem, channel your problem appropriately. But don’t come and begin to use your young boys and young girls to stop the road construction.”
The governor assured the community that the concerns raised would be adequately addressed, adding that the government would not allow anyone or group of individuals to derail the progress of the area.
“We have come to open up your community to be like a city, and you want to send your community backwards, it will not work. Support us to do what we are doing.”
Earlier, the Chairman,Ula-Ehuda Community Development Committee, Monday Princewill Evergreen, thanked Wike for the project, and appealed for the inclusion of drainage in the Ula-Ehuda section of the Ahoada-Omoku highway.
“We are grateful that you brought this project to our community, not just our community, Ahoada East. For long, we had envisaged that this road will be dualised and constructed. It was until you came that that dream was realised, and the community and the entire people of Ekpeye are eternally grateful to you.”
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Dr. George-Kelly D. Alabo, had advised some protesting youths at the Ula-Ehuda axis of Ahoada-Omoku Dual Carriageway to shun obstructive means of demonstration at the project site, because if the project,was not completed as a result of their actions, the people of the area would be the ones to lose and not Julius Berger.
George-Kelly advised them to allow the construction giant to continue with their work while he makes an arrangement for a round-table talk between all parties involved to find an amicable solution to the contentious issue on drainage before the end of the week.
Residents of Ula-Ehuda in Ahoada East Local Government Area were addressed by the commissioner, who was accompanied by the Chairman of Ahoada East Local Government Council, Hon. Ben Eke, to inspect the Ahoada-Omoku Dual Carriageway project, last Tuesday.
“I am not here to blame anybody but to solve a problem. I am here to provide a solution that will be good for the community, the government, and the contractor. If we must tell ourselves the truth, stopping them from working will not solve the problem, it would even put you at the disadvantaged end because if this project is not completed, it is the people of this area that will lose, not Julius Berger.
“Please, do not make the mistake some youths of a particular local government area made. They stopped two projects of the state government in their area over frivolous demands, the state government made several attempts to persuade them to allow the construction of the projects to continue, like I am doing now, but they refused. Contractors left sites, and the projects were abandoned. Two years after, the contactors are yet to resume work for excuses of community disturbances. When the contractors eventually go back to sites, the projects may become more expensive for government, given the current fluctuations.
“The best thing to do now is to allow the contractor to finish the initial scope of the project first.Maybe, before the commissioning, you can make this other demand, and we will forward same to the governor. Please, realise that even in your demands, due process has to be followed.
“I am appealing to you to allow them complete this work on schedule so that it can be commissioned by or before December. By Friday this week (yesterday), I’ll be having a meeting between the ministry, the council chairman, representatives of Julius Berger, the project CLOs, and Ula-Ehuda community leaders. I will like the community to include, at least, two indigenous civil engineers in their delegation so that they can understand and interprete to you some technical details that would be discussed in the meeting,” the commissioner added.
Also, the commissioner inspected the 8.020km Akpabu-Itu-Omudioga Road project, phase 1 in Emohua Local Government Area.
Checks show that asphaltic binder course had been completed for the entire road length and 700m asphalt wearing course had been done so far.
The project is 75percent completed and in progress.
Catholic Bishops Vow To Work For Credible Polls In 2023
Bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja have pledged to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure free, credible and transparent general elections in 2023.
The commitment is contained in a communiqué jointly signed by Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Abuja and Very Rev. Fr. Sam Tumba, after the 3rd General assembly of the Archdiocese.
In the communique issued on Saturday in Abuja, the bishops enjoined Parishes, families, Church societies and groups to dedicate special moments to pray for a hitch-free election.
“We call on Catholics and indeed all Nigerian citizens to be consciously and actively involved in the electoral processes at all levels.
“Voter registration, collection of Permanent Voters Card, casting votes on election days with a firm and clear conscience to elect credible leaders who will bring about the true dividends of democracy”, they said.
The bishops commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act into law to enhance the sanctity of the electoral process.
“We task the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure political fairness and transparency, to consolidate the trust reposed in them by Nigerians.
“Parishes and Catholic institutions within our Archdiocese are encouraged to arrange and organize voter awareness programmes, seminars and workshops guided by the Justice, Development and Peace Commission, to better equip our people for greater political responsibility.
“We remain open and willing to collaborate with relevant government agencies, electoral bodies and security operatives to ensure peaceful and credible election processes in the coming year,” the communique added.
The bishops cautioned politicians not to regard the election as a ‘do or die’ affair, adding that they must also refrain from money politics, manipulative and divisive practices along ethnic, social and religious lines to win elections.
“Even though we decry the hard economic situations in the nation, we strongly discourage all Catholics and especially our youths from lending themselves as easy recruits for political thuggery and other criminal activities to enthrone selfish and incompetent aspirants into electoral offices.
“We discourage and condemn any form of vote buying or selling and other electoral malpractices during the elections,” the bishops said.
The bishops advised catholic politicians from all political parties within the Archdiocese to participate in Church activities, so as to be better known by the faithful.
They called on all people of goodwill to cooperate with security agencies to root out criminal elements within communities.
The bishops, however, urged security agents to remain professional in discharging their duties and resist any attempt to be used to intimidate the people by corrupt politicians.
The communique called on Catholics across the country to match work with prayer, for peaceful electioneering process.
They called for sustained prayers for the country, adding: “Nigerians should take courage and be of ardent hope, for the storms will soon be over.”
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