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Rivers Guber Election: INEC Lists Timeline For Conclusion …Resumes Results Collation, Announcement April 2,5 …Re-Run Polls To Hold April 13 …Court Rejects AAC’s Move To Stop Results Collation

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finally released the much awaited timeline for the completion of the electoral processes in Rivers State.
Consequently, the commission has said that it would resume collation of Rivers State governorship election results on April 2, and announce the same on April 5.
The Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, who disclosed this during a press conference at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, yesterday, said that the venue for the collation and announcement of results would be decided at a meeting with critical stakeholders on March 30.
The INEC national commissioner stated that the commission would hold an inter-agency security meeting on March 29, after which guidelines would be issued on the election, adding that efforts would also be made to undertake the revalidation of polling agents and observers.
He said that the electoral body would conduct supplementary elections on April 13 in local government areas where elections could not hold on March 9.
Okoye explained that such decision to conduct supplementary election where necessary, and in some constituencies not affected by litigation, would depend on the outcome of results collation in the state.
He further said that certificates of return would be issued to successful candidates on April 19.
Okoye also said that the commission was set to deploy national commissioners in various states where supplementary election would take place on March 23, to monitor the process and present certificates of return to the winners.
It would be recalled that supplementary elections had been scheduled for Plateau, Benue, Kano, Sokoto, as well as Adamawa and Bauchi, but litigations have put question marks on the possibility of any rerun polls for Bauchi and Adamawa this weekend.
However, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) elders in Rivers State have come hard on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), accusing it of working with extraneous forces to shift the date of collation of results of the March 9 governorship election to April 2.
They warned that doing so was tantamount to deliberately precipitating constitutional crisis and setting the state on fire.
It would be recalled that INEC had earlier set March 20 date for the commencement of collation of results for the governorship/state assembly election which it suspended as a result controversy over the alleged infamous role played by security agencies at collation centres in the state.
But in what appears a twist, yesterday, the commission announced that it would resume collation of the results on April 2, and announce results arising therefrom on April 5.
The Rivers State African Action Congress (AAC/APC) alliance, led by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi had approached an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Inyang Ekpo for an ex-parte order restraining INEC from going ahead with the collation and announcement of results of the election, a motion the judge rejected.
INEC said it had already collated the results of 17 local government areas and would conclude the collation of remaining councils as soon as possible.
Speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday, the elders, including former governor of the state, Sir Celestine Omehia, former minister of transport, Abiye Sekibo, Chairman of the state’s chapter of PDP, Bro Felix Obua and Sergeant Awuse, accused INEC of dancing to the tune of extraneous forces and working to set the state on fire by shifting the collation date to April 2.
The elders described as dishonourable and shameful the decision of the commission to recant from its earlier promise to start the collation of results of the election on March 20.
“What INEC wants to do is to precipitate crisis in Rivers State. It is now clear that it has bowed to extraneous forces,” Obuah said.
Warning that INEC was treading on a dangerous ground with the shift in the date of the collation of results, the elders said INEC’s move has the potential of setting it against the people of the state.
Meanwhile, a coalition under the auspices of Civil Society Election Observers in Rivers State has urged INEC to make provision in extant legislation that would encourage electronic voting in Nigeria in the 2023 General Election.
The coalition, while revealing details of its findings in its iReport Platform during a press conference in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday, emphasised the merit of electronic voting, adding that when adopted, it would reduce election violence and negative activities associated with it.
Speaking in an interview, the group’s spokesperson, Ogunduesi Nwoke, said that electronic voting would solve the challenge of massive rigging and widespread violence during elections.
Nwoke stated that the platform was requesting INEC to set up a panel of inquiry to determine the undue involvement of the Nigerian Army and police in the 2019 General Election, particularly in Rivers State.
Speaking at the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, called on the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, to end the pattern of inconclusive elections and conclude that of Rivers and Bauchi states.
Secondus, who led the National Working Committee of the PDP, during a courtesy visit to Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, urged the electoral body not to cause a crisis with the manoeuvring of results.
“I call on the Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu not to set this country into crisis because of inconclusive elections. It has never happened in the history of our country.
“This manoeuvring and inconclusive election, even elections concluded and done with, results cannot be collated at the headquarters in Rivers and Bauchi. He should move ahead to conclude these elections immediately so that the people can be at peace and rest.”
However, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, alleged that some persons in the state are making attempts to stop the process of result collation by INEC.
“Attempts have been made to stop collation as announced by INEC. This morning the political parties that contested the elections with us, have all gone to court to seek for stopping of collation. But the court did not grant them.
“But we prefer the move because it is the due process. The pain is the antics by security agencies trying to intimidate collation and electoral officers, inviting them for one offence of the other so as to impede on the collation of results,” Wike added.
Meanwhile, Justice Inyang Ekpo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has denied an application filed by the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Biokpomabo Awara, seeking to stop the collation of results for the March 9 Rivers State Governorship and House of Assembly elections.
Ekpo held that the application brought before the court was such that the court cannot grant without hearing from the other party.
The plaintiff, represented by Tawo Tawo, in an ex-parte application, had prayed for an order to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from going ahead to resume, conclude and announce the results.
But the judge, after listening to the submission of the plaintiffs, chose not to grant their prayers.
Instead, the judge ordered the plaintiffs to put the respondents on notice on the suit, and fixed March 25, for both the plaintiffs and respondents to appear before him to present their positions.
Earlier, Ekpo had drawn the attention of the plaintiffs’ counsel to news making the round that he had already stopped the electoral body from going ahead to take further action.
The judge also drew the attention of the senior counsel to one Inyang Ewa, who granted the purported order, but the counsel denied the existence of such name as a Federal High Court judge.
Ekpo subsequently reprimanded those behind the fake news, adding that it was wrong for anybody or group to resort to self-help because such had been prohibited in the judiciary.
The plaintiffs had in their originating summons prayed the court to stop INEC from resuming collation and conclusion of the March 9 election results in Rivers State and from declaring any person or group as winners of the poll.
The plaintiffs specifically applied for an order compelling the electoral body to maintain the suspension of the electoral processes as announced on March 10.

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We’ll Prioritise Health Sector In 2025 Budget, Fubara Assures WHO …Recommits To More Healthcare Access

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has said that Rivers people deserve a functional healthcare system that will avail them easy access to reliable and affordable quality services to enable them to stay healthy always.
To achieve this goal, Governor Fubara reiterated the determination of his administration to commit huge budgetary allocation to the sector in the 2025 budget in order to give necessary financial support to drive the activities in the sector.
This, he noted, will further strengthen what is being done already in ensuring that healthcare facilities in the State are functional at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels to achieve universal access for the people.
Governor Fubara give the assurance when he received in audience a delegation of the World Health Organisation (WHO), led by the Country Representative, Dr Kazadi Walter Molumbo, at Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The Governor said: “As a matter of fact, in our 2025 budget, we have three key areas: Health, Education and Agriculture. They are our key areas in our 2025 budget. We believe that when we roll out that budget, greater part of the health issues and services will be accommodated.”
Governor Fubara recalled the disheartening state of health facilities his administration inherited, as there were no functional intermediary health facilities given the fact that all the zonal hospitals were not completed.
Saying that the situation was unacceptable, Governor Fubara said, “I know quite alright that one of the most important things, if we go by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda: affordable healthcare is one major thing that is key target, and it is something the World Health Organization (WHO) is working to make sure that it shouldn’t just be an item for the privileged, but even the less-privileged in the society should afford it and fast too.
“So, as a government, when we came on board, we also knew that one very important area that we need to touch is the healthcare. Development cannot be complete if the health sector is abandoned. So, we did all we could within our power to make sure that we revitalize that area.
“And some of the achievements like the Health Insurance Scheme that has been there for long before now, that we have activated. We might not have gotten it right completely, but the most important thing is that we have started it. Rivers State has keyed into it.”
Governor Fubara insisted: “The very active state of our primary healthcare system now is better than when we came on board. Whatever it is that is required; their resources, we don’t even tamper with it.
“We ensured that they get their resources as at when due so that the aspect of their control and administrative duties are discharged. Accordingly, the primary healthcare system has improved compared to what it was before we came on board.
“We did not end there. We know the situation of the tertiary health services. We only have two: Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) and University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH). You can imagine the pressure on those two. So, we also took it upon ourselves to make sure that the intermediary health services must come to life.
“As a policy of our government, we have even started the completion and expansion to standard of all the Zonal Hospitals. We have the Degema, Bori, Ahoada, Omoku and Okehi, and we are already working on them. We didn’t end there. We also have a key facility in Bonny.
“People living in Bonny can’t come from there to access the Zonal Hospital. So, we have already started work to improve the state of the Bonny General Hospital. We know the importance of health, and we are doing our best to complement what WHO is also doing to make sure that healthcare gets to not just the rich, but the poor at affordable rate, with quality service.
Governor Fubara appreciated WHO for the wonderful work that it is doing in both supervisory and support role in the health sector and other areas of health concerns, not just in Rivers State, but in Nigeria and the world at large.
The Governor pointed out that everything is being done to sufficiently provide needed preventive and intervention measures against cholera and all related communicable diseases.
Governor Fubara said: “I have already directed the Commissioner for Health to commence all the necessary processes needed to checkmate the situation. We honestly prioritise health issues. We don’t joke with it.
“We have already started whatever it is, not just the issue of cholera. We are even talking about the issues that could arise from the anticipated flood situation in the state.
“We have also set up a medical team, knowing fully well that, definitely, there will be health issues when the flood situation breaks out. So, we are on top of the situation.”
In his presentation, the Country Representative of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Kazadi Walter Molumbo, commended Governor Fubara for his efforts and political will towards the various healthcare interventions in a bid to achieve the target for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensure that the people enjoy good health and well-being by 2030.
Dr. Molumbo stated that Nigeria, like most countries of the world, was lagging behind in terms of reaching the target for SDGs by 2030, adding that it was for that reason that there is a global call to do things differently and accelerate the rescue of the people.
He, however, noted: “But, something is very encouraging in your administration, and I will like to commend the effort of your government in providing the enabling environment for all stakeholders in the health sector.
“We also noted your commitment towards improving primary healthcare services and the revitalisation and drive to improve the health status of the good people of Rivers State.
“I will like to specifically commend you for some of the key achievements that have come to our notice, namely: the reactivation of the task force on primary healthcare in line with the Abuja Declaration, and again, I like to emphasize the need for other departments to participate towards efforts to reach that reactivation.
“The consistent release of counterpart funds for supplementary immunization activities. This is something we like to see in many states. What is happening in Rivers State is truly encouraging,” he said.
He commended the Governor for his determination to complete and upgrade the zonal hospitals, strengthen primary healthcare services, and support other efforts to improve the quality of life of Rivers people.

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Tinubu Consults Labour, Defers Decision On New Minimum Wage

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President Bola Tinubu yesterday held consultations with the organised labour in furtherance of his engagements with critical stakeholders toward arriving at a new national minimum wage.
Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting yesterday in Abuja.
Onyejeocha said, “The meeting was a conversation between a father and his children, and not a negotiation on the new national minimum wage.”
Also speaking, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Joe Ajaero, said there was no discussion in terms of what the new national minimum wage would be, and that the status quo remained.
“We didn’t discuss figures.
“The status quo remains, the Federal Government stands on N62,000 while labour is sticking to N250,000.
“We will be back after one week to continue the discussion,” Ajaero said.
President-General of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Mr Festus Osifo, also said labour presented the issues bothering Nigerians to the President as part of his consultations toward arriving at a new minimum wage.
Osifo said the meeting was an opportunity for labour to let the President know how the economic difficulties and the value of the Naira have affected the prices of goods in the market.
“We are all aware of what is happening in the country, how the high cost of living has impacted the ordinary Nigerians and workers.
“So, it was necessary to let the President know the exact situation of things in the country,” Osifo said.

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We’ve Started Preparing Our 2025 Budget -Fubara …Says Amaewhule, 24 Others’ Seats Were Declared Vacant On Dec 13

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has said that his administration has started the process of preparing the 2025 budget, just as he insisted that the legislative seats of Martin Amaewhule and his co-travellers that were declared vacant on December 13, 2023, will remain so.
The Governor stated that they are truly gone and will eventually return home because they desired it to be so when they defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform on which they won their election, to the All Progressives Congress (APC), voluntarily.
Governor Fubara spoke when he received on solidarity visit the leadership structure, critical stakeholders, opinion leaders, women and youths of Etche and Omuma Local Government Areas led by Ogbakor Etche, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Etche Ethnic Nationality Worldwide, at Government House in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
The Governor, who dismissed their recent ranting as noise-making from delusional folks, urged the 25 former lawmakers to wake up from their slumber to see the ship of governance in the State sailing on smoothly.
Governor Fubara also said that his administration has started preparing details of the 2025 Appropriation Bill, with priority placed on education, healthcare and agriculture.
He said, “Let me assure you that agriculture is an area that we have promised the very special and peace-loving people of Rivers State that our 2025 budget, which we have already started preparing, will address. Don’t bother about those people that are delusional. They think we are still sleeping. Let me tell you people so that they can hear anywhere they are.
“I wanted to help them, sincerely because I know them. And I have said it before, these are people that I have helped. I paid their children’s school fees. I paid their house rents. So, I wanted to help them.
“We all knew what happened when they crossed (defected), and how did they cross? Because of our God, for them to make that mistake, they crossed! They are gone, and they are gone. Now, let me tell you: when I wanted to help them, I accepted to help them because we are all one. We disagree to agree as it is said.”
Governor Fubara stated: “But, they thought they are smart. What is holding them is the declaration of their seats vacant that was done on December 13, 2023. That is what is holding them. We are not doing any budget to nullify that decision. It is what will send them to their villages.
“For me, as I am talking to you, I have started preparing my budget for 2025, which I am going to present very soon. And, in that budget, my key areas will be education, healthcare and agriculture.”
Governor Fubara explained that the three priority areas that the 2025 budget will focus on will ensure that even if more roads will be constructed, emphasis will be placed on providing quality healthcare services to keep the people healthy.
“Our children need to go to quality schools. Even if they can’t go to private schools, let them go to the public ones that have standard. We need to go to good health facilities owned by government and get standard healthcare services.
“Even if we cannot afford those private hospitals, when you go to the public ones, you can get the same services with qualified professionals. That is our thinking.
“And when we get to the issue of agriculture, it will address the issue of unemployment. When we start engaging our youths, they wouldn’t have time to be involved in crime. So, our thinking is to secure and protect our State,” he added.
Governor Fubara reiterated that his administration is not fighting anybody, and will continue to show appreciation to those who have contributed to the good fortunes that he has received in life.
The Governor, however, clarified that in being loyal, it does not mean losing one’s liberty, sense of discretion, and what is right, which is why he will not be a Governor forced on his knees to stair the affairs of the State.
He added, “I want to assure you one thing: we are not fighting anybody. We appreciate what God has used people to also do in our lives. But, we are not going to rule (govern) this State on our bent knees. We will rule standing this way I am standing.
“If it is only being on our knees to rule that is the way that they will see us as being loyal, then, I will pack my few things that I have here, and go and relax in my house comfortably because it will be a disaster, not just to me but to everyone in thd State and even my own generation.
“So, I will continue to stand tall and stand on the side of truth. So, let me thank the President General (of Ogbakor Etche) for bringing your people, the great people of Etche and Omuma together to come and pay us a solidarity visit.
“We want to assure you that we recognize all ethnic groups, and we are not here because of any particular group. We are here and standing for Rivers State. Our greatest support has come, not from my own people (Opobo), but from all of you.”
Governor Fubara urged the people of Etche Nation to sustain their support for his administration because its vision is clear and encompassing to advance the well-being of all Rivers people.
The Governor said, as stated in the national anthem, he is determined to establish a climate (State) where every man should be free of oppression, and freely pursue their aspirations.
He emphasised: “We are asking for only one thing from you: Support us because our interest is very clear and straight. We mean well for our people. We want everyone to be free. We want to lead with the fear of God. We want you to express yourselves without fear.
“So, I want to assure you that we are on the right track. With your support, we are going to get there. Don’t allow anybody deceive you. They can go to the media and dance; when they go behind, they cry. It is the truth. We don’t know how to dance but we say it the way it is, and stand tall anywhere we go.”
Governor Fubara, in responding to the requests of the people, said his administration is working with the Nigeria Police in finding lasting solutions to the hydra-headed issue of herdsmen attacks on farmlands and farmers in the area while urging them to continue to provide vital information of strange people and their operations to the relevant authorities.
The Governor also promised to address the issue of illegal dredging activities in the area, and undertake reconstruction work on priority areas, including roads, schools and health facilities, just as he announced the donation of N50million to Ogbakor Etche Worldwide for the smooth running of the organisation.
In his speech, Oyeisi Etche, His Eminence, Eze Emmanuel Opurum, said Etche and Omuma people will continue to give full support to Governor Fubara and ensure that his administration succeeds.
Eze Opurum, who also said that the political crisis in Rivers State is an ill wind that will do no good to anybody, called on governors of the 36 States of the Federation to quickly summon a meeting to collectively find a lasting solution to the crisis, which should be communicated to President Bola Tinubu and eventually enforced.
On his part, the President General of Ogbakor Etche Worldwide, Sir Charles Nwonuala, said the Etche people, who share in the travails, joy and the many victories of Governor Fubara, came to pledge their unalloyed support, confidence and faith in him and his administration.
Sir Nwonuala also presented a list of roads, schools and other development needs plaguing them as a people, while insisting that they endorse and support the good governance provided by the Governor in the State.
In his speech, Head of Rivers State Civil Service, Dr George Nwaeke, said the Oyeisi Etche, the entire leadership structure plus 70 academic professors from Etche Nation, have come together with women and youths to express solidarity to Governor Fubara to enable his administration succeed.
Dr Nwaeke emphasised that they are particularly happy to identify with the administration because they rank among first who felt liberated when the administration of Governor Fubara started giving his all-inclusive leadership approach and love for peace.

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