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COVID-19: Wike Heads Task Force To Enforce Orders …As State C’ttee Activates Social Media Platforms, Today …RSG Shuts Oil Mill Market …Panic In Aso Villa As Kyari, Three Staff Test Positive …Osinbajo Goes Into Self-Isolation, Bauchi Gov Tests Positive

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The Rivers State Government has set up a 12-man task force on the enforcement of ban on public gatherings and places of worship in order to check the spread of Coronavirus.
A statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, yesterday, in Port Harcourt, said that the task force is headed by the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike.
Other members include, the Commissioner of Police; Garrison Commander, 6 Division of the Nigerian Army; Air Force Commander; Naval Commander; State Director, Department of State Services; State Commandant, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps; Secretary to the State Government; Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice; Chief of Staff, Government House; and the Commissioner for Health while the Commissioner for Information and Communications will serve as secretary.
According to the statement, the task force will hold its inaugural meeting, today, by 11am at the Government House, Port Harcourt, and advised members to be seated by 10.30am.
Meanwhile, the five-man Rivers State Inter-ministerial Committee on Enlightenment and Awareness Creation on COVID-19 says that in continuation of its aggressive campaign, it will activate all its social media platforms, today, and carry out sensitisation to car parks and markets going forward.
Making this known, yesterday, Chairman of the committee, and Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, said alongside activating the social media platforms, the committee will also engage road transport workers and tricycle (Keke) drivers to further send the Coronavirus messages across to the people.
The chairman, who stated this as part of efforts to explain what the committee has been doing since its inauguration on March 12, to the Rivers State House of Assembly Joint Committee on Health and Information in his office, also stated that while all the engagements with various stakeholder groups had been fruitful, the one with the International Oil Companies (IOCs) was “productive.
“What we want to do, beginning from tomorrow (Wednesday) is to activate all the social media platforms, so that we will begin to feed content into those social media platforms in order to reach as many people as possible, knowing that the platforms are one key area with considerably large patronage. We will also engage road transport workers and Keke (tricycle) owners”, he said.
In furtherance of the campaign, the chairman said, “tomorrow, environmental health officers will be engaged to take the message to the streets.
“From tomorrow, we’ll engage environmental health officers. They’ll begin street-to-street campaign and they will start with the markets and (car) parks. Thereafter, street-to-street. They will go with megaphones, through which messages will be conveyed to the people, while also distributing flyers”, he said.
The commissioner also stated that car stickers bearing apt messages on the Coronavirus will be produced and distributed, in addition to vests, which will be worn by the environmental health officers.
Nsirim explained that shortly after its inauguration by Governor Nyesom Wike, the committee embarked on engaging key stakeholder groups, which started with Community Development Committees (CDCs) of all the 23 local government areas of the state.
This was followed by engagement with religious groups, the media, principals/head/teachers/proprietors of schools, traders association/National Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW), the military/paramilitary/police, IOCs an and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
Of all, Nsirim said the meeting with the IOCs was productive to the extent that they had already activated internal measures of checking the infection with the Coronavirus, and its spread should there be the need.
This, he stated, is in addition to the IOCs’ promise to provide assistance to the state government in the fight against the virus.
“Our meeting with the IOCs was very productive. They too have been proactive: they have a lot of expatriate staff, and on their own, they’ve been doing self-quarantine, and working closely with the Ministry of Health, each time they notice any suspected case among their staff.
“They’re also reducing work hours, the number of personnel that come to work each day as a way of enhancing social distancing. They’ve also assured us of their collaboration in terms of technical expertise and provision of equipment”, he said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the House of Assembly Joint Committee on Health and Information, Hon Samuel Ogeh, had explained the reason for the meeting with the inter-ministerial committee.
According to him, the State Assembly sent them to interface with the committee, to find out what was being done “in respect of the dissemination of information and sensitization of the citizenry.
“We want to hear from you what measures you have put in place, and how you’re going about it, how you’re interfacing with the general public in terms of reaching out to them and keeping them informed”, he said.
On his part, the state Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, explained the technicalities involved in the enlightenment campaign and coping with exigencies of the moment as they arise in the course of checking the Coronavirus.
He explained what has been done so far medically, and some of the challenges for which everything possible was being done to resolve.
Members of the Assembly Committee at the meeting also included the committee’s Co-Chairman, Hon Enemi Alabo-George; Hon Christian Ahiakwo; and Hon Ansalem Ogugwo, while the inter-ministerial committee also had in attendance the Commissioner for Youths, Hon Prince Ohia Obi, and his Chieftaincy counterpart, Barrister Olisa Elloka Tasie-Amadi.
Similarly, the Rivers State Government has closed down the popular Oil Mill Market in Port Harcourt.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who made the disclosure in a statement yesterday said the closure of the market is with effect from today.
According to the statement, anyone found trading in the market will be arrested by security agents.
In a related development, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, yesterday afternoon, toured the Presidential Villa beginning from the Office of the Chief Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
It is believed that the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who was not in the office, yesterday, might have gone into self-isolation.
Also on self-isolation is the Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye.
Osinbajo and Kyari sat close to each other at the last Federal Executive Council meetings held in the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa.
Their seats were separated by that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
Osinbajo had also presided over the National Executive Council.
Kyari, last Monday tested positive for COVID-19.
Kyari, who was on a trip to Germany on March 7, to meet with officials of Siemens in Munich on Nigerian electricity expansion programme, returned to the country on March 14.
According to a top government functionary, Kyari “is in self-isolation where he’s being monitored by medical personnel because he’s not showing severe symptoms of the disease.”
Asked if he had been moved to Abuja University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada where victims of COVID-19 are being treated, the source replied: “It is not compulsory that everyone who tests positive must be taken to the hospital.
“If the patient is not showing severe symptoms of COVID-19, he can merely be given a bed rest”, noting that most of the victims of the disease naturally recover.
The source added that over 80 per cent of victims recover without any intervention.
“He may test positive and not show severe symptoms and so be in self-isolation. The symptoms in over 80 per cent cases are mild as they manifest modestly. Most people will recover without intervention. Fatality is common in old people.
“They only have to be monitored to find that the situation is not deteriorating. He can be on bed rest and be given drugs related to the symptoms he’s showing. If the symptom is fever, he can be given Paracetamol.
“He will be given water to help him hydrate. His blood sample will be taken to know that he’s not showing any sign of deterioration. The treatment given to them is just to support the immune system,” he said.
According to him, most of the victims of the disease who die are those who show respiratory symptoms like pneumonia and that is why ventilators are needed.
Also, Kyari’s staff as well as presidential aides who had had contact with him have been asked to self-isolate.
The source disclosed that no tests would be done on them unless they show symptoms of the virus, explaining that this is because there is limited number of test kits.
“Tests are done if only people are showing symptoms. If they are not showing symptoms, they will only be told to self-isolate. They will not be tested until they are showing symptoms.
“It’s on account of limited kits that this is done. Ideally, everybody should be tested because there are some people that are not showing the symptoms and are positive. We have people from high-burdened countries but there are no kits. It is not prudent to use the kits for those that are not showing the signs.”
The committee led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, all wore face masks.
They went in through the permanent secretary’s wing and came out from the chief of staff’s wing, in a tour that lasted almost 40 minutes.
When approached to comment on the purpose of the visit, Mustapha said “you will be briefed later,” as he led his team members out of the office.
Other members of the committee were National Coordinator for the fight against COVID19, Dr. Sani Aliyu; the Ministers of Health, Interior, Aviation, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and Education.
Others were Minister of Information and Culture, Minister of Environment, Director-General, Department of Security Service, Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and World Health Organization Country Representative.
However, as part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19, the Media Department of the Presidential Villa has reduced the number of accredited journalists covering the Villa to 20 for the next two weeks.
Accredited journalists who are over 100 in number, will now take turns to cover the Presidential Villa.
President Muhammadu Buhari met separately with the Governor of Katsina, Hon Aminu Masari; the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd); Director-General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi; and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu.
Journalists were not briefed at the end of the meeting.
In the same vein, there are palpable fears at the State House as three staff of the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari tested positive for Coronavirus, yesterday.
A presidential source confirmed the development.
However, all the aides at the Vice President’s wing with the exception of his media aide did not turn up for work.
A source said the VP reported late to work, last Monday afternoon unlike him.
Most of his aides had face masks and hand gloves on when they came to work last Monday.
But for now, the Villa is on a gradual lockdown as none essential staff have been asked to stay away.
Meanwhile, President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari, now tested positive for Coronavirus, had contacts with many people since his return from Germany on March 14.
And there are emergent fears he may have spread the virus to them.
Apart from Buhari, who has tested negative, Kyari also interacted with Minister of Power, Engineer Mamman Sale.
Both travelled to Germany together.
On Twitter, yesterday, Nigerians called out the engineer to quickly self-isolate.
They also criticised him for hosting the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard on March 19.
Kyari also regularly interacted with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with whom he normally sits at the Federal Executive Council meetings.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who now heads the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was also another Kyari contact.
So was the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
Others are President Buhari’s SSA Media, Garba Shehu; and Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume; and Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Kyari visited Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello on March 17 on his return from Germany, to deliver Buhari’s message to Bello at the prayers marking the eighth days since the death of Bello’s mum.
Lai Mohammed, Akume, Shehu were all at the event.
Only yesterday, the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, confirmed that he has tested positive for Coronavirus.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Mukhtar Gidado, disclosed this in a media statement made available, yesterday.
The governor earlier said he met and shook hands with Mohammed, the son of former Vice-President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, who tested positive for COVID-19, last Sunday.
In Lagos, despite shutting down schools, night clubs, banning burial, wedding activities, and restraining religious gatherings, the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, ordered the temporary closure of all markets that are not selling essential commodities like medical equipment, water, foodstuff with effect from Thursday.
Sanwo-Olu said this in a press briefing, yesterday evening.
During the briefing, he said: “It is not a total lockdown, we still want people on essential services to go about their normal activities.
“We are trying to de-centralise markets in Lagos. This is why we want to use some of our closed schools as markets, so people can buy food and medicine without going a long distance.
“It is only when you are alive that you can talk about economics and finance.”
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on, former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku has sent a short word of prayer to Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, after he reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
Atiku in a tweet said: “My thoughts and prayers are with Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. Allah ya kare mu gabaki daya, kuma ya bashi lafiya. –AA”.
It was reported that Abba Kyari had been in Germany, one of the countries rocked by Coronavirus on official assignment.
Nevertheless, cases of Coronavirus infection in Nigeria have risen to 42, according to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Two new cases were recorded, yesterday, adding to the already existing 40 cases to take the tally to 42.
According to the NCDC, two new cases of the disease had been confirmed in Nigeria, saying one of the cases was in Lagos and the other in Ogun State.
The centre said one of the cases was that of a returning traveller, while second case was a contact of a previously confirmed case.
“As at 1pm on March 24, there are 42 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria-2 discharged, 2 deaths,” it said.
On Monday, nine new Coronavirus cases were recorded in Nigeria.
This brought the total to 40 as at Monday, but two new cases, yesterday take it to 42.
However, there is anxiety written in the faces of many Nigerians.

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UBA Appoints Bawuah As First Female CEO For Africa Operations …Announces Six Other Executive Appointments …As Oni Retires From Group Board

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The Board of Directors of the United Bank for Africa Plc, Africa’s Global Bank, has today, announced the appointment of Mrs. Abiola Bawuah, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UBA Africa.

Bawuah will also join the Group Board as an Executive Director, overseeing the Group’s operations across the African continent, outside Nigeria.

UBA operates in 19 African countries beyond Nigeria, in addition to global operations in New York, London, Paris and the UAE.

Bawuah, a Ghanaian national, is the first female CEO of UBA Africa.

Her appointment further demonstrates UBA’s commitment to diversity.

The UBA Group Board now includes eight female Directors.

Prior to her appointment, Bawuah was Regional CEO, West Africa, supervising the Group’s operations in nine subsidiaries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

She previously held the role of CEO, UBA Ghana.

Speaking on the new appointment, the Group Board Chairman Mr Tony O. Elumelu said, “Abiola has contributed significantly to the growth of UBA Africa for close to a decade.

She brings a wealth of experience in commercial banking, and stakeholder engagement.

It also gives me great pleasure that with her appointment, the UBA Group Board has now become a majority female board.”

The UBA Group also announced the following executive roles:

Chris Ofikulu becomes the Regional CEO, UBA West Africa.

Ofikulu, who has over two decades of banking experience spanning corporate, commercial, and retail banking.

Uzoechina Molokwu will take on the role as Deputy Managing Director (DMD) of UBA Ghana, subject to local regulatory approvals.

He was previously the Executive Director, Business Development – UBA Côte d’Ivoire and has over 23 years banking experience.

Ayokunle Olajubu will be the Managing Director/CEO UBA Liberia, subject to local regulatory approvals.

He currently drives compliance across Africa subsidiaries andcomes with 30 years banking experience in Nigeria and other African countries,including Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire and the Gambia.

Theresa Henshaw has been appointed as CEO of UBA UK, subject to local regulatoryapprovals.

She was previously the DMD, Business Development, UBA America and joined the Group as ED, Business Development at UBA UK.

Usman Isiaka, currently CEO, UBA Sierra Leone, will be the Deputy CEO in UBA America, subject to local regulatory approvals.

Adeyemi Adeleke, the former CEO of UBA, UK is now the Group Treasurer.

Adeleke will be working to unlock the immense value in the Group’s multi-jurisdictional balance sheet, leveraging on its presence in 24 countries within and beyond Africa.

In addition to the executive appointments, UBA has announced the retirement of High Chief Samuel Oni, an independent non-executive Director, from the Board following the expiration of his tenure.

He joined the UBA Group in January 2015 and served on the Board of the Group for eight years.

The Group Chairman, Mr Tony Elumelu expressed his appreciation to High Chief Oni, for his commitment, leadership and extensive contributions to the UBA Group and on behalf of the Board, wishes him the very best in all his future endeavours.

Operating in 20 African countries and in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and the United Arab Emirates, United Bank for Africa provides retail, commercial and institutional banking services, leading financial inclusion and implementing cutting edge technology.

UBA is one of the largest employers in the financial sector on the African continent, with 25,000 employees group wide and serving over 37million customers globally.

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Naira Swap: Reps Reject Extension, Threaten Emefiele’s Arrest

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The House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on New Naira Re-design and Naira Swap Policy has added a new twist to the controversy surrounding the deadline for the validity of old notes by rejecting the 10-day extension granted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the exchange.
The committee described the extension as a mere political gimmick to further deceive Nigerians and worsen their economic and social livelihood.
Recall that the CBN had earlier fixed January 31 as the deadline for the exchange of N200, N500 and N1000 old naira notes.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, however, yesterday, said President Muhammadu Buhari gave permission for the deadline to be extended till February 10.
But the Ad hoc Committee, chaired by the Majority Leader, House of Reps, Alhassan Doguwa, in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, rejected the extension, insisting that the CBN must comply with sections 20 sub 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act.
The Lower House, had during its sitting on Tuesday, last week, following the outcry by Nigerians, constituted the Ad hoc committee to look into the issue.
Doguwa said, “The 10-day extension for the exchange of the old naira notes is not the solution. We as a legislative committee with a constitutional mandate of the House, would only accept clear compliance with Section 20 Sub-section 3, 4, and 5 of the CBN Act and nothing more.
Nigeria as a developing economy and a nascent democracy must respect the principle of the rule of law. And the House would go ahead to sign arrest warrant to compel the CBN Governor to appear before the Ad hoc committee.”
According to him, under his chairmanship, the committee would continue its work until it gets the demands of Nigerians addressed in accordance with the laws of the land.
While describing the extension as a mere political gimmick to further deceive Nigerians and worsen their economic and social livelihood, Doguwa insisted that the CBN governor must appear before the House or stand the risk of being arrested on the strength of legislative writs to be signed by the Speaker on Monday (today).
He also said the policy was capable of frustrating the forthcoming general election.
“Security agencies and their operations especially at the state level are generally funded through cash advances and direct table payments of allowances to operatives during elections,” he said.

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2023 Election Failure’ll Polarise The Polity, Set Democracy Backwards -Wike

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Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has urged Nigerians not to allow the 2023 general elections to fail.
He said the failure of the 2023 elections would increase political polarisation, exacerbate social fault lines and set Nigeria’s democracy backwards.
Governor Wike gave the charge at the 2023 Port Harcourt International Conference, sponsored by Rivers State Government, with the theme: Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security in Nigeria”, held at Obi Wali International Conference in Port Harcourt, last Thursday.
The governor, in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, noted that barely one month away, Nigerians are hoping and praying for the 2023 general elections to herald the deepening of democratic culture, the rule of law and good governance in the country.
Governor Wike, however, insisted that the opportunity to elect a new President of the federation and 30 State Governors should be a success because it will consolidate and strengthen the roots of democracy in the national life of Nigeria.
“In a democracy, periodic elections are the only legitimate means for the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. Since 1999, Nigeria has had six general election circles, but none was considered substantially clean and fair.
“The outcome of the 2003 general elections was rejected at different levels by the opposition and the losers, and litigated up to the Supreme Court. The outcome of the 2007 elections led to protests, riots, the loss of several lives, and the destruction of property in particular sections of the country”, he noted.
Governor Wike also recalled that even President Musa Ya’ardua had promised necessary electoral reforms when he publicly denounced the process that brought him to power because it was severely flawed.
According to him, the 2011 general election also suffered a similar experience and was litigated by the opposition to the Supreme Court.
“None of the defeated contestants believed they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, the security agencies and politicians for undermining our democracy with brazen electoral fraud”.
Governor Wike noted further that the 2015 general election, though considered rigged, recorded some improvements with the use of the smart card reader and the emergence of opposition candidates as the winners of the presidential.
The governor said the 2019 general election was equally problematic and rejected as highly compromised by the opposition and litigated up to the Supreme Court.
“In Rivers State, we battled the military in the 2015 and 2019 re-run and general elections with pure courage and determination to secure our victory and retain our mandate with the sweat and blood of innocent citizens”, he said.
Governor Wike pointed out that when the government compromises the integrity of elections through election management agencies, it denies citizens their constitutional right to elect the leaders they want and can hold accountable.
Conversely, he emphasised, when elections lack integrity, the leaders who emerged from outside the people’s will are illegitimate.
According to him, “Such leaders without trust are likely to be authoritarian, divisive and incapable of effective governance. Serial election rigging threatens our democracy and constitutes an existential challenge to the nation’s future stability.
“Therefore, deepening democratic culture and institutions for sustainable development and security is important to us as a nation, and free and fair elections with integrity remain the only path to achieving this objective”.
Speaking further, Governor Wike said the new electoral law, especially with the provisions of the use of technology, holds the prospect for a brighter democratic experience for Nigeria if implemented effectively.
However, he stressed, that beyond the legal regime, political parties’ internal practices and external electioneering behaviour must conform to democratic norms and standards.
“The efficiency of the judiciary in interpreting and enforcing the existing regulatory regime, including the laws, regulations and guidelines beyond reproach and the capacity and consistency of INEC and the security agencies to be firm, impartial and independent in the discharge of their functions are most crucial.
“Safeguarding and deepening our democracy lies with every citizen. We must have the courage to stand up for justice, the rule of law, an independent and courageous judiciary, and our rights and freedoms to vote and be voted in a transparent election”, he stated.
Presenting his keynote address, former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who titled his paper: “Respecting the Principles of Democracy”, noted that Nigeria’s democracy has gone through twists, dives and turns since political independence.
He said the best of the country’s history has been the sustenance of democracy since the military transfer of power to an elected government in 1999.
He however, observed that there may be reasons to doubt how much lessons the leaders and followers have drawn from the country’s past and how far they are willing to go to deepen, widen and strengthen democracy and democratic practice.
The former president declared that the ways in which the political class have practised democracy have deepened contradictions, negative coalitions, distrust, disloyalty and unpatriotic tendencies within and between communities and constituencies all over the country.
He stated that this means that there is a deep structural and philosophical problems that must be deal with.
Chief Obasanjo informed that if the practice of democracy is superficial and opportunistic and it is designed to pursue a struggle of limited objectives, it would precipitate variants of fractured engagements that cannot address structural and philosophical contradictions and challenges.
“In fact, the order of the day would be community against community, religion against religion, leader against leader. Ordinary citizens are then dragged into the directionless, meaningless and opportunistic personal or narrow ambitions of leaders. The end result will be confusion, diffusion, distraction and possibly leading to separation and disintegration”, he said.
The former president stressed that democracy is possible in Nigeria and the people have the capacity to build a culture of democratization. However, he insisted that Nigerians must recognise and accept the fact that it is an evolutionary process with principles.
“Without retracing our political steps to the right direction, the current process will either not produce the right leaders or it will leave so many broken blocks on the path to governance and attract resources and energy away from the task of rebuilding Nigeria and consolidating our democratic practice.
“The result will be democratic quagmire, increased corruption, insecurity and survival of the fittest, richest and better connected with little or no recognition of merits. The implications and cost of such a scenario to our present and future can best be imagined. I pray that God will grant us the wisdom to do what is right for our country and people at all times and more so now”, he said.
In his opening remarks, former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was the chairman of the occasion, said the theme of the conference addresses itself to the imperative of enhancing democratic governance to the benefit of Nigerians and the country.
Fayemi pointed to the scholarly assertions of late Claude Ake, on feasibility and possibility of democracy wherein there has to be enduring democratic culture and democracy being structured to be developmental in nature.
He observed that Nigeria’s democracy is bedevilled by lack of party based politics, issued based politicking, untamed political violence, winner take all mentality, growing influence of money in politics, exploitation of loophole to subvert the will of the people and social media and spread of fake news.
“Though, there are some political milestones achieved since 1999, there is no doubt that we still have a longway to go in building a robust culture of power and politics that is both democratic and sustaining”, he said.
As part of the event, there was the unveiling of the book, “Bridging Rivers”, under the chairmanship of former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.

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