NASS Opposition To E-Transmission Of Poll Results, Coup Against Nigerians, Wike Insists
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike says the rejection of electronic transmission of election results by All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the National Assembly, was tantamount to a coup against Nigerians desirous of free, fair and credible elections.
The governor noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to prevail on APC members in the National Assembly to support the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the amended Electoral Act proves that he does not intend to leave a legacy of transparent electoral process.
He stated this during the official presentation of letter of nomination to him as “the 2020 Governor of the Year Award” by the management of the Leadership Media Group at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Wike remarked that the current National Assembly capitalised on the seeming political indifference of Nigerians to deliberately vote against the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the amended Electoral Act.
The governor, described National Assembly members who voted against transmission of election results electronically as enemies of the country, because their action was detrimental to the growth and consolidation of the country’s democracy.
“Those who voted against e-transmission of results should be ashamed of themselves. They never mean well for this country. If you are a member of the National Assembly, and you voted against electronic transmission of results, your children should call you and say ‘daddy, are you well’?
“I can’t believe anybody who went to school in this digital period, will vote against electronic transmission of results. What kind of country is this? What kind of National Assembly members do we have?”
Wike declared that the rejection of electronic transmission of election results by APC lawmakers, even when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had affirmed that it has the capacity to electronically transmit results, was tantamount to a coup against the citizens of the country.
“It is a coup against the people, and when you plot a coup, you know the consequences of plotting a coup. National Assembly members have plotted coup against Nigerians, and Nigerians should hold them responsible. All they are planning is to rig election, because they know Nigerians have abandoned them”, the governor said.
The Rivers State governor said he had expected President Buhari, who had openly declared that he respects former President Goodluck Jonathan, for not compromising the 2015 general election, to build on the electoral legacy of his predecessor.
“If Jonathan did not believe in the transparency of the election, he would not have allowed card reader to be used. So, he introduced the card reader as a sitting President, knowing fully well that that could be an albatross to him. But he said no, I want us to move to the next level.”
Wike stated that though President Buhari had repeatedly declared that he will ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible election in 2023, he doubts his sincerity, particularly for failing to rein in those APC members who voted against electronic transmission of election results.
“Mr President cannot tell us that sincerely, he wants to conduct free, fair, credible elections. Let nobody deceive you. It is very clear that there is no sure intention at all.”
The governor, who stated that he has never and will never influence any media organisation to nominate him for an award, advised media groups against bestowing awards on non-performing political office holders.
According to him, giving awards to undeserving governors, for instance, is an act of corruption.
Wike commiserated with the family and management of the Leadership Media Group over the death of the founder of the newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah, and urged them to use the newspapers as a voice for the people.
“Let me thank the leadership of the newspaper for finding us worthy or qualified to be nominated for the Governor of the Year Award. Therefore, we dedicate this award to the glory of God Almighty and to the people of the state.”
He said it was gladdening that there were people somewhere who recognise the efforts he and members of his team were making to change the narrative in terms of governance in the country.
To this end, he reiterated that the award would energise his administration to even work harder for the state.
Responding, the Group Managing Director of Leadership Newspapers, Mu’azu Elazeh, said they were in Port Harcourt to formally present Governor Wike the letter of his nomination as the ‘Leadership Governor of the Year’, and then to invite him to attend Leadership Conference slated for September.
“When the Board of Editors of Leadership met for this nomination, because it is something we do every year, when your name was mentioned, I think it is the only name that received unanimous endorsement because of your practical approach to leadership and governance; because of your focus in infrastructural development which is resetting the business and economy of Rivers State”, Elazeh said.
Similarly, the Executive Director, Leadership Media Group, Abraham Nda-Isaiah said this was the first time in the history of Leadership Newspapers that a governor has been nominated twice in the life of an administration.
He recalled that Wike was first nominated for the award in 2017.
Wike Dissolves Cabinet, Attributes RSG’s Success To Members’ Sacrifices
Governor Nyesom Wike has dissolved the Rivers State Executive Council, and expressed profound gratitude to the cabinet members for their service to the government and the state.
The governor announced the dissolution after the State Executive Council’s special valedictory session, held in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Wike directed the commissioners to hand over government property in their custody to the Permanent Secretary or most senior director in their respective ministries.
He commended members of the cabinet for their immense sacrifices, commitment and dedication to service, which was responsible for the tremendous transformation the state had undergone in the past eight years.
“Everybody is saying today that we have done well, no one person did well, everybody did well. The governor alone cannot, on his own, be in charge of everywhere. The governor needs people who will work for him. All he does is, from time to time, find out whether things are moving on well or not.
“So, that I have done well, for me, is not about me. Those that are responsible for our state shining today, are all of you who are seated here, who have worked from morning till night. I want to sincerely thank you for the support.”
Wike said all those who served as cabinet members can confidently return home with their shoulders high, having successfully changed the narrative of governance in the country.
“Be happy to say, yes, I participated when they said Rivers State became one of the leading states in this country; when they said there was infrastructure revolution in the state, when they said we stood our ground and challenged the authorities. We stood our ground and fought the Federal Government, when we know they have violated the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The Rivers State governor recalled that at the inception of the administration in 2015, it was faced with series of challenges because of the hostility of the Federal Government, culminating in the nullification of the governorship, state and National Assembly elections.
“In 2015, when elections were nullified from State Assembly to National Assembly, to governorship, we remained undaunted. There were re-runs and re-runs, but God was on our side. We survived it, and we have never chickened out to speak the truth. We have never chickened out to say what we believe in, and we give God the glory. I want to sincerely thank all of you for your contributions.”
Wike described the immediate past administration as callous and vicious for looting state assets, and not formally handing over to his government.
He, however, thanked God for the privilege that he would be successfully handing over to the incoming Sir Siminialayi Fubara-led government on May 29.
The governor implored the cabinet members to conscientiously pray for the success of the incoming administration.
According to him, “All we need is to pray for the incoming government, support them. Where he finds you necessary to be part of his cabinet, do not disappoint us by saying no.”
In her valedictory remarks, the Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, thanked the governor for availing her the privilege to be the first female deputy governor since the creation of the state in 1967.
She said history will remember Wike for his gender-sensitive policy, which has paved way for another woman, Prof. Ngozi Ordu, to be her successor.
In his remarks, the former Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, said he was proud to be part of the Wike-led transformational government that changed the landscape of the state with impactful infrastructure projects.
Similarly, the Head of Service, Barrister Rufus Godwins, said when Wike assumed office in 2015, the state purportedly had 54,472 civil servants on her payroll, but following the introduction of biometric system, the number has reduced to 39,451.
On his part, the former Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Engr Emeka Woke, thanked Wike for giving him the opportunity to serve the state under his administration.
Former Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, said by virtue of his appointment, he had learnt how to apply law for public good.
Adangor commended Wike for recovering Rivers State oil wells from other states through the ministry.
The former Commissioner for Works, Dr Dakorinama Alabo George-Kelly, disclosed that over 920-kilometre roads and 600 kilometres of drains were constructed by the Wike-led administration since 2015.
Health Workers Declare Indefinite Strike
The Joint Health Sector Unions/Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (JOHESU), and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have declared an indefinite strike.
According to the aggrieved workers, the strike is as a result of the failure of the Federal Government to adjust the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) and other demands.
JOHESU/AHPA is a conglomerate of four registered trade Unions which include Medical and Health workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institution(NASU).
Declaring the indefinite strike on Thursday morning in Abuja, the Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Dr.OgbonnaChimela, said, “Consequent upon the nonchalant, bias and lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Ministry of Health against JOHESU members and the resolution of the expanded National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the unions held on Monday, May 8, 2023, our members in Federal Health Institutions nationwide are hereby directed to withdraw their services indefinitely commencing from 00.00 hour on Thursday, May 25, 2023.”
The unions had earlier on May 9 through a letter to the Federal Ministry of Health, giving the Federal Government a 15-day ultimatum to meet their demands.
Ogbonna said the issues in dispute were: Adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS; payment of peculiar allowances to health workers; immediate and unconditional implementation of the Consultant Cadre circular for pharmacists in all federal health institutions; payment of withheld salaries of members in Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri, Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) and outstanding April and May 2018 salaries of members in Federal Medical Centre, Azare; as well as payment of health workers excluded in payment of wage new hazard allowances.
He said the mode of payment of all health workers in Nigeria is Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) while Physicians are on the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).
He said, “As at 2009, the Memorandum of Understanding at the inception of these two salary structures and subsequent Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Federal Government and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) established strongly that once there is an adjustment in any of the salary structure, the other structure should be adjusted commensurately.”
The unions called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately approve and implement the technical committee report on the adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS).
They said “the unending vicious cycle of tyranny meted against members of affiliate of the Joint Health Sector Union members of the respective (JOHESU) in the health sector by the physicians dominated and oriented Federal Ministry of Health.”
The unions also called on the National Assembly especially Senators – elect and House of Representatives members — elect to only facilitate the appointment of seasoned administrators and managers of cognate experience as ministers in charge of the health sector.
“This remains the only way to normalize and do away with the perennial entropy that continue to engulf the health sector where productivity is at the lowest hub,” they said.
Presidential Poll Tribunal: Parties Disagree As Court Rules On Live Broadcast, Today
Ahead of today’s ruling on the application for live transmission of the proceedings of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, the Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party and the All Progressives Congress have disagreed over the need for the hearing to be broadcast by the media.
The PDP and LP told The Tide source, yesterday that the live telecast of the court sittings would remove any doubts about the transparency of the judiciary and promote fairness, but the APC argued that it would not advance the course of justice.
The PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who came second behind the President-elect, Bola Tinubu in the February 25 election, had prayed the tribunal to broadcast its sittings live to Nigerians to enable them to have firsthand information of the processes that would guide the tribunal in determining the authentic winner of the contest.
Atiku and the PDP in an application dated May 5, filed by their counsel, Chris Uche, SAN, specifically prayed to the court for an order directing the court’s registry and the parties on modalities for admission of media practitioners and their equipment into the courtroom.
The LP and its standard bearer, Peter Obi filed a similar application through their lead counsel, Awa Kalu, SAN, in which they argued that Nigerians being stakeholders have a right to have real-time information about the election petition proceedings.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the president-elect and the APC vehemently opposed the application, describing it as frivolous.
They argued that the application relates to policy formulation of the court, which is outside the PEPC’s jurisdiction as constituted.
Counsel for APC, Lateef Fagbemi, asked the court not to concede the request to turn the court into “a Big Brother electoral series.”
The counsel to the president-elect, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, noted that the live broadcast if approved, would expose both the judges and lawyers to danger while the counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, argued that the application was needless since already, “the court is a public place and is accessible to all, subject to the availability of space.”
After hearing the arguments from all the parties last Thursday, the court reserved a ruling on the application till Monday (today).
But speaking on the issue ahead of the ruling, Obi is insisting on the live broadcast of the court proceedings.
Obi, who spoke to our correspondent through his media aide, Emeka Obasi, urged the tribunal to rule in favour of his application in the interest of transparency and democracy.
He said, “We are in the modern age where transparency is required. An election is being disputed by four political parties. To be fair and for equity, it is very much expected that processes are steamed live for people to follow. We are talking about over 200 million Nigerians. The courtroom cannot contain 1,000 people.
“Every interested Nigerian should be given the access to see for himself or herself the proceedings of the most important ruling in the history of the country. So, if we are practising democracy, the tribunal has nothing other than to approve the live streaming.”
Buttressing his principal’s arguments, the Spokesperson for Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko noted that the approval of the live broadcast would build trust and restore “the hope of the common man as the judiciary is seen to be the hope of the common man, especially now that the judiciary is seen also to be on trial.”
PDP insists on broadcast
In a telephone conversation with The PUNCH on Sunday, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba gave strong reasons for the party’s demand for a live telecast of the hearing.
According to him, voters needed to be carried along by the tribunal throughout its sittings to give them a sense of participation.
He noted, “Live telecast is consistent with democracy because participatory democracy provides that the people have the right to know. As a party, we are saying that elections are a process, not an event.
‘’The Independent National Electoral Commission in its guidelines to the elections under the Electoral Act enjoins parties to be transparent and in most cases, what the political parties did were televised.’’
“The process which led to the emergence of the candidates which is an internal process of the parties was witnessed by INEC. That is a process. Starting from the party primaries to the sponsorship of candidates, everything was done in the open. The next part is the actual election conducted by INEC.
“INEC has been televising its processes-voting, collation, counting, announcement, and declaration of results were done in the open. In the presidential election, in particular, INEC’s collation and declaration of results were in the open and televised live worldwide.
‘’The other part of the election is the tribunal. Now, if the first two processes can be televised, we expect that the last one which involves the judiciary should be televised live,” he submitted.
Similarly, the Media Adviser to the PDP standard bearer, Mr Paul Ibe maintained that the live telecast would enhance the transparency of the court proceedings, stressing that it is of primary interest to Nigerians.
He added, “The live telecast is to give Nigerians, who were participants in the election as citizens, whether they voted or not, an opportunity to be part of the process. It (live telecast) is good for transparency too. All eyes are on the judiciary and what the tribunal will make out of it.
‘’We are of the view that the court should grant this request because it is one made on behalf of Nigerians regardless of their political affiliations. It will make sense for the process to be open to Nigerians. We don’t know what INEC is saying because it is acting as if it is a political party in the election. It should stop acting as if it is an agent of a political party.
‘’Let’s hope they are not hiding anything and in any case, what they are hiding is what they don’t want Nigerians to know. The commission conducted elections in the negation of its own rules. People should be able to see in real-time the tribunal’s proceedings.”
The supporters of the LP presidential candidate who took to social media on Sunday, are also insisting on a live broadcast of the proceedings of the court.
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