Ahead of the 2023 general election, President Muhammadu Buhari has warned foreign bodies not to interfere with the elections.
The president also told those planning to rig the election to perish the idea, vowing to use any legitimate means to defend the mandate and will of the people.
Buhari stated this at an Iftar dinner with members of the Diplomatic Corps at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.
He said, ‘‘Those planning to rig the forthcoming elections should think twice because I intend to resolutely protect and defend the sacred will of the Nigerian people, to be expressed through the ballot box.”
Cautioning against foreign interference in the forthcoming elections, Buhari said, ‘‘As you are all aware, the tenure of this administration ends on May 29, 2023. Typical of election years all over the world, the tempo of political activities is often high.
‘‘That is the nature of democracy. I am committed to bequeathing a stronger culture of credible elections to Nigeria than I met.
‘‘As Nigeria goes through this trajectory, I urge our friends in the global community, represented by you the Diplomatic Corps, to adopt a positive role that reinforces the doctrine of respect for our internal affairs and respect for facts and devoid of pre-conceived notions and bias.”
Addressing the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Nigerian leader called for greater consideration for humanitarian conditions in the affected areas in the ongoing crisis, warning that the conflict will get worse, if an immediate resolution is not found.
‘‘The war has lasted too long, cost so much and hurt too many people, well beyond the immediate theatres.
‘‘The rest of the world is progressively facing the impact of the conflict and this will certainly get worse, if an immediate resolution is not found, not least in the area of food security.
Buhari welcomed the recent initiative of UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, of visiting Moscow and Kyiv, commending his efforts in search of a ceasefire, as a prelude to other enduring solutions.
‘‘The United Nations must continue to actively lead the way for engagements that could ultimately unlock peace through diplomacy,’’ he said.
The president urged the world, especially the Muslim community, to use the solemn and rewarding month of Ramadan, and especially these last days of the fast, to intensify prayers for de-escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and for the return of peace to the world.
He also used the occasion to apprise members of the international community on some of the critical issues that are currently on the front burner of this administration’s agenda and spirited efforts in handling them.
‘‘We continue to make steady progress on the daunting tasks of combating insecurity; fighting corruption; diversifying the economy; promoting good governance; and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘Despite the many challenges we faced, and continue to face, we have instituted measures to plug leakages, improve the economy and enhance the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
‘‘These include: Renewal of vital infrastructure, including rail and roads; Implementation of the N2.3trillion Economic Sustainability Plan to create jobs and provide support to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises; and Launch of the National Development Plan (2021-2025) to spur economic growth, leverage science, technology and innovation.
‘‘Other measures include: Establishment of the Office of the Senior Special Adviser to the President on SDGs with the responsibility for ensuring coherence between development policies, plans and strategies.
‘‘Launch, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, of the Nigeria Sustainable Development Goals Implementation Plan (2020-2030), to prioritise and mainstream the SDGs into their medium and long-term development policies and plans.’’
On COVID-19, the president, who restated Nigeria’s demand for vaccine equity and waiver of patents for manufacturing vaccines and approved drugs to treat the highly infectious disease, said the country would continue to expand its capacities for managing the pandemic.
On regional security, the President told the diplomats that the impact of the Libyan crisis on the countries in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, West and Central Africa is still enormous and catastrophic.
He expressed concern on the free circulation of small and light arms in these regions, made worse by the uncontrolled expulsion of foreign fighters from Libya without adequate consultations with the countries of the region.
‘‘The world needs to work together to combat these common challenges and I call on all your respective countries to reflect on this and collaborate with countries in these regions to combat this consequential spread of violence.’’
On the fight against Boko Haram, the President said: ‘‘As you know well, Nigeria has made significant progress in combating the Boko Haram group in the North East.
‘‘We are, however, recently confronted with new tactics deployed by the enemy to threaten our democratic values, as well as the common peace and freedom we enjoy in this country.’’
Commending Nigeria’s defence and security service men and women for their recent successes in routing the terrorists, the president said he was confident that the security situation would soon be brought under control.
He also acknowledged the support of Nigeria’s friends and partners in the global community, particularly the European Union and the United States ‘‘for their understanding, support and agreement to allow us to procure vital equipment and resources to successfully propagate this war.’’
The president added that ‘‘this cooperation and collaboration need to be intensified in spite of other major challenges confronting the international community.’’
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and High Commissioner of Cameroon to Nigeria, Amb. Ibrahima Salaheddine, pledged that the international community would continue to support Nigeria before, during and after the forthcoming general elections.
‘‘As Nigeria enters another electoral year, we pray almighty Allah to put the electoral process under divine guidance for peaceful, free and fair elections,’’ he said.
Salaheddine, who described this year’s Iftah as special, noted that due to COVID-19 the tradition of meeting the President for the breaking of fast did not hold for two years.
He, therefore, congratulated the Nigerian government for curtailing the spread of the pandemic, saying the ‘‘enlightened leadership’’ of Buhari has largely brought its spread in Nigeria under control.
CAS Lauds Troops For Exceptional Performance In South-East Operation
Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, has lauded Nigerian Air Force (NAF) troops for exceptional performance in ongoing Joint Task Force in the South-East code-named “Operation Udo Ka II”.
Abubakar said this yesterday in Enugu during his maiden visit and tour of operational and training assets and facilities within NAF Ground Training Command (GTC), Enugu.
He noted that NAF troops had done exceptionally well and recorded series of success in the joint operation meant to keep the South-East safe and secured for all.
The CAS noted that the GTC Command was highly important to NAF as it housed the ground component (non technical component) as well as a unit of air component necessary to ensure the attainment of the mandate of NAF.
He said: “Today, we are in Enugu, which is the host of the GTC Command in our maiden visit and we are here to interact with the NAF personnel, see the facilities and infrastructure on ground.
“We are also here to encourage the personnel to continue to do the good job they had been doing before now.
“The GTC Command and the Air Training Command are key to all of our activities in NAF and the two commands ensure we have the adequate and skilled manpower for all our activities and operations.
“I am also here to strengthen our activities within Operation Udo Ka II, which Enugu is the headquarters, and see how we can achieve greater successes more than what we are having now and ensure that South-East is totally secured.”
He disclosed that 750 personnel were currently undergoing training and would be graduating between December 2023 and January, 2024.
“These training are important to us in terms of our operation; and the current number is very significant amount of manpower to be injected into our operations and other activities in the country,” he said.
On the inspection in the new GTC Command Headquarters, new 553 Base Services Group (BSG) Headquarters and BSG Annex; Abubakar said that he was quite satisfied and impressed with the pace, level and quality of work done already.
“I have taken out time to inspect the projects and asked questions about the projects and I tell you that I am satisfied with what are on ground and all our assets and facilities are well maintained and protected,” he said.
The NAF boss commended NAF officers, airmen and airwomen in GTC Command for “doing a good job and keeping the flag flying high” as well as extolled their sacrifices and commitment to duties as well.
“I am very happy for their performance. We at the NAF headquarters, we are doing all we can to make sure they have all the necessary support and equipment as well as welfare and accommodation to carry out their jobs effectively,” he said.
He assured NAF personnel of doing more by providing all necessary infrastructures to ensure the maximum working of the GTC Command.
The CAS also inaugurated a renovated airmen’s club and new Mrs Rakiya Abubakar Children’s Park as well as inspected the water treatment and reticulation system and the hospital within NAF Base, Abakpa in Enugu.
UNIBADAN Lecturer Wins Best Thesis Dollar Prize
The Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), University of Lagos, has announced Dr Muhammad Ribadu as winner of this year’s Rahamon Bello Best Ph.D thesis in African Studies award.
The Director of the institute, Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, made the announcement in a statement issued to newsmen yesterday in Lagos.
Ribadu, of the University of Ibadan, will be rewarded with a total of 1000 dollars, a plaque and a certificate.
Falaiye said a total of 18 entries for the 4th edition of competition were received from various universities in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa
He gave the title of the winning thesis as: The Social Context of Gentrification in Lagos State; Ph.D (Jan. 2023) Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan.
“The first runner up for this competition was Oluwaseyi Popogbe, currently a lecturer at the Department of Economics, Crawford University in Ogun.
“The title of his thesis is: Social Exclusion and Poverty in Selected Coastal Slum Areas in Lagos State; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) Department of Economics University of Lagos.
“The second runner up position went to Dr Charles Akwen, currently a lecturer at the Department of English, University of Lagos.
“Akwen’s thesis is titled: Notions of Identity in the Literary Creativity of Odia Ofeimun and Yang Mu; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) English Literature, University of Lagos,” the director stated.
He said that both the first and second runners up would be awarded plaques and certificates in recognition of their contributions and hard work.
Falaiye noted that the competition was in honour of Prof. Rahamon Bello, who was the 10th Vice Chancellor of the university, at the time the institute was inaugurated.
The prize money is usually donated every year for the award by friends of Prof. Bello.
Falaiye said that Dec, 6, had been fixed for the presentation of the awards.
The Tide source reports that the award was first presented in 2020.
States, LGs Lack Infrastructure To Manage Ecological Fund, Shun Queries – Perm Sec
The 36 states of the federation and the 774 local government councils have no structure in place to manage Ecological Fund.
The declaration was made in Abuja, yesterday, by the Permanent Secretary, Ecological Project Office, Malam Shehu Ibrahim.
Ibrahim made the declaration at an interactive session with the House Representatives Committee on Ecological Fund.
He said since states and local governments began to share the fund with the Federal Government they had not been able to put structures in place to manage their share.
The Ecological Fund is an intervention fund by the Federal Government to address the multifarious ecological challenges in various communities in the country.
Ibrahim told the house committee that the sharing of the fund among the three tiers of government followed a court decision.
He said governors and local council chairmen never welcomed queries about how they deployed the ecological funds.
“It is a `no-go’ area,’’ he quipped.
“They don’t want to see officials of the Ecological Project Office near them; so we cannot ask them how they spend the money,’’ he added.
Ibrahim said also that all motions by the National Assembly regarding intervention on ecological project matters had been treated.
“The Ecological Project Office acts expeditiously on documents sent to it to solve problems; it looks at some of the gaps within the motion and tries to fill the gaps, and we have had more than five of such motions.
“ The Ecological Project Office does not handle funds; it only appraises projects and makes recommendations to the president,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary explained that it is the Ministry of Finance that manages the fund and the projects.
He stressed that it was a misconception that the Ecological Project Office is in charge of funds and at liberty to decide on where projects would be sited with the money in its coffers.
He said whenever there were interventions; the Ecological Project Office informed affected communities and went with the contractor to hand over the projects to the community.
This is to enable the community to take ownership of the intervention and communicate their observations to the project office.
Responding, Rep. Sani Jaji (APC-Kaura Namoda/ Birnin Magaji), chairman of the committee, said there should always be stakeholders engagement before embarking on ecological fund intervention projects.
He noted that the projects were stakeholders’ projects and failure to include the stakeholders would always lead to security breach.
“So many things happened with UNICEF’s polio vaccine rejection; but when it included stakeholders, people began to accept the vaccine.
“It is critical to involve stakeholders and ensure equity. Security cannot be the reason why you won’t execute projects in certain parts of the country.
“The perception about your office is that there is money out there; so you need to change that perception and let people know that you have limitations about the execution of projects,’’ he said.
Jaji challenged the Ecological Fund Project Office to provide the needed advice to the president to enable him to take the correct steps.
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