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Anambra Central: Re-run holds after a long wait

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The long wavering over the Anambra Central re-run would be resolved tomorrow as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducts the court-ordered poll to elect a representative for the senatorial district, FELIX NWANERI reports

 

The people of Anambra Central senatorial will go to the poll tomorrow to elect their representative in the Senate after over two years the court ordered for a re-run in the district. The seat became vacant after the sack of Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, who was declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Returning Officer for the March 28, 2015 National Assembly elections, Dr. Pius Okoye, while announcing the election result said Ekwunife, who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), polled 101,548 votes to defeat 14 other candidates.

Former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh and a former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige (who is presently Minister of Labour and Productivity), who contested on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) came second and third respectively with 77, 129 and 20, 850 votes respectively.

While Ekwunife declared the outcome of the election as “victory for the masses” and urged her opponents to sheathe their swords and accept her victory in good faith, the APGA and APC candidates rejected the results. Ngige particularly called for a cancellation of the election, while Umeh headed to the State and National Assembly Election Tribunal to challenge Ekwunife’s victory. After four months of legal battle, the tribunal, which sat in Awka, the state capital, on October 9, 2015, dismissed the petition filled by Umeh.

The Justice Naiyi Aganaba-led three-man tribunal unanimously upheld Ekwunife’s election and struck out all relief sought by the APGA candidate. Affirming the result declared by INEC, the tribunal declared that by its calculation, Ekwunife scored 93,300 votes as against Umeh’s 85,898 to win majority of votes cast during the election.

Justice Aganaba also ruled that the petitioners – Umeh and APGA – failed woefully to establish their case, which they hinged on alleged mutilations and incorrect figures of results upon which the PDP candidate was declared winner by INEC. He also ruled that the petitioners failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt that some errors and mutilations found in some result sheets as spotted by the petitioners were enough to nullify the election.

Umeh had approached the tribunal for it to declare him winner on the ground that he got the highest number of lawful votes cast. At the tribunal, through his lawyers, the APGA candidate, going by the ruling of the court, was able to show that the result announced by INEC was false by re-calculating the figures on the certified true copies of the results declared by INEC. A re-calculation of figures presented by INEC showed that PDP got 93,860 on the face value instead of 101,548 while APGA scored 85,898 instead of 77,129.

There was also the issue of whether Ekwunife was validly nominated. Umeh in his petition argued that the PDP in Anambra State had been factionalised in the past 12 years. He argued that before the primaries started, internal squabbles in the PDP took a heavy toll on the party, necessitating that Ekwunife and her group became candidates without going through any primaries or any process as provided by the Electoral Act. Despite the issues raised by Umeh, the tribunal ruled that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.

Expectedly, the APGA candidate appealed the judgement and after about eight weeks of legal tussle, a Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, on December 7, 2015, sacked Ekwunife and ordered a fresh election within 90 days.

Chairman of the three-man appeal panel, Justice A.D Yahaya, in his lead judgement faulted the earlier judgement of the lower tribunal which upheld Ekwunife’s election. “The perverse judgment of the lower tribunal cannot stand.

The appeal succeeds. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct fresh election in Anambra Central within 90 days to elect a new senator for the senatorial district,” he ruled. The two other judges in the appeal panel, Justices T.O. Awotoye and D.S. Sanga, also concurred with the lead judegment.

While, series of litigations by interested parties stalled the re-run, hope was raised for the people of the district in November last year, when the electoral commission announced January 13th date for the poll. But, their optimism of electing a senator was dampened shortly after the timetable was announced, when a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who is one of the PDP aspirants as the validly elected representative for the district. Though INEC responded by saying that it is studying the judgement, one of the contending parties –APGA – went ahead to flag-off its campaign for the re-run.

The party’s candidate, Umeh, who assured that the re-run will hold as scheduled, said the court order was a ridiculous one, especially as it came from a High Court in a matter that has been settled by the Supreme Court.

While the conflicting positions raised doubt over the poll, the coast was cleared yesterday, following the refusal of the Court of Appeal to stop the election. The Abuja division of the appellate court in refusing an application that sought to restrain INEC from conducting the rerun held that the earlier order made on November 20, 2017 directing INEC to conduct election for the senatorial seat within 90 days cannot be reversed so as not to make mockery of the judiciary.

Another PDP aspirant, Senator Annie Okonkwo, had approached the appellate court for leave to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal which had on November 20 last year ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election into the vacant Anambra Central senatorial seat within 90 days.

Senator Okonkwo declared that he was interested in challenging the judgement of November 20, 2017 as a senatorial aspirant. However, the application could not be entertained because most parties joined in the application were not served with the court processes.

Okonkwo then applied for an adjournment to enable him serve court processes on the respondents. He also applied for an order compelling INEC not to conduct the election until his application has been dully determined. INEC, however, objected to the request on the ground that huge public fund has been expended on preparation for the poll.

The commission’s position was upheld by the court as Justice Yahaya ruled that the court cannot compel INEC to make any undertaken to postpone the election because of an application that was not ripe for hearing. He further ruled that the Appeal Court having made an order on November 20, last year, cannot probate and reprobate at the same time.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we have not restrained INEC from conducting the election as ordered by this court on November 20, 2017,” he said. With the coast cleared for the poll, 14 candidates will file out tomorrow to seek the electorate’s mandate to represent Anambra Central in the upper legislative chamber.

INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji, who declared this yesterday, however explained that the PDP would not participate in the exercise following a court order barring it from fielding a candidate.

He added that a total of 7,670 ad hoc workers have been recruited for the election scheduled to hold in 1,548 polling units. The REC further said that non-sensitive materials have already been distributed to the seven local government areas that make up the senatorial district.

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No president has done as much as Buhari for Nigeria –Etiebet

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Former Petroleum Minister, Atuekong Don Etiebet, in this interview with TONY ANICHEBE, speaks on sundry issues. Excerpts:

 

Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s committee on restructuring has submitted its report to the Federal Government, where Akwa Ibom PDP leaders have lampooned the All Progressives Congress led government for contemplating the re-introduction of the outlawed Onshore/Offshore oil dichotomy in the country. What’s your take?

No! I don’t think that is what the committee meant. The problem of onShore/offshore oil dichotomy had been settled and it is settled that the literal states, where offshore production occurs within 240 nautical miles belongs to the literal states. So, I believe what the committee meant may be oil discovered or produced outside that isobar boundary, not within.

And if you look at the committee report, they didn’t mention anything about the area within the 240 isobar. So, let nobody be deceived or let nobody be confused that, the report meant production within the 240 isobars. That had been settled and you can quote me on that very seriously. If anything is done to get near towards that area, we shall oppose it vehemently.

Some people are campaigning against the return of President Buhari in 2019. Do you think they are justified?
Such a statement from such people is very unfortunate because, I have been playing politics and I am known for politics since I returned to this country. In fact after independence I left the country prior to the civil war and I came back in 1978, Since then I have been involved very seriously in politics; from the formation of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), which I played serious roles and held positions. Quote me, I have never seen an administration or a President that has done as much as Buhari has done to reposition this country to be a country or a nation of productivity. I mean a nation that can stand on its own and attain economic prosperity like other nations.

This country in the 50s was in a better economic footing than countries like Malaysia and South Korea. We had more tarred or asphalted roads in this country than South Korea and Malaysia itself. I have personally gone to Malaysia; the progress that this country had, the economic status, both in politics and everything this country had was as good at that time as India. Most of the achievements of what those countries have done now was because of good administration and leadership.

Don’t you agree that we have had good leadership in the past?
From independence we have never had good leadership. In fact, the only time that we had good leadership was in 1983/84 when this same Buhari had a coup and toppled Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s government and brought about some level of sanity, some level of lawfulness. This country has been besieged with lawlessness, impunity, indiscipline and serious corruption. Even the crude oil that we depend on, it was when Buhari came into office in 1984 as Head of State that, he identified the source of corruption in the oil industry as illegal bunkering.

Many governments in the past, even up till the last government had been supporting the illegal bunkering. I am a former Minister of Petroleum and I know the details. They have been supporting illegal bunkering. All these oil spills in the South-South zone, in the Niger Delta area that had become national and international problem, was caused by illegal bunkering, not by the oil producers.

The oil producers don’t go and lay pipes to transport crude oil or products and then go by themselves to go and cut those pipes and spill the oil; they don’t do that. They produce in other countries which I know and they are all over the world and, there is international means and ways of producing oil. If you destroy the environment, you are by law liable to clean up that environment.

For instance, when Mobil Rig exploded and the oil leaked in North America, they were held responsible to clean up. They cleaned up because it was their responsibility. When British Petroleum (BP) was drilling in the Mexican Gulf and the thing exploded underneath and a lot of oil went out and polluted the area, they were held liable to clean up.

They were fined and they accepted liability because it was act of their own activity but in Nigeria, the International Oil Companies (IOCs) have been refusing to clean up the spill because they say it is not caused by them, its caused by oil bunkers, who break the pipes in order to steal the products and illegally export, and that is what had been happening from the beginning.

So, as someone who comes from the Niger Delta, who also belongs to the PANDEF and I have been saying this over and over again that, our problem is caused by us because of corruption and illegal bunkering until the United Nations (UN) has come in. And every time you take the IOCs to court, they will plead that they are not responsible and Nigeria has never proven that they are responsible in breaking the pipes and allowing the crude oil to spill and we are witnesses to all the illegal attempts or the illegal activities of siphoning either crude oil or refined products to sell illegally and that is the cause of all these things in the Niger Delta.

How can bunkering be prevented?
It is only the present government that had taken steps to prevent bunkering. I know Mr. President when he was Head of State in 1984, the first statement he made was that, he was going to take steps to stop illegal bunkering by sinking any ship that is found with illegal crude oil. He made that statement and today, he is also standing by it because that is the source of our great worry. We produce more oil than we declare. So, where do the others go?

Two; if you can tell me that, there is ever a government in this country that had done enough to stop corruption or defective electoral process since independence, you let me know. Even former President Obasanjo went to the United States of America and made a statement that elections is a ‘do or die’ affair and that we are allergic to rigging.

He also said that, even America rigged elections. That is the beginning of corruption.
When you have faulty elections, when you have elections where people ‘carry go’, where people kidnap the electoral officers or point guns at them and sometimes, influence them with huge sums of money and later they will go and declare the result of such elections. When these leaders take over having known that they did not get into the office through the votes of the electorate, they will only pay attention to their godfathers, that had been the main source problem in this country and because of that we never had good governance.

Are you saying we have one now?
This is first time we have a government that has taken all the necessary steps to bring about good government. That is not to say that, the people are okay. You cannot stop this endemic corruption in the country that has come since independence till today overnight, and you cannot also kill all the people who were corrupt overnight so that they leave office, they are still there even in the civil service. The people who were there yesterday are still there till today.

But, he has created an atmosphere of fear and, I am sure you will believe me that this government has created an atmosphere of fear for people not to be corrupt as before. Look at what is happening in the case of Treasury Single Account (TSA); all of those trillion of naira that is in the bank now through the TSA, where were they before? It is the civil servants, public servant and the DGs etc that, were taking all the money and nothing was saved. That is why the country is even able to come out of secession because President Buhari has been able to get these monies that would have gone into private pockets.

The Minister of Financial the other day went to New York and said that, the former Nigerian government left an empty treasury and they have not come out to say they didn’t up till now. And you have also heard about all the monies that was lost in the Ministry of Petroleum; that quantum of money. You have heard about all the monies that lost in the Ministry of Defense which was meant for the fighting of Boko-Haram insurgency but, they didn’t use it. The Bible says, ‘‘seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you’’.

The kingdom of God to reposition Nigeria for economic growth is to bring corruption to zero. It may not come fully to zero level but to reduce it to a level that can allow development. Corruption is not only bribery and giving money to people but corruption of the mind.

In this country, we talk about development. All the research institutions the colonialist set up in this country at least the nearest one for you in Akwa Ibom State was NIFOR. Where is NIFOR today? NIFOR was to research into the application of palm produce from Benin. That is what made Malaysia which took the seed of palm tree from here to go and grow in their domain.

Look at the foreign exchange that they have today and so, what is wrong with Nigeria? All the research institutions have failed because the people who are managing them once they take the money they will say they have done research but they don’t do anything. They will put the money in their pockets.

So, a lot of things have to be reprogrammed, restructured and repositioned for the country to move and you cannot achieve all that overnight. But President Buhari has laid the foundation for achieving that, and that is why I support him. Whether people like it or not, I am supporting him and certainly, whether they say he is not going to rule or the people would not want

him to win election, let me tell you; since 2003 President Buhari first entered into the presidential election, he has a base of support that you cannot dismantle. Whosoever comes from anywhere in this country cannot match Buhari with that base. Mr. President today has a base of 12 million votes whether you like it or not, whatever people would say cannot dismantle the 12 million votes.
In 2003, go and check the records 12m votes, In 2007, 2011 and 2015 plus the top up from other states like the South West that didn’t vote him before, like Kano which was PDP before, and Jigawa that was formerly PDP. So, he already has this base which no other person from any other party can match.

In the southern zones; in 2003, in the whole of the three southern zones of Nigeria, former President Obasanjo declared only 880 thousand votes for Buhari and declared over 12 million votes for himself. Go and check the records, I was there and I stopped the announcement of the results because I said it was not proper and correct. So, with that base, he already has what you cannot toil with, there is nothing you can say and there is no candidate from the North that can go to Borno State and get one vote, go the Sokoto and get one vote, go to Kano and get one vote.

In the North, whosoever they are, I am telling you that his base is there and those voters are there and you can’t dismantle them over night. Now, he is coming to the South East which knows they have a problem for not supporting him before. Mr. President has said, ‘‘you gave me 198,000 votes and, I am giving you four strong first class ministries’’ and they now said, we are now turning over to you in 2019. Former Governor Chime of Enugu, who gave him only 50,000 votes in 2015 is now in APC and all other persons are now in APC. In Akwa Ibom State, we gave him hundreds of thousands of votes but, there was no proper election in which we fought up to supreme court. So, he is going to win overwhelmingly. Buhari is sincere to build a new Nigeria and if for 57 years of independence, Nigeria is where it is today who do you blame? Blame the past leaders, this is the only leader that has started to lay foundation for a better economic growth.

Do you see Obasanjo and IBB’s letters to Buhari as threats to his re-election?
No threat at all. It’s only bad belle, everybody knows that because they always want to be relevant in the affairs of the country.

What is your expectation of Akwa Ibom APC in 2019?
We will win the election and take over the Hill–Top Mansion overwhelmingly, decisively and massively. APC is going to win the state massively because we are going to do proper election. PDP has never won election in this state without rigging. The only genuine election that was conducted in this state was the one I conducted in 1999 for Obong Victor Attah to win. In that election Obong Attah scored over 700,000 votes go and check the records. Obong Akpan Isemin scored about 400,000 votes. So, there was voting at that time.

Since then, tell me where has any opponent of the governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom scored 1/3 of what the winner scored because, they locked up the Returning Officers in some houses and pointed guns on their heads and forced them to sign the forms, after signing the forms for them, announced the results and after they would say; ‘‘let’s go to court’’.

That is what they have been doing before but, to God be the Glory, they are not going to be able to do that now. Even the Master of all that rigging; Mr. Godswill Akpabio has said it with his mouth that, Governor Udom Emmanuel should be very careful that now, there is not going to be ‘‘Carry – Go’’. That the electorates are going to vote and that votes shall be counted. And you are asking me if APC will win. We are going to win 100 percent and overwhelmingly.

As former Petroleum Minister, could you proffer solutions to the current fuel crisis in the country?
Who is still controlling the petroleum distribution in Nigeria? It is still the original PDP marketers. They are holding the entire nation to ransom. What is happening is that election time is coming and they are doing all kinds of things to ensure petrol scarcity and what do they want?, They want increase in petrol price so that they can use that against APC in the impending 2019 election.

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OBJ destroyed Nigerian federation, Buhari’s hasn’t done well –Akinrinade

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A former Chief of Defence Staff and chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Lt. Gen Alani Akinrinade (rtd), in this interview with BABATOPE OKEOWO, spoke on the need for state police, among other national issues. Excerpts…

 

 

What is your view on state police?
My position is very clear; how best can you describe an official who has a land space peopled by the finest of humans who commissioned him freely by their votes to lead them, provided him with all the institutions for making laws for their betterment but has no means for enforcing those laws? A governor must have institutions to make laws and enforce those laws; that is what is called a governor, not an administrator.

All the troubles we are having in Nigeria today especially with regard to the Boko Haram could not have happened, we could have averted or at least minimize them if states have police which they train, equip and give assignments as per the security of the state, not beyond the state.

They will recruit the right people, most of them will be natives who understand the language, the culture of the people; they will know where to find information and people will really trust them. This is how it works everywhere. Why will I trust a policeman whose language I do not understand? Why would I give him information? Why would he not sell me out? Why should he be my friend? These are the issues all of us can see but we are just pretending.

How do you see the argument that governors will use state police to settle political scores?
We are just pretending that once we have state police, a governor will become a god and will start molesting people. That is not really true. The world has gone beyond that. Right now, if a governor does anything to anybody, within one hour, the whole social media would be awashed with it. We must live in the present, not in the past.

What then do you think is the way out of the pervasive insecurity in the country?
That is what we have been discussing. First of all re-engineer your whole architecture; we are not governed in the most effective way, there is too much of Abuja in everything. If anything happens today, the governor has not much say; he just puts it on Abuja. If the roads are bad, he says it is Abuja, if the water is not running, he says it is Abuja. It should not be so. The orientation should become very local; local government and the state government.

Again, the architecture for security will then change, if the governor should he held responsible for everything that happens in his state, therefore, he wants to know beforehand, not after the event. When the likes of Samuel Ortom started writing letters, nobody knew about it.

Eventually, it happened, they killed many people; then the argument started among all of them. Ortom said ‘I wrote to you, everybody is just laughing at me.’ It will not happen if the governor knows he should be held responsible. When we talk about restructuring, a lot of things need restructuring; even how we raise money, how it is spent, how it is accounted for. These things can never have any meaning unless you narrow it down to the basics people are asking for.

Some All Progressives Congress governors have reportedly endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for second term, do you think this is a reasonable thing to do?
We should ask them if they went to their states, if they had referendum or they had already voted, so they are representing the views of their people backed by some form of plebiscites. But they are free to say whatever they like. But they also know their own people are free to vote them out. Everybody is at liberty to endorse anybody he wants.

What is your own assessment of President Buhari’s administration?
He has not done well; that is all I can say. In fact, below the expectation of what some of us had. May be we are expecting too much. But we know he has not done well. The past two or so years in our country, appear to me like a tragic thriller movie in slow motion, full of cruelty, of highest order of barbarity and egged on by those we elected or selected to give us governance. Herdsmen have been on the rampage for several months now, killing, raping, burning, kidnapping, name it, all the hallmarks of those who never exited the animal farm.

It was recently when our president was called out as the patron of his kinsmen, the herdsmen, that letters of complaints and its denials between the Federal Government, the police and governors in distress started circulating that he gave a feeble, unclear, half-hearted order to stop the carnage. Let us allow history to deliver its verdict after many more have died, but I am certainly tired and ashamed of being classified as a barbarian.”

Since you agreed that President Buhari has performed below expectation, do you think former President Olusegun Obasanjo is justified in his letter?
Watch the message not the messenger, don’t shoot the messenger. I am not going to shoot the messenger. The message has merit but the problem we have is that we are seeing the messenger. Obasanjo does not have the moral right whatsoever to criticise anybody. He has done more than anybody else in this country to destroy the federation we are now fighting for.

Could you give instances to buttress this point?
Was it not Obasanjo before 1978 when he was Head of State, when it was two months to the election and he knew that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was advocating free education and people were buying into it, who came up with policy to counter it? You know what he did? He quickly said the Federal Government would take over primary education and that it was going to be free just to take the wind out of the sail of Chief Awolowo. Obasanjo had been doing this for ages, he took over our universities and destroyed them.

Gen Ibrahim Babangida also wrote one; is there a gang up of the generals against Buhari?
I don’t know, I am not sure because I was not there. But I don’t think IBB will sit with Obasanjo to conspire against anybody. I doubt it. There may be some coincidences, but I am not for organised conspiracy.

Could you shed more light on your remark about Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s preparedness for the forthcoming election?
I said the clock has started ticking again to the periodic bloody ritual of election without the electorate. How do you rationalize INEC admitting recently that it was registering toddlers for election in the northern part of Nigeria on the pains of death.

What then happened to our humongous financial outlay of seven Infantry Army Divisions, a mighty Air Force and a Navy that supposedly rules our portion of the seas, hundreds of thousands of policemen and numerous other gun-totting formations, when mere threat of violence is all that is required to hold sway over law and order? Or are these pythons dancing? Where are the men who refuse to do the wrong things? Could INEC officials not have withdrawn their services and closed down all facilities? Are they collaborators?

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APC reconciliation: You’ve my full support, Oyegun tells Tinubu

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The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, yesterday said the party’s national leader, Bola Tinubu, has his “fullest” support on his reconciliation assignment.

An online news portal, TheCable had reported how Tinubu wrote a scathing letter to the national chairman of the party accusing him of sabotage.

“Instead of being a bulwark of support as promised, you positioned yourself in active opposition to the goal of resuscitating the progressive and democratic nature of APC,” the letter read.

But in his response sent to an online news portal, TheCable yesterday, Odigie-Oyegun was silent on the allegation of sabotage raised against him.

Odigie-Oyegun said: “I thank you for your letter dated February 21, 2018, for your prayers and good wishes for my health. I wish you the same and pray that our good God keeps you strong and grants you His peace,” Oyegun wrote in the letter dated February 23.

“Let me once again formally congratulate you on the peacemaking assignment Mr. President has entrusted you with.

“It is most challenging but I believe you will ultimately justify the confidence reposed in you by Mr President. In this, you have my fullest support.”

Oyegun sent copies of the letters to President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House of Representatives.

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