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Advocates of third force’re after Nigeria’s treasury – Rasaq

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A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Lanre Rasaq is of the view that the clamour for a third force is not in the interest of the country, but aimed at achieving a selfish agenda by some politicians. He also speaks on the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the 2019 general elections. ADEWALE AJAYI reports

 

The All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government was initially not disposed to restructuring of the country, why the sudden change if mind given the recommendations of the party’s committee on restructuring headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai?
First and foremost, I am a member of APC, and I am very committed senior member of the party. If my party set up a committee at the national level and the committee came up with their findings and recommendations, it will amount to anti-party on my part to express a different opinion without discussing it with my party. What the party recommended is its wish on the way it wants Nigeria to be restructured and there are mechanisms within the party through which to communicate with the government to get the issue resolved. So, the party has taken a position on what it wants government to do.
Let the report be passed on to the government and let it come up with what it accepted among the recommendations, then one can comment on that as an individual. As far as I am concerned, if the party is not disposed to restructuring, it wouldn’t have set up a committee to look at it .Once a committee was set up and the committee has come up with a report, let’s wait and see government’s reaction, or what line of action the government will take on the matter.

Successive governments did set up committees to restructure the country towards the end of their administrations. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo did so, ditto Goodluck Jonathan, and President Muhaammadu Buhari is doing the same thing. Are we really serious about restructuring?
I want to make it clear, very, very clear that there is a gulf of difference between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government and that of the APC. In the APC, we have a committed, disciplined and patriotic Nigerian as president of this country now and I can assure you that Muhhammadu Buhari will not say something he knows he cannot do. He is God fearing and committed, let us wait till he gets the report. Don’t let us start counting the chicken when the eggs have not been hatched, let us wait and see what the government will do with the report.

There are divergent opinions about the desire of President Buhari to go for a second term. Some prominent Nigerians who have advised him to jettison the idea are former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Military Presindent, General Ibrahim Babangida. What is position on this?
Nigeria has a constitution, and we are being governed by that constitution and the constitution permits the President to go for a second term. It will therefore amount to infringement on the fundamental human right of Buhari for anybody to tell him not to run for a second term. That is violation of his right. Those who say the President should not run, they have a reason for saying that, but I wonder if whoever they have in mind to replace Buhari is coming from the blues. They went ahead to condemn PDP and APC and they talked about a third force, that is not politics, and it cannot work. I know what it takes to set up a political party, there must be ideology, there must be commitment, there must be people of like minds, there must also be a set goal and agenda.
Already, the timetable for the election is out and the dates for the 2019 elections is out, I cannot imagine the magic that would be done between now and the election date. They may have their grievances that the party in power has failed to improve the situation of things in the country; yes, I agree, after all government is so dynamic that, you tell the president this is what you have done, these are the things you have not done. You can also impress it on him areas he need to devote more attention, and he is working hard to get those things done. I believe it is a means of diverting the attention of the President on whether he should run or not.

Those asking the President not to seek re-election are of the view that he has been unable to tackle the myriads of problem facing the country. How do you react to that?
When people say he is unable to tackle the problems facing the country, I believe that is not right. We know the situation when the President took over in 2015. We know the situation of things then, the position of things and the economic situation then, the mess the economy was in then, and the man has performed wonderfully well. You will recall vividly that when he came on board, the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents was on the increase, and you know it is when one is alive that he can think of other things. It is because this administration has been able to curtail the activities of the insurgents that we have peace in the country.

You said the president has tried in the area of security, but how about the killings being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, which the president has been unable deal with…
There is no need to read tribal sentiment to it as the President is not president of the Fulani. He is the president of Nigeria; he is the president of the 350 ethnic groups that make up the country, so we don’t need to trivialize the matter.
Dealing with the issue involves a lot of things. It is not good to punish one innocent person; it is even better to allow 20 offenders to go scot free rather than punish one innocent person. There are security agencies in this country, they will investigate and arrest those involved. Though, the President is yet to make a pronouncement on the development, but no responsible leader will descend so low and allow people of his ethnic background to kill others. President Buhari will not and cannot do that. I am sure Nigerians at the end of the day Nigerians will see that they have a fair and just president with the way he will handle this matter.

Those clamouring for a third force say they will adopt a political party through which those in support of their agenda will contest the 2019 elections. Do you think this will bring the desired change?
Who are the brains behind the third force that will attract people to team up with them? This is not the first time somebody who has name would be clamouring for a better society, they will accuse politicians as not being good and that if they are given opportunity, they will get this and that done. Those who are not in government are quick at running down the government in power, let them join a political party or raise their third force and see what will happen. I am a member of the APC and I believe the party will do better things for Nigeria. They are saying these things because of their personal economic reasons; their personal agenda which they have tried and couldn’t realize in any party. APC still remains the best option Nigerians can bank on and it will deliver under the Buhari administration.

You said APC is the credible alternative, but most Nigerians do not see the party that way because most of the promises made by your party are yet to be fulfilled. Do you think Nigerians will still be interested in returning your party to power?
I want to tell you that under Buhari, we have created a lot of job opportunities; we have come up with a lot of innovations; we have done a lot in agriculture; we have done a lot in infrastructure. So, there is no way I will agree with anyone that we have not done much in creating employment; that is not a fair comment. The APC government has brought discipline to budgeting, we have been able to ensure that when you award a contract, there is money to match it up, and all the projects awarded under this administration are matched with money and the public is happy about it.

As the clock ticks to the 2019 elections, do you think your party can repeat its feat in the 2015 general election?
When the time comes, you will see the true situation of things, those who have access to the media have been saying whatever they like about the party in power, let them go to the grassroots and campaign to the people. I can tell you Buhari is even more acceptable to the public than he was in 2015, and if the election should hold today, the number of votes he will get would be more than what he got in 2015. The only way of appreciating him for doing well is to vote him for a second term in office.

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FG owes A’Ibom N140b for road rehab, says Inyang-Eyen

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Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, in this interview with TONY ANICHEBE sheds light on some issues surrounding the activities of the state government

 

Information has it that billions of Naira spent by the last administration on federal roads in the state have been refunded?

Let me take it from this angle. If we are currently doing 40 road projects in Akwa Ibom State and the Federal Government has refunded one kobo to us, we would be doing 80 new roads. The Federal Government is owing Akwa Ibom State about N140 billion from genuine approvals and when we met over the matter they agreed after verifications to pay the first tranche of N70 billion, pending the completion of other ongoing jobs. But as we speak now not a kobo has been refunded. We are still hopeful as the state government keep getting assurances from Abuja that the money will be paid. The governor was able to do so much because of prudent management of resources. For instance, before now much funds have been wasted through payment of compensations, but presently we have eliminated the middle men and compensations money goes directly to the beneficiaries.

 

Again through prudent management, funds earmarked for compensations of properties are now reviewed to the barest acceptable level leaving more funds for the actual road constructions. The secret of the ongoing massive road construction is prudent and transparent management of funds at our disposal. The governor is so keen on doing more for the people that rumour of abandoned projects being peddled by critics is unfounded. We are doing a massive 45 internal roads in Uyo

 

 

Talking of abandoned projects, the two major roads always on peoples’ mind are the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road and Enwang – Etebi road started by the immediate past administration. What is their fate?

 

It was not just those two we heard. We inherited Eket – Ibeno road leading to Exxonmobil QIT which we have finished and nobody is talking about it anymore. It is 20km of dualized road. The only snag there was that the Exxonmobil said they contributed N8 billion on the road construction which I debunked. The N8 billion was the palliative meant to be paid to the core communities of Ibeno, Esit Eket, Onna and Eket communities for oil spills from their platform. Eket – Etinan road was also inherited at almost zero point but if you take a ride through it, you will enjoy yourself. Now to your question, Etebi – Enwang was not abandoned but not funded for a season.

 

There was a contractor and technical partner involved in the project making it difficult to know who to hold responsible but we have resolved the issues, now we have one line of communication. God helping us the road will be commissioned soon without the bridge because the bridge which is 1.1km will take more time to be completed however, work is ongoing at the road project site now. It gets me amazed when people say that Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road have been abandoned. When the Udom Emmanuel’s administration came on board, the job was still ongoing, the problem was that the contractors could not bring down buildings on the right of way because monies earlier earmarked for compensation have been exhausted. We were not in a hurry to jump into the issue because compensation is a delicate thing. We have to take time to verify who was paid and who was not paid. However, we have started paying compensation along the road again and work has since resumed even as we are talking, payment of compensation is ongoing there. If people have said that the work was not going at maximum speed, I would have agreed but that it was abandoned was absolutely false.

 

 

You spoke about eliminating middle men in the payment of compensation, why did you do that and how are you handling the outcome of that decision?

 

When the governor sent me to this Ministry, he made it clear that everything surrounding compensation must be made open and transparent and every loophole sealed. Before now, the valuer was paying and we stopped that. Again, the issues of compensation was transferred from the Ministry of Lands to the Ministry of Works so that once we pay we take the right of way. So we get valuers which we call consultants and ask them to value and send the report to us. Then we in the Ministry will go for verification, filming and documentation.

 

We take time to see if what they did is in the tandem with best practices, because if you value a bungalow for N20 million and one storey building for N15 million, we will question your professional integrity. Then we will send the valuers report to the payment consultant who will go round and ensure that all the recorded codes on properties are genuine before payments are made directly to property owners under video and still camera coverage. The beneficiary and about five people will sign to authenticate the process. The five people include the beneficiary, his witness, consultant contractors etc.

 

Using this more transparent process, we eliminated middle men who strived to truncate what we are doing but failed not even their petitions and blackmails could stop us. The process has made those advised to take us to court to see no justifiable reason to do so. What this new system had succeeded in doing is to ensure that if one person is entitled to one naira for his property he gets his money directly without a third party and that too save more money for the government. It is not business as usual here.

 

 

As the administration began payments of compensation along the new dualized Uyo – Etinan and Etinan – Ndonuyo roads for structures, we observed the sudden emergence of over 200 shrines, grave yards and tombstones along the said roads. Were compensations paid too for them?
In fact, even most buildings we saw along Etinan – Ndonuyo and Uyo – Etinan roads emerged overnight because the buildings were without foundations. Some are mere block works without doors and windows and many without roofs. What we did was to demolish all. Along Awa – Ukat – Asom in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, we have over 1000 tombstones and shrines along there and we were asked to pay one million each, we wiped all of them out without paying a dime. We don’t pay compensation for such things.

 

People who buried their dead along the right of way, more than 20 years ago asked us to pay for the tomb stones; we don’t pay for such things. We only pay for genuine buildings. The entire land within the state belongs to government. If, for instance, you bought a land for N100 million and have a structure of N4 million on it, when government needs the land for overriding public interest, we pay for the cost of the structure and the land reverts to government. The money belongs to Akwa Ibom people and must be prudently managed and accounted for. For all we are doing, we do to justify our conscience because God is watching and people are watching too.

 

 

 

Talking about the impact made on the lives of the citizens by the government through your ministry, can we know them?

 

Well in Uyo, the state capital, about 45 roads are ongoing. We are doing massive road networks in the city in such a way that you don’t need to come to the major roads to get to your destination. We are also remodeling Oro nation; over eight roads have been done in the first instance under emergency intervention. When the governor commissioned the first set of roads, he ordered for a second intervention with an additional eight roads and massive erosion, intervention in the area. We hope to commission the second phase during the third anniversary of the governor’s administration.

 

Again, we are intervening in a major ravine in Oron which is threatening major households within the vicinity. Go to Eket city today and see from Atabong road up to the post office, you will see the remodeling beauty of the city. The phase two will go up to marina area of the Eket. The problem here is that the job is not as fast as I wanted because there when people received their compensations to vacate their buildings, they still foot-drag slowing the pace of work.

 

They make us look like bad people who came to take away their properties.

 

 

Today eight major roads are under construction in Eket and we have added additional eight roads, making it 16 roads going on in Eket. People will ask what of Ikot Ekpene, we all know that the area benefitted immensely from the immediate past administration. So what we are trying to do is raise the status of other Senatorial Headquarters too, like Eket, Oron and Uyo. So rather than concentrating on Ikot Ekpene, we move in to other areas under the district like Ini, Ikono, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam council areas etc, to give those communities a sense of belonging too.

 

 

Do you think that Governor Emmanuel has done enough to deserve a second term?

 

Yes! Akwa Ibom people will massively vote Governor Udom Emmanuel for many reasons. Emmanuel has tried to reach out to communities yearning for development over the years. For example, Ini Local Government Area has not had a road since 1999 but the government has not just given them a good road, but one that links the state through Obotme to Arochukwu in Abia State over a distance of 14.7km with a bridge. Today you can drive from Akwa Ibom to Arochukwu in Abia State very comfortably courtesy of Governor Emmanuel.

 

 

Now go to Obot Akara Local Government Area which was neglected, Emmanuel has taken dividends of democracy to them too. When the former Deputy Governor Engr Ekpeyong appealed to the governor that their roads were impassable with children unable to go to schools again, he responded with a 6.41km of roads with two bridges linking the area to Enwere Azu in Abia State. You can now access our neighboring states through there.

 

The truth is that many communities crying over neglect before now are smiling with good road networks. Mkpat Enin Local Government Area has also benefited immensely. Akwa Ibom people will vote Governor Emmanuel because development have spread to every nook and canny of the state. People get projects because they truly need them and not out of political consideration. In Oruk Anam Council Area, four new roads are ongoing. In Akwa State University Obio Akpa campus, a 5.1km road is under construction and the entire community has been linked up. People want good road network and they have been given that by the governor. Economics 101 states that for you to have industries, you need good road network for accessibility to the source of road materials and to evacuate goods.

 

We have dualized roads from Airport Road to Okopedi in Okobo council area. From there we got CCECC firm to break through a thick forest to do another 15 km road to Uya- Oro, the terminal port of the East West Road.

 

From Uyo, we are working to dualize road from Ikot Oku Ikono to Etinam. There is a dualized the road that is going to Ndonuyo to East-West road, and to the left through Etinan Institute. There is another dualized road that empties you to remodeled Eket town. We are about to award Abak – Ekparakwa – Eket road. These will give people many options into the state without any hassles. If you are a voter and a governor in two and half years achieved all these in one sector, then you will agree with me that the governor has genuine vision for the state. My governor should be the best governor in road infrastructure in Nigeria.

 

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N3.9bn airport fund diversion scam politically motivated –Oduah

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Senator Stella Oduah has said that recent report in a national daily, alleging that N3.9 billion airport renovation fund was diverted under her watch as Minister was politically motivated.

 

Oduah, in a statement issued in Abuja, described the report as the work of political detractors whose intention was to strike her politically as the 2019 election year approached.

 

The politician, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration, also frowned at the newspaper for stooping to an unprofessional level by publishing such unverified false report without recourse to her.

 

She stressed that the content of the report was completely untrue, saying that those behind it were unhappy with her overwhelming political popularity and doing everything to tarnish her image.

 

“It is very unprofessional and indeed shameful for a seemingly reputable newspaper …to make such wild accusations without verifying the source of their information and without any recourse to me.

 

“This is purely the handiwork of my political detractors who are uncomfortable with my overwhelming popularity as a Senator representing my zone.

 

“It is not surprising that those tales are coming at a time when the general election and political party primaries for the election are at the corner, with my detractors piqued with the staunch resolution of my people to re-elect me as Senator.

 

“What is surprising is how a once respectable newspaper will descend so low to run the errand of political libel, she said.

 

Oduah insisted that the statements contained in the publication were completely false and should be disregarded by the general public.

 

“At no time was any money meant for contracts under my watch as the Aviation Minister diverted to any company belonging to me neither did I paying back any loan from any such funds.

 

All contracts awarded by Ministry of Aviation under me followed due process and as for the contract under reference, the said contract was executed.

 

“As the Minister of Aviation, I committed myself to the service of my country to the very best of my ability and as it am widely acknowledged; my record and performance as the Minister of Aviation remain laudable and unbeatable.

 

 

 

“What we did in aviation was so far reaching that it had never been done before, it was so unprecedented. If you remember how just Abuja airport used to be: one used to literally find it impossible to use the rest rooms there. To get into the lounge where people sit was impossible, most motor parks were better than what we had at the airport whether it is Lagos, Abuja, and Sokoto.

 

“We took them on and efficiently and in a very timely manner changed every single one of them: and we did not just change that we changed the safety of the Nigerian airspace.

 

“Before we were having accidents literally every six months but we made sure that the safety of Nigerian passengers was prioritised to ensure that the landing gears, the flight gadgets, every single thing that will make Nigerian airspace the airspace that it is today, recognised by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), it had never been done before.

 

“I challenge anybody to just do a spreadsheet; how aviation was before, how I made aviation and how aviation is today. In all honesty if the person does not give me 120 per cent it means that they cannot add.

 

“It is thus natural to expect odious reactions from some elements whose greatest political punches are calumny,” she said.

 

The former minister, therefore, cautioned the news medium to refrain from playing into the hands of political detractors whose aim was to ride on them to score cheap political points.

 

“Anyone in my position will be constrained to seek redress in a law court against the publisher of such news, but suffice it to pass a word of caution to the authors of that libel at this stage,” she said.

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CNPP backs NASS on order of elections, cautions CSOs

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The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has thrown its weight behind the National Assembly on reordering of the 2019 general elections and beyond, insisting that the presidential election must come last to save the Nigerian democracy and the country from nose-diving into a one party state at any point in our national life.

 

In its reaction to the controversy surrounding the reordering of elections by the Assembly ahead of the 2019 polls, the CNPP in a statement issued by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, noted that proposal by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will enable the party, which wins the presidential election sweeping the polls at all levels in view of the history of elections in the country.

 

CNPP also counseled all civil society organisations (CSOs) “towing the path of INEC to retrace their steps as they are unwittingly aiding a rigging formula that will turn the country into a one party state.

 

“If INEC wants to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country devoid of rigging, the Commission should listen to the voice of the representatives of the Nigerian people, who are working hard to reduce bandwagon effects in voting. Members of the National Assembly are not only experienced politicians but major stakeholders in the outcome of the elections.

 

“You don’t put in place an electoral process in place with one man in mind because if another person comes in, the process will be inherited by the person. The process should be to do the right thing and follow the path that can deepen democracy rather than a party that will ultimately destroy all democratic tenets we have all labour to build.

 

“For us, the reordered elections are the best thing the current National Assembly has done for Nigeria and democracy in the country. And anyone against it is a hater of Nigerian democracy.

 

“The issue is not about President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection bid. It is about Nigeria after President Buhari,” the Conference observed.

 

The CNPP then tasked the electoral umpire on free, fair and very credible 2019 elections that will surpass the legacy left behind by the last leadership of the Commission. It equally urged politicians to work together to save democracy and unite the county rather than working for selfish purposes, with destruction as its end.

 

The Senate and the House of Representatives had recently concurrently reordered the 2019 general elections timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

 

The order of elections was first reordered by the House of Representatives on January 24, 2018, by amending Section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new Section 25 (1), stating that the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly election (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election.

 

Similarly, Section 87 was amended by adding a new section 87 (11) with marginal note: “Time for primaries of political parties. The primaries of political parties shall follow the following sequence (i) State Houses of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv) President.

 

“The dates for the above stated primaries shall not be held earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before date of elections to the offices.”

 

INEC has said it would obey the amendment passed by the National Assembly only if it is assented to by the President.

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