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Insecurity: Osinbajo’s hard truth

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Hard truth at Senate’s security summit

CHUKWU DAVID reports on the National Security Summit organised by the Senate, which provided Vice President Yemi Osinbajo the opportunity to make clarifications on the proposed grazing reserves and clamour for state police

 

The Senate recently organised what it termed “National Security Summit” to brainstorm with the relevant security agencies and stakeholders in order to proffer solutions to the worsening security situation in the country.
The summit was conceived as an intervention by the apex legislative chamber towards addressing the deteriorating and widening insecurity across the country. The need to hold the summit became imperative following the January 2018 killings in Benue, Adamawa, kaduna and Taraba states.
When the senators resumed plenary from their Christmas and New Year recess on January 16, the first thing they did was to raise concern over unprecedented security challenges in the country, with escalating killings and wanton destruction of lives and property in some parts of the federation.
The Senate took a comprehensive look into the ugly and disturbing trend and came up with a number of resolutions. One of the decisions of the lawmakers was to impress on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up and tackle the threatening situation or resign his position as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The lawmakers, who accused the President of appointing many incompetent persons into his cabinet, urged him to sack all members of his cabinet and other appointees, who are not living up to expectation.
They also called for the sack or resignation of heads of security agencies, who could not live up to expectation in respect of containing the worrisome insecurity in the country, particularly those who have demonstrated partiality and ineptitude in their mode of handling the security challenges.
The anger and frustration expressed by the legislators, while considering the report of the Senate ad hoc committee on the review of the nation’s security infrastructure as well as a point of order raised by Senator Shuaibu Lau (PDP, Taraba North), on killings in Taraba State by Fulani herdsmen.
Adding to this was another point of order by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, who also brought to the notice of the Senate incidences of kidnapping in Taraba State and the gruesome murder of a member of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Hosea Ibi, who was killed even after his family paid a ransom of N25 million to his captors.
Also disturbing to the Red Chamber was the report by Senator Kabiru Marafa, who informed the Senate earlier that he had received phone calls from his constituents in Zamfara Central, that some armed bandits invaded the area and abducted some people and demanded for ransom.
Marafa told the Senate that sixty per cent of Zamfara State is now being controlled by foreign mercenaries. He further alleged that the mercenaries are known to the state government.
Against these backdrops, the Senate resolved to convene a national security summit to consider the various security challenges in the country, with a view to proffering short, medium and long term solutions to the menace.
The summit was eventually convened at the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Conference Centre, in the nation’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It was a two-day programme spanning Thursday January 8, and Monday 12.
President Muhammadu Buhari was billed to be the special guest of honour, but he was absent and did not send any of his cabinet members to represent him.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who graced the occasion, did so in his personal capacity as he acknowledged that he had to honour the Senate’s invitation.
Declaring the summit open, Osinbajo spoke on two critical issues currently bogging the nation, which have actually proven to be major problems confronting successive governments, the present administration and the people of Nigeria in general.
The issues border on call for the establishment of state police and the much-talked about establishment of ranches, grazing reserves or cattle colonies.
In addressing these hydra-headed issues that have provoked a lot of divergent views and agitations within the polity in recent times, Osinbajo unequivocally lent his voice to other Nigerians, who have been calling for the establishment of state police in the 36 states of the Federation, as the only pragmatic and effective means of tackling the menacing problem of insecurity in the country.
He also stressed that based on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Federal Government has no such powers and would never seize or forcefully take any lands from the states for the purpose of establishing cattle ranches or grazing reserves as being insinuated by many apprehensive Nigerians.
Commenting further on the security challenges in the country and the efforts of government to solve the problem, the vice president however, admitted that there were instances where security agencies had failed to properly and urgently respond to security issues, noting that some basic challenges inhibited the efforts of security agencies to adequately secure the country.
According to him, the Nigeria Police Force with the current centralised structure is too defective to be useful in combating the worsening security challenges in the country. He also stated that in the interim, the number of police personnel must be increased reasonably to be able to match the frightening unfolding insecurity in the country.
The number two citizen however warned Nigerians not to allow the present insecurity situation in the country to assume a religious dimension as he said that the present administration is doing everything within its powers to drastically reduce insecurity and give Nigerians a peaceful, habitable country.
His words: “The nature of our security challenges is complex and known. Securing Nigeria’s over 900, 000 sq km and its 180 million people requires far more men and material than we have at the moment. It also requires a continuous reengineering of our security architecture and strategy. This has to be a dynamic process.
“For a country of our size to meet the one policeman to 400 persons prescribed by the United States (UN) would require triple our current police force; far more funding of the police force and far more funding of our military and other security agencies. We cannot realistically police a country of the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go.
“We must intensify existing collaboration with our neighbours in the Chad Basin by strengthening security especially at border communities to prevent the movement of small arms and disarming armed pastoralists and other armed bandits who go through our borders day after day. We must avoid the danger of allowing this crisis to degenerate into religious or ethnic conflict. This is the responsibility of political, religious and all other facets of our leadership in Nigeria.”
On the efforts of government to resolve the frequent herdsmen/ farmers clashes in the country, the vice president said that the presidential committee handling the matter, of which he is the chairman, had been consulting with the stakeholders to proffer lasting solutions to the situation.
He said that the committee has also been working to see how to ensure that there is a plan for cattle breeding and rearing which would take into account, contemporary methods of doing so in other parts of the world.
Osinbajo further allayed the fears of Nigerians on insinuations the Federal Government under President Buhari was planning to forcefully take over lands from the states to establish cattle ranches or grazing areas, noting that the Constitution of Nigeria has vested the lands in the state governors.
He said: “We are also, with the collaboration of states and the governors of Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and along with seven other governors, have constituted the working group which I chair, where they have been seeking to proffer solutions to some of the problems associated with farmer/herdsmen clashes, but in particular, how to ensure that there is a plan for cattle rearing that takes into account, contemporary methods of doing so in other parts of the world.
“All stakeholders agree that we must now develop new ideas to prevent clashes between herdsmen and farmers; in particular enabling the cows and herders to become more sedentary. It is obvious that the physical movement of cattle in an endless journey on the move, must now begin to take a different shape. We cannot afford it even from the economic perspective, there must be another way.
“There is also a clear sense which I think must be appreciated, that the Federal Government cannot dictate to states what to do with their land. This is so because the Land Use Act of 1978 puts land under the control of governors on behalf of their states.
“Also, the Supreme Court in the case of Attorney General of Lagos State versus the Attorney General of the Federation in 2004, held that use of land resources and permits for such use, lie firmly in the hands of state governments. Even for use of federal lands in the states according to the Supreme Court, building or development control permit must be sought from the governors of the states.”
He however, pointed out that in some northern states, there are gazetted grazing reserves, which he noted had been degraded and are without pasture or water especially in the dry season, stating that there was the need to secure the routes leading to the grazing reserves in the states where they existed.
He said: “In several states, especially in the North, there are duly gazetted grazing reserves. A majority of these grazing reserves are degraded and are without pasture or water especially in the dry season. Grazing routes leading to these reserves must also be secured. The grazing reserves to be effective and operate effectively, should operate as ranches or livestock production centres on a commercial basis. The ranches will have adequate water from boreholes, salt points and pasture.
“The locations would serve both as forage points, but also centres for providing extension services to boost animal care, feeding and veterinary facilities, and even abattoirs. Because the ranches are commercial ventures, cattle owners will pay for its use.
“It is important to note that by and large, in consultation with stakeholders, all agree that where adequate provision is made on a commercial basis, there is no reason why there won’t be cooperation to use those ranches because there are both economic and social benefits for everyone, including herders.
“Aside from states that have gazetted grazing areas, so far about 13 states have agreed to allocate 5,000 hectares of land for the ranching or livestock production. We must emphasise that in arriving at any of these decisions in the states, the states, Federal Government and all of the stakeholders have to seat together and work out solutions that will benefit everyone. This cannot be done by fear or force, people have to work together to ensure that there is adequate consultations.
“Let me reiterate, that on no account will any lands be seized or forcefully taken to create these ranches or grazing areas. All insinuations to that effect should be disregarded. No one is giving land to herdsmen, as is being falsely alleged. Instead, it is in our view that states that are willing and which have set aside land for development should cooperate with willing investors into commercially viable, government-supported ranches or livestock production centres for commercial use.”
On his part, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, argued that the present security challenges in the country were deteriorating as a result of lack of political will on the part of the leaders at various levels of governance, to live up to their responsibilities towards protection of lives and property of citizens.
He urged Nigerians particularly those in positions of authority to shun those tendencies that threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria and stressed the need to work together in search of solution to the insecurity in the country.
He noted that the summit was not designed for blame-game or to attack anybody, but to sincerely proffer solutions to the worrisome security challenges in the land, stressing that the security of lives and property of the citizenry is the primary responsibility of government.
He said: “This is not a summit to trade blames neither is it convened so that any person or entity can take credit. We just want solutions, solutions only. That is all Nigerians require of us. The Summit brings together a wide spectrum of stakeholders including political leaders; security policy makers; governors, who are chief security officers in their states; security and intelligence chiefs; key persons in the nation’s security architecture; regional and socio-cultural groups; traditional rulers; civil society organisations (CSOs) and others with strong, persuasive insights into the problem.
“We in government must therefore do everything in our power to ensure that Nigerians are safe from harm, and their livelihoods and belongings protected. It was envisaged that the summit would provide a platform for critically examining the problem of insecurity, to help collate views and ideas in aid of the search for solutions. It is most reassuring to see us all here – people together – coming together to come up with a national response to a grave problem confronting our nation.”
Saraki posited that the country is currently in urgent need for a leadership that could douse tension and reduce ethno-religious, political and economic barriers.
“What our country needs at this time is leadership that will work to douse the flames and reduce tension in the land. It is essential that we lower the barriers in our actions and rhetoric, and refrain from playing politics with a crisis situation in which Nigerian lives are being lost, tragically and needlessly, on a regular basis.
“We have the capacity to bring about a change in this situation, to end the violence and bring succour. We have the capacity. But, do we have the political will? I dare say political will is what is required; and it is my hope that we shall marshal it as a legitimate instrument against this problem. Indeed, there is no reason why that should not be the case.
“There can be no denying the horrific reality in many parts of our country today. People who should be neighbours are turning on one another and taking up arms. These attacks and reprisal attacks are an intolerable cycle of hell that must be broken. Killings, kidnappings, mayhem and general lawlessness cannot be the new normal. We must take this country back and restore order,” he said.
While President Buhari, 36 state governors, ministers and traditional rulers were conspicuously absent from the summit, all the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris graced the event.
The absence of the President, members of the Federal Executive Council and the state governors from such critical summit, when Nigeria is in dire need of peace has already provoked insinuations that the effort of the Senate in convening the meeting might end in futility.
Some analyst are saying that the summit was not acceptable to Buhari and his men at both the federal and state levels, while others are of the opinion that the Senate ventured into an area that is purely an executive jurisdiction and might have offended the President, who might not openly express his reservations about the summit.
Again, on the positions canvassed and declared on the establishment of state police and the no intention of government to seize or usurp powers of the states over lands for grazing reserves respectively, have been viewed as a political strategy towards winning the support of the already disenchanted masses for the 2019 presidential elections.
Some of those who are doubting the sincerity of the Federal Government on the issue of state police, say that as a lawyer, Osinbajo knows that creation of state police is a constitutional matter, which might take a very long time to achieve, and should have been brought to the National Assembly for constitutional amendment long time before now.
However, whatever the reality is, most Nigerians are desperately watching to see how things will unfold in the government’s handling of the issues of state police and the menacing activities of Fulani herdsmen in the country even as the 2019 general elections are fast approaching.

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Obasanjo’s coalition group selfish –Ikierite

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Chief Ambrose Alfred Ikierite, a former ally of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State is the chairman of the African Democratic Party (ADP) in the state. The former PDP chieftain in this interview with PAULINE ONYIBE explains why he dumped the PDP for the ADP, among other issues. Excerpts...

 

You were a special adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan and a commissioner in Bayelsa State . Why did you leave the PDP?

I left PDP to join the ADP out of personal reasons. I was a very committed and loyal member of the party. While as commissioner for budget, I did my best to promote the ideals of the restoration government. During the gubernatorial elections and all other elections, I was so committed and as a leader of PDP in my ward, we ensured that PDP won all the elections. And that was exactly what happened including the governorship election that came last. But unfortunately politics being what it is, immediately after the elections, I was blackmailed by some persons who saw my growing profile in politics as a threat to them. I was seriously blackmailed before the governor.

When I got to know about the blackmail, I did everything possible to get in touch with the geovernor to explain myself but it was to no avail. One of the blackmail was that I receive some chunk of money from the APC during election to deliver APC in my ward but God knows that never happened and nobody from APC gave me one dime.

The second one was that I and other stakeholders from Brass have perfected plans to recall the serving senator, distinguished Senator Ben Murray Bruce. And a petition was written against me and may be some others that I wasn’t privy to know.

So, I made some efforts to see the governor and clear myself but unfortunately for whatever reasons, the governor refused to give me audience. It got to a stage even in my own ward, I was being ridiculed. I was not being recognised.

I saw it as a deliberate attempt to undermine my personality and possibly an orchestrated plan to make me politically irrelevant. As a politician who has not attained the age of retirement, if I want to retire I will retire voluntarily not for someone to force me into retirement. And I felt that may be my contributions in PDP are no longer required. And for a party that I have led for so many years in my ward successfully to treat me the way they were treating me, I decided to stay at home. I decided not to make any political statement.

While staying at home, some group of politicians approached me and sold the idea of ADP, that they have been fishing for a competent hand to lead the party. And at that point, I had no option than to accept.

What is your party manifesto?

The party manifesto is very rich and one of things that endeared me to the party was actually to look at the party manifesto and constitution. It was after going through the manifesto and constitution, I finally joined the party. It is a manifesto that is geared towards economic empowerment.

You will agree with me that Nigeria as a nation is endowed with so many economic benefits and it has been a problem for us to harness all the nature to project Nigeria to the level that it supposed to attain.

It is unfortunate that the present administration has not done well for us to get to that level. The Goodluck Jonathan administration tried to the extent that we became the largest economy in Africa, but today, all that is history. For a nation like Nigeria to grow, it has to tap into the available resources that Nigeria has been endowed with and our manifesto is so keen about that. The manifesto has gone ahead to even propose for a regional economic unit.

The six regions of this nation have been identified as the economic development potential. And that had been done with the retaliation of the fact that each region of this country is endowed naturally and if those endowments are harnessed properly, we believe that each region will prosper economically. At the same time, within the regions we believe that there are some value chains that will be c reated having realised the econ o m i c potential of the regions.

One of the manifesto is geared towards intentionally creating an enabling environment for each to develop itself economically. In line with the constitution of the party, the manifesto has also considered that human capital development is germane for the growth of any economy and therefore education is one key flag that ADP administration will drive if it comes into governance.

What is ADP’s agenda towards resource control, restructuring and devolution of power?

Structurally, so many things are wrong in this country. The party believes in restructuring of this country. We believe in devolution of power, guided devolution of power. And we believe in a guided resource control. Before we started operating the American system of government, you know that Nigeria was a regionalised country and each region was allowed to develop at its pace. Each region was allowed to develop the natural resources that they were endowed with.

Then you can see a lot of competition and vibrancy in the economy. But at independence, and with the adoption of presidential system of government, a lot of centralisation in the activities of the nation, which based on experience, we have found that it is not auguring well with the existence of this country.

So, every well -meaning Nigerian, and every well -meaning party today is advocating for restructuring, devolution of power and resource control. My party, the Action Democratic Party, is one of those of parties that is advocating for those things.

Do you intend to field candidates in the local government election?

I am not aware that the local government elections are by the corner. I don’t know. But as a party if that happens, we will be glad because that is the grassroot and for every meaningful government that believes in giving the dividends of democracy, anything that has to do with the grassroot must be taken seriously.

The local government poll is an election where the grassroots will be given an op-portunity to elect people that will represent them. And as a party, we will be very interested to participate. But you know how local government elections are being run in this country.

The membership of the state independent electoral commission is appointed by the governor who for all intents and purposes should belong to political parties and all those members that will be appointed to that commission, you will agree with me are going to be members of their party.

At the end of the day, they will all do the bidding of their political party. But having said that any time the state independent electoral commission comes up with a time table, we will test the waters by contesting election for Bayelsans to know that ADP has come to stay in Bayelsa State.

2020 is around the corner and you are not fully on ground. How do you intend to get a candidate for the governorship polls?

That is where Bayelsans will be surprised, ADP will shock Bayelsa. If you say we are not on ground, you may not be completely right. We are new but we are working behind the scene seriously. We have had series of meetings with prominent politicians in Bayelsa State cutting across the major political parties of APC and PDP.

We know many of them that have been discussing with us. In the next couple of weeks, the party will come with a good statement where Bayelsans will know where we are heading to. Already we have numerous candidates that have indicated interest in contesting the governorship under our platform.

I’m sure you know what is happening at the national level where alliances and coalitions are being formed, where a critical member of those spearheading the alliances are working and we don’t want to run faster than our legs.

That is why we have been quiet for a while. But as soon as those alliances are perfected in the next couple of weeks, we will come up with serious statement and then you will see the number of candidates that will flock in to be able to test their strength in the governorship race in 2020 but for the other elections, like national and state assemblies, we already have candidates penciled down. If you say we are not on ground, no problem, but it is elections that will determine whether we are on ground or not. Many people would be shocked.

Do you have enough resources to wrestle power from PDP?

That is where Bayelsans will be surprised. You will be surprised because the thinking of the people is changing. The orientation is changing. It is going to be an election based on the candidates, not the party. PDP has the money and the incumbency factor is there.

But we believe that there is going to be a change in the narrative of the politics of Bayelsa in the next general elections. I would not want to talk too much because it is not yet time for us to start campaigning.

When we start campaigning, we know what and what to tell our people. We know that Bayelsans are waiting for the credible alternative to come up and that is the ADP. When we come up with our credible candidate, the masses will talk.

Why did former President Olusegun Obasanjo dump your party for the ADC?

Point of correction, Obasanjo did not join any political party and if you had listened to him carefully, he said he will never be a card-carrying member of any political party. When he came up with the Coalition for Nigerian Movement, he categorically stated that it is a movement and considering the fact that APC has failed Nigerians, especially now that Buhari has shown his ineptitude, nepotism, cluelessness and shallowness, they will never support his candidature.

His effort was to create a platform where some meaningful Nigerians will come together and chat a way that will enable us to change the leadership of this country. Obasanjo said he will opt out if the movement adopts a political party, that was the statement he made. My party was one of those they were discussing with.

We had to table our manifesto and constitution which they said was beautiful. And some issues were brought up for consideration which were not favourable to us. There are others like the National Intervention Movement which is called the third force. There is also the CNN which is Coalition for New Nigeria.

There are other movements that are currently trying to make their way into the political space in Nigeria. All those movements were actually discussing with us but it was surprising that the CNM on its own had to adopt the African Democratic Congress (ADC). And from our investigations, they saw the ADC as a porous party, a party that does not have any structure. I’m sure you are aware they don’t even have an office in Bayelsa State and they don’t have an office anywhere. They are a party on paper.

I don’t think that they have contested any election that they won. Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola who is the leader of the CNM was looking for a platform where they will just go in and take over everything. They were so selfish, they never wanted a platform that is existing and solid, where they will start negotiating. So what they did was to say, ‘instead of negotiating with these people, wasting our time, let us go and take up a dead party so that we can take over everything’.

That was what they did, then NIM and CNM also withdrew from the arrangement. They had a meeting where the National Intervention Movement and four political parties wanted to form a coalition. My party, the ADP, is one of them. In addition to these parties, 35 others agreed to join the alliance.

The details of that arrangement are being worked out. I hope and believe that ADP will be the platform because of all the other political parties that I have mentioned, ADP is the newest. We are just about a year old. We have not tainted ourselves. We are a new party with a good manifesto, a good constitution. Though we are new, there is no political discourse that is going on Nigeria that ADP is not part of.

What is your view on Buhari’s war against corruption?

Buhari has failed in his electioneering promises, we are only waiting for what he is coming to tell Nigerians again. Those promises he made are the ones Nigerians will judge him with. You said you are going make one naira to be one dollar. Were you able to do it, no.

This time around, it is not going to be on semantics. He is not coming to contest election, he has been there for three years. So, he is going to be judged based on his electioneering promises, based on what the economy was before he took over.

You took over government because you believe Goodluck Jonathan was not doing well, you wanted Nigerians to vote for you so that you will correct all the ills of the past administration, but since you came, you have been making excuses. Nigerians are tired of excuses.

Some people have argued that there is nobody on ground to wrestle power from Buhari?

It is good that Nigerians allowed him to become the president. If they didn’t allow him, the statement would have been if it was Buhari. But Nigerians have seen his shallowness and his cluelessness. I tell you, at the end of the day, whoever emerges as our presidential candidate will beat him. We believe that at the end of day, a better Nigerian will win the election and change the tide of things in this country.

Some people are of the opinion that anybody above 60 should not be allowed to lead NIgeria. Do you agree?

That is the position of my party. The Chairman, Board of Trustees of my party, who is Chief Alani Bankole, based on what the party believes in, made a statement that whoever will become the president should not be above 60. That is my position.

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Rivers: Obuah rallies PDP for council polls

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EMMANUEL MASHA reports on the forthcoming local government election in Rivers State and efforts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to seize the opportunity to consolidate its grip of the oil-rich state

 

Voters in Rivers State will on June 16, go to the polls to elect candidates of their choice, who will be in charge of governance at the local government level. It is one election that some don’t want to hold, especially those in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But 62 other opposition parties in the state under the aegis of Inter- Party Advisory Council (IPAC) have made it clear that they will participate.

The state’s electoral body, Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RISIEC) has given the green light for the conduct of the election. RSIEC chairman, Justice Chukwuneye Uriri, who recently addressed representatives of political parties during a stakeholders meeting at the commission’s secretariat had noted that for long there has not been council elections despite the fact that the law abhors vacuum. He, therefore, declared that there was need for a democratically elected council administration in the state even as he reaffirmed the commitment of the commission to perform its obligations to reflect the aspirations of the electorate.

His words: “Given the 90-day mandatory notice as stipulated by the electoral laws, the next election ordinarily comes up in June this year. It is therefore imperative that we fix a date for the election in accordance with the said rules.

“By the powers conferred on me, as enshrined in the Rivers State Independent Electoral Law No 2 of 2018, I therefore declare Saturday, the 16th day of June 2018 as local government election day in Rivers State. It is accordingly so fixed.

I reaffirm the commitment of the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission to perform its obligations, to reflect the aspirations of the electorate.” There is no doubt that it is exactly three years since Governor Nyesom Wike took charge of the state after the triumph of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2015 general elections and in a normal political setting, that is a long time to conduct council election.

But, for the past three years, attempts to achieve this have continuously been resisted by the APC, which appears to be comfortable with the caretaker committee arrangement adopted by the Wike administration.

The caretaker arrangement itself is however a child of necessity as few weeks before the immediate past Chibuike Amaechi administration left office, it conducted council election after which chairmen and councillors were hurriedly sworn in.

The main flaw about that election is that the PDP and many other parties refused to participate in it on the ground that its outcome had been predetermined by the then APC-led government in the state. Observers claimed that the election was nothing other than a political landmine laid by the Amaechi administration for the then incoming Wike government.

But, the law took its course in September 2015, when a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt presided by Justice Lambo Akanbi, invalidated the May 23, 2015 council election won by the APC chairmanship and councillorship candidates.

In his judgement on Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/84/2015 filed in April 2015 by the PDP claiming that RSIEC did not comply with the 90-day mandatory notice stipulated by the electoral laws, Justice Akanbi declared that the May 23 polls were null and void. He further ruled that the conduct of the election by the Amaechi administration was lawless, provocative and disregard for the rule of law.

The judgement paved the, way for Governor Wike to dissolve the boards of RSIEC and the Rivers State Judicial Service Commission following the recommendation of the State House of Assembly. But, like the PDP did in 2015, the APC has declared that it will boycott the June 16 council polls.

The chairman of Rivers APC, Davies Ikanya, who announced the party’s decision to boycott the elections, described as shocking RSIEC’s decision to hold the polls in June, arguing that the issue is a subject of litigation before the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Ikeanya, who would be handing over to Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, a former chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area, by the time his tenure elapses at the end of June, maintained that it was subjudice for the commission to fix a date for the election, even at a time when the courts had not decided on the cases filed by the main opposition party in the state.

He said: “We have been in a protracted legal battle over previous election that the RSIEC conducted, which Wike sacked elected officials and the case has not been vacated. It is wrong for a respected citizen to announce that their tenure has elapsed,” he said.

“Would RSIEC turn itself to Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court? Why can’t they wait for the court to determine the matter before fixing a date for council election? We are also saying that RSIEC, as presently constituted, cannot conduct election.”

IPAC chairman in the state, Sam Ihunwo, who condemned APC’s position, lauded RSIEC for its plan to conduct the election. He described the decision as a bold move to entrench democracy at the grassroots. He added that it was rather unfortunate and an illconsidered decision for the APC to withdraw from the exercise.

Ihunwo insisted that there was no truth in the claim by the state APC that local government election held in the state on May 23, 2015. “As you can see, 62 political parties are present to express their happiness with the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission for putting the machinery in place to conduct free, fair and genuine local government election on June 16, 2018,” he said. He argued that the judgement of the High Court of Rivers State on the matter put paid to whatever hope the APC had on the validity of the said May 23, 2015 local government election.

The APC’s planned boycott, notwithstanding, the state chairman of the PDP, Bro. Felix Obuah, during the re-registration of old and new members of the party, promised a level-playing field in the council election. He has been urging party members to be peaceful and play by the rules of the game throughout the process that would lead to the election.

While addressing party leaders recently, he advised that “even the persons who will be defecting today and wish to join our party must be registered. Do not restrict anyone from becoming a member. We need everybody and we do not want anyone to stop them from registering, due to personal interests.” Already, Obuah, a grassroots politician, who is also the chairman of Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) has been rallying party faithful for the election and remains optimistic that the exercise will be free and fair.

Wike, who made a similar pledge, said imposition of candidates would not be allowed in the PDP. The governor, while addressing an expanded state stakeholders meeting of the party, said: “We will use the local government elections to test the waters. Let people come out and vote, so that we know that we are doing well.”

The Rivers governor also charged party members to ensure that those who would emerge as chairmen and councillors would defend their constituencies during elections. No doubt, while Governor Wike continues to deliver sound governance, and projects, Obuah has stepped up his game in instilling discipline within the party, while preparing the grounds for a triumphant council poll and a successful outing in the 2019 general elections.

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…Stop blackmailing Fayose, PDP warns

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Reacting to the claim by All Progressives Congress (APC) that Governor Ayodele Fayose ordered the demolition of its governorship candidates campaign billboard, Ekiti State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jackson Adebayo, accused the APC chairman in the state, Chief Jide Awe and members of his party of attempting to blackmail Fayose.

Adebayo said: “We don’t habour hoodlums in our party, it is APC that harbours hoodlums and you can see it from their recent congresses. “PDP is a party of peace, our rally in Oye that day was peaceful and the governor and our members were not responsible for the destruction of the billboard.

“APC should search its ranks for those who destroyed the billboard if ever it was destroyed because I am hearing it for the first time. Governor Fayose knows nothing about it and our members know nothing about it.”

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